The bait commonly referred to as the “rattletrap” has had a long history in the sport of bass fishing but I believe largely unheralded outside of a few major victories. Sure, you will find them located in everyone’s tackle storage but their use is largely undervalued. When I think about the baits and the names associated with it, I think of Rick Clunn, Marty Stone, Kevin VanDam, Dickey Newberry and Chris McCall. Guys that have consistently called upon this lure to beef up their checking accounts. But what makes this bait so special and so largely overlooked? It’s versatility. Versatility is what makes it special but also causes it to get lost in the shadows of a specialist world. Guys turn to more trendy modern techniques albeit sometimes more suitable applicators. But what makes it less than ideal in a lot of situations is what makes it sometimes the best bite generator you have at your disposal.
Rattlebaits are almost always relegated to springtime crawfish imitators over vegetation or shad imitators in open coverless water. Granted, they work in both of those situations as proved by the millions of hours of casts that have been made in that situation with success. But to limit them to that is a big mistake. I’m not sure there really isn’t a situation that the bait can’t be applied but reasonably there are surely many they aren’t regularly applied and should be.
The biggest use for a rattlebaits is to cover water quickly and to me the type of cover shouldn’t really prohibit it’s potential to be called up. Sure, there’s time you are fishing 6” to a foot of water in vegetation and it’s not ideal. But anything deeper than a foot I will factor it in. And anything short of water so muddy you can see deer tracks I will factor it in as well. I’ve caught bass both schooling and suspended at depths around 20 feet and I know it’s a fact David Fritts uses heavy rattlebaits regularly when probing deep water structure for bass.
So why do these baits get a nose thumbed at them? For their weedlessness or lack thereof. I get it, freeing a bait off stump every 5th cast or slapping vegetation off every other cast is not always fun. I get that. But, it’s that frustration that keeps anglers from using them in situations thus creating a situation where the pressure on a particular bait is reduced. And I’m not sure there is a single greater reflex strike generating lure made. Think about it, the bait tracks like a train on a rail and is about s deflective. But, when you can get it to deflect right, it’s can be awesome and making fish bite. And it’s not slapping bite usually, it’s typically the bite that you know is in the fishes mouth where it belongs.
I think about Marty Stone winning on Lake Wheeler in 1999 in shallow, cold water around sparse grass and stumps. Fish would eat his rattletrap when they wouldn’t tough anything else. Or how about KVD’s Classic win in 2010 on Lay Lake using a Red Eye on a shallow, stumpy flat. Surely there was a better option for that scenario right? I believe probably not because those other options had been tried and were not as effective because they didn’t get the fish to commit to bite. I’ve certainly had my own experiences where crankbaits weren’t coming through the cover correct and they wouldn’t bite a chatterbait but I could draw strikes with a trap style bait.
Now, I’m not advising every condition is rattlebait worthy, there is a time an a place and it’s just another tool in the box. But much like what coach Belichick preaches in New England “situational football”; situational bait selection could lead to more bites in situations where you might be fishing through fish. And a rattlebait just might be the ticket to landing more of those bites.