Fishing A Chatterbait Around Shallow Wood
Whether I’m fishing a vibrating jig, a swim jig, a spinnerbait or a squarebill, I’m always adding a little action to the bait by bouncing my rod tip and varying my retrieve. I firmly believe this makes all of those baits better than if I were to simply reel them in steadily. However, with a vibrating jig, you have to be a little more careful with this around wood.
You always want your hook to stay as vertical as possible. So if you pause or pump your bait, you can’t just let the bait fall over on slackline. It will get hung and get hung often. You have to control your bait even in the fall by keeping your line semi-tight.
Keeping contact with the bait will also help you feel the bite better and most importantly, distinguish the difference in a bite and bumping a piece of wood, preventing a lot of hangups from unwarranted hooksets.
You will inevitably get hung when fishing a vibrating jig around wood. It is physically impossible not to at times. The key is to minimize those hangups and not get frustrated. As my dad says,
“If you’re not getting hung every now and then, you’re not fishing where the fish are.”
The key to fishing around shallow wood with any style bait is to really pick it apart. The fish will usually be tucked right up against the wood waiting to ambush prey, especially in cold water situations. So you have to get in there and bump around to draw the strikes.
I usually use a Fitzgerald Vursa 7′ 3″ Medium Heavy Casting Rod here with the 40-pound braided line and a 1/2-ounce Z-Man Custom ChatterBait.
Ripping a Vibrating Jig Through Vegetation
Ripping a vibrating jig through vegetation like hydrilla, milfoil and coontail is perhaps the most popular way to fish a vibrating jig. Again, in these situations I like to vary my trailers based primarily on depth and thickness of the vegetation. You want to let the bait tick along the surface of the vegetation, ripping it free whenever the bait begins to hang on a piece of grass. But you don’t want your bait to get bogged down to the point you can’t rip it free and have to reel the bait in to remove big balls of vegetation.
The right gear is essential here, especially when the vegetation is thick.
I tend to land somewhere in the 7’ 6” medium heavy to heavy action range with 50-pound braid. The Fitzgerald Fishing Vursa 7’ 6” Medium Heavy is a great rod for this. The rod should have a lot of strength but also a fair amount of tip so that you can heave the bait a long way and play the fish down as it nears the boat. There’s not much call for heavier braid than 50-pound test because you’re typically going to straighten out a hook or line tie on most vibrating jigs before you break the 50-pound test line.
The heavier action, longer rod and braided line are important to give you leverage on the fish and keep them up out of the vegetation during the fight. If they do bog you down, it’s often better to go to them with the boat and free them by hand instead of trying to pull them out with your rod.
Just be sure to keep your line tight and be ready incase the fish frees itself before you get there.
Here’s a video from a Costa Series event on Lake Okeechobee in 2013 where I ripped a Z-Man Original ChatterBait through hydrilla in 2-3 feet of water to finish 11th. You should really take time to enjoy the music.