Let's chat about ChatterBaits

The Bassmaster Classic proved this 10-year-old lure is here to stay — in a big way

Despite that success, the ChatterBait was on the verge of being labeled a gimmick, not to the degree of the Helicopter Lure, the Flying Lure or the Banjo Minnow, but not far from it. As one angler said, "It's the best bait that everyone owns and nobody throws."

That's why this 10-year anniversary is so significant. It's taken that long for a sufficient number of anglers to develop enough confidence in the lure to use it in place of the more traditional baits.

"A very small percentage of the people who bought the bait learned how to use it," Ron said. "When something new comes out, everyone has got to get one. But unless you have a little success with it, you won't use it much."

It's actually not so much about how to use a ChatterBait, it's about why. When ChatterBaits first hit the market, they were described as a hybrid of a spinnerbait, a crankbait and a jig. They featured the lead head and skirt of a jig, the metal blade of a spinnerbait and the vibrating action of a crankbait. But if you've already got confidence in a particular spinnerbait or crankbait or jig, how long are you going to stick with a funny-looking hybrid? Tournament anglers are always looking for a competitive edge. Ultimately, they were the ones willing to spend some extra time with ChatterBaits and exploit its advantages.

It's that vibration and how it's produced that made the ChatterBait patentable and successful. The six-sided blade wasn't anything new. Ronny Davis was aware of the Walker Special, a lure created by Walker Crawford in North Carolina decades earlier that featured a hexagonal blade. It's the rapid oscillation of the blade, when coupled with a jighead, that makes the ChatterBait unique.

"How do you impart that action?" Ronny said. "I played with it for years and years and years. It would still be in my shop if not for my son."

Bass fishing has always been the glue in their father-son relationship. They have long fished tournaments together, just like they did again last weekend.

"About 2003, he got the configuration right," Ron said of his father. "But he wasn't a believer in the product. I had to convince him. When we fished together, I made him fish with it, and that's when he realized what we had."

Ron had been convinced when fishing behind other anglers at heavily pressured local lakes.

"I could go right behind them and catch fish on it where they hadn't caught anything," he said.

Unlike a spinnerbait, a jig and a crankbait, the ChatterBait has a sound component that few anglers understand. Ronny Davis's much-tinkered with design makes the hexagonal blade bounce off the lead head of the jig and reverse itself.

"It's making all kinds of noise in the water," Davis said.

It was Ronny's background in research and development that led to the unique characteristics of the ChatterBait. He worked over 20 years for a company that made automobile tire cords. Before tires were reinforced with steel strands, various kinds of fibers, like polyester, were used in the search for a longer lasting tire.

"When I worked in research and development, I learned there was no such thing as a mistake," Ronny said. "In everything you do, you learn from it."

Davis's R&D work with the ChatterBait centered on units of movement in the blade vs. units of pull on the lure.

"That's one of the characteristics that's unique about the ChatterBait," Ronny said. "It has so many pulses in a short amount of time without the angler providing a lot of pull on the lure."

It has taken a decade of angler research and development to fully realize the potential in the horizontal vibration of the ChatterBait. This tinkering has led to swimbaits being added to Chatterbaits, either with the original skirt left on it or without it.

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