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Buzzbait Strategies for Bass
written by Wade Bourne

They don't call buzzbaits "heart attack lures" for nothing!
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Technically, a buzzbait is a metal-headed lure with a rotating propeller on a wire arm, similar to a spinnerbait.

Warning! If you're a heart patient, reading the following article could be harmful to your health.

This is because it's about fishing buzzbaits, and you might be tempted to try the ensuing advice. If you do, you may risk a coronary. They don't call buzzbaits "heart attack lures" for nothing!

"That's a good nickname for them," affirms pro angler Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla. "Sometimes a bass will blow up on a buzzbait like a grenade going off!  It'll scare you to death. Everything's quiet and peaceful, and the sound of the bait has lulled you into a trance.  Then, all of a sudden, 'Wham!' I'll guarantee your pulse rate will double. This is one of the most exciting baits in bass fishing."

It's also one of the most productive, especially in late spring when the fish are coming off their spawning beds. Now they're lean, irritable and cruising in shallow water. Schultz says these factors combine into an ideal situation for fishing these surface churners and experiencing some of the greatest thrills this sport offers.

Technically, a buzzbait is a metal-headed lure with a rotating propeller on a wire arm, similar to a spinnerbait. This bait is designed to run on the surface. An angler casts it out, then buzzes it past or over stumps, logs, brush, grass, docks and other shallow cover.

Schultz routinely uses a buzzbait when competing on the BASSMASTER tournament trail. "A buzzbait is good for covering a lot of water in a hurry. I use it when I think bass are feeding on or near the surface. Also, it's good for locating concentrations of bass that may be worked more efficiently with a slower lure like a plastic worm or a Slug-Go.

"And one more thing:  A buzzbait is a great lure for catching big bass. Tournament fishermen use it for culling smaller fish after they've caught a limit. I don't know why, but a buzzbait definitely produces quality bites."

Schultz says buzzbaits come in two varieties: "Clackers" and "squealers." Each has its own conditions for use, and anglers should carry both in their tackle boxes.

"Clacker buzzbaits are designed so the blade strikes the head of the lure or a free-swinging metal strip as it rotates. These lures make a racket when you retrieve them. A good example of a clacker buzz bait is the Headbanger(tm), which I designed for the Hildebrandt Corporation.

"I use clacker buzzbaits under two circumstances: When bass are really aggressive, or when I'm trying to draw them out of heavy cover or deep water.  In these conditions, the extra noise incites more strikes."

On the other hand, squealer buzzbaits offer a quieter approach. As a squealer's blade rotates, it hits nothing but water. However, it also produces a squeaking sound from the blade turning on the wire arm, thus its name. A well-known squealer buzzbait is the Lunker Lure from Lunker Lure Products, Inc.


"A buzzbait is good for covering a lot of water in a hurry."

Schultz notes, "I fish a squealer on calm, bluebird days, especially when the water is clear. You need a little more subtle approach under these conditions, and that's what a squealer offers."

Lure size is another important consideration in using buzzbaits. Schultz picks baits that correspond to surface conditions and the size bass he expects to catch. "If the water's choppy, or if I'm fishing specifically for big bass, I'll use a bigger bait that makes more commotion. Normally this is a half-ounce size, but I'll use a 3/4 ounce in extreme cases.

"But if the surface is calm, or if the predominant size of fish is small, I'll scale down to a quarter-ounce bait."

Schultz notes, "I should add that nothing is absolute about using buzzbaits. Sometimes bass want something just opposite from the obvious choice. The only way you'll figure this out is by experimenting with different lures.  So I start out with my best guess. Then, if it doesn't work, I may try another bait at the other extreme in terms of size and noise, and sometimes this is what draws the strikes."

When it comes to color, Schultz routinely picks a white buzz bait with a gold blade.  He adds, "I like a silicone skirt that has some glitter, especially one of the new fish scale glitter patterns."  He rarely uses a trailer on a buzzbait, though he experiments occasionally with a thin swimming tail worm on a squealer. 

In all cases, Schultz relies on stout tackle for fishing buzzbaits. He rigs with a 6.5- or 7-foot medium-heavy casting rod. "I want a rod with plenty butt strength but some give in the tip," he explains. He prefers a reel with a slow-to-medium retrieve ratio, which offers mechanical insurance against reeling this bait too fast.  And he spools up with 20- or 25-pound test line. He reasons, "I want line that's strong enough to pull big fish away from heavy cover. Also, I like monofilament better than the new braided multifilament lines. I think a line with some stretch is better for fishing buzzbaits."

Schultz varies his retrieve according to what type buzzbait he's using  "I fish a squealer as slow as I can and still keep it on the surface. On the other hand, I run a clacker faster, since I'm fishing for more aggressive bass. However, if I start getting short strikes on a clacker, I'll slow it down to make it easier for the fish to get it."

In all cases, Schultz retrieves his lure steadily
no twitches or speedups. Also, when fishing cover objects, he intentionally bumps them with his bait. The resultant noise and deflection are powerful triggers for strikes.

When reeling a buzzbait, Schultz holds his rodtip in the 10 o'clock position. When a strike occurs, he lowers his rod and watches which way his line moves. Then, when the line tightens, he sets the hook forcefully in the other direction.

"Here's one final tip for fishing buzzbaits," Schultz concludes. "Rig another rod with a plastic worm or a Slug-Go, and keep it handy. Then, if a bass boils on your buzzbait and misses it, cast back with the buzzbait again. If there's no strike this time, make the next cast with your followup lure, and let it sink. Nine out of 10 times that bass is still there, and he'll inhale a bait that drops by his nose."


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