Step inside the lureshop of bladed jig inventor Ron Davis Sr. and your perceptions of what constitutes a ChatterBait will likely leave you at the door. Of course, you probably won’t be dropping by his shop anytime soon, so you won’t discover most of the other secret projects underway inside Davis’ laboratory. But if you’re reading this, you’re among the fortunate-first to glimpse Davis’ newest masterwork, an intriguing new bladed jig design known evocatively as the ChatterBait WillowVibe™.
“Who says all bladed jigs have a hex-shaped blade?” asks Davis, whose original ChatterBait touched off an undeniable fishing phenomenon over two decades back.
Fifteen years in development, a collaborative effort between Davis and Z-Man Fishing has resulted in a veritable marvel of angling engineering. At first glance, like most strokes of simple, elegant genius, the WillowVibe’s sleek, minimalist physique misleads you. But be forewarned: this little willowleaf-bladed jig is full of surprises.
Like all finely-crafted lures, the WillowVibe began as a solution to a vexing fishing dilemma. “The idea for this lure came to me while fishing for big stripers focus-feeding on little bitty shad,” recalls Davis, who along with son Ron Davis Jr. crafted the Original ChatterBait Bladed Jig in 1998.
“These can be some of the most selective, tough-to-fool fish in the lake,” explains Davis, an astute angler and aquatic observer from Rock Hill, South Carolina. “These fish are so laser focused on specific, subtle baitfish cues that we as anglers easily overlook them. In these scenarios, a lot of folks throw underspins. But I wanted a lure I could cast a mile and that allowed for easy, precise depth control.
“You’ve seen shad the flip through the surface when they’re fleeing predators? An underspin can’t do that, but the WillowVibe’s blade mimics this exact surface-flip, and does it so realistically that bass swim right over and eat it.”
Davis continues: “This lure’s got a little secret, though. It starts humming with the first crank of the handle, and buzzes smoothly through the water; we refer to it lovingly as ‘the bee.’ But twitch the lure with your rodtip and watch what happens next. The WillowVibe jumps, darts and hunts in totally random fashion. Ever watched what a frantic shad does with a bass in chase? Zip!, zip!, zip!— back and forth. Now throw the WillowVibe and compare the two. Pretty convincing copy of the real thing.”
As Davis and other great anglers will tell you, there’s no better trigger for selective bass and other fish than these evasive, fast-slashing maneuvers, especially in areas of openwater. So, while traditional bladed jigs excel near heavy cover, the ChatterBait WillowVibe enters a totally different stratosphere—pulsing through the pelagic zone where baitfish and big bass collide. Where stripers crash shad parties. Where walleyes waylay windrows of ciscoes. Where smallmouths and crappies munch minnows in bulk.
“We’re just starting to realize where this bait excels,” says Z-Man pro Joey Nania. “So far, the answer is that it works more places than not, though certainly in non-traditional ChatterBait spots, such as rock, low-visibility zones, river current, and deeper ledges with largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. When you first throw this bait, you’ll fall in love with its sweet subtle vibrations. Feels totally different on your rodtip than a hexagonal ChatterBlade. It’s a faster frequency vibration that pulses even when you’re barely moving it. You’ll feel it, too, down in 15 to 20 feet of water.”