"I don't throw it a lot," Mueller said. "Obviously, it's not one of my strengths or I would have fished it on the first day. It popped in my head as I was rigging up for the second day. When I had 27 pounds at 10:30 (a.m.), I said, 'I think I've got it figured out.'"
Mueller caught all 10 of the bass he weighed the final two days on a Z-Man Original Pro Elite 3/8-ounce, sexy shad-colored ChatterBait. He used a Reins Fat Rockvibe Shad swimbait as a trailer on the lure.
The single 5/0 hook on the ChatterBait made it easier to pull through the aquatic vegetation than the treble-hooked lipless crankbaits that so many anglers were throwing at the Classic. But any kind of lure dragged through the grass at Guntersville was prone to getting caught in it. Rather than ripping the bait out of the vegetation, Mueller realized that a more subtle approach resulted in more strikes.
"I was basically slow rolling it, keeping it as close to the grass as I could without getting hung up," Mueller said. "But, as the tournament went on, I learned how to fish it more effectively. If I would gently pop it out of the grass, I would get more strikes than if I ripped it out."
It's estimated that Brett Hite has won over $400,000 on the FLW tour with bladed jigs as his key lure. Like Mueller did at the Classic, Hite has learned the subtleties of fishing it.
"Once I put a big swimbait on it, it became more of a square-billed swimbait to me," Hite recently told Rob Newell in an article for the FLW website. "Combining the realistic look of a plastic swimmer with the hardcore deflection of a square-bill (crankbait) has become a deadly combination that really has no limitations regionally or seasonally."
Ron Davis got an education in another key aspect of the lure business after signing the initial agreement with Z-Man in 2006. He was put in charge of continuing to prosecute the patent applications and also defend the trademark and trade dress rights granted by the U. S. Patent and Trademark Organization.It was a big job.
"There were over 100 entities making some version of the ChatterBait," Davis said.
Hence the term "bladed jig." ChatterBait is to bladed jigs what the Alabama Rig is to umbrella rigs and Kleenex is to facial tissue – a trademarked brand.
A couple of victories in court battles helped curtail the number of ChatterBait knock-offs on the market. That was part of the luck factor in the success of ChatterBaits. If Z-Man hadn't offered all the benefits of a bigger, more established company after the initial success of the ChatterBait, the fishing industry probably would have swallowed RAD Lures like a largemouth bass does a threadfin shad.
"We will be forever grateful to Z-Man," Ronny said.
Z-Man has since bought all the rights to the ChatterBait from Ronny and Ron Davis.
The father-and-son team isn't a one-hit wonder. They recently reached an agreement with Strike King to produce and market some new lure designs. One of those – the Strike King Rage Blade – is already available. It's a further development of the ChatterBait concept with one significant structural difference – rather than the weight of the lure being in the jighead, the weight is on the blade itself. Based on early sales, it appears to be another hit.
"It's a different lure in function, not just cosmetics," Ron said.
He predicts more hits to come: "I'm excited about what's coming down the pike in the next three to five years."
But nothing will ever match that thrilling first ride up the sales charts. The initial entry of RAD Lures in the fishing industry has created a quite a legacy, one that continues to grow.
"I will always be proud of the ChatterBait," Ronny Davis said.