A month after the conclusion of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, the story of Paul Mueller’s valiant charge at the title, and eventual runner-up finish, has resonated throughout the bass world. By sacking a Classic record five-fish limit on Day Two, he bounced back from the bottom of the scorecard and fell short of the title only when Randy Howell put on a superhuman clinic on Day Three.
Mueller credits much of his success to the decision to change from a lipless crankbait to a Chatterbait on the second day – and this too has been written about a fair amount – but the part that often gets left out in the telling is his chosen trailer. Mueller will be the first to admit that he didn’t have substantial experience with a Chatterbait prior to Day Two, so when he made the gut decision to pick it up, he combined this “new technique” with an old favorite: The Reins Fat Rockvibe Shad.
Over the past couple of years, The Fat Rockvibe Shad has become Mueller’s go-to lure as both a standalone bait and as a trailer for lures like swim jigs. Its universal appeal has been proved time and again from the far northeast to the deepest parts of Florida, and west into the heart of the Ozarks, and by design and by happenstance he’s learned that it can be used in all sorts of cover and water clarities. For example, he’s employed it in a manner like a buzz frog or a hollow-bodied frogs in the grass beds of Okeechobee and the Potomac, as well as the dirty water far up Lake Ouachita. In fact, at that latter venue it provided his three biggest fish en route to a co-angler championship in the Forrest Wood Cup. Closer to home, many of his Candlewood Lake guiding clients have employed it to catch their personal best smallmouths. The combination of the distinctive action, the unique Reins shrimp scent and the fact that it moves realistically with little input from the angler make it his tool of choice whether he’s leading a first-timer out on the water or fishing for the biggest title in bass fishing. Each one emerges from the package flawless, swimming just as designed with no modifications needed.
“The thing with most swimbaits is that they’re bulky in a different way,” he said recently. “That bait is flat on one side, so when it kicks it rocks from side to side and rolls from left to right.”
Rigged on the Chatterbait, he said that the combined action most closely resembled that of a soft plastic on a Scrounger head, “o you’re getting a combination of a Scrounger, a Chatterbait and a lipless crankbait” – the best of all worlds for pre-spawn grass fishing, all of the benefits with few of the drawbacks those baits can create. Accordingly, while he didn’t fully understand what the Chatterbait could do for him, Mueller knew that adding the Fat Rockvibe Shad would enhance its action and bring him back into the game.
On the Chatterbait’s 5/0 Gamakatsu hook, rigging is simple. “The main thing is to make sure it’s straight and right down the middle,” he said. “Then you just had to slow roll it over the top of the grass. If you got hung up, just pop it free. I wasn’t killing it to get strikes, just a gentle pull to get it loose. It was the same with the lipless crankbait. They didn’t want it ripped out of the grass.
Mueller left Guntersville with newfound confidence in vibrating jigs, particularly when they have his favorite trailer on the back, and he looks forward to using the combo in a wider variety of situations. “I learned that if you slow it down, you can fish it in a wide variety of situations,” he explained. “When the bite gets a little funky, it’s a good complement to the lipless crankbait. Sometimes they’ll react better to it.” The strong bite opened his eyes to other places to throw it – specifically shallow pre-spawn areas, especially with grass. “I can’t wait to throw it on the Potomac or in that grass at Champlain in the Ticonderoga area.”
One of his key observations is that to be fully effective this combination needs a little bit of color in the water, although some variation in clarity can be overcome by changing trailer colors, and the Fat Rockvibe Shad comes in eight hues perfect for matching up with any vibrating jig.
“This presentation has everything,” he concluded. “Flash, vibration, and the big kick of the Rockvibe. It’s going to be a killer in all sorts of different prespawn places.” Whether you’re a rank beginner or fishing for a six-figure check, this lure – by itself or on the back of something else – will help you to put more fish in the boat.