Everyone is buzzing for summertime bass
After a year and a half, Pennsylvania’s unprecedented monsoon season has seemed to have abated, and our lakes and rivers are starting to get back to something approaching normal summer levels.
And the bass that live in those waters also seem the be enjoying the return to normalcy as well, as most of my recent bass outings have been both enjoyable and productive. One of my favorite summertime surface baits for bass 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.
Several attributes make buzzbaits one of my favorite topwater lures. First, they are great for fishing 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 that short but highly productive window of opportunity around dawn or dusk. This can be true for both largemouths and river smallmouths. 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 sizes. 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. For years, I used a simple twister tail grub as a buzzbait trailer 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 allow the lure to be fished at slightly slower retrieve speeds than the two-winged blades. I’ve also become fond of buzzers with a four-winged plastic blade. The plastic buzz 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 aren’t that complicated. Basically, cast the thing out and start reeling the instant the lure hits the water just fast enough to keep the lure chugging along the surface. If a steady retrieve isn’t bringing strikes, try a more erratic presentation by speeding up and slowing down the speed you are reel, making sure to keep it gurgling on the surface at all times. You can also flip the rod tip from side to side while reeling to make the buzzbait swim in a zigzag pattern.
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 snatch the bait away from the fish and launch the lure straight back at you, which could be a bit dangerous.
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. Sometimes, I think the bass crushes the buzzer more to protect its territory rather than catching something to eat. Either motive is just fine with me, however.
Buzzbaits will also be effective well into fall as long as bass are willing to feed on the surface. If you’ve never tired these interesting surface lures, get a few and try them. Buzzbaits are one of the most exciting surface lures for bass.