Bladed Jigs for River Smallmouth

by Chris Gorsuch

   Fishing and tackle shows during winter leading into spring 2007 have a special place in my memory. That was my first year guiding, and I was particularly intrigued about a new lure that I had seen in a tank demonstration at the Bassarama Show in Richmond, Virginia. It was something called the Chatterbait. The idea of placing a blade in front of a swim-jig to create a hybrid spinnerbait/crankbait/vibrating blade-bait was and still is pure genius. 

   Like most bass anglers, I fall prey to new lures and truly suffer from a yet clinically diagnosed condition called “Tackle Junkie.” The old sales adage, “A lure will catch an angler long before catching a fish,” speaks volumes here. I had a bag full of these new lures and the results were amazing. 

  Initially, at least for the first year or so, I viewed this bait a bit too one -ided. My skirt color and choice of trailer always mimicked crayfish. Green pumpkin or brown jig and skirt with a ZOOM Speed Craw or similar trailer.  Targeting rocky areas in current or grass areas, I would have customers get as close as possible and move the lure slowly while still feeling the blade’s vibration. The wide variety of Chatterbait sizes and weights allowed for those who throw casting or spinning gear to be equally successful. 

  By the end of that first year, the versatility of this new bait grew by mimicking baitfish as well. Adding white, white and chartreuse and shad-colored jig and skirt and selecting trailers that more closely resemble minnows added a new dimension. Lake Fork Magic Shad, ZMan Razor Shad and Keitech Fat Impacts are among those I typically use.  Changing my mindset from a craw profile to a minnow profile, opened up more water and increased casting targets.  Shallow current and ambush areas just to name a few.

   As the years went by, new models were offered. The Chatterbait Micro, MiniMax and Jack Hammer have all found a place on my boat. The ability to downsize or increase the profile, opens up instances where this lure can be used almost daily. Whether powering through shallow vegetation or working the Micro almost like a finesse bait in deep water, there seems to be a tactic where they can be used. Surprisingly, I found success in colder water than I would have thought. It has become a lure anglers can throw from mid-March through November. 

  Taking the Chatterbait a step further, I started to use them when heavy rain had the river on a rise and clarity near zero.  Rigging a black Jack Hammer with a five-inch black and blue trailer has been productive. The combination of vibration, larger trailer and dark colors produced extremely well.  So well, it has become a top go-to during those conditions.

  When it comes to the rod, reel and line choice, there are a number of factors to consider. For larger, heavier Chatterbait rigs, I prefer medium to medium-heavy baitcasting set ups. For line, I actually go quite heavy. This allows the lures to be worked through heavier grass and timber. Thirty-sometimes 40-pound braided line depending on the type of foliage.   

  For medium weight Chatterbaits and the MiniMax, I feel the baitcaster continues to give the angler better casting control. But when using lighter micro Chatterbaits, I prefer a medium power spinning gear with lighter eight to 10-pound line. This is a personal preference and certainly not a rule. If you are more comfortable with a spinning outfit, stick with that. 

  Lastly, the one question that comes up often when I pull out the box of Jack Hammer Chatterbaits, “Are they worth the extra money?”  Well from my point of view the answer is a resounding yes. While all of the Chatterbait models work, the Jack Hammer is heads above the rest. Even when it comes to the MiniMax, it is one of my favorite chatter bait models to date. The full weight jig and smaller hook is an excellent combination and second only to the Jack Hammer when the bite is a bit off. 

   Whether you have used Chatterbaits only a time or two, or have never tried them; it is time for another look. Earlier this year I was out of state and fishing a river with a local angler. When I asked if he threw Chatterbaits, his response was; “they do not work well here”. I decided to throw one regardless, and took  three bass on the first dozen casts. Regardless of what your forage base is, I firmly believe a Chatterbait will produce results.

Author Chris Gorsuch is a licensed charter guide in the state of Pennsylvania. He started the Reel River Adventures guide service in ‘07 and spends 225-250 days on the water annually. His home base is on the Susquehanna River where he operates 20’ jetboats.You can follow his daily fishing reports on Facebook ‘Reel River Adventures-RRA’ & Instagram @Chris_Gorsuch

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