Following its initial tournament-dominating success, few lure types creating the buzz of the chatter bait. Bait manufacturers scrambled to create their own version of the metal-lipped shaker. With the dust now settled, the question begs, “Is there still reason to chatter?”
“Absolutely,” declared Deron Eck, a consistent tournament competitor that fishes the heavily pressured waters of the Northeast. “A chatter bait remains a top lure choice, especially early in the year, during the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods.”
2008 Bassmaster Classic winner Alton Jones too often reaches for a bait that chatters during early season efforts.
“I always have a rod with a Booyah Boogie Bait tied on early in the year,” noted the Waco, Texas pro. “It’s an exceptional big fish bait.”
He said newly emerging weedbeds -- milfoil and hydrilla rising a foot or so of the bottom in three to four foot depths -- is a scenario where a chatter-style bait excels.
“They don’t bite it every day, but some days it’s all they want,” stated Jones, who once used a chatter-style bait on the final day of competition on Guntersville to catapult himself to the top spot, with a bag that included a six and five-pounder.
Using a three-eighths ounce Boogie Bait, Jones concentrates on both the inside and outside edges of the weeds. He expects to find fish relating to the weed edge when in a more aggressive mood, and on the outside when less so, such as during post-frontal conditions. He makes casts that quarter over the cover.
“The key is to make contact with the tops of the weeds, which are often irregular in height,” explained Jones. “I vary the rate of my retrieve so the bait ticks the tops of the growth. I often change speeds during the same cast, slowing down when I lose contact, or speeding up when I feel the lure bury into the growth.”
He often throws bass a changeup by switching from the standard split-tail trailer to a Yum Craw Papi, a ribbon-tail plastic worm, even a four-inch white tube.
Like Jones, Eck relies on chatter baits for largemouths scattered over low-riding early season cover. But he’s also discovered a pattern that shines on deeper, highland style reservoirs.
“You can slow-roll chatter baits similar to a spinnerbait when bass are holding along wood and bluff banks in clearer, deeper reservoirs early in the year,” explained Eck. “It’s a pattern few anglers are wired into. It shows the fish a different profile, and provides a lot of vibration.”
Though a chatter bait doesn’t fish all that well through heavy wood, Eck’s found that it can be rolled through the tips of cover such as shoreline laydowns that fall into deeper water.
“Look for bigger laydowns on bluff banks, ones along steep breaking shorelines where the channel swings tight to shore,” noted Eck. “Something else I’ve had success with, that no one else seems to be doing, is fishing a chatter bait parallel to bluff banks. Just slow rolling it along the side of the break as you might a spinnerbait. Some days it can really fire those fish up.”
A trick Eck uses to get a chatter bait to run a bit deeper for his slow-rolling pattern is to drill two eighth-inch holes in the blade, one on each side of the line tie. He prefers the more subtle look of a gold blade, feeling a silver blade is often too flashy.
16-pound test fluorocarbon has proved to be the ideal line for this pattern. Eck said it furnishes the strength needed to fish around the wood cover, transits the vibration of the lure well, and sinks, providing a touch more potential depth.
Chatter baits aren’t limited to stillwater environments. I find chattering lures to be quite productive on river systems for early season smallmouth bass. River smallies will stage up in protected backwater areas during the pre-spawn, often behind islands and gravel bars that provide the habitat on which they will later nest. Many days the three- or four-inch ChatterStick will draw these shallow-holding fish in like a magnet.
The only downside of this bait is its tendency to foul back on itself during the cast. I found that spooling with a smooth casting spectra-based superline helps keep the lure from tumbling during the cast. Also, employing a short, stiff, fluorocarbon leader helps keep the hooks from fouling. A slow, steady retrieve, one that presents an easy-to-track target, typically works best over these two- to four-foot flats.
Following the spawn, as river bass move into summertime current-fed locations, smaller versions of chattering lures, such as the mini and micro versions of the original Chatterbait, stand out. Replace the skirt and split tail with a small twister-tail grub or paddle-tail soft swimbait.