The year was 2003. A South Carolina inventor named Ron Davis had come up with a new lure concept- put a vibrating blade in front of a skirted jig. He called it simply the bladed vibrating jig. Ron had some good luck with his new lure and decided to make some samples for a few of his fishing friends. One of these friends was a fellow named Bryan Thrift. In the meantime, Ron introduced his concept to a South Carolina company known as Z-man. Working with Davis, Z-man decided to commercialize the concept, calling it the “Chatterbait” reflecting the lures best feature- the vibrating blade and its chattering effect while being retrieved. Unfortunately, sales were very low. But Bryan Thrift loved this bait and he bought a bunch. During this time Thrift was known primarily as an avid co-angler on the FLW tournament trail. He was developing a reputation for nailing some good fish.
Thrift was not one to share his secrets, but in 2006, fishing as a boater at the Stren/FLW tournament on Lake Okeechobee, he won, catching his fish with the Chatterbait. He could not hide his secret any longer and many anglers finally got a look at what he was using. Not surprisingly that’s when things finally started to take off for Z-man. Their new lure had the fish-catching qualities of a spinnerbait, but could also be fished like a crankbait or a jig. Word started spreading and soon, at another Stren/FLW tournament, this time on Lake Falcon TX, the Chatterbait won for Jeremy Guidry who boated a winning weight of more than 110-pounds on the Chatterbait!
Since then many competitors have brought similar products to market including Picasso Lures which now has its own set of patents that have been deemed not to violate those of Z-man. Meanwhile Z-man has been granted the legal use of the chattebait name with the others now being referred to as bladed jigs. Brett Hite was one of the first elite angler to win a major tournament with the bladed jig, a 2014 FLW event on Lake Okeechobee where he caught 9 of his 20 “keeper” bass on the bladed jig. More recently, on both Cayuga Lake and the Niagara River, Brett found success using the Evergreen version to score points on the B.A.S.S. Elite trail.
Strike King has brought two versions to market, the Pure Poison, and the Rage blade. The Rage can be fished horizontally like a standard bladed jig but also vertically, like a pitching jig. The Pure Poison twitches as it vibrates, offering an additional bite-triggering quality. It also is attached to the head with an oval split ring that can’t open and that allows the blade to bang harder against the head. The weighted blade on the Rage version allows a slightly heavier bait to be fished at the same speed and depth as a lighter Poison. Strike king has a lot of good trailers and for this application I particularly like the Rage Craws. I’ve found the Rage Blade to be more snag-free than some of the competitors around wood and the hook-up ratio tends to be a bit better.
I have to say I am still partial to the Z-man original and the Z-project which has scored very well for me, but I have also recently tried the newly patented Picasso Shock Blade which is definitely a bait to be considered as it also has recently produced for me. When it comes to color selection I try to keep it basic with black/blue, white/chartreuse, green pumpkin and the basic shad pattern. As for trailers, this is where I really like to mix it up with a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes- craws, paddletails, and flukes all work in your efforts to match the hatch. Gambler in particular is a good company if you are looking to add a swimbait type trailer, and its craws also match up nicely to the chatterbait. I always have one rod ready with chatterbait/craw trailer combo, and one with a baitfish trailer so I can show the fish a different profile when needed.
There is really no right or wrong way to work a bladed jig, you can pretty much work it just any way you want. I like to fish them through grass trying to get that reaction bite by ripping the bait free of the grass. If you think about your chatterbait as a squarebill crankbait, you can work it much the same way retrieving it through stumps, tree laydowns or any cover that allows you to bounce the bait off it or rip it out of it in order to elicit that reaction strike. And, because it falls head-first when you pause it, I run it along the shallow side of a dock and bring it to a dead stop, allowing it to fall vertically like a regular jig. This is also effective in deeper water.
Summer is a great time to use a bladed jig either on lakes or ponds where bass orient to vegetation or where water clarity is less than ideal. Lakes with lily pads present great opportunities for these baits. The bladed vibrating jig has definitely been increasing in popularity as an alternative to the spinnerbait. Is it THE BAIT for the summer of ’16? Maybe, but it certainly is a likely candidate to help you catch a big bass that will assure you LIVE THE PASSION!