The ChatterBait has become one of the most popular lures in bass fishing, mainly because it has a knack for catching bass everywhere. It's used in many places and situations that were spinnerbait territory a decade ago and some say it's taken over the spinnerbait. However, both still have a time and place, according to Major League Fishing pro and ChatterBait guru Stephen Browning.
While he can nearly always be seen with a ChatterBait in hand, no matter where he's fishing, he says there are times when a spinnerbait is the way to go.
Spinnerbait over ChatterBait
These two baits can be used interchangeably many times, but Browning says heavy cover makes him lean towards the blade.
"One time when I'll throw a spinnerbait over a ChatterBaiut is when I'm fishing off-colored water around heavy cover," he said. "We all know that a ChatterBait isn't weedless; it just isn't and snags up a lot. That's one scenario when I'll always choose a spinnerbait first."
The other time is when fishing deeper water as he feels he has more control of a spinnerbait in depths over 10 feet of water. "I like to slow down and slow roll a spinnerbait when it's cold and the bass are not reacting to a faster retrieve," he said. "With a slow roll, the spinnerbait will outshine a ChatterBait. I absolutely love to fish a big 1-ounce spinnerbait in deeper water when it's cold in 16 to 18 feet of water. You can use a heavier ChatterBait and get it down there, but for me, it's harder to fish one that deep and have the same control that you have with a spinnerbait."
Time for Some ChatterBait
Browning will reach for a Z-Man Ever Green Jack Hammer ChatterBait for almost every other situation first.
"I feel like it's a tournament bait and we see it all the time in pro tournaments from the top finishers, but I still feel that most casual fishermen are not throwing it as much," he said. "Even though it's everywhere to us as tournament anglers, I don't think the bass see them as much as spinnerbaits and that's why it's so effective."
Anytime grass is around; Browning says the ChatterBait will outshine a spinnerbait. "Any kind of grass, whether its hydrilla or milfoil, you get those reaction strikes with a ChatterBait by burning and popping it to get the fish to react."
Spinberbait and ChatterBait Gear and Extra Tips
For both baits, he uses pretty much identical setups depending on what he's doing with the bait, a St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass rod in 7-foot, 2-inch or 7-foot, 10-inch, with a 7.5:1 Lew's Tournament Pro and either 14 or 16-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line.
"I like the 7-10 heavy moderate when I'm really slinging the bait and chunking and winding," he said. "You get great casting distance and the rod has the perfect action for your baits. I'll use the extra heavy in the same length when I'm throwing a heavy spinnerbait to have better power to set a big hook."
For close range, he likes the 7-2 heavy moderate. "It's perfect for making spot-on casts under docks or beside a log; it's very target specific and has the right balance for baits like these."
As one of the best with these ChatterBaits, Browning gets asked a lot about them and how he fishes them. He generally starts with a ½-ounce model and will adjust his size from there.
"I like the ½-ounce so I can cover water and get a reaction," he said. "If I need to slow down or am fishing in 3 feet or less, it's the 3/8-ounce, and I'll use the ¾-ounce version when fishing deeper than 8 feet deep."
He also mixes up his retrieve with a ChatterBait, while starting and stopping. "I call it 'juicing the reel' where every five or six cranks, I give it a ¼ or ½ reel turn and short rod twitch to kill the bait," he said. "This allows it to get off track and right back on track when I start reeling again. Generally speaking, this is where you will get your bites."
According to Browning, soft plastics trailers for both types of baits can be crucial.
"I always start with a Z-Man Razor ShadZ for my ChatterBaits because you can fish them faster," he said. "I'll use a DieZel MinnowZ paddle tail or the GoatZ when I want a different look and it also keeps the bait from hanging up as much, especially when it hits wood; it will roll over more and you won't snag as much. I like a grub for spinnerbaits and always add a small trailer hook to hook more short striking fish."
The ChatterBait and spinnerbait are two of the best lures for covering water and triggering bites. They are both excellent and can be used in many of the same situations, but each one has slight benefits over the other in some instances.