Buzzbaits & Other TopwatersBuzzbaits & Other Topwaters These topwater baits are often underutilized. So make noise and splash it up on top to catch more bass!
By Bonita Staples
Buzzbaits are probably one of the most underutilized of all the topwater baits. They have been around for many years and over time have gone through a variety of modifications. The old standby has one wing-type blade, with two, three or four wings on the blade and comes in metal or plastic. The purpose of course is to make a lot of noise and commotion on top of the water, which in turn should attract a bass to strike the bait.
You can find buzzbaits that have a blade within a blade, jagged or stair-stepped blades, double or tandem blades and even triple blades, but the basic design and intent is still the same. Some may have a clicker, ticker, or something to hit the blade to make a clicking sound, and some blades have holes or slots for making more "splash."
Buzzbaits, as the name implies, buzz or whirl across the top of the water. They are fairly easy to use. You just cast them out and reel them back at a steady medium retrieve. The catch is you need to start reeling as soon as the bait hits the water, especially if you're fishing over grass, hydrilla or moss. Otherwise the buzzbait will get tangled in the foliage and cause you major headaches. The best way to cast a buzzbait is to throw it out underhanded, or side-arm, to keep it low to the water and out of the wind. Cast to the area you want to fish and start reeling as soon as it hits the water. With your rod at the 10:00 o'clock position, this will get it up on top of the water fast.
There are anglers who will go to extremes to get a buzzbait tuned the way they want it to be. Holding them out the window of the car to break in the blade so it squeaks just right, bending the blades to get a different action, or adding metal beads behind the blade to increase the noise will all impart slightly different modifications to each bait.
Popular sizes of buzzbaits are from 1/8- to ½-ounce. Some have aluminum, gold, and even bronze anodized aluminum blades. Some will have painted blades in white, chartreuse, black and other colors. Then there are the plastic blades, which come in clear, chartreuse, white and other variations. Each of these colors has its purpose, similar to other baits, some are used on gray or overcast days an some on bright sunny ones.
The back of the bait generally has a lead head with a skirt, that may come in white, chartreuse, white and chartreuse, black and many other popular colors.
Some of the better areas to fish these baits are over aquatic growth-like grass, hydrilla, and moss or through the lily pads. Buzzbaits are not limited to these areas, because they are good along the side of docks, in open water, down the bank, and through stumps or trees. And they will catch fish almost year round, but are particularly popular with most bass anglers in the spring and summer. Learning to use these baits to advantage means practice. And there's no better place to get that than on the lake. Experiment with direction by altering the way the bait runs. It can be useful to have buzzbaits that are tuned to run right or left, depending on the variation you will need for the area you are fishing. But the key with buzzbaits will always be getting it on top and keeping it there for the longest possible time in the area you believe is holding fish.
Equipment used with this bait is also very important. The proper tool for changing a tire isn't the proper tool for cleaning the windshield. It is the same in fishing. For reels, baitcasters, spincasters, or spinning reels, all will work, but for buzzbaits a light medium or medium action 6- to 7-foot rod is the choice of most anglers. Line size is personal preference, depending on the cover you are fishing and the size of bass you are in pursuit of, and maybe the time of year. The right selection of line will have an effect on the distance you can cast, based on lure size and the wind. The line can also give you an advantage over another angler. Heavy line, 20-, 25- or 30-pound test line will tend to float or help hold the bait up on top of the water. But with smaller baits, like a 1/8-ounce buzzbait, you will need to drop down to 15-pound to help the bait have the proper action and reach your targeted casting zone. It will also help get the lure up out of the water and buzzing quicker. Based on your choice of tackle, you can get a different reaction out of a buzzbait. I prefer 20-pound Trilene Big Game line on 1/4-ounce and larger baits, a 6-foot, 9-inch Falcon light action Low Rider rod and a Shimano Chronarch baitcasting reel.
You can add action to the bait by moving your rod from side to side as you retrieve the buzzbait. There are also many other tricks you can do to the bait to get various reactions from the retrieve. I won't give all of my secrets away, but will throw in this one. You can bend the wire in front of the blade to the right or left to get it to track off to the side and run up under a dock or in a pocket behind some lily pads. Sometimes this is all it takes to give you that edge to outwit the bass.
The Top Prop, made by Mister Twister has a body shaped like the blade on a buzzbait, which both floats and spills, with a hook and trailer behind the prop. It comes in three sizes, Tiny Top Prop, Top Prop, and Super Top Prop. The biggest advantage to this bait over a regular buzzbait is that you can let it sit in the water for a few minutes after you cast it out. Then start reeling it back to the boat like you do the buzzbait. It is not as likely to get hung up in the grass because it floats, unlike a regular buzzbait.
Noisy, splash-making topwater baits such as stickbaits are as important to your fishing arsenal as the buzzbait. Mastering the cigar-shaped Zara Spook, chuggers, popping or prop baits which are all dependent on you for the action to make them entice the bass, are extremely important this time of year.
The Spook-type bait gets it's action by you holding the rod down towards the water and twitching it, in an inline motion about six to eight inches while reeling a half a turn for each full twitch. It's like rubbing your tummy with one hand and patting your head with the other hand. It just takes lots of practice to get it down, it's called walking the dog. And knowing how to do it can definitely help you catch fish.
The prop baits seem to be coming back, because I've seen several new versions. Heddon's Wounded Spook, the Bass Pro Shops Extreme Twin Prop and the Smithwick Devil's Horse have props on both ends of the bait. One of the original single prop baits is the Heddon Torpedo and a new style is the Yo-Zuri Arms Swisher. Using prop baits is a no-brainer. You just cast them out and reel them back to the boat, and the props give off a noise and bubbles that attract the attention of bass. You can add action by slowing or stopping the retrieve and then starting again, or moving your rod from side to side.
The Arbogast Jitterbug is another excellent topwater that has it's own built in action. The big-cupped metal blade on the front of the lure causes it to have a large waddle side to side. As you crank it back, the action displaces water and produces a gurgling sound along with the waddle action to attract the bass.
I left my favorite topwater to the last. The popper or chugger baits have been around for years like the Pop-R, but there are several newer versions or styles available for our enjoyment.
Some of the popping or chugging baits are Berkley Frenzy Popper, MirrorLure Jointed Popper, the old standby the Rebel Pop-R, Excalibur Pop'n Image, Storm Chug Bug, Cultiva Gobo Popper, Yo-Zuri 3-D, Rapala Skitter Pop, Bass Pro Shops Extreme Z-Pop and my favorite the Don lovino's Splash-It.
I use the Splash-It, Top Prop, and the Chug Bug the most in my fishing. The big advantage of the Chug Bug is that it is both a walking-type bait like the Spook, but also a very effective chugger or popping bait. The Chug Bug also comes in three sizes to cover most of your fishing needs in a topwater bait. The Flashtail (mylar) on the tail hook and the rattles help attract the bass. The Baby Bug is my first choice of the Chug Bugs, but I also use the regular Chug Bug as well. The key to these baits is to throw them out and let the bait sit until the water around the bait is still, then pop it twice, and wait again. When you start the popping action each time, is usually when the bass will hit.
My favorite overall popper is the "Splash-it," I've had better luck with this topwater than any other. The feathers on the tail hook, I feel are one of the major factors that make this bait so great. You fish the "Splash-it" similar to the other popping or chugging baits. One key is to slow down when fishing these topwater baits.
I use 12-pound Trilene Big Game line on these topwater baits, a 6-foot medium action Falcon Low Rider and Calcutta 50 baitcaster for the walking type baits and a light or medium light 6-foot, 9-inch or 7-foot Falcon Low Rider for the popping, Top Prop and chugging baits. The reason for the 6-footer on the walking bait is I am only 5-foot tall and you need to point the rod towards the water to work this bait (walking type) right. If you are taller, you maybe prefer a longer rod. The main thing is good tip action. Let the rod do all of the work or you'll wear yourself out.
All of these noisy, splashing topwater baits can be used successfully over grass, hydrilla, moss and through lily pads. They are also great around stickups, stumps, and rocky banks.
The standard for times of the year for each of these baits is as follows. Popper and chuggers are recommended for the later part of spring into summer. The prop type baits are the same time period as the poppers. The stick or spook baits are used in post spawn and the fall of the year. The Zara Spook has been known to pull bass up out 30 or 40 feet of water. The suggested time for buzzbaits is any time the water temperature is over 70 degrees. It is also recommended to use these baits in still to a light chop, not on a windy day.
Now I will tell you to take the standard or suggested uses and times and throw them out, just use the information as that, information: then fish these baits whenever you feel the need. I've caught bass on all of these lures in every month of the year. Don't be afraid to cast one of these topwaters under a tree or into heavy cover. If you don't get hung up once in a while, you're not fishing in the right places. You can also use these baits in open water, in the middle of the lake. Use your imagination get outside the normal thinking and catch more bass.
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