Let's Talk Z-Man Chatterbaits
Jack Hammer Chatterbait
When it comes to bladed jigs, my top recommendation is the Evergreen Jack Hammer. It's superior hook design and optimal blade positioning make it incredibly effective, particularly at slow speeds and during the bait fall post-cast. It excels even in complicated conditions like navigating through grass. Both tournament anglers and everyday fishing lovers alike widely prefer the Jack Hammer, making it the best pick in the bladed jigs category - a fact that holds particularly true if budget isn't a constraint, because it is one of the most expensive chatterbait offerings from Z-Man.
The Original Chatterbait
As an angler, I can vouch for Z-Man's original chatterbait as one of the best-selling baits globally. It's blade maintains decent contact with the head, though not quite as efficiently as the Jack Hammer. If minute details matter to you as a tournament angler, you might want to opt for the Jack Hammer. However, these Original Chatterbaits offer a major cost benefit, especially when fishing in areas teeming with species that can unknowingly damage your bait, such as drum or catfish (or pike). Choosing these as your go-to can save you money in the long run. They may not have as nice a keeper on them for expensive trailers, but they work extremely well and make a great cost-efficient alternative. If you're new to chatterbait fishing, the Original Chatterbait represents an excellent starting point.
Project Z Chatterbait
From my experience and discussions with other anglers, Project Z is excellent choice if you're a fan of fishing with heavy line, heavy rods, and even braided line. Unlike conventional chatterbaits, Project Z's feature a closed eye on the blade's end, simplifying line tying without risking a snap. So, if you're utilizing a stiffer rod with 20 plus pound test fluorocarbon, or if you're using a heavy rod akin to a frog throwing one, Project Z's could be the perfect match for you. The durability where you tie your line surpasses that of other options in the market.
Up next is the CrossEyeZ Weedless. It has an Arkie-style head, making it particularly good at skipping. Personally, I view it as ideal for hard covers such as dock rungs, ropes, cables, hardwood, and rocks. Its effective skipping feature makes it ideal for those target fishing with a bladed jig. Plus, it's a more cost-effective alternative to the more expensive Jack Hammer, perfectly designed to be confidently thrown into heavy cover.
Chatterbait Mini Max
The Chatterbait Mini Max has left a remarkable impression since its launch, primarily because it addresses issues anglers often face when fish won't fully commit to the bait. Admittedly, there are times when I'm fishing for smaller bass, like those around two pounds or less. In such scenarios, downsizing your presentation can significantly increase your bite rate. The Mini Max is an excellent option for that. It's particularly popular among anglers targeting smallmouth bass with a smaller, more minnow-like presentation. They work best in open water scenarios and offer a more subtle hunting action compared to larger counterparts. Hence, they're ideal for fish feeding on minnow-like forage within shallow to mid-depth water columns.
Big Blade Chatterbait
The Big Blade designed by Brian Thrift certainly hasn't received the attention it deserves. Here's a pointer - in super dirty water or post heavy rain when the water's muddy, this thing is an absolute game-changer. Even in the murkiest conditions, fish will find this bait due to how loud the clacking is of the blade hitting the head. In general, a bigger blade will deliver bigger bites. Thinking of it from a glide bait or swimbait angler's perspective - if you're aiming for the largest fish in a school and your bites with a traditional bladed jig use a mix of different sizes, you can try switching to the Big Blade for those larger bites.
Jack Hammer Stealthblade Chatterbait
When it comes to the Stealthblade Jack Hammer, it might not initially seem like a favorite, particularly for grassy areas. However, where it truly stands out is in open water, clear water conditions — contrasting from what a chatterbait was technically designed for. This bladed jig is fantastic at portraying a minnow-style bait and offers a realistic presentation in the middle of the water column, where you'd typically fish a realistic-looking crankbait. Plus, its big single hook significantly boosts the landing percentage, making it a great choice in today's era of forward-facing sonar for fishing spooky, suspended fish in clear waters. For those scenarios, I recommend giving the Stealthblade a shot.
Chatterbait Elite EVO
When I first heard about the new Z-Man Chatterbait Elite EVo at ICAST, I thought it would be just another addition to the already vast family of chatterbaits. My initial plan was to stick with the reliable Jack Hammer, however, seeing the EVO in person changed my perspective. This lure possesses almost all of the desirable features of the Evergreen Jack Hammer. It has an advanced keeper with a large lead collar, similar to our favorite jig heads, making it excellent for keeping minnow profiles on. It also features a wire barb for ElaZtech-style plastics and a multi-stage gradual lead collar for softer, sandy, saltier plastics. It boasts a fantastic hook, similar in shape and size to the Jack Hammer, and the head contacts the blade excellently. What's more, it comes in a variety of new and appealing blade colors and combinations. Best of all, it's considerably cheaper than a Jack Hammer. So, if you're new to bladed jigs and budget is a concern, try the EVO for a feel of the best Z-Man makes. With budgetary constraints becoming more of a factor these days, I know I'll be testing out all these EVO's in all the new colors.
Which Chatterbait Weight Should You Choose?
The Jack Hammer comes in various sizes: three-eighths, half, three-quarters, and up to an ounce and a quarter. I often opted for half-ounces because of their versatility. They can be utilized in both shallow and deeper water, enabling you to keep it above the grass or dive into vegetation. They're an all-rounder for uncertain fishing conditions or varied vegetation.
The three-eighths is perfect for bank fishing, maintaining higher in the water column without needing to keep your rod tip up or reel faster.
When it comes to wanting to fish in a deeper water column, with fish around hydrilla, coontail or milfoil edges, the three-quarters option is ideal, as the heavier weight allows it to get down deeper.
For offshore structure or deep water vegetation fishing, you would pick the ounce and a quarter. This is especially useful for deep fishing deeper than 15 feet. It works similar to the 'Chicken,' a technique popular in the Midwest and the South using preacher style jigs on ledges.
Hopefully this helped resolve any questions you had on what kind of chatterbait to throw! There's many more on the market that we couldn't get to, so if you have more questions don't hesitate reach out to us by email at email@example.com or use the blue chat icon in the bottom left of the screen to chat live with us during business hours.