Skirtless Chatterbaits (And How To Fish Them)

UPDATED 31 JULY 2022

by Robert Ceran

Throwing skirtless chatterbaits is one of the best kept secrets of the bass pro circuit, and has only recently started making its way into the mainstream world of fishing.

Using a skirtless chatterbait seems counterintuitive at first, since the skirt provides extra bulk and action in the water.

So what are the advantages of fishing chatterbaits without skirts, and when should you throw them?

In this article we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about skirtless chatterbaits, what they can do for you, and how you should fish them.

Do chatterbaits need skirts?

While chatterbaits traditionally always come with a skirt, recent results show they don’t need a skirt in order to catch fish, and may work even better without a skirt in some circumstances.

A handful of bass anglers (including pro circuit members) have used chatterbaits without skirts for years, and report they sometimes get better results with a skirtless chatterbait than with a regular skirted one.

In response to this, Z-Man Fishing has released the Diezel and Eye Strike chatterbait series, which both come without a skirt.

In addition to this, most regular chatterbaits allow you to remove or exchange the skirt, which means you can either fish them with or without a skirt.

What are the advantages of using a chatterbait without a skirt?

There are 3 main advantages to using a chatterbait without a skirt: they sink faster, they can be fished more actively (due to less drag from the skirt), and they present pressured bass with an unfamiliar lure profile.

Let’s look at each of these advantages in more detail.

The skirt of a chatterbait creates a lot of drag in the water. It flares every time you pause the chatterbait during retrieval, and this makes the chatterbait more sluggish when you start moving it again. This sluggishness makes a chatterbait sink quite slowly in the water column, and also makes it less responsive when you try to work it erratically during retrieval.

So, by removing the skirt, you get rid of all that extra drag, and this allows a skirtless chatterbait to behave similar to standard jig head paired with a swimbait trailer. This makes it much easier to use in deep water, and is ideal for targeting bass on deep structure.

Also, when you get rid of the drag by removing the skirt, this also makes the chatterbait much more responsive to being worked with subtle jerks, twitches, and other erratic retrieval techniques, which often work better for triggering strikes when standard techniques don’t work.

Finally, if the bass you’re trying to catch are heavily pressured, chances are that they see chatterbaits all the time, and have learned to avoid them. So if you’re the only angler who’s throwing skirtless chatterbaits, your lure looks different from everyone else’s, which gives you an advantage.

What is the best chatterbait to use without a skirt?

The best chatterbait to use without a skirt is the Z-Man Original chatterbait, since it’s easy to remove or replace its skirt, which means you can readily fish it either with or without a skirt. Also, the Original is relatively cheap, which means you don’t need to spend a fortune on skirtless chatterbaits.

However, if you prefer to buy chatterbaits that are designed to be fished without a skirt, then the best options are the Z-Man Diezel (which comes pre-rigged with a swimbait trailer), or the Z-Man Eye Strike (which comes without a trailer).

The paddle tail swimbait trailer included with the Z-man Diezel is available in 8 different colors to choose from, but if you get the Eye Strike instead, that gives you an even wider range of options, since you can pair it with a huge variety of chatterbait trailers, as well as other soft plastic baits or tubes.

How do you remove a chatterbait skirt?

In order to remove a chatterbait skirt, simply slide it backwards off the jig head. This is easily done with some chatterbait models (such as the Z-Man Original), but not as simple with others (such as the Z-Man Jackhammer, which comes with a hand tied skirt).

The nice thing about using a Z-Man Original is that you can easily replace the skirt whenever you want, and also have the option of switching back to fishing with the skirt. 

What is the best size chatterbait to use without a skirt?

The best size chatterbait to use without a skirt is a 3/4 oz or 1 oz chatterbait, which is slightly heavier than regular chatterbaits. The reason for this is that heavier chatterbaits can be fished more actively, and sink faster in the water, which plays into their strengths.

What is the best trailer to put on a skirtless chatterbait?

The best trailer to put on a skirtless chatterbait is either a paddle tail swimbait, a fluke style swimbait, or a tube.

All of these trailers have a baitfish profile, and by fishing them actively with erratic retrieval techniques, you can get them to resemble a wounded baitfish that will trigger bass bites even when they’re not feeding actively.

In addition to these minnow swimbait profiles, you can also opt for a craw style trailer or creature bait when fishing close to shallow cover.

But no matter which trailer you choose for chatterbait fishing, it’s best to go for the ones that have a relatively subtle swimming action, since they work best with skirtless chatterbaits.

Using a tube with a skirtless chatterbait

A growing number of bass pro anglers have started throwing skirtless chatterbaits with a tube trailer, and swear by this combination. The great thing about tubes is that they stay on the chatterbait jig head more tenaciously than any other trailer. 

A great way to rig a tube on a skirtless chatterbait is to cut off a small piece of the tube’s head, which exposes its hollow interior. Next, insert the point of the chatterbait hook into this hole in the tube, and then thread the whole tube onto the chatterbait jig head. 

In most cases, you’ll want to thread the tube far enough to cover the jig head of the chatterbait, and until it almost touches the blade. When this is done correctly, the tube will stay put on the jig head extremely well, and can be fished for ages without coming off.

When should you throw a chatterbait without a skirt?

The best time to throw a chatterbait without a skirt is when you’re targeting smallmouth or largemouth bass on deep structure, or when you’re fishing for any bass species in heavily pressured waters.

In the first scenario, the reduced drag of a skirtless chatterbait allows you to target deep water more effectively, and fish the skirtless chatterbait in the strike zone close to the bottom.

In the second scenario, using a skirtless chatterbait allows you to present pressured bass with a bait presentation they’re not familiar with, which can help trigger strikes when traditional lures just don’t work.

Finally, a chatterbait without a skirt comes with a smaller bait profile and can be fished very dynamically, enabling you to use finesse tactics when the bass bite is slow.