Chubby Darter: Everything You Need to Know – Part 1

As summer turns to fall and boats sadly return to storage, we have two options: lament over the frigid temperatures and shorter days or begin prepping for the ice fishing season! The latter sounds considerably more fun, don't you think?

By now, the name Chubby Darter should be synonymous with ice fishing but for the un-initiated, let's start from the beginning, shall we? We're calling this part 1, which will cover a bit of Chubby's history, what makes him unique and wrapping up with some tips on how to catch the most fish with him. If there's interest, (let us know in the comments) and we'll write another post outlining what gear is best used with this lure.


Brief Chubby Darter History

The Chubby Dater lure that anglers know and love today was introduced back in 2002; 13 years ago as of this writing and still, it's the only vertical wobbler in the world. Nearly every major fishing publication has featured this gem and its ability to do things that no other lure can.

It was created and designed by American angler Jeff Simson of In-Fisherman Magazine and manufactured by Salmo. Since then, it has been consistently rated among the most effective ice lures. Five years after its introduction and in response to the suggestion of European anglers, Salmo introduced a smaller size: Chubby Darter 3. The family has grown to include CD3 (3.5cm, 1-33/100″) CD4 (4.5cm, 1-3/4″) and CD5 (5cm, 2″) with many colour options. Note: CD6, a 6cm, 2.5″ variant is no longer being produced but we still have some in stock.

What Makes the Chubby Darter Unique?

While it could easily pass for a typical balance jig, this lure is unique due to its super light construction (it's made with hard polyurethane foam) and specially balanced body that gives it its trademark action.

Salmo Chubby Darter Family

It manages to stimulate both senses fish use for detecting their prey simultaneously (eyesight and lateral line), by vibrating during both up and down movements. When the line is loose, it dives, wobbles horizontally and returns to the middle. As it returns to its starting point, it curves, drawing wide figure eights like a classic balance jig.

When it's pulled up, it also moves forward like a typical wobbler, powerfully wiggling its tail, moving both up and perpendicular at the same time. As it dives, it moves to the side, mimicking a lively fish, flashing with its sides and then remains in a horizontal position still seeming to swim away; a completely unique action for a vertical lure. Chubby Darter hardly ever stops moving; it's nearly impossible to keep this lure motionless. Its tapered tail wobbles and vibrates long after your rod is put to rest.

Admittedly, the term “versatile” gets used way too often but it really does apply here. The Chubby Darter begs to be experimented with. Anglers likely to get the best results with this lure are those who like new challenges and trying new things. Handling this specialty lure requires understanding and patience but for those of you with these qualities, it will make it worth your while. The old adage about practice applies here. Don't be afraid to test and note your conclusions. To help you along your way however, here are some tips to fishing with your Chubby Darter.

Chubby Darter Fishing Tips

1. Make purposeful movements.

You can fish with Chubby Darter in a similar fashion to how you would with other balance jigs but be sure to make purposeful, calculated moves. Remember the story of the three little bears? Make sure your moves aren't too harsh – jerking the rod can result in a tangled lure. Likewise, if they are too timid, you'll be missing out on the lure's ability to catch the attention of your predator from a long distance. It's good practice to back off a bit after a few strong pulls. If the initial action from the strong pulls attracted a predator, often just a single small rod movement is enough to provoke an attack.

2. Determine where the fish are.

In order for Chubby Darter to react with such lively, intense action, it has to be very light. A downside to this lack of weight is the difficulty presented when trying to control its action and register strikes, especially in a stronger current. The maximum fishing depth varies by lure, from 3m (10ft) for the CD3 to 9m (30ft) for the CD5.

To determine what depth the fish are at you can check the whole column of water as described.

a) Lower the lure down to the bottom for Phase 0. Make rapid movements to make Chubby Darter move 30-60cm (12-24″), depending on the lure size, starting with quick jerks at short intervals and then let it drop back to the bottom. Chubby Darter will vibrate energetically, dart sideways and hook a little mud off the bottom creating realistic, attention-getting commotion. Then, bring the line in a little to make Chubby Darter hang 2-3cm from the bottom where you'll start phase 1.

b) Start phase 1, again with 2-3 longer tugs on the line to try and attract fish from a distance, followed by gentler pulls in the neighbourhood of 10-20cm movements. Generally speaking, short and aggressive movements result in the most effective action for this lure which result in a figure 8 motion. After a about a dozen or so of these if you have no bites, you can work your way up about a meter and move on to phase 2. Each phase consists of two stages:

  • Stage 1: Try a series of a dozen short jerks pausing 2-3 seconds between each. If there are no bites, move on to stage 2.
  • Stage 2: After the lure settles, pause a little  longer than the last, working your way up to about 10 seconds. The majority of strikes happen when the lure is settling.

c) Rinse and repeat for however many more “phases” it takes you to reach the ice.

Fishing with Chubby Darter

Click to enlarge

3. Free fall for the win

In order to get the most out of Chubby Darter, be sure to let him fall freely. If you keep the line tense, it won't allow the full range of motion to occur.

4. Observe Chubby's Action Pre-Fishing

If you have the option, stick Chubby Darter in an aquarium or find some clear, shallow water to see how he behaves. Taking this time in advance will help you determine an optimum pace. You'll know you've got it when the lure produces a strong wobble when rising and falling.

5. Work it with accessories

If the fish are not biting well you can add an extra artificial (twister tail, for example) or natural (worm or dead fish) bait on the belly treble. This will often be enough to coax a shy fish to go after the lure.

Now it's your turn!

That wraps up this installment on the Chubby Darter lure. Have you had any particularly good catches with Chubby? If you haven't experienced him yet, you owe it to yourself this winter. Check out the Chubby Darter family!

*Update 11/27/2015* – Today until Monday, November 30th we're having a Black Friday weekend sale featuring the Chubby Darter family at 15-40% off! 

Chubby Darter CD3
Chubby Darter CD4
Chubby Darter CD5
Chubby Darter CD6