Bass fishing with a chatterbait lure can be an incredibly rewarding experience guaranteed to get you some action on lakes all around the country.
Whether you are fishing the chains of lakes in the upper Midwest or hitting honey holes in southern Arkansas, the chatterbait is used by both amateur and professional anglers alike.
So, what is a chatterbait and how does someone use one?
Let us take a closer look at the chatterbait, how to set up a chatterbait rig, when and where to use it, and how to move it through the water.
Also, we will review a few common mistakes that anglers make when first starting out with chatterbait fishing.
Step 1. Setting Up Your Chatterbait
The first and most important step to chatterbait fishing is the setup. You will want to use the appropriate rod, reel types, and suitable fishing line to land some monster bass.
Rod and Reel Setup for Chatterbait Fishing
Many different rod and reel combinations will suffice for bass fishing with a chatterbait (aka Bladed Swim Jig) .
Below is simply my recommendations. As you become more experienced, you may find other combinations more suitable to your style and comfortability.
What Type of Rod Should I Use?
Ah, the rod. The foundation of your chatterbait setup. For your rod, you will want a rod big enough to land trophy size bass and to be able to pull them through thick vegetation.
However, you do not want something so big you are unable to sense smaller bites.
A medium-sized rod ranging from 6.5 feet to 7 feet will suffice. You will want a medium action rod with some flex that possesses an ultralight tip.
The ultralight tip will give you the sensitivity you need to feel the smaller bites, while the medium action rod will give you the girth and strength you need to hull in larger fish through thick vegetation.
What Type of Reel Should I Use?
For the reel, whether you use a spinning reel or a baitcasting reel is up to your comfort level and what you are familiar with.
For our setup, we prefer a baitcasting reel with a minimum of 6 stainless-steel ball bearings and a magnetic braking system. Also, the gear ratio should be at 6.0:1. or higher
It does not matter if you use a spinning reel or a baitcasting reel. However, the gear ratio does matter.
No matter your reel type, make sure the gear ratio is, at a minimum, 6.0:1.
This will help your setup manage larger bass and even the occasional Northern Pike has a go at your chatterbait. It happens!
What Kind of Fishing Line is Required?
Fishing line selection is important, however, do not get too overwhelmed with your decision. For our setup, a 30-lb braided line is fine.
You can also choose to go with a fluorocarbon or monofilament fishing line.
The main difference between the two is that mono is more buoyant and better for surface fishing whereas fluorocarbon is denser and will sink more rapidly.
If you go with a fluorocarbon fishing line, then anywhere from 15-20 lb test will suffice.
If you want to take a deep dive into the different styles of fishing lines and how they are tested, including results, check out this article from our friends over at Sportfishingmag.com
What Type of Chatterbait Should I Purchase?
Now to the best part, the actual chatterbait lure itself. Below are our recommendations for which types of chatterbaits you should purchase.
What Weight Chatterbait Should I Use?
The weight of the chatterbait depends on what depth you are trying to fish, and how thick the vegetation is.
For fishing in the 6-10-foot range, a ½ ounce chatterbait works best.
It will keep the chatterbait in the water depth you desire but at the same time, it allows you to move the bait freely and quickly when needed.
Anything deeper than 10 feet and you will need a ¾ ounce or even a 1-ounce chatterbait.
If you are shallower than 6 feet, doing surface fishing, or your heavier jigs are getting caught up in the vegetation, then a ⅜ or ¼ ounce chatterbait should be your go-to.
What About Color?
A common mistake anglers make is overthinking the color. A good color to use that is excellent all year is the green-pumpkin color.
Green pumpkin has a natural look and it maintains that natural look in all types of water conditions, from murky to clear. Check this video below of someone fishing a green pumpkin chatterbait
Black and blue chatterbaits work well on cloudy days and in murky water.
Red is a great color for early spring bass fishing.
Pearl, pink, or white chatterbaits are excellent for early summer.
Try out a few different colors throughout a day of fishing to see what works. However, do not fall into the trap of changing your lure every other cast. Give each lure some time to work its magic before switching it off.
Step 2. Deciding When and Where to Fish A Chatterbait
Fishing chatterbaits are a good idea all year, however, how you fish them in different environments and times of the year changes.
Here is a quick breakdown.
When is A Good Time to Use a Chatterbait?
In the summer, you will notice vegetation becomes its thickest and can take over large portions of bays, lagoons, and shallow spots in any particular lake.
During this time, fish your chatterbait on the weed lines. If the weed line falls near a drop-off, even better.
In the fall, bass move to shallower water, and vegetation begins to thin out. Move in a bit shallower and find gaps in the vegetation and fish those gaps.
In and around spawning season, bass begin to move into spawning beds. Find these locations and fish them with a reddish color chatterbait to entice some large females.
Later into the spawning season, fish the drop-offs located near the perimeter of the spawning beds.
What Kind of Water Conditions Are Good for a Chatterbait?
Different water conditions and different structures call for different behaviors when fishing a chatterbait. Here is a closer look.
When fishing a chatterbait in thick vegetation, it is good to fish the tops of the grass and wait for the bass to emerge from gaps in the vegetation to strike your chatterbait.
Downed trees and submerged logs make excellent hiding places for large bass. Fish in and around the fallen trees and logs but be careful not to snag.
Take your time and work the entire wood structure with precision.
Around Boat Docks
Docks present many opportunities to catch large bass lingering around to feed on baitfish.
Baitfish naturally accumulate in and around the vegetation near the dock as well as under the dock and near the posts.
In mid to late summer, if you happen to come across a rock bed, or bed of mussels, go ahead and put on a heavier chatterbait and fish that lake bottom.
Step 3. Techniques to Use While Fishing a Chatterbait
Now that you have a proper setup for your chatterbait rig, you know when and where to fish for bass, but how should you move your chatterbait through the water?
Slowly reel in your chatterbait making sure to keep it submerged at a depth directly on top of the vegetation.
You should feel your chatterbait bouncing off the top of the weeds. Adjust your speed to keep your lure at the necessary depths.
Reel in your chatterbait quickly enough to keep it moving quickly right below the surface of the water.
This will attract some bass who are enticed by the chase and think a baitfish is trying to escape.
This combines the slow retrieve technique with a periodic jerking motion. Slowly reel in your chatterbait across the tops of the weed line, and every so often, give your rod a quick but tiny jerk by jerking your wrist lightly.
The chatterbait should jump off the tops of the weeds and then slowly settle back.
Again, while doing a slow retrieve, continuously twitch and flicker your rod tip to make the chatterbait dance and move in unpredictable motions.
This mimics that a baitfish might be dying and would make an easy target for large bass.
Final Mistakes to Avoid While Using a Chatterbait
Do Not Avoid Clear Water Conditions
Most anglers will avoid clear water that contains no structure or vegetation. This is a mistake.
Chatterbaits work well in clear water while other types of lures do not. Do not be afraid of clear water.
Toss out a chatterbait and see what happens.
When you are doing the slow retrieve technique and bouncing off the tops of the weeds, every little pull may feel like a bite.
Many anglers then will overreact and prematurely set the hook. Do not do that!
When you prematurely set the hook on every little bump, you may be actually taking the chatterbait out of striking distance from bass lingering nearby.
Instead, if you feel a bump, increase your reeling speed for a few turns without moving your rod, and you should easily be able to feel it get heavier or loosen up from the weeds.
If it gets heavier and feels like a fish, go ahead, and set the hook.
Do not get into the habit of doing the slow retrieve technique and never varying speed or adding a little twitch here and there.
Switch it up a little bit and bring a little excitement to the movement of your chatterbait.
Changing Your Chatterbait Too Frequently
Again, it is good to try out different colors, throw on a crawfish every once in a while, however, let the chatterbait work and give your lure some time to show whether it is going to be a producer for you that day or not.
Remember which colors work best in which water conditions and for which times of the year. Certain colors mimic different types of baitfish that bass feed on during different seasons of the year.
Chatterbait fishing is exciting, productive, and will fill your boat with fish. If used properly, you may never go back to other types of bass fishing.
Remember to vary your technique for certain water conditions and to adjust accordingly for the different times of the year. Tight lines!