If you are like most bass anglers, I am sure you will agree, nothing is more exciting than watching the water explode in response to the action of a topwater bait. Enticing a lunker bass to strike a surface bait requires you to get their attention. Among topwater baits few, if any, come close to creating as much attention getting surface disturbance as does the buzzbait.
To a hungry bass, the unique splashing, sputtering, and gurgling commotion created by a buzzbait is very hard to resist. In addition to reinforcing the worth of this time proven big bass catcher; this week's article is designed to provide you with some BASICS which should help improve your strike and hook-up percentages with a buzzbait.
Since a buzzbait is designed solely for surface fishing it lacks some of the versatility of a spinnerbait. Nonetheless I have found a buzzbait is often more effective than a spinnerbait when fishing over grassy, weedy areas, or visible timber. Why? First of all it is less likely to become fouled in the grass or weeds. Secondly, in murky water or thick vegetation, the sound created by a buzzbait not only alerts bass to its presence but allows them to more easily locate, track, and acquire it. Thirdly, there is just something about a buzzbait which ignites the predatory instincts of a bass. . Buzzbaits work best in relatively calm water, however I do not hesitate to use one when there is a light surface chop. Obviously, too much wave action negates the disturbance caused by the buzzbait, so let common sense prevail. Also do not be captured by the myth regarding their effectiveness under anything but low light or overcast conditions. If the surface temperature is above 60 degrees and the water conditions allow I will throw a buzzbait at high noon under bluebird skies. I especially enjoy throwing a buzzbait into thick grass or cover during hot weather. You would be surprised by how effective a buzzbait is at drawing bass out of the densest grass or surface matting.
I have also found that buzzbaits are a good choice when trying to locate bass with a topwater bait. They cast farther and are retrieved faster than most topwater baits thereby allowing you to cover a lot of water in a relatively short period of time. Additionally, the fact that they have a single, upturned hook which allows them to be fished around all types of dense cover adds to their appeal as bass locators
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the buzzbait is the fact bass often completely miss it or strike short. Similarly, when fished over dense cover, they sometimes have problems catching up with the bait. If you have ever used a buzzbait, chances are greater than not, you have experienced a heart-stopping swirl or cannonball splash but no hook-up! I would also be willing to bet that on occasion your quick reaction to an explosive strike has resulted in a premature hook set which accomplished nothing more than literally taking the bait right out of a bass' mouth.
Much easier said than done, but the BASICS rule I try to follow with all topwater baits, and especially with fast moving ones, is to delay my hookset until I actually feel the bass take the bait and start exerting pressure to my line. Simply put, with topwater baits you must learn to "set by feel; not by sight or sound!"
When the bass seem to be striking short a BASICS practice I use is to add a single hook trailer, sometimes called a "stinger" to my buzzbait. Doing so will greatly increase your hook-up percentage with short strikers. If I am fishing in dense weeds or grass I turn the "stinger" up the same as the main hook. In open water or light cover, where I am not as concerned with fouling, I like to turn the "stinger" down, opposite the main hook. Doing so not only improves my hooking odds but more importantly increases the chances of hooking a bass in its lower jaw thereby reducing its inclination to jump. Remember the more time a bass spends in the air the greater the odds are it will throw the bait.
As with all baits, successful bass catching requires us to make adjustments in our presentation until we hit the one the bass seem to be most responsive too. Using a buzzbait is no different. I prefer 1/4oz. or 1/2oz. buzzbaits and really do not pay a lot of attention to the blade shape or style as long as it makes a lot of noise. Older, worn-in buzzbaits tend to produce a squeaky noise which I believe adds to the bait's appeal. One of the "noise" enhancing modifications I like to make is to bend the blade arm slightly downward so that the blade ticks the shaft as it rotates. Another is to drill several holes in the blade so that it emits a "bubble" trail as it moves across the water.
With regard to speed, I initially like to work a buzzbait just fast enough to keep it on the surface. However there are occasions when burning it through the water, or an erratic, fast-slow-fast retrieve is what the bass want. Be patient, don't be afraid to experiment, and listen to what the bass are telling you. When a really slow presentation is what the bass want I either use a two-bladed buzzbait or cup up the blade a little on a single-bladed buzzbait using a pair of pliers. Either will allow you to slow down your retrieve without the bait sinking.
Learning how to present your buzzbait properly is simply a matter of practice. It is important to engage your reel just before the buzzbait hits the water. Doing so removes any slack from your line and allows you to start your retrieve before the bait has a chance to sink. During the retrieve I hold my rod tip up high enough to keep the bait in proper contact with the water but not so high as to lift the bait from the water or prevent me from generating a solid hook set. As the bait gets closer to the boat I gradually lower my rod tip thereby allowing the bait to maintain proper contact with the water.
Lastly, let's talk about colors. I like white or black best; although I have been known to tie on a combination chartreuse/ white or chartreuse/ blue. My color choice is usually predicated on the light conditions, water clarity and time of the year. Quite honestly I do not believe there is a magic formula with respect to buzzbait color. In my experience, sound, speed of retrieve, and water conditions are much more critical than color.
Again space dictates closure. If you have any questions give me a call. Better yet, let's get together and put the BASICS OF BASS KNOW HOW to the test out on beautiful Lake Gaston. Just give me a call at (252) 586-2770 to reserve your bass fishing date or to order a Gift Certificate for that special bass angler in your life.
Since I can only fish out of one boat at a time, the opportunity exists for someone to get an incredible deal on my 1998 ASTRO 1850 DCX (19' dual console) with a Mercury 150 OPTIMAX. So, if you are in the market for a 10 month old, extended warranty, mint condition, fully loaded, top of the line bass boat, at an unbelievably low price, call me for all the details.
Till next time, have fun fishing, be safe and courteous on the water, and please practice catch and release so we all can enjoy bass fishing for many years to come.
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