Professional bass fishing's swing through Florida in January and February put the bait, which has humble beginnings in upstate South Carolina and Charlotte, put it on the market, with fisherman after fisherman showing up on weigh-in platforms toting huge bass that had swallowed the bait.
The invention of Ron Davis Sr. of Rock Hill, S.C., and Ron Davis Jr., of Greenwood, S.C., the Chatterbait can be best described this way: it's a jig head with a spinnerbait-type skirt and plastic trailer, with a wire running from the jig head through a five-sided metal blade to a snap swivel.
When retrieved, the blade spins in an ever-changing pattern, causing the bait to dart erratically from side to side – an action that bass apparently can't stand.
Robby Byrum, who owns Byrum's General Store in Charlotte, was instrumental in getting the bait to market when the Davises decided in 2003 to share with the world the secret bait they had fished for years on tournament circuits such as the Hungry Fisherman.
"Ron Sr. worked for Celanese, and Ron Jr. was a tennis pro, and I guess Ron Jr. came to his dad one day and told him he thought they should sell the bait," Byrum said. "Ron Sr. came to me one day at the store one day and asked me if I thought the bait would sell. I took it out to my pool and threw it about 10 times, and I told him the bait would sell.
"We went to the Palmetto Sportsman's Classic in Columbia and sold it, and when the (Bassmaster) Classic came to Charlotte, I bought half his booth, and he sold everything he brought."
Byrum said the bait's selling power was prodigious - once the fishing community outside the Lake Wylie-Lake Wateree-Lake Greenwood area heard about it. It really took off this past January when Bryan Thrift of Shelby won an FLW Stren Series tournament at Lake Okeechobee with a Chatterbait, and it was a hit with pros at the recent Bassmaster Classic at Florida's Lake Toho, with fishermen talking it up on the weigh-in platform - including runnerup Rick Morris of Lanexa, Va., who said about 75 percent of the fish he caught were with a Chatterbait.
"I took 1,200 to the Greensboro show (Bass & Saltwater Expo) and sold them all in three hours," Byrum said. "And I talked to Ron on Jan. 4, and he told me he had about 30,000 made and packaged, and then Bryan Thrift won that tournament, and the next Monday, he sold 50,000 of 'em."
There's a reason the bait sells. It has a great action in the water, but first and foremost, it catches fish.
The Chatterbait is basically weedless because the rotating blade knocks most obstructions away from the hook point. It's made in ¼-, 3/8- and ½-ounce sizes, in a handful of colors, with a split-tail trailer attached.
Byrum said that striper fishermen have taken to the ¾-ounce model, replacing the split-tail trailer with a Zoom Fluke. He expects it to be a tremendous bait for puppy drum once saltwater fishermen discover it.
Morris was convinced shortly after he started fishing it this winter. He had only been using it about a month before going to the Classic, where he made it his go-to bait.
"You can cover a lot of water with it, like a spinnerbait, and it's got a heckuva vibration," Morris said. "You can see your line jumping back and forth, back and forth. It's almost got the action of a Minus-One (a Mann's crankbait), but it's like a spinnerbait on a jig body.
"In my opinion, when bass are active, they'll really eat it, and when they're inactive, it will at least make 'em slap at it. It will aggravate 'em enough to get you a true reaction strike.
"After the first day (of the Classic), I started fishing it with a trailer hook, and all of my fish the next two days were hooked on that trailer hook."
Morris said the bait's jig-like nature makes it easy to pitch or flip it around heavy cover. During the Classic, he was casting, flipping and pitching it around a variety of lily pads and bullrushes.
"You can flip it up under stuff and bring it out; you're able to fish it much faster than you would if you were just flipping a plastic bait," Morris said. "I was fishing it on braided line, and I think that helps because you can feel the bait a lot better, but you don't really put that much action into it with your rod like you do a spinnerbait. You still pull it up and over cover and let it fall back down, but mostly it has its own action."
Bass pro and guide Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway used a Chatterbait for the better part of 2005. He got wind of it through his friendship with Lake Wylie pros Chris Baumgardner and Todd Auten.
"It's the hottest thing out there," Thomas said. "I caught fish after fish with a Chatterbait when I fished with him at Buckhorn Reservoir on the Cape Fear River last fall.
"It's got an action to it like no bait I've ever seen. You just reel it in, and you can feel it thump, thump, thump.
"I think it's a great situation bait. I think it's a killer bait at lakes that have grass and a little bit of stained water. The lakes in Florida are the most ideal places to throw it, and that's where everybody's heard of it."
Morris believes the Chatterbait will is the latest "new" bait that will become a staple for all fishermen, something along the lines of the Shad Rap and Senko when they debuted. He thinks it can be an especially effective bait when fished around flooded buck and willow bushes - think Buggs Island in April - or in any other situation where a spinnerbait could be effective.
"Grass and stained water is its best application, but I don't see why you can't throw it all around flooded bushes and catch fish," he said.
The Davises are selling Chatterbaits through their company, Rad Lures, at www.chatterbait.com.