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Let's Tie on a Buzz!

By Russ Bassdozer

Background. The Lunker Lure web site proudly proclaims that they introduced the original buzzbait to the national market in 1976. Today however, most anglers do not always use them as often as they could, even though buzzbaits have consistently been great bass producers for the past twenty-two years!

Basic Anatomy. A buzzbait is a specialized topwater form of a bass jig. In anglers' game plans, it competes for play time against spinnerbaits (a midwater form of a bass jig), and against other topwaters such as poppers, spitters, prop baits, hard stickbaits, soft stickbaits, etc. Its strength is that it's more snagless and you can cover more water faster with a buzzbait than with most other topwaters.

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Hawg Hustler's Buzzbait exhibits outstanding quality in a standard lure. It has a pointed weed-shedding head. A long wire arm and long-shanked hook to handle short strikers.   A quality silicone skirt, Delta blade & rivet. Low cost.

A buzzbait is not a complex lure. There are only a few components. Here are the basics of what to look for:
  • A pointy, often slightly flattened leadhead on .045 to .051 wire arm with a 3/0 or 4/0 stainless O'Shaughnessy or round bend hook. Look for the pointy leadhead nose - it is far more weedless and snagless than other head shapes
  • A silicone skirt with forward and backward facing fronds held onto the jig collar by a piece of rubber tubing
  • A 2-winged aluminum prop blade on top
  • Make sure it has an aluminum rivet for the infamous squealing noise

Name Some Names. Most anglers enjoy buying and using the high quality products available from lure manufacturers. Here is a list of a few buzz makers with web sites on the Internet. Many have interesting or innovative features to their lures. This can make for an interesting little web surfing session one day:

Bumper Stumper Lures Buzzbaits
Hildebrandt Buzzbaits
Lunker Lure Original national marketer of buzzbaits
Minnowbuzz Buzzbaits
Rippler Buzzbaits, plays good country tunes
S.O.B. Fishing Products Gambler's buzzbaits
Terminator Lures Titanium arm, serrated blade buzzbaits
Thunder Bullets Rattling brass buzzbaits
Top-Notch Buzzbaits
Yamamoto Custom Baits Buzzbaits with oversized wire holes for more squeak
Zone Lures MegaSqueak buzzbait, blade chemically treated for more squeak

Weights and Sizes. I use 1/4 ounce with a medium-sized blade on 14 to 17 lb. test spinning gear all of the time. I will throw 3/8 ounce when the wind makes it tough to manage. Rather than use heavier buzzers, I switch to big spinnerbaits if I need to cast farther or cover more water faster.Years ago I threw lots of 1/8 ounce buzzers and caught loads. You can retrieve the 1/8 slower which people claim to be more appealing to fish. Over time though, I usually observed that guys fishing with me who were chunking heavier buzzers usually did just fine for themselves.

It's the Prop, Baby! The main attraction of a buzzbait is that the metal parts squeak when they rub, the blade creates a rhythmic throb. It leaves a bubbly trail and an ever-widening vee wake which makes for easy tracking by bass, even at night. The entire commotion partially obscures the lure skirt from sight, preventing the bass from eyeballing it too closely. With all these things going on up top, the lure skirt itself is less important, and a trailer bait is usually not necessary to attract fish. However, you may use a trailer to adjust the "buoyancy" and/or slow down the speed of the bait.

A Few Colors. Get comfortable with a white buzz as your mainstay. Here are a few other colors that work:

1 White glimmer (gold or blue) Use anytime. Sunlight gives a living, vibrant sheen to the glimmer colors
2 Black Back/ Red belly Use anytime, but particularly at night
3 Fire Tiger Increases visibility in thick cover, when windy, or for active fish in spring and fall
4 Clear Crystal/Copper Flake Use in clear water on sunny days

Not a lot of thought or even much skill needs to go into basic buzzbait fishing. It is not like a jig n' pig where a lot of people claim they can never catch fish on it and the best advice experts give you is to leave all your other lures home..."fish solely with a jig n'pig and go fishless for the next 2-3 years"...until you learn it. Not so with mastering the buzz - just go out on the water and toss it every so often. If bass are in the mood for it, you will generate strikes muy pronto. It's that simple. If you aren't getting any action, take it off and try it again later that day or on your next trip.

So here goes. Of course, I've seen many novices who didn't know how to retrieve it correctly, and they would never stand a chance at catching a fish. So here goes.

You must concentrate on your hand-eye coordination. You need to follow the buzzbait flight trajectory by eye during the day or anticipate it as best you can at night. Think baseball - don't cast like the late, great Willie Mays hitting a pop homer over the fences at Candlestick - instead, make a powerful line drive to short center. You need to close your bail and begin turning the reel handle when the buzz is decelerating and arcing through the last few feet of air before it hits the water. Read that last sentence back to me. Done, properly, your lure should not whiplash back or anything, What should happen is the buzz splashes down, and if you engaged the reel right, the buzz will be gurgling instantly and moving rapidly because the temporary extra tension built up in your line is pulling it towards you a tad. Read it again and no, I did not call you a tad. When that tension is expended, the buzz will relax an instant. EXPECT TO GET BLASTED RIGHT NOW. If there was a fish within 10 feet of this happening, it has come over to check it out. Even better if there were two or more fish in the critical splashdown zone, they are right now racing each other to see who gets to your buzz first. Now, you were turning the reel handle all this time, right? Of course. Just don't stop turning, but you might want to slow down a bit so the buzz gets to a pace you like. At any given time, fish may like it as slow as you can possibly go to barely keep gurgling or they may want it as fast as you can burn it back.

Steer It. If you did not get a hit at splashdown, then you really need to maneuver your rod tip to one side or the other as you reel in. You need to steer the buzz at any cover in its path, floating weeds, rocks, wood. Why? Because you will only get hit again when your lure passes close by these objects. I am not sure why this is so, although I have my opinions. The point is, if I want to get hit, I have to steer my lure to pass within inches of this stuff. Not so sure I always want the lure to "bump" into it, which other people may advise you to do. I can get stuck or glopped up with weeds if I bump it. As a matter of fact, if it looks like the buzz is going to plow right into a log or weeds, then I will start lowering my rod tip and wind the line so it is nice and tight. When the buzz is 6-12 inches away from crashing into the object, then I will reel quickly and control-swing the rod tip up so that the buzz jumps up and over the obstruction without fouling.

Rod High. As for a rod choice, I prefer spinning so I can wind in buzzbaits steadily with the rod tip pointed way up in the air. I think it gives more life-like action if you always keep your rod tip as high as you can to keep the buzz on top. As a rule, this means 10 o'clock when you have just casted and have lots of line out, and tip up at 11 o'clock by the time you have retrieved most of your line. When it gets within twenty feet of you, you will lose that nice feeling of traction on the surface. There's nothing you can do about this. Just finish out the retrieve as best you can.

You can't easily fish baitcasting rods with the tip held high due to the way you grip the handle, and you won't be able to set the hook easily from that position either. Baitcasters excel with jigs, worms and other deep-running lures where you keep the rod tip pretty much pointed at 9 o'clock or even pointed dead straight down the line angle. A tight, thin line like a braid or one of the new superlines is a beautiful thing for lures you fish by "feel" such as jigs, Texas or Carolina rigged worms, and slow-rolling spinnerbaits in deep water. But I think a tight line deadens a buzzbait's action. It is hard to describe, but I like a fat, billowy monofilament line with a buzzbait. The line kind of floats and wallows around in the air with buzzers. I think it lets the buzzbait exhibit more life-like action.

You have to try these maneuvers. Click on your browser's Print icon and take this down to the water with you. Don't try to catch fish, but try to learn to do what is in this advice.

Hooksetting. The bass will not let go of the buzzbait for a few seconds or longer - let them take the buzzbait down - do not set the hook when they blow up on the bait - only set after they take it down and you feel solid weight.

Short Strikes. There is a common feeling that bass short strike at buzzbaits. Actually, I don't think they miss it as much as the fact that we react too soon and pull it away before they have a chance to engulf it completely. To circumvent shortstriking, I do not use trailers, rather I layer-trim the silicone skirt to end just a little beyond the hook bend. I use the Z-Man silicone skirts, previously made by RM Industries. I trim both the front and rear-facing fronds to create an overall willow leaf-shaped "layered look" that presents the illusion of a baitfish body. This way, there is not too much stuff trailing out past the hook for the fish to nip at. I do not like trailer hooks because I often fish the buzzbaits near heavy wood and weed cover, and I feel a trailer hook fouls up more than it helps. Buzzing in weeds can be dealt with, but doing it in wood, like drowned tree tops and logjams, leaves you exhausted by the end of the day because it requires so much concentration and hand/eye coordination to do it successfully. In fact, if I find myself buzzing deep into wood, I need to ask myself, "Why are you doing this - wouldn't you be better off using a jig n' pig?" And I always remind myself that I would then have to fish nothing but the jig n' pig and go fishless for the next 2-3 years until I master it. What I do then is compromise. I take one buzzbait with a stout wire arm and take one jig n' pig with a stout fiberguard. Then I clip off the nose of the buzzbait, form a small loop in the end of the wire arm and attach the fiberguard jig to the buzzbait. Add a trailer to this, usually a twintail grub, and spray it down with scent. You can pitch this, buzz it straight at logs, let it bang into or along the length of them, and then fish it like a dropbait. It is much more snagless and versatile than an unmodified buzzbait. Just kill it, let it struggle down to the bottom - jig it around and/or just let it lay there.

When Not to Use It. I find that there are moments, days, weeks, months, and even whole bodies of water when/where the buzzbait just doesn't do it for me. If fish are going to hit the buzz, they'll let you know about it muy pronto. If I give the buzz a chance (and I always do) and the fish don't want it, then I don't use it. It seems pretty clear to me when they don't want it, you can't raise them (at the moment, this day, this week, on this pond, etc.). There's also an in between thing, when they hit, but you can tell their hearts are just not in it. Don't waste your time. The right thing to do here is to go to other lures.

Better Bites on Spinnerbaits? There have been times when I think I am doing good with a buzzbait, and somehow I wonder if I might be able to do better with a spinnerbait or other lure. Sometimes this is true.

Here's how you can find out: Identify a starting place - let's call it "point A" - for a long area that you want to cover, and start buzzing away. Such an exciting lure for the angler to use! There is speculation that it excites the fish too, and can heighten the awareness of less-than-active fish. However, after five casts or so over the same spot, I am always afraid I run the risk of turning the fish negative. Actually, your first cast really matters most. After that, you are fishing used water. So, buzz along a stretch of 100 yards or so. Hopefully, you'll get some bass. Whether you do or not, don't wear out your welcome. Don't cast again if fish violently blow up and miss the bait, or if they make half-hearted attempts at it, or follow it but don't hit. You REALLY risk turning them off, especially the big ones. Just wait until you get to the end of the run, then tie on a spinnerbait and circle back to point A where you started from and refish the same areas with a spinnerbait. Hopefully, you'll pick more fish - maybe even more than hit the buzz. After that, if you are in heavy grass, wood, rocks, return to point A and make a third pass with a fiberguard jig and twintail spider grub or jig n'pig. Pay no mind to the open areas you already covered. Get into the nastiest stuff that you couldn't hit with the pinbaits. Go right for the densest weed clumps and shake those weeds up. Cast right at the biggest tree limbs and let the jig BANG full speed, then drop into the water. Knock it around down there. Screw down your drag and throw it 4-5 feet deep into the points and cuts along reed stands. Rustle those canes. Winch a few out of there and you'll get to feeling like you're king again!

Take a Smoke Break. I am always interested to hear if anyone has any good ways to get bass to hit again after they miss a buzzbait. What I like to do is wait 2-3 minutes before casting again to the exact same spot. Especially with big bass, I have found that I risk turning them off completely if I recast to the same spot immediately. I will always remember one dark night when my friend Tony had the biggest commotion completely miss his buzzbait. He was all ready to fire it back out when I advised him, "No, you've got to wait." Well, he lit a cigarette and when he finished smoking it, he put it right back there and caught a nine pound New York bass!

Scent. I do not believe that scent is a major factor to the initial attraction of a buzzbait. However, scent may add some value when a fish near misses the bait on the first cast - the taste of scent may encourage the bass to take another swipe when you cast back to the same spot.

Around riprap, always make the lure make contact with the rocks. Sometimes with the buzzbait, I will bring it towards a nice collection of rocks, kill the retrieve and let it helicopter down into thick chunk rock. Then I will just jig it like a jig and let it clank all around down there while I stumble it forward. This is also a good tactic to use in any area, not just riprap, AT NIGHT when bass blow up and miss the buzz. Kill it, let it sink and bumble it around on the bottom…and feel for that mushy kind of jig pick-up.

Deadsticking. Occasionally when I have gotten a wind knot in my line, I have even seen bass pick up the buzzbait after it was resting idle on the bottom for 30 seconds or more. They streak off to the side with it in their mouths - just like they would pick up a rubber worm and streak off with it.

Windy or Calm? Buzzbaits will work in the windiest or calmest conditions and everywhere in between. Early morning and late evening calm waters are "classic" buzzbait conditions. The only thing I will add is that under strong windy conditions over 15 knots, when I think I am doing good in the wind with buzzbaits, I always try spinnerbaits fished a couple of feet under the surface and often find that I can do even better with them.

Tackle Tinkering. I have good fishing pals who are always experimenting with their equipment and their techniques. My friend Eto is a tireless tinkerer. He takes the aluminum blades and drill 2-3 holes in each wing. He also likes to bend the wire arm until the blade ticks and stutters against it on the retrieve. He sometimes uses erratic retrieves, moving the lure fast, then slow, then fast again. Sometimes dramatically, sometimes only a subtle kind of twitching that causes the buzz to spit. And then there's my friend Vinnie from San Diego who drives long distances to buy Yamamoto buzzbaits because they are made with oversized wire holes in the blades to create more squeak. And then there are clackers, different colored blades, etc. And people always say to bend the wire arm to make the buzz run underneath docks or into rock walls. And everyone knows the one about hanging your buzzer out the car window as you speed down to the lake. Years ago, I got sucked into this hoopla too. I was making my own in-line buzzbaits. The in-line is somewhat more weedless when fished through thick grass mats. Yes, any of these variations may make a difference at times, but...

No thanks. I don't use or do any of the things mentioned in the above paragraph. I just fling it out there and bring it in nice and steady, sometimes slow, sometimes fast - the fish will let me know the speed they want. Well, okay there is this one thing I see I take a ballpoint pen and roll the bent wings of the buzz blade around it to make them into a really tight, curly shape. You can reel this in as fast as a a jetski and the curled wings spit a stream of water that looks like 100 sanded-lip Pop'Rs going off at once. Phil Chan, the smallmouth maven of Toronto, showed me that trick. My how they slam it!

That uneasy feeling. Sometimes I get an uneasy feeling that particular individual buzzbaits are not really doing their job too good in the catching department. Now these individuals may look, act and squeak like identical others. I notice this phenomena with buzzbaits (and crankbaits) more than with other lure types. Just be on watch for this. Maybe you can give these to your friends! They can drill holes in them, add clackers, hold them out their car windows and what not.

Now that that's all said and done...let's go tie on a buzz!

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