ChatterBait® JackHammer™ Secures Victory for Z-Man® Bass Ace Bryan Thrift
Two years before Bryan Thrift won the first professional bass tournament of his career with an Original ChatterBait® bladed jig, he had already been quietly testing the lure that would eventually help him ascend to hothead angler status, just as he would soon ignite. epic sea bass bites. for thousands of anglers across the United States. Now, well into the era of catch-and-release competition, Thrift has won perhaps the biggest game of the season, adding another $300,000 to his bank account, thanks in no small part to the same “out of the box” lure category. wall” that hung under the radar, all those years ago.
While practicing for the 2023 Major League Fishing REDCREST (aka Bass Pro Tour Championship) in Lake Norman, North Carolina, Thrift had located a sizable bag of largemouth bass in a dark ditch in the arm of a creek. “That last day of practice, I ran upriver, found that ditch, and quickly got 7 or 8 bites out of a Big Blade™ ChatterBait®,” recalls the Shelby, North Carolina-based Z-Man pro.
“Instinctively, I felt this was an area I would return to later in the tournament, a place where I could capture a quick bass cap, if need be,” Thrift said, referring to his eventual game-winning placement. Later on the fourth day, while struggling to draw bites on a hook, Thrift returned to his “back pocket” bass hole, only to discover rapidly changing conditions.
“It turned out that the water level had started to drop, which helped clear things up around the ditch area. While the outstanding flash and vibration of the Big Blade ChatterBait had previously produced so exceptionally well in dirty water, I knew that clearer conditions called for a more subtle, yet similar presentation.”
Matching the lure to the conditions, Thrift switched to a ½-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait® JackHammer™ Blob Remover pattern. “In 25 minutes, he had caught 13 pounds on the JackHammer. I started thinking, okay, I might have a real chance to win this.”
On the fifth and final day, Thrift returned to his spot on the river, employing the same tarpon-emulating ChatterBait and a split-tail trailer. “About 1 o’clock, I ran right into the same ditch and in 20 minutes of slow towing the JackHammer, I had six largemouth bass and another 13 pounds in the boat.” Weighing Alton Jones Jr. by more than four pounds, Thrift would soon lift his second major championship trophy (he won the FLW Cup in 2019), winning REDCREST with a total of 46 pounds, 12 ounces.
Early in the tournament at his home lake, Thrift struggled and barely made it to the knockout round, placing 19th.he after the first two days of fishing. As he narrowed the focus on his ChatterBait pattern, the Thrift clue began to materialize. He led the knockout rounds (Days 3 and 4) before finishing strong with a masterful blade jig performance.
Showing impressive versatility with the JackHammer, Thrift traversed 6- to 10-foot ditch ledges lined with rock and stumps. “It was sort of the opposite of burning a ChatterBait through shallow cover,” she noted. “The water up there was pretty cold, 50-50 degrees. So, I was really dragging the lure slowly, dragging and grinding along the bottom fast enough to keep the hex blade hitting and whipping, creating that powerful, proven ChatterBait vibration.
“I don’t know if people realize, but there’s so much more you can do with all the different Z-Man ChatterBaits, because from the start, they’ve been smartly designed and very well balanced. Ron Davis (inventor of the ChatterBait) passed his knowledge on to Z-Man who has truly taken blade jig play to other levels. You have that precise sound and vibration that is unlike any other lure. All components, from the blade to the connection points, guide head, hooks and skirts, work together to maximize the appeal factor. It’s a super-precise collection of moving parts that result in special little bass-catching tricks: the blade collides with the head, adding a secondary rattle sound that has never been duplicated. And depending on the trailer selection, you can do a ChatterBait juke and hunt from left to right, an almost magical move for catching fish.
“To really bring out that natural erratic action,” adds Thrift, “I’ll go with a smooth jerkbait style trailer. The lack of added drag from a broad tail helps activate blade movement, which triggers its natural hunting tendencies. In recovery, you can initiate this action simply by using a constant fast recovery. Or, as I did at REDCREST, start with one slow spin and then quickly add two or three quick spins of the reel handle. This action provides a burst of speed that triggers those neat little left or right spins in the direction of the lure. Then immediately slow down to really emphasize the random, evasive maneuvers of the lure.
“While all of these subtle tricks are possible with the JackHammer and concealed ChatterBaits like the Project Z™, the oversized Big Blade ChatterBait is the one that really stands out in terms of action. The oversized hex blade diverts more water resulting in crazy, random lure action. It’s the bladed jig I usually cast early in the season, especially in dirtier water or if I really need to dial in the punch factor.”
Having recently made $300k and, as Thrift estimates, over a million dollars in total on ChatterBait blade jigs and counting, you’d be tempted to imagine the Z-Man pro might be ready for a break. “Actually, I’m riding reeds right now, getting ready for the second leg of the Bass Pro Tour, in a few days.”
Reflecting on what has become a legendary career of big tournament wins and bass volumes laced with ChatterBait bladed jigs, Thrift’s thoughts go back to 2006 and to a place called Okeechobee.
“It’s amazing to remember the way anglers once viewed these lures. Imagine, a ChatterBait is considered a fancy gimmick that no one wanted to buy,” laughs Thrift. “In Okeechobee in those early years, I was the only angler casting an Original ChatterBait. I also gave one to my partner and we proceeded to catch probably 40 bass including some giants. Pretty cool that after all these seasons, the same concept, and that same captivating vibe, profile, and unique action, is still being eaten up by as many great basses as it was when Ron Davis put one of the first ChatterBaits in my hands.”
About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic company based in Charleston, South Carolina, Z-Man Fishing Products has been fusing cutting-edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been one of the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits, and other lures. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of 10X Tough ElaZtech® soft baits, among the most sought after baits in freshwater and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.