In the world of bass fishing, there is an endless variety of bass lures on the market, and every other day, it seems a hot new lure comes out that everyone is raving about. However, there are a few that have been staples in every angler’s tackle box since they were first introduced. You probably have many of them such as soft plastic worms and craws, spinners, and cranks.
However, the chatterbait is another one of those staples, but it’s a little more complicated, and a lot of anglers aren’t quite as proficient with it as they are with the other fishing mainstays.
Today, we want to help you elevate your use of this must-have lure to the next level.
This will help you improve your bass fishing technique, adapt to more situations on the water, and generally expand your repertoire.
We’re going to go over what a chatterbait is, how it works, why you should use it, and of course, plenty of tips to help you make the most out of it in any situation.
Read on and learn how to fish a chatterbait for bass!
What is a Chatterbait?
If you’re familiar with swim jigs, chatterbaits are going to be fairly easy to get used to. That’s because they’re essentially just a slight modification to the traditional swim jig format. In fact, you can turn some of your swim jigs into chatterbaits if you really want to. We recommend just buying pre-manufactured ones, though. That way, you know the action is right, and everything works properly.
A chatterbait is a skirted swim jig that has a small, usually rectangular, blade attached right on top of the head.
The addition of a blade is the defining feature of a chatterbait, but there are other things to look at and consider.
Almost all chatterbaits have a skirt, but there are also options available with weed guards, various line attachment options, rattles, and more. It’s worth noting that most of the possible features can be added easily. Such as weed guards or rattles.
How Does a Chatterbait Work?
While visually a chatterbait is practically the same thing as a swim jig, the little blade attached to the lead jig head makes all the difference.
As the swim jig moves through the water, the blade is uniquely shaped to "scoop" the water as it moves along. This produces a clapping action against the jig head.
Two different actions are created by that movement.
First, it shifts the water and causes erratic vibrations. If you’ve been bass fishing for any length of time, you know how useful that is when targeting stubborn bass or dragging bass in from long distances away.
However, it also creates a bit of visual movement and flash. The skirt on a chatterbait stretches and contorts to imitate a bait fish and has plenty of movement, but the chatterbait blade flashes wildly so fish are drawn toward the profile of your jig, and the extra movement does help add just a little more to the already solid presentation that a jig skirt provides.
Why Should You Use a Chatterbait?
The best reason to use a chatterbait is to counteract bass when they get lazy. This happens during specific periods, but we’ll highlight each one soon.
Since a chatterbait presents itself as a swim jig, which is already extremely useful, adding a bunch of vibration and flash tends to draw the attention of the bass even when they’re preoccupied with more important things, such as watching over their beds.
This can mean the difference between bass entirely ignoring your attempts at presenting an enticing meal and biting ravenously just to get rid of the annoying lure nearby.
While you’ll find that it’s not always the best lure for the occasion, and it’s practically pointless in some situations, it is one lure you need to have a few of on hand at all times in various colors and sizes.
How Do You Use a Chatterbait?
Using a chatterbait is very similar to a swim jig, but your goal is to use its blade to your advantage. To do that, you’re going to want to deviate from the straight-in retrieval tactic that is so common with easy-to-use swim jigs and opt for a somewhat more erratic presentation. There are also a lot of other factors you’ll need to consider before you cast and during the retrieval.
Let’s take a look at the various ways you can use it, when you should use it, and the methods that work best.
First and foremost, there are two main seasons when you want to use a chatterbait. The chatterbait is most effective during spring and fall.
This is for two dramatically different reasons.
In spring, the bass hover over their beds to protect their eggs. They’re not interested in coming after almost anything. However, the vibrations caused by a chatterbait can be annoying enough to enrage a spawning bass and force it into action.
During the fall, it’s a similar situation, but the bass tend to be a bit lazier due to plummeting temperatures rather than the spawning season, causing them to focus on procreation.
These two situations are primarily when you’re going to want to use a chatterbait. It can be useful to try a chatterbait during weather conditions that make bass more hesitant to bite, but there are better alternatives during summer and winter that match those conditions more effectively.
2: Focus On Color Selection
This is actually a lot easier to do with chatterbaits than it is for other lures that are staples in the fishing world. Since you’ll mainly be using a chatterbait during one of two seasons, you only need to get colors that match those seasons.
For the most part, reds and browns are useful in the fall, and chartreuse, natural greens, and similar colors are great for spring.
With other staples, such as soft plastic worms, you more or less need to buy almost every color out there and then change the one you use based on the water and the season. So, this helps make your chatterbait collection a bit easier to manage and certainly more cost-effective.
Just make sure you focus on choosing the right color for the season you’re in.
3: Erratic Retrieval
Effective retrieval methods for any type of lure tend to be based on bass fishing patterns. You’ll reel it in for a few moments, pause, let it sink, and then reel again, or maybe you’ll add a twitch into a straight retrieval every couple of seconds.
While you should use a pattern for chatterbaits, you usually want that pattern to be a bit more intense. If you twitch the rod, you want to give the twitch a bit more pop. If you use a stop-and-go retrieval, you’ll want to make your pauses shorter most of the time, but also make them more frequent.
This engages the blade on the chatterbait more and puts it to work for you. If you’re just quickly retrieving it in a straight retrieval pattern, you’ll get a little more action than a standard swim jig, but you won’t be making the most of its standout feature.
4: Start with Cover and Drop-Offs
The second you tie your chatterbait on and get ready to cast, you want to look for cover and drop-offs.
Since you’re mostly going to use a chatterbait during lazier periods for bass, you’ll probably have better luck finding them next to thick cover or steep, sudden drop-offs.
You can use a chatterbait in open water, and you’ll need to if you’re fishing beds that are out in the open, but your chances of consistently finding bass will increase dramatically with more cover-focused targets.
5: Give a Long Pause and Rip
We did say that you’ll generally want to use frequent short pauses with a chatterbait, but sometimes, if that presentation isn’t working, try reeling it in normally, and then pause it for a solid 10 seconds. Once you finish counting down, rip it through the water for at least ten yards. Usually, this will be your entire cast, but with longer casts, you can just repeat the method.
This attracts bass from further away, gives them time to investigate your chatterbait, and then triggers their aggression by suddenly ripping it away.
6: Fish it Near the Bottom
The times you’ll be using a chatterbait will usually be the same periods when bass are hanging out toward the bottom of the column. If you’re using a slower or more complex retrieval pattern, let that chatterbait sink a bit before starting your retrieval. The blade bouncing off rocks and limbs is just as useful as it vibrates through the water.
7: Invest in Weed Guards
Since you’ll mostly be fishing around cover, you’ll want to invest in some weed guards that clip or slip onto your chatterbaits. Some are built-in, and that’s great, but many aren’t.
Installing these takes a few seconds, they’re cheap, and they’ll save you lures like crazy.
Some anglers swear that they make it harder to set the hook, but if you trim the threads to line up with the hook’s tip, the weed guard will pass right by it. Overall, you’ll be able to more aggressively fish areas with dense vegetation and obstacles that would otherwise claim so many lures that attempting them isn’t practical.
8: Add a Rattle to Bottom-Fished Chatterbaits
If you’re going to use a chatterbait to swim around beds or bounce off rocks, the perfect addition to the jig is a slip-on rattle. This is a small, plastic device that has two small, metal balls in it. The balls clank together while you retrieve the chatterbait and generate more action.
We recommend this approach because when you’re moving slower, the blade doesn’t engage as heavily. The addition of a rattle will help provide consistent vibration, and the blade on the chatterbait will seal the deal when it gets bounced hard enough.
Just make sure you don't add too much weight to the rear of the chatterbait, or you can throw the action off, it's also not a good approach if you're going to be fishing it in the middle or at the top of the water column because the blade is already doing plenty of work for you.
9: Go Big
Another good method to use with chatterbaits is to go with bigger sizes. In the spring, you can easily nab brand-new bass back-to-back with smaller chatterbaits, but you don’t want those.
You want the big trophy bass that just spread their genetics throughout the lake and are ready to fight. In the fall, big lunkers are known to be hiding and getting every meal they can possibly get a hold of. So, you want to take advantage of the opportunity.
Bigger chatterbaits are going to attract bigger bass while making it far more difficult for smaller fish to waste your time.
10: Always Feel the Vibrations
One good thing about a chatterbait is that the fish aren’t the only ones feeling the vibrations its blade makes. You can, too.
If you learn to feel the line or pay attention to the subtle vibrations coming from your rod tip, you can pick up on the slightest shifts of movement with a chatterbait.
This can make detecting light bites that you’d otherwise miss extremely easy.
Do this when you first start using a chatterbait. Just cast it for a half hour or so and retrieve it at various speeds. Get to know how the vibration feels both while you hold the rod at the ready and when you’re fingering the line.
Use BassForecast to Find the Best Chatterbait Spots
Of course, tips on fishing a chatterbait for bass only get you so far. You need a good fishing spot the most and a good fishing companion.
BassForecast fishing app is more than a fishing companion an angler can have, and whether you’re using chatterbaits or live baits, the information available on the app is priceless.
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