After Dwayne Taff celebrated his historic $100,000 win at the 2018 KBF National Championship awards ceremony, he thanked many people, but only one lure — the Chatterbait Jack Hammer.
It took awhile for Dwayne Taff to put his win over 751 competitors on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley during the 2018 Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) National Championship into perspective. Acknowledging his own place in bass tournament history was almost as overwhelming as his win.
“I looked at the payout at the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell the week before, and after Jordan Lee’s $300,000 winner’s check, the second place award dropped to $50,000,” said Taff following the the March 23-24 tourney. “The KBF National Championship is right up there now with the biggest events in the sport.”
Not only was his winner’s purse of $100,000, courtesy of electric motor maker and title sponsor Torqeedo, almost triple that of any prior kayak victor’s take, but it will rank among the largest first place tournament awards slated for the 2018 bass fishing season, equaling the first place checks to winning pros at Bassmaster Elite and FLW Tour events.
The magnum winner’s purse wasn’t Taff’s only takeaway. He caught his two 5-fish limits over the two-day event on one lure, the Chatterbait Jack Hammer.
“It was a totally new addition to my tackle arsenal. I hit the jackpot with it, too!” he laughed.
Through magazine articles and You Tube videos, Taff had tracked Brett Hite’s FLW and Bassmaster success with the Jack Hammer, a high-end Chatterbait variation that Hite himself had co-designed with Japanese lure designer Morizo Shimizu. The bait, a top-of-the-category product distinguished by its hunting action, premium components and lightning-quick responsiveness, is marketed in the U.S. through a joint effort between Z-Man and EverGreen International of Japan.
Z-Man’s Chatterbait has mushroomed into a family of lures that have expanded the utility and fish-catching capability of the bladed jig concept. With models like the Chatterbait Freedom, Diezel Chatterbait, Chatterbait Flashback, Chatterbait Mini, Chatterbait Elite and Chatterbait Jack Hammer, Z-Man has Chatterbait varieties available at five price levels and distinguished by variations in components, features, and sizes.
The Chatterbait Jack Hammer, the Cadillac of the line, features premium components including a stainless steel blade for better vibration, a heavy wire Gamakatsu hook, double wire bait keeper, and premium snap. A blade protector design feature, flat bottom and low center of gravity highlight some of its subtle design distinctions.
The hunt is on!
Taff went through a frustrating odyssey trying to find the lure. He finally found the Jack Hammer in a Dick’s store in Houston and bought one.
A la Hite, he added a Yamamoto Zako trailer. He had tracked the soft plastic trailer down in a tackle store in Paducah, Kentucky, just prior to the tournament.
Taff failed to find fish “doing the Kentucky Lake thing” on deep ledges during the unseasonably cold pre-fish days, so he decided to fish the way he knew best. “I didn’t have any confidence in what I was doing so I told my buddies, ’I’m fishing shallow. I’m going Texas!’” Taff recalled. “We rarely fish deeper than 10 feet in Texas.”
He tied on the Chatterbait Jack Hammer.
“I planned to used it as a search bait, thinking I could cover a lot of water with it,” he said. “Unlike other bladed jigs, it doesn’t come up to the surface on you or stop vibrating. You don’t have to jerk it or pop it to get started again in the middle of your retrieve. When the Jack Hammer hits the water it starts pulsing right away, and it doesn’t stop. I don’t care how fast or slow you retrieve it. It outperforms every bait in the category.”
Taff had a five-fish limit by 9:00 A.M. on Day One. He fished a 100-yard stretch of bank only 1- to 2-feet deep with an adjacent ditch 4- to 6-feet deep.
“In the early morning, the bass were on the ledge, tight to the bank,” he explained. “But they dropped into the ditch when the sun came up.”
Nearly all his fish came from the relatively sparse hard cover in the area, primarily fallen trees and stick-ups.
He left the area early on Day One, knowing he was in contention for the big prize. He hoped that he had not spooked all the bass there and that the area would replenish itself with new fish as well.
He was right.
But Day Two was not without suspense.
Taff hung his lone Jack Hammer on his very first cast!
“I had already caught two fish off that tree, and I am thinking ‘I am going to hit that tree just to the left…and I am going to catch a fish,’” he recalled. “It’s my first cast in the dark, and I throw it right in the middle of the tree. I hung my Chatterbait (Jack Hammer) on my first cast! I am thinking that I screwed it up, scared all the fish. I jerk it again, trying to get it out of the tree…Right then, the line moves off to the left, and I set the hook. The fish had just come in and grabbed it out of the tree! That’s how I started my morning.”
The fish measured 22.5 inches, the largest fish reported that hour and among the largest caught in the entire tournament.
“She was full of eggs, probably weighed 6 or 7 pounds,” he said, basking in the recollection.
He moved 20 feet down the bank and landed another bass, a 19-3/4-incher. Minutes later, he added a 15-3/4-inch fish to his tally.
Only a half hour into Day Two, he had three quality keepers to his credit.
Taff emphasized the importance of the role tackle match-ups played in his $100,000 payday. The combination consisted of a strong medium power rod from the McCain kayak series, an Abu Garcia Revo reel with 5:1 gear ratio, and 12-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line.
“I used mostly a straight retrieve. The 5:1 gear ratio enabled me to keep the retrieve slow in that 51-degree water,” assessed Taff. “The rod enabled me to get a good hookset. When I felt the bait stop chattering, I knew a fish had hit and was coming toward me. With that McCain rod, I could still get a good hookset.”
The Jack Hammer he used was the BHite Delight; the trailer color was green pumpkin.
A game of quarter inches
But the game changed on Day Two after Taff’s 30-minute opening gambit. The wind changed direction, and the morning’s mist turned to steady rain.
“I couldn’t get Numbers Four and Five to bite over the next few hours,” recalled Taff. “So I left the area for another bank with a few stick-ups. There I got a 12- and a 12-3/4 inch fish. But I knew I probably wouldn’t remain at the top with those fish, so I just kept grinding.”
Unable to upgrade his catch, he began to paddle back to the bank where he had started the day’s fishing. Rounding a point, he ran into one of his angling buddies who told him the camera crew was looking for him.
He cringed at the added pressure of fishing in front of the camera.
“I considered going the other way, but I was heading back to my Honey Hole, my Money Hole!” he said.
He worked up and down that bank an estimated 30 times with the eyes of camera and onlookers upon him. At one point, the cameraman lamented that he had a lot of fish on film but had yet to capture a hookset on camera.
“Five minutes later the Jack Hammer took a 14-inch fish,” Taff recalled. “The camera man asked me how critical I thought that 14-incher was. I said, ‘That could be the difference in winning $100,000. I just upgraded by two inches.’”
And it was! Taff topped his closest competitor, Joshua Stewart, by 1-3/4 inches with a 10-fish total of 173.5 inches.
“That 14-incher wasn’t the most impressive fish on film,” said Taff, sporting a $100,000 grin. “But he WAS the money fish!”