Bass On A Buzzbait
By Matthew Gutacker
Over looked and under rated, the buzzbait is my secret go-to lure for several conditions. Many anglers put the buzzbait to the side and use spinnerbaits or other topwater baits in their stead, but when used, right the buzzbait is deadly. It is easy to use and is very versatile bait.
The buzzbait is the one and only topwater wire bait, a jig head with skirt and hook attached to a wire, which attaches to your line. The other end of the wire has a propeller on it. The propeller creates lift when spinning, keeping the bait on the surface.
Most buzzbaits have one propeller with two blades, but there are some that come with two propellers, and some that come with three blades on each propeller. Some come with a "clacker", a metal triangle attached to the wire that ticks the propeller as it spins. This creates a loud clacking noise that attracts the bass' attention. One of the buzzbait's best things is that it is one of the very few weedless topwater baits that have a good hit-to-hook-up ratio.
The best way to fish the buzzbait is to toss it out and vary your retrieve until something works. Cover a body of water thoroughly where you suspect there are fish, casting 4-to 8-feet to the right of the cast before (or left, depending on which way you are going) and make each cast a little different. Generally, the bass will hit a slower retrieve sooner during the dog days of summer, but when the bass are hunting for food, faster retrieves can be produce more strikes. Slowing down by structure then speeding up when you are past is a great technique. If the bass doesn't strike when it goes by and they follow it out of the structure, speeding it up will make it look like it is running from the bass, triggering the bass' feeding instinct. (Make sure you are not burning it to the point where a bass can not catch up) This works best during the spring and fall.
The thing with buzzbaits (and with all lures) is some days the bass kill them and other days they don't even seem to notice. If you are switching the retrieve around and fishing good structure, and still don't get any hits after a couple dozen casts, then it is probably one of the days when the bass ignore them. I always give this lure a go, because on certain days the bass boil the water with furry, and you can land lunkers like there is nothing too it. If the bass are striking hard they are more likely to hit a buzzbait, and when they are slower to hit the bite may not be as good.
I have caught several large bass on the buzzbait, and my current personal best for largemouth was caught on a Booyah buzzbait. I like a ½-ounce, black or chartreuse buzzbait with the clacker. Change around your skirt color for different conditions, and always use black in very stained water or at night.
As far as I know, Booyah is the only company with the clacker feature, and I think it makes all the difference. Strike King and Terminator make good buzzbaits, and if you prefer these you can order the clackers in bulk from most component stores and install them yourself. Clackers make much more noise, calling aggressive bass from long distances. If the bass are timid, using a buzzbait without a clacker can be better, but generally I go with one, because bass are an aggressive fish in general.
Triple bladed propellers are superior in many aspects. They can run slower, make more noise, and add more weight to the lure (for longer casts) without making it sink. Sadly, there are no name-brand triple bladed buzzbaits that come with the clacker, so I like to buy a triple bladed version, and then add the clacker myself, or you can buy the brand name buzzbaits, and add the clacker and triple blade. Just like spinnerbaits, buzzbaits can be easily modified. Also like spinnerbaits, your lure will run crooked if the wire is bent. If your buzzbait runs to the right, bend the wire to the left, and vise versa.
The key to casting the buzzbait is all about timing. To have the bait land quietly and running, thumb the spool (or close the bail) an instant before the buzzbait hits the water, then start the retrieve. When done properly, the buzzbait will make a perfect landing and will be running on the surface for the entire retrieve. This takes a little practice, and is easier with casting gear. For this reason I prefer casting tackle for buzzbaits.
If you fish buzzbaits often you will notice right away there are a lot of missed hits. The fast retrieve nature of this bait makes it harder for bass to hit. The bass missing the lure can't be helped, except by retrieving it slower. However, bass spitting the hook is a problem with all single hook lures. There are a few ways to help keep the bass on the line; one is by attaching a good trailer hook. You can greatly improve your catch-to-hit rate by doing this, and these can be bought at basically any tackle shop.
Even if you a do or do not have a trailer hook, a sharp hook is very important for good hook sets. I sharpen my hooks every trip before I use them, and it helps with the hook set more than you can imagine. It is amazing what a hook hone that cost a few bucks can do. If you have old buzzbaits that have dull hooks, don't toss them. A few minutes with a hone can make them sharper than new.
A longer rod with a fast tip can also help keep pressure on the line, thus reducing spit hooks. But good backbone is needed in the rod for the hook set, as with all single hook lures. Something around a 7-foot medium will do just fine.
When a bass hits your buzzbait, stop the retrieve, count to 3 Mississippi, then set the hook as hard as you can. When the bass hits the lure, setting the hook right away can pull the lure out of the mouth. Counting to three allows enough time for the bass to get it in its mouth enough for a proper set. This is probably the best way to reduce your misses when using this lure. Don't wait forever though, because the bass will not hold onto a piece of metal for very long.
If the bass misses the lure, cast a Senko where the hit took place. If that doesn't produce, run the buzzbait over the same place again.
As far as line goes I use 10-pound mono but heavier mono and braid will perform equally as far as buzzbaits go. Since the line is basically out of the water the entire retrieve, line diameter and visibility isn't as important, so feel free to use whatever you are comfortable with. Using heaver rods and braid will also help your hook sets.
One great thing about the buzzbait is that it is basically completely snagless. Running a buzzbait through brush, lily pads, weeds, sunken trees or any structure is deadly. Casting under docks is the ideal place for hot summer days. Running over very shallow coves can be deadly during the spawn. Don't be afraid to throw it into think timber, because 99% of the time it comes out and that is where the big bass are. If you are fishing heavy brush, use heavier mono or braid so you can haul them out before they tangle your line.
When a bass sees a buzzbait go by, they doesn't pay attention to the propeller. What the bass see is a lot of splashing and commotion, and they see the jig with skirt swimming under the surface. They most likely assume it is a school of baitfish, some other bass that is off its rocker, or just a plain annoying thing that looks tasty. Regardless, they attack the skirt, and they do not attack the propeller. For this reason, blade color on the buzzbait is not factor as it is with other wire baits. Skirt color is much more important than propeller, so worry about that. Basically, you do not want the propeller to stand out.
Bottom line, the buzzbait is one of the most fun topwaters around. Nothing better than watching a big bass slam your buzzbait and blast it out of the water. As with all lures, some days they don't work, but other days they are the best lure to use. Switch your style around and see what works best. Keep your hooks sharp and count to three, and it won't take long in till you have landed some big bass.
Matthew is a skillful teen bass angler from Central New Jersey. He is an active member of our forums and can be reached there for questions and comments.