Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting a Buzz with Buzzbait

By Luigi De Rose

The lake went slick calm just after 8:30 am. Several bass had fallen to the
spinnerbait, but once the wind died, so did my luck. The weed flat I was
working stretched out over hundreds of yards. Being mid-summer, it had turned
into a nearly unfishable jungle. Irregular weed islands checker boarded the
water. Exchanging the spinnerbait with a 1/2oz. chartreuse buzzbait seemed
fitting. Casting to pockets of open water, I snaked the buzzer around numerous weedy islands and through lane ways between the weeds. The first bass caught me off guard when it hit only a few metres from the bow of the boat. As the lure neared my rod tip, my eyes left the bait to scan the water for my next cast. Just as my head turned, the rod buckled under. In one startled motion I powerfully swept the rod hoisting the two pound bass through the air, over the gunnel and into my lap. In the next three hours nine bass clobber the buzzer. Each strike was explosive and exhilarating. That's the magic of buzzbaiting.

This topwater bait is meant for heavy cover. It sports one or two big winged blades that churn quickly to the surface after a few turns of the reel handle. Metal and plastic blades are common but metal creates more flash, vibration, and can be modified easily. Buzzbaits are simple to use. Cast out and reel in. Line up several targets in a row and guide the buzzbait pass each one. Keep the bait in multiple strikes zones on each cast. Casting reels are more accurate and your best choice for buzzbaiting Some anglers like long heavy-action rods, but I prefer a 6 1/2-foot rod with a soft tip and plenty of backbone and a reel; load with 17-pound-test mono or heavier line.

Although most at home riding over emergent and submerged weeds, a buzzbait will work anywhere active bass and cover coexist. Open water is the untapped horizon for buzzbaits. Big brozebacks and largemouths routinely roam open water. Pods of bass will cruise underwater landmarks. Shoals, contours around islands, points, and rocky shorelines are all prime locations to intercept them. Buzzbaits make great search lures. Straining the water for biters can be done quickly. The clearer the water, the farther fish will hunt these baits down. Casts can be more random and still be effective.

Three colours dominate buzzbaits. Chartreuse, white and black skirts with either a silver or copper blade. Brighter skirts and silver blades are the norm. But, on dark, overcast days a black skirt with a copper blade is a popular combination. Size is pretty standard too. Most baits are 3/8oz. or 1/2 oz. When selecting a lure, scrutinize the hook and blade. The lure needs a large blade that will run well and a heavy, sharp hook to penetrate and hold.  Customizing will make just about any buzzbait more effective. First, add a trailer hook to catch bass that nip at the bait. Slip on a large 2/0 to 4/0 Siwash or specialty trailer hook over the hook of the bait. Some recommend threading rubber tubing over the eye of the trailer hook, but don't do it. This practice was common for years, but there's a better way. After slipping on the trailer hook, pierce a 1cm  (1/4")section of tubing through the middle with the main hook. Then push the plastic tube well passed the barb of the buzzbait's hook. The tubing prevents the trailer hook from popping off, but still allows it to move freely.

The key to any buzzbait is that it comes to the surface quickly and stays there.  Retrieve too slowly and they'll sink. Reel too quickly and they'll flop over. Luckily, these problems can be easily fixed, but only with metal blades. Plastic blades cannot be altered making the less versatile. Keeping you're bait running at a snails pace is simple. Hold the bait with the line tie facing you. Press your thumb into the cup of one of the blades. Gently push down with your thump while pushing up with the side of your index finger. The wing of the blade should slightly cup your thumb when held right. The goal is to create a deeper cup in the blade. Repeat this process to all the wings of the blade. It's also important to keep the wing of the blade round. Pliers can be used but they usually kink the blade, warping the action and weaken the metal. Deep cupped blades can be kept puttering on the surface with the slowest turn of the handle. Often you want to pick up the pace.

Covering water calls for a fast approach and many bait will flop over if cranked too quickly. To transform any bait into a high speed buzzer is easy. Again, place your thumb in the cup of the metal blade. This time stretch out the end of the blade so that the cup is shallow. By opening up the blade, it catches less water allowing it to run much better at higher speeds. This type of buzzbait works great in open, clear water situations.  You don't want the bass to have too good of a look, but it still make enough commotion to make him hit.

A bit of extra work will make the difference.
Bass anglers are mesmerized by sound. For them, all baits must produce some extra rattle, squeak or hum. If you're one of these guys who feels the whirring of a buzzbait isn't good enough try this. Drill one or two small, 3/16" to 1/8" holes, per wing. The holes produce bubbles as the bait wakes across the surface. This might give you that extra action you've been wanting. Remember, every time you tweak the blade it weakens a bit. So error on the side of caution. Like an old friend told me once, "A buzzbait is at it best when it about to fall apart!"

These baits are not just for quiet, still evenings. This bait can be effective under a wide range of water depths and conditions. Watch the mood of the fish and adjust lure speed according. If you stick with buzzbaits long enough, they will probably help you land your biggest bass of the year.

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