Advanced How-to – Need a Big Bite in Fall? Try a Buzzbait

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by Dan O’Sullivan

Mark Menendez Throws a Buzzbait in Fall - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Mark Menendez Throws a Buzzbait in Fall – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

While most people consider prime topwater season to be postspawn through early fall.  however, some lures have drawing power even when water temperatures dip into the 50’s.  One of those lures in particular is a buzzbait.

To be fair, a buzzbait is not likely going to produce bunches of bites for anyone this time of the year.  The cold water temperatures make bass – especially shallow fish – much more lethargic, and the desire to explode on a lure on the surface is not going to be there steadily.

However, if you are fishing a tournament; have a steady limit and are looking for that one big bite to improve your weight.  Or, if you are someone who likes the challenge of catching big bass and are willing to go long hours looking for a quality bite, then a buzzbait might be a good choice.

What is a Buzzbait?
The most common buzzbait is an adaptation of a safety pin styled spinnerbait.  Instead of spinner blades that run under the surface, the prop style blade is configured in a way that makes the blade pull the bait to the surface where it rides during the retrieve.  The churning propeller gurgles across the surface leaving a bubble trail and creating a commotion that makes bass take notice.

On the longer, bottom arm of the heavy wire, a buzzbait features a lead head with a hook molded onto the end of the wire, and a skirt is attached.  This head / skirt / hook combination rides below and to the rear of the blade during the retrieve.  Head designs of the past have typically been bullet shaped, but in the past 10 to 15 years, manufacturers have started making flattened shapes that help in lifting the toward the surface more easily.

A buzzbait is a constant motion lure, it sinks, so it relies on the angler to reel the bait constantly to keep it on the surface and operating.

As for colors, we prefer white with a nickel blade early in the fall when bass are really chasing shad.  However, for most of the rest of the year, we tend to use black buzzbaits – preferably with black blades – as this color tends to produce the bigger bites for us.

Buzzbait Gear
Because a buzzbait has the ability to draw larger than average bites so readily, we recommend using stout gear.  However, you do have a choice to make in two areas, and the choice you make requires a compromise on another.

Mark Rose Shows Big Results with a Small Buzzbait - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Mark Rose Shows Big Results with a Small Buzzbait – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

That choice is to find a compromise between rod action and line.   Line choice really comes down to choosing between braided line and monofilament.  Because the line rides out of the water during the retrieve with a buzzbait, heavy line does not have any negative other than castability.  With that in mind, fluorocarbon is not necessary.  Heavy, 25 to 30-pound-test monofilament line is an option, but we prefer to use 50 to 65-pound-test braided line because the low stretch helps us better penetrate the hook through the jawbone of  large bass.

This is where the compromise with rod characteristics comes in.  If you choose to use monofilament, then choose a 7′ to 7’6″ medium-heavy, to heavy action graphite rod.  If you go with braided line, then go with a 7′ to 7’6″ medium action graphite  model; or, as we prefer, a 7′ to 7’6″ medium-heavy composite or glass crankbait rod.  Either of these pairings will give you a hook to land ratio advantage, but if you choose softer rod with monofilament, or stiff rod and braided line, be prepared for missed hooksets and lost fish.

We typically run with a 6.4:1 retrieve reel, because it allows us slow down the bait if we need to, or also fish it quickly if the fish need that kind of retrieve to trigger strikes.

Retrieve
On the topic of the retrieve, a buzzbait is largely a cast and wind lure.  However, don’t let the fact that it needs to keep moving to be effective let it stop you from being creative.  There are times that  buzzbait worked quickly cross the water will draw strikes; but, now is not the time for that.  This time of the year, and for the most part, the longer you can keep the lure in the strike zone, the better.

Make casts around grass patches, logs, over points, around docks or rockpiles and work the buzzbait up to the target, slowing it down as you near it.  One way to accomplish this feat is to hold your rod tip in the air as you retrieve the lure.  This helps keep the line out of the water and the propeller on the surface churning.  This type of rod position also lets you control the speed of retrieve more easily.

River2Sea Crystal Buzz

River2Sea Crystal Buzz

You can play with alternating the pace of the turns of the reel handle, mixing in a quick one or two that speed the bait up for a moment.  You can also shake the rod tip to make the lure quiver on the surface, and you can rip the rod tip slightly to make the bait lurch forward slightly.  Any one of these may result in a reaction strike.

Bending the top wire to one side or the other will create a bait that runs to the side.  When looking down the line tie, if you bend the wire to your left, it will cause the lure to run to your right, and vice-versa.  You can use this trick to make a lure run into a particular piece of cover, or run towards the bank you are fishing.

Modifications
As a rule, the noisiest buzzbaits are the best producers.  One way to make a buzzbait get noisy is to grasp it by the head and hold it out the window of your vehicle as you drive to the water.  But, there are times that this kind of adjustment is not practical.  A quicker way to accomplish this is to crimp the rear rivet to make it stationary on the top wire, that way the blade rotates against the rivet, as opposed to the rivet rotating with the blade.

Dan O'Sullivan 7-pound Clear Lake Buzzbait Fish - photo by James Matsuoka

The Author with a 7-pound Clear Lake Buzzbait Fish – photo by James Matsuoka

Trailers area an easy modification that will help as well.  Bulky trailers, especially this time of the year, add profile to the bait, and they help create more lift in the water.  This additional lift helps an angler fish the bait more slowly as well.  We like flat bodied baits like a Big Bite Baits Warmouth or Fighting Frog, a Missile Baits DBomb, a Strike King Rage Tail Space Monkey or Rage Tail Shellcracker, a Gene Larew Rattlin’ Crawl’R or Three Legged Frog are all excellent.  If you are looking for pure bulk, then any six to eight-inch lizard will work nicely.  A four to six-inch boot tailed swimbait can also be an effective trailer.

Closing
Remember, this time of the year, a buzzbait is the kind of bait to pick up when you are looking for that one big bite that can increase the overall weight of your limit.  Throughout the country, buzzbaits produce numbers of fish over six pounds each year, but a dedicated buzzbait chucker is who typically catches them.

They are not discussed as much these days, but buzzbaits certainly do produce the kinds of bites that you take pictures of.