The brutal heat wave we are currently experiencing has produced tough fishing conditions to say the least. Many experienced bass anglers will confine their efforts to early or late in the day or even wait until after dark to hit the water. That's not to say you can't fish during the hotter portion of the day, but doing so certainly becomes more problematic in the sweltering midday temperatures.
Regardless of weather conditions, early morning and late evening can also be a great time to fish topwater lures for summertime bass. One of my favorite surface baits this time of year is a buzzbait. That wasn't always the case, however, and I mostly considered buzzbaits more of a novelty rather than a serious topwater strategy. But the more I fished buzzers, I soon discovered they possessed two worthwhile attributes.
First, buzzbaits can be used to fish a lot of water relatively quickly. Unlike most other types of topwater lures that tend to work best when fished slowly, buzzbaits are worked with a steady retrieve, generating a constant commotion that can attract bass from a distance. The ability to cover water quickly can be all-important in order to take advantage of what is usually a short window of opportunity around dawn or dusk. I also found that the average size of the bass I caught on buzzbaits tended to be somewhat larger compared to other topwater lures. In fact, I believe I have probably caught more largemouths four pounds or better on buzzbaits than all other surface lures combined.
Buzzbaits are generally available in 1/4-ounce, 3/8-ounce, and 1/2-ounce sizes. I typically use the two smaller sizes during the summer and go with 1/2-ounce baits in spring and fall. For colors, I fish a black buzzer about 75 percent of the time. As an alternative, I like one with a blue-and-white skirt. Some anglers routinely attach a trailer hook to buzzbaits, supposedly to catch fish that strike short at the lure. Personally, I've never seen the need to go to all that trouble. Instead, I trim the skirts back on my buzzers to within a half inch or less of the hook bend. I do like to attach a soft-plastic trailer of some sort to my buzzbaits, usually a twister tail in black or chartreuse on a black bait or white or chartreuse on the blue-and-white version.
The most common buzzbait blade is the flat metal, two-winged style. Some manufacturers also offer three- or four-winged blades, which can be fished at slightly slower retrieve speeds than the two-winged blades. I've also fished some buzzers with a four-winged plastic blade with good results. The plastic blades create a slightly different sound than the metal ones do, which the bass seem to prefer on some days.
Most surface lures can be fished in a variety of ways, but buzzbaits essentially tend to be a one-trick pony. Basically, just cast the thing out and reel it back. I like to start reeling the instant the lure hits the water, starting with a retrieve speed just fast enough to keep the buzzbait chugging along the surface. If a steady retrieve isn't bringing strikes, try a more erratic presentation by speeding up and slowing down. You can also flip the rod tip from side to side while reeling to make the buzzbait swim in a zigzag pattern.
The primary reason a buzzbait can be so effective is that it appeals to most of the predatory senses of a bass. I'm convinced that the fish can detect a noisy buzzbait from a considerable distance. When I'm fishing a specific piece of cover, such as a patch of lily pads, submerged brush pile or rock pile, I'll cast the buzzbait well beyond the target and reel it directly past the object to draw a strike from a bass hiding there. In this situation, I think the bass is often simply protecting its territory rather than feeding.
Buzzbaits can provoke some explosive strikes when a big bass decides to attack the lure. When a fish blows up on a buzzer, however, keep reeling until you feel the fish and then set the hook hard and fast. The reason for this is twofold. If the fish misses the lure on its initial assault, it will often turn and grab it a second or two later, so continuing the retrieve will give it the chance to do so. Setting the hook the instant you see a swirl might not only snatch the bait away from the fish but also could launch the lure right back at you, which can be dangerous.