For the longest time I would chunk and wind buzz baits because everyone was telling me how well they worked or that lake “X” was on fire and they were smoking them on buzz baits. After several slightly productive, frustrating trips on days that everyone else was tearing them up, I decided that I was going to learn how to catch fish on this thing do or die. Well after a complete season I finally built up great confidence in buzz baits. Here are some things I learned threw my trials.
Buzz baits are a very fun and exciting way to catch fish. Some believe that there is not a more exciting way to catch a bass. Although buzz baits are not going to be your first choice year round, I like to be the first to fish buzz baits in late winter to early spring. Water temps should be in the upper 50’s and most importantly rising. From this point on through out the year buzz baits will produce strikes if you have shallow active bass.
Buzz baits are primarily shallow fish lures; notice I didn’t say shallow water, that’s because I have caught fish in standing timber that was in 15-20 ft of water. Generally a buzz bait works best when bass are holding around cover i.e. brush, grass, lilly pads, stumps, logs, rocks, and boat docks. They are very weedless and are a great presentation into these types of areas.
Knock on the door. Always cast well past your target, this will give you enough time to get your bait on the surface and making noise. Now as you bring your bait past your target try to bump into it with the bait. If you are fishing docks always try to contact the pilings, if you are fishing standing timber you will want to bounce it off of the edge of the trees. What this does is cause a slight change in the speed and direction of the retrieve. This slight change will draw a cautious or lethargic bass into striking.
Pay attention to ambush locations. If you are fishing grass or pads, make sure you bring your bait across the little points and pockets that naturally develop in all vegetation situations. These are ambush points that bass will hide in and under and wait for a feeding opportunity to come by. Since you don’t have anything to cause a deflection off of, I have had great success by slightly pausing the bait as it comes to or off the edge of vegetation such as lilly pads. When fishing hydrilla I like to pop it to get some extra splash or imitate a burst of speed, like a fleeing baitfish that just got spooked out of the grass.
Noise. In my experience the more irritating the squeak the more strikes I get. Nowadays, there are companies that produce buzz baits that make great amounts of noise straight out of the package; Cavitron is one such bait. But if you are not satisfied with the noise level of your buzz bait there are several ways to make your bait squeal as it comes threw the water. The most common is age; the more you use it the more it will wear the holes in the blade that the wire passes threw and the more it will squeak. Have you ever seen a truck going down the road with buzz baits tied to a small piece of line and then tied to the mirrors? Well they are trying to wear that bait in faster.
Another way to increase the noise level is to crimp the rivet that holds the blade on. This will prevent the rivet from spinning with the blade and the blade will rotate against a solid surface and squeak like you have never heard.
Corrosion is also an added benefit when you want to make more noise. I like to take the arm of a buzz bait and set it in a small dish of water and salt so that the rivet is completely covered but the blade isn’t getting wet. This will cause the rivet to corrode very quickly and add a tremendous amount of noise.
You can also buy buzz baits with clacker systems on them; this is basically a piece of aluminum that hangs off the wire and in the way of the blade. So that when you are pulling the bait threw the water the blade will hit the piece of aluminum. I have found the clacker to be a very effective tool when the sun is bright and the clouds are few. My theory is that with these bright light conditions the bass will sink a little lower or deeper into the cover and this extra level of noise will still be able to draw them out.
Slow as she goes. With all the buzz bait fishing I have done, one thing is consistent when it comes to the speed, the slower I can retrieve the bait the more productive it is. This is not to say that they won’t hit a buzz bait screaming across the water. But I catch more and larger bass by retrieving my buzz baits as slow as I can and still keep them on top making noise.
A very important thing to remember about buzz baits (or any top water for that matter) is to wait until you feel the fish before setting the hook. This is important for two reasons; first if a bass misses your bait you want it to have a second chance and if you set the hook before it has the bait, you will be dealing with the second reason; your bait will come flying back at you or your partner and either of you may be impaled or your line will be in a tangle, both preventing you from casting right back on that fish. Remember wait to feel the fish; if a bass has missed your bait it will likely still be tracking it and take another shot. If it doesn’t quickly cast a spinnerbait past it’s now known location and slow roll it through it’s ambush point.
Generally when a keeper bass hits a buzz bait, you get a pretty solid hook up if you don’t set the hook to soon. But there are times when they will strike at it timidly and a trailer hook is necessary. I don’t recommend them. There are several down falls to a trailer hook; first, it greatly reduces the weedless attributes of your buzz bait; second, a trailer hook is very easily impaled into a finger when trying to lip a bass; and, third, if your bass has only one hook in it’s mouth the other becomes something the bass can hang on to cover while fighting the fish.
One final thought; I try to stay away from using trailers such as grubs, split tails or worms on my buzz baits. Yes these kinds of things can help add action to the bait or even help with buoyancy making it easier to stay on top; but they will also foster short strikes. So unless I am fishing open water where I can use a trailer hook comfortably and confidently I don’t use trailers on my baits.
Next time you are out and looking for a top water bite don’t be afraid to tie on a buzz bait. You will get explosive heart stopping strikes and are likely to land some of the biggest top water fish you have caught.