It was March 10, 2004, when the first ChatterBaits went on sale. Ronny Davis had been tinkering for years with the unusual-looking fishing lure featuring a hexagonal-shaped metal blade on a lead-head jig.
"The Sportsman's Friend in Greenwood, S.C., took six dozen of them," said Ron Davis, 40, the son in the father-and-son team that created the ChatterBait. "We thought that was a huge compliment, that they'd give us 12 pegs with six lures on each one."
It's now been 10 years since the humble beginnings of the ChatterBait.
"My father named it," Ron said. "When we were working with prototypes in 2003, we couldn't decide on a name. During a fishing trip to the Saluda River, he jokingly said the vibration was enough to make your teeth chatter. From that day forward, we referred to it as the ChatterBait."
The Davis clan had made no special plans to mark the lure's decade of existence. But reality has intervened. The past month has turned into one big celebration of the ChatterBait.
First, Brett Hite won an FLW Tour event at Lake Okeechobee on Feb. 9. Of the 20 bass he weighed over four days, nine were caught on a bladed jig, like the ChatterBait. Then the top three finishers in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic – Randy Howell, Paul Mueller and Edwin Evers – credited bladed jigs for key catches during the three-day event on Alabama's Lake Guntersville that concluded Feb. 23.
"At the 10-year mark, it has pretty much established itself," said Ronny Davis, 70, a now retired research and development lab technician. "I will always be proud of the ChatterBait."
Added son Ron, "What happened at the Classic helped legitimize the bait. My dad and I still think of the ChatterBait as our baby."
Raising that baby took a lot of work and a little luck. Annual sales during the early years of the ChatterBait illustrate what a rollercoaster ride this has been. In 2004, they sold 5,000 lures. In 2005, thanks to a marketing plan that featured a "hog trough" at five fishing shows, including the Bassmaster Classic, to demonstrate the unique vibrating action of the lure, sales jumped to 25,000. In 2006, the Davis clan borrowed money and mortgaged the future into a plan to produce 100,000 ChatterBaits. That strategy exploded quickly – in a good but problematic way. On Jan. 7, 2006, Brian Thrift of Shelby, N.C., won a Stren Series event at Lake Okeechobee using the ChatterBait.
"Four of the Top 10 guys in the next FLW tournament were using it and in less than two weeks we had orders for 500,000 baits," Ron recalled.
At 10 cents apiece, the Davis family couldn't even afford to buy the hooks for 500,000 ChatterBaits, much less obtain the other components and get the lures put together. Future Bassmaster Elite Series pro Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., was one of the many local people suddenly employed by RAD (Ronald Anthony Davis) Lures during the early months of 2006 to help meet the demand for ChatterBaits.
"Casey has built a lot of ChatterBaits," Ron said.
After a few frenzied months, Z-Man Fishing Products offered some relief. The Charleston, S.C., company had previously been a large supplier of fishing lure components, like silicone skirt materials. Z-Man, operating in the wholesale world, was relatively unknown to most anglers. But the company had an infrastructure that could handle national demand. RAD Lures reached an agreement with Z-Man to build and distribute ChatterBaits in April 2006.
"It took them six months to catch up with the orders," Ron said. "They took a huge burden off our backs. Over the next two years, we sold almost four million ChatterBaits."