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When to Go Big

Throughout the year, there's a number of key times to use a big bait for bass. It's an obvious choice when strictly targeting big fish, but there's more to it than that. In certain seasons and scenarios, big lures simply outperform everything else.

Take the bluegill spawn, for example. Whenever these panfish are doing their thing, you can count on bass being in the immediate area to take advantage of this concentration of forage. The spawning bream are good-sized, mature fish; they have to be in order to be able to reproduce. For that reason, just about every bass in the neighborhood is looking for a big, tired old bluegill to make a mistake and become dinner. This window is one I look for every year, and I capitalize on with a new favorite bait. A big bait.

Since its introduction to the world several years ago, no lure has revolutionized bass fishing like Z-Mans ChatterBait. It's sure won me a ton of money. When paired with a five-inch DieZel MinnowZ, my ChatterBait Jack Hammer becomes a mega-bait, attracting the attention of bream-busters all across the shallows.

Let's dial that in a bit more. First off, it's important to realize that not all bluegill, bream, or related panfish carry out typical spawning activity. In fact, on many lakes, bluegills spawn all summer long, often four times a year. I've found full moon periods stretching from early May to Labor Day to be the go-to times. Depths can range from a foot of water to 15 ft, depending on water clarity. Once I locate spawning activity, my Jack Hammer combo goes to work. I start with a 1/2oz bait - never going any lighter - and will step up to a 3/4 0z if the depth, cover or wind calls for it. Remember, I'm mimicking big forage, so I come out swinging.

ChatterBait ® Jack Hammer™ BHITE DELIGHT

ChatterBait® Jack Hammer™ BRETTS BLUEGILL

Favorite colors include BHite Delight and Brett's Bluegill, and I team each with a Green Pumpkin DieZel MinnowZ, retrieving the bait near the bottom. I compare this to slow-rolling a spinnerbait - another killer tactic during the bluegill spawn - and flutter my Jack Hammer in the same fashion. Knocking the bait around cover, I'll give the lure a quick burst of energy every three or four turns of the reel handle, in order to trigger a reflex strike.

It's important to point out that this is not a slow fishing method, overall. On the contrary, that big, heavy Jack Hammer allows for a fairly rapid retrieve, eliminating water quickly and efficiently. That's important, because bluegills often spawn in small clusters, requiring a bunch of casts to find the productive zone.

As summer progresses, most shallow-water bass move offshore, and set up on river ledges and points in reservoirs across the South. I chase them down with the same lure. Here, again, the fish are keying on big forage - this time it's mature gizzard shad. When you see one of those big, half-pound shad jump clear out of the water, out in the middle of the lake, you just know what's chasing him! Bass will roam great distances to live in and around these shad schools.

The Jack Hammer again plays a key role. Here, I throw a 3/4 oz. bait exclusively, teamed with that big DieZel MinnowZ, and trade out my bluegill hues for a white bait and Pearl trailer. I often rip the lure off the bottom in warm water months, and the double-wire trailer keeper never lets that DieZel MinnowZ go, equaling better efficiency and more casts.

That big bait stays near the bottom, even in deep water, thanks to both its heavy weight and specific design. The Jackhammer features a scientifically balanced head with a low center of gravity, to prevent lift. For that reason, this lure is outstanding for open water techniques.

Z-Man's newest addition to the ChatterBait family - the ChatterBait Freedom CFL - adds another arrow to my open-water quiver. I just started using this lure, and the results have been impressive.

The ChatterBait Freedom CFL combines the incredible vibration profile of a ChatterBait with the undeniable attraction of a wobble head, to create an erratic lure that hunts the bottom like no other. Again paired with a five-inch DieZel MinnowZ, the combination has a mega feel that appeals to the biggest bass in the lake.Both of these baits feature stout flipping hooks, allowing me to really lean on big fish, without worry of any flexing. That's important when a seven-pounder is jumping at the end of a full cast. Is there anything better than a ChatterBait? Probably not. Team one up with a five-inch DieZel MinnowZ, and be prepared to catch your biggest bass of the year.

Z-Man Pro-Staff

Stephen Browning

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