Ladson, SC – What the pros throw when they need a big bite might be an apt description for a certain lure that constantly headlines the top 10, if not 1st place, at most every major bass tournament across North America. It’s been called the unnamed bladed jig by non-sponsored anglers so many times that by now, it’s simply assumed they’re talking about the ChatterBait JackHammer—the de facto frontrunner within this new-classic lure category.
At the 2018 Bassmaster Classic, contending angler Gerald Swindle made a confession: “I caught every bass this week on a half-ounce ChatterBait, the JackHammer. I’m not sponsored by ’em; I paid for every one of ’em, just like y’all do. I got about eleven-hundred dollar’s-worth of them; I won’t lie to you.” Swindle wasn’t alone, as numerous other Classic contenders before and since have wielded what’s become the hottest bait in bass fishing circles. At the 2020 Lake Guntersville Classic, seven of the top thirteen anglers, including the winner—none of them sponsored by Z-Man— called the JackHammer an instrumental lure.
Early in 2022, top ten anglers at all four Bassmaster Elite tournaments and Opens have continued casting the game-winning lure. The JackHammer took 1st place at the February St. Johns River Elite event. And at the Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee Elite, the lure played a prominent role in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th place finishes—a statement in itself.
Bladed Jig Adjustments
On the Major League Fishing / Bass Pro Tour, anglers continue singing a similar tune, led by bladed jig gurus Bryan Thrift, Brett Hite, Luke Clausen, David Walker and Stephen Browning. For his part, Browning wears his ChatterBait love right on his sleeve, or rather, his front deck, rarely carrying fewer than three JackHammer-rigged rods during any given event. As an offshoot of his intensive bladed jig exploration, Browning has drilled down to the fine points of ChatterBait choice, and especially, bladed jig trailer selection, which he calls the most underrated aspect of the presentation.
“It’s easy to just sling your favorite bladed jig all day, catch bass and forget about some of the details that can really crank up its performance,” notes Browning, known affectionately as ChatterBait by his colleagues. “Prior to last year, I’d spent most of my time throwing a ½-ounce JackHammer because it just never failed to produce. But coming in to 2021 and now 2022, I made an adjustment by frequently scaling down to a 3/8-ounce lure, even in slightly deeper cover.
“My son Beau, who’s a competitive college angler, had been throwing that 3/8-ounce size a ton. While I’d be fishing the standard ½-ounce JackHammer, he’d throw that 3/8-ouncer and fish toe to toe with me all day. He showed me just how well that lighter bladed jig moved through cover. I watched Beau fish the lure just a little slower than I was fishing my ½-ouncer. Besides fishing right with me, bite per bite, I noted how he was getting his lure to tick the grass tips or laydowns branches and rarely hang up.”
Browning, who admits he never just casts and retrieves a ChatterBait straight back to the boat, made the adjustment to the lighter lure, employing a 7.5:1 highspeed Lew’s reel to exercise more control over his retrieve.
“That reel picks up 30 inches of line per turn. I can burn the bait if I want, but can also slow way down, like I’m cranking a square-bill crankbait. The highspeed reel also allows me to go from slow crawl to burn in a single half-turn of the handle, or vice versa. Between the rodtip and my reel, I can make the lure do a lot of cool triggering moves, such as those left-right jukes or hunting actions that often trigger the biggest bass. And believe me, some of the biggest fish will often eyeball but fail to bite a bladed jig until you make it do something extraordinary.”
For Browning, a 7-foot 10-inch medium-heavy power St. Croix ChatterBait rod yields even more control. The longer stick help maximize his ability to maneuver the lure around cover or quickly raise or drop deeper it by repositioning the rodtip. Browning spools with 20- or 30-pound fluorocarbon for bite transmission and for reading the lure’s action. “Sometimes, the strike is really violent. But much of the time, it just feels like you suddenly lose contact with the blade—and those strikes can be easy to miss if you’ve got the wrong rod or line.”
Beyond honing his lure size, tackle and retrieve speed, Browning has been a longtime advocate of matching bladed jig trailer to the conditions, rather than simply choosing one favorite for every situation.
“I run a three-way rotation of durable ElaZtech® trailers: a RaZor ShadZ™, DieZel MinnowZ™ or GOAT™, one for each of my three ChatterBait rods,” he notes. “Seems like, when bass show a preference for one specific trailer, it’s a 10 to 1 scenario—it’s that critical. The trailer is what gives your ChatterBait its actual profile—the body shape and action bass see first. So, while the blade drives the car—gives it its distinctive sound and vibration— the trailer adds a lifelike silhouette, while augmenting the action of the lure. Its bulk also dictates the ChatterBait’s running depth.”
Browning believes the RaZor ShadZ runs the deepest, allowing the lure to penetrate deeper cover or maneuver along edges. “Its relatively thin profile and subtle, forked tail also impart a less aggressive action with less water resistance; reminds me of throwing a flat-sided crankbait.
“The 4-inch DieZel MinnowZ fishes more like a small squarebill, providing medium running depth and a more aggressive tail-thumping action,” he says. “Finally, for working around extra shallow cover, grass and laydowns, the 3-3/4-inch GOAT excels, almost zeroing out my snag ratio. Rig the GOAT flat and it prevents the lure from turning over, protecting the hooks and acting like a weedguard. This combo is exceptional in spring around ditches or depressions in grass.
“Really, the biggest mistake you can make with a ChatterBait is putting it down,” Browning chuckles. “Keep it in the water as often as possible, because you’ll have days they bite it like nothing else, and eventually, you could have one of those all-timer type outings where you load the livewell with 5, 6 and 7 pound hawgs.”
About The Chatterbait Jackhammer
Crafted by Japanese lure maker Evergreen International, in cooperation with professional angler Brett Hite, the ChatterBait JackHammer remains the most refined bladed jig ever produced. Precision elements such as a flat-bottom, low center of gravity head, Gamakatsu® hook, Decoy® Egg Snap and extra hard stainless-steel blade enable the JackHammer to start vibrating immediately, stay deep and “hunt” in an erratic, side-to-side motion that consistently produces mega bites.