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Fishing Vibe Machine

Nonconformist ChatterBait® WillowVibe™ re-thinks bladed jig design on super-subtle levels.

Fishing Vibe Machine

Ladson, SC (June 7, 2021) - Twenty four years have passed since Ron Davis first devised an almost magical connection between a metal blade and a jighead. It sounds simplistic, almost trivial now. But for anyone who's thrown a ChatterBait and experienced its fish-catching sorcery, the beauty lies in the lure's simple powers of sound and illusion.

Following Davis' Original ChatterBait gift to the fishing world in 2002, the Rock Hil, South Carolina angler recently unveiled another fish-catching masterwork—albeit a slightly different style of bladed jig.

In hand, the ChatterBait WillowVibe isn't impressive. The lure feels smaller and more compact than its predecessor. Doesn't even look entirely finished. But, as tournament angler Bryan Thrift discovered after winning multiple FLW tourneys on a ChatterBait in 2005 and 2006, appearances can deceive. "Back before 2006, Ron was having a hard time selling his Original ChatterBait because it looked so off-the-wall; just didn't click with anglers," recalls Thrift.

Today, Davis' ChatterBaits represent perhaps the most exciting artificial lure category in existence.

Ace angler Jamie Bruce WillowViibed this trophy walleye late last season.

Davis concedes he doesn't create lures to impress people with eye-candy. "The only lures I ever fish are ones I make in my shop," admits Davis, a lifelong angler and inventor. "Like most lures, the WillowVibe began as a solution to a dilemma. The idea hit me while fishing for big stripers focus-feeding on little bitty shad. These can be some of the most selective, tough-to-fool fish you'll ever encounter. Stripers get so laser focused on subtle baitfish cues—like a certain flash pattern and specific vibration—that we as anglers easily overlook them.

"The lure needed to cast far to spooky fish and allow for easy, precise depth control," he notes. "I knew that once I had perfected the WillowVibe—that is, once it ran true and baitfish-feeding stripers freely ate it—great success would follow with many different species."

Will-O'-the-Walleye

As anglers across North America discover the lure's appeal, Davis' claims appear more and more prophetic. "It's one of those intriguing looking lures you're curious about from the first time you see it," offers Jamie Bruce, a talented multispecies and tournament angler from Kenora, Ontario. "I started playing around with the WillowVibe for walleyes last fall. Actually caught a giant on it on the very last day of the season. When you see what the bait does in the water, its potential for walleyes and other species becomes pretty clear.

"When the fishing season re-opened this spring, we started crushing walleyes and smallmouth with it, right away. I'm sure we'll eventually catch lake trout on the WillowVibe, too," believes Bruce, who slow-rolls the ¼-ounce size in shallow water and yo-yos the heavier 3/8-ounce version on 10 to 20 foot ledges.

Bruce, an innovative angler and part-time guide, views the subtle, willowleaf bladed jig as an effective tool for both shallow water and mid-depth drop-offs. "I'll dress the lure with different finesse paddletails—like a Z-Man 3-inch MinnowZ™ or Slim SwimZ™—and fish it like a little swimbait. Or put a Trick ShotZ™ or other finesse bait on the back and work it more like a traditional jig. A WillowVibe and Trick ShotZ combo has been super-hot for walleyes; the bait's little tail waggles and strums along, nice and subtle. When you stop, the buoyant ElaZtech® tail hovers, rises up and comes to life. You can chunk and slow-wind the blade over shallow rocks and sparse grass. Or, you can fish it stop-and-go, almost like a Ned rig. When you stop it, the blade drops out, visually, and the lure just becomes a jig. Really versatile.

"Throw it out, let it hit bottom and give it a nice fluid pull. When you move it at the right slow-to-medium speed, you feel the blade hum with a subtle pulsing of your rodtip. Speed up slightly or twitch the rodtip and the WillowVibe hunts in this super erratic, almost random back-and-forth juking action. That move is so deadly because every time you do it, the lure reacts a little differently. It's that random factor that totally mimics a fleeing baitfish.

"Soon as you feel the blade stop humming along, it's usually because a fish has eaten it and you need to set the hook. Bass and walleyes will bum-rush the bait and absolutely wolf it down—like they're totally convinced it's a real minnow."

To study fish response to his WillowVibe retrieves, Bruce employs a Garmin Panoptix LiveScope unit. "Lots of times, I've watched walleyes and smallmouths on screen follow the lure for a distance. When I give it a little twitch, it'll dart off to the side; you'll see the fish get super amped up and often eat the lure right there. It's kind of a magic move."

Z-Man's ChatterBait WillowVibe scores on a multitude of diffefrent species.

Alternative Bass Blading

Joey Nania, an Alabama based tourney angler, gives the under-the-radar bladed jig equal accolades. "In the right conditions, it's one of my favorite baits," concedes Nania, the 2021 Bassmaster Central Open Champion. "Especially in stained and off-colored water, current, rock and ledges down to about 22 feet, the WillowVibe has been a big surprise this year.

"I've always valued a bait that could do different things—pull off two or more totally different actions—within the same retrieve," says Nania. "The lure swims and hums along or slashes erratically, depending on retrieve speed alone. The reason it's so compelling to fish, I believe, is that it emits a totally different sound and underwater signature than any other bait fish have seen before. On Logan Martin Lake this year, I caught 60 spotted bass with the lure in three hours."

Nania propels the compact WillowVibe up to 70 yards per cast, preferring spinning tackle with 10 or 15 pound test braid. He says you can also throw the bait on casting tackle and 14-pound fluorocarbon. For trailers, Nania hypes the subtle swimming vibes of a Z-Man StreakZ™ 3.75 or a 3-inch MinnowZ.

Bassmaster Open champ Joey Nania and son Zeke count the WillowVibe among their favorite new baits.

"A slow, steady retrieve produces a nice rhythmic vibration," he notes. "You can throw it in 6-inches of water, starting the retrieve immediately, and occasional flicking the blade through the surface or even bulge it on top. For suspended fish, count it down and keep it at any depth to about 15 feet with a nice steady retrieve. Give the WillowVibe little twitches to make it jump and dart, randomly. It's also a ledge killer at places like Guntersville. Let it hit bottom, tight-line it and give the lure a couple quick snaps. You'll also appreciate how well it comes through and out of rock crevices. A fast pop frees it right up."

Davis offers the benediction: "Truthfully, there's nothing 'finesse' about the WillowVibe," he says. "I chose a willowleaf over the traditional hex-blade because it leaves more room to oscillate from side to side, flashing and giving off a high-action, high-frequency vibration—more of a buzz than a thump. The rest of the secret lies in precisely calculating the right blade-to-jig and line attachment locations—or, pull-points— which determine the lure's oscillation, stability and vibration. Put it in the wrong spot, and we're not even having this conversation. Get it right, and well, good things happen."

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