How to Fish a Chatterbait: Expert Tips

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Commonly known as the Chatterbait, you may also know this popular bass fishing lure as the vibrating jig or bladed swim jig. In the early 2000’s, this versatile lure was used in several professional bass fishing world tournaments and landed some monster sized fish which quickly made other anglers take notice. 

After this time, using a chatterbait to catch fish became much more popular with both professional and casual fishermen. Bladed swim jigs ended up being a promising piece of gear for every angler to keep in their tackle box, with many trophy bass being caught on it.

What is a Chatterbait or Bladed Swim Jig?

While they are known by different names, the chatterbait and bladed swim jigs are the same item. These versatile baits feature a long skirt around a bent spoon or blade at the front with soft plastic trailers adding to the overall bulk of your bait. One of the biggest additions that helps a chatterbait stand out is the noise component. This bait vibrates in the water more than other baits to make big fish take notice.

When they were brand new and only recently coming into the spotlight, it was next to impossible for tackle shops to keep bladed swim jigs on the shelves as every angler of various skill levels wanted to get their hands on this amazing new lure. 

Over the years, the design of the bladed jig changed a few times and became more and more effective at catching bass in both shallow and deeper water. While bass are most active during the spring months, the vibrating jig can be an effective bait to use year round to attract fish.

How to Fish a Chatterbait for Bass

Slow Roll

When you slow roll your bladed jigs, it keeps the bait low for the fish to react to. Don’t reel in your handle quickly, and instead turn the handle as you keep the bladed jig slowly drifting to the surface. This bit of steady retrieve movement entices fish to give chase and strike more aggressively on your lure.

Burning

If slow rolling isn’t getting much of a reaction from your bladed jigs regardless of the fishing conditions, a method called burning could work better. It’s basically the opposite of a steady retrieve with a slow rolling motion and will move your bait quickly through the water.

This quick motion walks your bait right under the surface of the water which imitates a baitfish attempting to flee. This quick action can get big bass to zip up from the depths of thick vegetation and strike your bait with extreme speed and aggression.

Ripping

If slow rolling and burning just won’t get the attention of nearby fish, ripping might be the move that gets some action. When you fish a bait and want to rip it for more fish to take notice, you will start by reeling it along slowly and smoothly along weeds and mid-depth grass growth. After a few seconds, quickly jerk your wrist and make the bait quickly zoom several inches to get fish to take notice.

Shaking

If you want a good bit of motion from your chatterbait when out in the early spring, shaking it by wiggling the end of your rod tip can give you the erratic motion you are looking for. This great technique makes the skirt and trailer hook of the bait pulse and jiggle in the shallow water getting the attention of nearby fish so you get quick strikes.

When to Fish a Chatterbait

Pre Spawn

During the pre-spawn months, bass will start moving towards the more shallow water of their chosen spawning areas. You’ll find them near coves and outcroppings quite often, especially once the water gets a bit warmer. Big female bass are more than willing to strike a chatterbait that dances around in their spawning areas.

Spawn

When there is a lot of cover around the spawning areas where fish hide during their spawning months, you’ll need the vibrating sound a chatterbait offers. Since sight fishing is not possible among the grass or in stained water, a chatterbait that makes a bit of noise in the water can help you locate fish.

Post Spawn

Once the spawning season has passed, mature females will move away from the heavy cover areas and into more shallow cover areas. During this time, chatterbaits are an excellent choice for making bass take notice of what you’re offering. 

Summer

As the water temperature gets higher and fish move deeper, slow rolling your chatterbait is the best option in getting big lazy fish to bite. Consider dropping your bait around ledges and drop offs or near shell beds where fish may have been located previously.

Where to Fish a Chatterbait

Grass Beds

Using a chatterbait in and around submerged grass beds is one of the best places to fish with this type of lure. Even thick grass and heavy weed beds can be a suitable location, especially if you enjoy ripping your lures to imitate baitfish and make bass take notice. 

Docks

When it comes to fishing around docks, bladed jigs are often underrated in this area. Since this type of cover area normally contains baitfish, burning and ripping your chatterbait can get some aggressive strikes from nearby hungry bass. Try fishing in this location during the early summer months for the best results, before fish move into deeper and cooler water.

Trees and other structure

Sunken logs, stumps and other woody structures are another potential location to use your bladed jig, however snagging can be a possible concern. Slowly working your bait through the branches and other vegetation is the key to keeping your chatterbait on the line without having to cut a snag free.

Shell Beds

During the summer, a large number of bass will gather around shell bed picking at the mussels and other bottom feeders. Slowly roll your chatterbait across the bottom of the lake to get some quick strikes. If that isn’t working, a few quick rips and some rod tip shaking can make all the difference. 

Catching Bass on Chatterbaits FAQs

How to Rig a Chatterbait

Most chatterbaits can be purchased pre-rigged which saves you quite a bit of time. Simply add your soft plastic trailer to the rig to build it up and keep it moving. Regardless of the line type you are using, most anglers recommend using a palomar knot to ensure the best security on your soft plastics.

Best Weights & Colors

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Most anglers highly prefer using the one-half ounce chatterbaits. This smaller size is suitable for not only keeping your bait lower in the water, but still allowing rapid movement when burning and ripping through the weeds or grasses. This weight works exceptionally well at depths up to 10 feet.
If you’re going for deeper bass, opt for a heavier jig of ¾ to 1 ounce in weight to ensure your bait is dropped through the water column without being bogged down in underwater vegetation.
For colors, you want to match the season and what prey items are abundant with the color of your chatterbait. One of the most common color ranges is the dark blue or black combination. Many anglers will use a dark blue trailer with a black and blue alternating skirt. This color combination works exceptionally well in deeper low-light areas.
If you’re not fond of using a dark color combination, or don’t seem to be getting the best results from it depending on the water clarity, green pumpkin is another favorite among anglers. The green pumpkin color works throughout all seasons and in most types of water where natural colored lures are vital. Use a dark colored trailer to pair with a green pumpkin chatterbait and drop it near the weed edges or spawning flats.
If you’re fishing in an area where crawfish are a common prey item, use a red or coral colored chatterbait to blend in with the dirty water this prey item is commonly found in. This is also a good time to scoot your chatterbait along the bottom of the lake or in among the shell beds to get the best reactions from nearby bass fish. You can also get some extremely aggressive strikes by ripping the chatterbait through the grass and weeds.
When fishing around docks and other underwater structures where bait fish such as bluegill are common, use a bluegill patterned chatterbait to get the best results. If you can’t find a specific bluegill pattern, look for midrange blues and light cyans for your skirt and trailer and drop your vibrating jigs right into the strike zone.
Lakes that have a large number of shad and minnow bait fish as prey for the nearby bass would do well in pearl or silver colorations. This color works best during the early summer months when shad are spawning, but you can also get some decent results using a silver shad-like chatterbait during the early fall months.

Best Rod, Reel and Line choice for Chatterbait Fishing

When it comes to your rod selection for chatterbait fishing, try aiming for a rod that is around 7 feet in length. You want a medium action rod that has enough flexibility in the rod tip to give you a fast switching action when you are ripping through weeds, as well as the length to help with long casts.
The length of the rod will also help give more action from the tip, which is why most anglers will aim for a 6’ 6” or 7’ rod for bigger baits around one half ounce or heavier. If you’re using a lighter chatterbait around ⅜ ounce, a shorter rod can give the same action you need in most situations.
Once you have your rod selected, pair it with a baitcaster reel that has a 6.3 to 1 ratio. This is a very popular reel for chatterbait fishing and can give excellent results whether you are just enjoying the occasional weekend fishing trip, or are a professional daily angler looking for that trophy fish.
Selecting your line doesn’t take much time, and almost any fish line you normally use will work fine for chatterbait fishing. If fishing in stained water, go for a braided line with around 30 pound test. If you’re in clear water, a 15 pound fluorocarbon line is a much better choice so fish take less notice of it.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.