Hite said he actually stumbled into his Chatterbait affinity while fishing Clear Lake in 2007. Experimenting with a shallow vegetation scenario, he found the bait surprisingly effective. Further exercise delivered further evidence.
"It's a really good way to fish aquatic vegetation, but it works well in many different ways – docks, rocks trees. I really zeroed in on it by fishing aquatic vegetation where you know big populations of large bass live."
Hite lists the Chatterbait's benefits as:
- Super weedless – Throw it just about anywhere without little worry of snags.
- Erratic action – With a wobble similar to that of a squarebill, the bait is great at getting eyes on its bad self.
- 4WD – Plowing throw spots that would choke out most other baits enables the chatterbait to probe the really dense stuff.
There's no one-size-fits-all bait and, while the chatterbait definitely excels in many scenarios, Hite keeps his options open. Occasionally, the vibrating bait has been getting the job done, but the bite just slows down. Maybe the fish have seen his bait too many times, maybe changing weather has them a little funky. In some cases, the fish just missed the bait.
Whatever the case, Hite keeps a Texas-rigged 6-inch Senko handy for most of his follow-up needs.
"If I miss one on the chatterbait, the Senko has to be one of the best baits to throw in there," he said. "It's very subtle and weedless. I prefer it with no weight, but if I'm fishing holes in the grass, I'll use a 1/8-ounce Reins tungsten weight."
Conversely, Hite often turns to his Chatterbait for a follow-up presentation to his topwater presentations. Say a big fish misses a walking bait, or even a frog – a subtle plastic bait might get the fish to try again, but if Hite thinks the fish is still pretty hot, that vibrating presentation could be just the thing to push him over the edge.
WHERE & HOW
Offering some insight into his presentation strategies, Hite summarized three of his common chatterbait scenarios.
I) Grass – Whether it's hydrilla, milfoil, coontail or some hodgepodge of mingled vegetation, Hite's presentation depends on how deep the grass is standing.
"I want to make sure that my bait is bumping the grass and I control that with reel speed and rod angle," he said. "With grass that's topped out, I hold the rod tip high and reel fast. With subsurface grass, I hold the rod tip lower and reel slowly.
"When the bait hits a piece of that grass, I'll twitch that rod tip to give it that erratic action that usually triggers a strike. Even if you don't touch the grass, you still want to give the bait an occasional twitch during the retrieve. This erratic action might appeal to a follower and entice a strike."
2) Stumps or Brush – With the former, Hite winds his chatterbait alongside and tries to bump it, while the more intricate makeup of brush necessitates a close, but not too close perimeter pass.
"When you're in brush, fish the chatterbait like a spinnerbait; in stumps fish it like a squarebill," Hite explained. "Remember that this is not as weedless as a spinnerbait, so wind faster."
3) Docks – Because the chatterbait exhibits characteristics similar to those of a squarebill crankbait, bumping around pilings or flotation chambers should be a no-brainer. But what about skipping?
"It's very difficult to skip squarebill crankbait," Hite points out. "But the chatterbait skips very well. I can get it under a dock where no bass has ever seen anything that moves like that."
RIG IT RIGHT
The Z-Man Chatterbait Elite comes in two sizes and Hite has a simple formula for his selection:
3/8-ounce: Surface burning in depths of 3-4 feet or stumps and brush
1/2-ounce: Deeper docks and grass in 2-6 feet
Hite said that trailer options range from craws and twin tail grubs to something with a little more attitude.
"I really like the Yamamoto Swimming Senko and the Yamamoto Swimbait," he said. "The chatterbait has the erratic action of a squarebill, but I combine that with the larger profile of a (swimming style trailer), which attracts larger fish, then you have the best of both worlds."
With any type of trailer, Hite always rigs it with the hook exposed for optimal readiness. Also, he suggests Super-gluing soft plastic trailers to the chatterbait.
"When you run the bait through grass and then slap it on the water (to clear hanging grass), that will pull your trailer down if it's not glued in place," he said. "After you do that a few times, your bait is done."
For chatterbait duty, Hite arms himself with a 7-foot, 3-inch Evergreen Heracles heavy-action fiberglass rod and a Shimano Chronarch loaded with 20-pound Sunline ST Sniper fluorocarbon. No randomness here; each element has its strategic purpose.
Rod: Stout enough to separate a big fish from cover, the rod also offers significant "give" – a big part of the hooking fish on moving baits.
"A lot of times the fish eat it really aggressively and sometimes, they'll eat it right at the boat," Hite said. "People often want to put a chatterbait on their jig rod, but I want a rod that absorbs some of the shock so it doesn't rip the bait out of the fish's mouth.
"This a heavy glass rod with a lot of power, but the first two feet have a real parabolic bend that allows you to cast a bait really well and it allows a fish to eat the bait really well."
Reel: Of his Shimano Chronarch 6.2:1 reel, Hite says: – "You can burn it, you can slow it down – it's just a good mid-range gear ratio.
Line: Hite uses 20-pound Sunline ST Sniper fluorocarbon for additional shock absorbing benefit.
Hite urges anglers to experiment with various scenarios and give the chatterbait a chance to shine beyond the expected. Here's an example.
"I've been very productive fishing an actual grass line instead of just fishing a whole big grass flat. If you have a giant flat with a ledge, you could ask me ‘Do you want to fish on top of the flat, or do you want to fish the break?'
"I'm going to pick the break 95 percent of the time. And that's the same way with grass. So, if I can get an edge where there's no grass and that's where the grass starts, that's where I want to fish that bait."
Essentially, he'll treat the grass line's outer profile just like a contour line and expect to find bass relating to this "edge" just like they relate to any other vertical structure.Give this a try sometime, blend the experience with your more traditional presentations and should you run into Brett Hite on the lake someday, you'll have plenty to chat(ter) about.