Back in 2003, the father-and-son lures design team of Ron Davis Sr. and Ron Davis Jr began tinkering with a new lure unlike any before. Ron Jr. reports, "My father named this lure the ChatterBait during a fishing trip to the Saluda River. While reeling it in, he said it was enough to make his teeth chatter."
Its beginnings were humble. "In 2004, we sold about 5,000 lures," Davis reported. "But the following year, we demonstrated it at outdoor shows, including the Bassmaster Classic, and sales jumped to 25,000."
They were poised for further expansion in what had become RAD (Ronald Anthony Davis) Lures when FLW pro Bryan Thrift used one to win a Stren Series tournament at Lake Okeechobee in Florida in early January 2006. "Four of the top-10 finishers used our lure. Suddenly we had orders for 500,000 baits," Ron Davis Jr. recalls. "But at 10 cents apiece for the hook alone, we couldn't afford to make them." Anglers were spending $100 apiece on eBay for one lure.
The solution eventually came when the Davis duo sold the patents and rights to build and distribute ChatterBaits to Z-Man in 2008. The lure continued its winning ways as Brett Hite, then fishing the FLW Tour, won consecutive events on Lake Toho in Florida and across the country on the California Delta with a Phoenix Lures Vibrator, another bladed jig. Phoenix, along with other lure makers was forced by Z-Man's patent enforcement to alter construction of their lure to comply with their patent details.
Thus Z-man ChatterBaits dominate the market, with no fewer than nine different models.
But other bladed jigs continue to have strong followings, and new innovations arrive with each ICAST fishing industry show. At the 2018 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, half of the Top 10 made regular use of a bladed jig of some sort.
This is the lure that started all the chatter and it still catches bass like crazy. And for only $4.99! ChatterBaits blast through vegetation, with the swinging blade mowing down stalks and keeping the hook clean most of the time. During the Prespawn Period, it's often the best way to lure largemouths out of heavy cover. Its shuddering image and strong vibrations are deadly across the country. If it's spring, a ChatterBait belongs on your front deck.
But don't overlook it for working expansive sandflats or rocky bars where smallmouths roam. They're just as dialed into the lure's rod-bending vibration as largemouths. At times, you merely feel extra weight; otherwise, you'd best have a strong grip on your rod! It's a great tool to cover water and find active fish.
ChatterBait Jack Hammer
Okay, top pro anglers can usually receive samples of nearly any lure they desire, and many also have deep pocket for lure acquisition, as it can be central to their professional success. But the prevalence of Z-Man's relatively new Jack Hammer version of the ChatterBait among tournament winning angler's arsenals speaks to something deeper. Reportedly, Z-Man came to an agreement with Evergreen International of Japan to offer a version that bladed jig guru Brett Hite had worked on with that company. While outwardly similar to the Original, it features many upgraded features: a flat bottom and lower center of gravity for stability while also exhibiting an erratic "hunting" action; thinner, but strong steel blade that immediately starts chattering as the retrieve begins; double-wire trailer keeper; Gamakatsu heavy-wire flipping hook; and premium hand-tied silicone skirt. For this deluxe model, the cost is $15.99, but they've proved so popular Z-Man has struggled to keep up with demand.
At the first 2018 Bassmaster Central Open of 2018, Z-Man pro Stephen Browning used a 3/8-ounce Jack Hammer to win on Mississippi's Ross Barnett.
Strike King Naked Rage Blade
Don't be shy! This one can get you noticed when searching deeper ledges and other offshore reservoir structure. Consider it a crossover between a bladed jig and a swimbait. With a hefty leadhead leading the way (1/2- or 3/8-ounce), it quickly plummets to a working depth, there the specially designed bill takes over. It both shields the hook from most snags and creates a shuddering motion that deep-dwelling bass have rarely seen.It's bill is clear, so it's hard for finicky bass to discriminate against. And it's backed by the 4-inch Strike King Blade Minnow, with a ribbed body and fish-like tail to exhibit maximum movement at any retrieve speed. You can nail equal-opportunity largemouths, smallmouths, and spotted bass.
Z-Man ChatterBait Freedom
In another cooperative mover by Z-Man, they have teamed up with Freedom Tackle of Ontario to create the ChatterBait Freedom, using Freedom's patented hook attachment system. It marries the ChatterBait's action with Freedom's head-to-hook attachment system, officially called the "Advanced Interchangeable Hook Design." It allows anglers to customize their hook choice to match various trailers. It comes with a 5/0 VMC wide-gap hook, in 3/8- and 1/2-ounce sizes.
Picasso Special FX Shock Blade
Combining the allure of a bladed jig with the charms of natural bucktail and feathers, the Shock Blade has a special place in blade-jiggers' arsenal. Behind this head, which is perforated with a pair of large holes to create water flow, the hand-tied hair and hackle offer sinuous action and color palettes not available in today's silicone skirt materials. The head is designed to keep the lure down in the water column, and the heavier models (3/4- and 1-ounce) ensure that you can plumb there depths of offshore ledges, offering a package of sight, sound, and vibration bass have never experienced. Deadly to say the least when worms, jigs, and crank baits start to fade.
On the Horizon
No surprise: lure makers have been busy devising new lures that borrow from the ChatterBait's bag of tricks, without infringing on Z-Man's patent. That's not always easy. But I've seen and fished a few new ones that have great promise. Terminator has added the Shudder Bait, tested by Rapala's esteemed pro staff for the last couple of years. With a novel plastic blade, it creates exaggerated side-to-side movement, with pounding vibration and lots of water displacement. It promises to be the deal in off-color waters.
After much research and testing, Booyah has released the Melee, a unique addition to the bladed jig world. With a weighted polycarbonate head and thin blade, it's built to work around wood without excessive snagging, which has always been an issue with this lure type. Its blade is thin, intended to boost vibration and to create a special sound when it contacts the head. It also has a long-shank hook with a thin-wire keeper to secure a variety of trailers. Moreover, Z-Man's patent protects it from competing commercial designs, but many garage lure makers have tinkered with parts to create "custom" lures not available on the market.