Spinner-baits have been the go-to bass lure for many anglers ever since Bomber came out with the first one, called the Bushwhacker, in the 1960s. It was developed with the help of legendary Bassmaster Floyd Mabry. A great lure, but as with all spinner-baits, it has one weakness. In shallow water, as long as the blade stays under water…no problem. However, if the blade breaks the surface, it stops fluttering and the entire lure flounders unless you stop and let it sink a bit.
In 1970, Lunker Lure Company was born, with a revolutionary idea that would overcome the short-comings of a standard spinner-bait. Their lure looked like a spinner-bait, but instead of a blade on the upper arm of the wire, it had a 2-bladed propeller. Not only did this make even more racket in the water, but if one of the propeller blades broke the surface, it didn’t matter, because the lower blade would keep it spinning. This means that buzz-baits can be fished right in the surface film, where bass like to hunt. And, it has all the other great functions of a standard spinner-bait. Today, you’d have trouble finding any serious bass angler that didn’t have a few buzz-baits.
How To Fish A Buzz Bait
Buzz baits are mostly used for shallow water fishing, especially in and around cover. The best way to fish a buzz-bait is to cast as close to cover as you can, and hold your rod tip high while reeling in, keeping the lure as close to the surface as possible. Strikes are usually sudden, and explosive. They are also great for flipping and pitching.
Another great way to use buzz-baits is at night, especially over shallow flats, where bass like to hunt after dark. You may not see your lure, but you’ll hear a splash, then a huge tug on your rod,…and it’s “Fish On”.
In winter, on sunny days, the shallow water warms up at bit, and oftentimes, bass will cruise the shallows, especially around weed-beds, in the middle of the day, looking for an opportunistic snack. Running a buzz-bait along these structures can cause murderous strikes.
In very clear water, use darker colors, and smaller sized buzz-baits. In murky, or stained water, go for brighter colors, and bump up the size a bit.
Many anglers make the mistake of thinking that a buzz bait only works in warm water. When the water temperature gets below 70⁰F, bass metabolism slows down, but they still eat, and pretty steadily. They are trying to stoke up for the coming winter. Working a buzz bait on shallow flats near weedbeds can trigger explosive strikes. SUbmerged timber in 10 -15 feet of water are also good places to try. Cast your buzz bait near structure, and allow it to sink using the countdown method. Then you can either do a steady retrieve, or a stop-and-go technique to drive fall bass insane.
Tuning Your Buzz Bait
Buzz Baits catch fish right out of the box, but if you really want to be successful, your lure may need a little tuning. Off the shelf, buzz baits are tuned to run straight and true, but there are times when this may not be the best option.
You’re in your boat and cast near structure along the shore line. When you retrieve, you are pulling the bait away from the strike zone. You want your bait to stay in the zone as long as possible. The way to do this is to bend the upper arm of the wire to the side you want the lure to run. Now when you retrieve, the buzz bait will actually fight you and move along the shore line until the last minute.
Most buzz baits have a rivet threaded on the upper arm loosley just to hold the blade on. It is free-floating and adds a lot of clacking to the lures sound. Clacking is OK, but you can do better. First, take a pair of needle-nose pliers and crimp the rivet as close to the end of the arm as possible. So that it no longer moves. Now, the blades are the only things making noise. But wait, we can add more great sounds to this buzz bait. If your blades are painted, take a knife and scrape off the paint at the rear of the blades where they may make contact with the rivet. Next, take some sandpaper and sand the face of the rivet making as many gounges in it as you can. Now when you retrieve this lurte, the blades will make a seductive whir, but also will have an irresistible (to the fish) squealing like something in distress. It can improve your lures strike rate as much as 50%.
Another trick I use a lot is to remove the plastic skirt and replace it with a soft body like a Sassy Shad, Zoom Swimmer. or Berkley Gulp Minnow. Try casting these near suitab;le spots and retrieve as slow as possible and still keep the propellor spinning.
Here is a tip I seldom share, but now seems like the right time. In Spring and Summer, a chartreuse body, with the skirt left on, is a killer combo, but in Fall and Winter, I have never used anything better than a black buzz bait, skirt-on, with a black pork frog added to the hook. Fished along shallow flats and weed beds, this has always caused bass, and pike to go into a murderous rage for some reason. Try it sometime and you will see …it works.
If you find you are getting short strikes, you can easily add a stinger hook to any buzzbait. You can also tip them with pork rinds or a real minnow just about any time of the year.
Buzz-baits work in conditions where other lures may come up short. It’s a good idea to have a few in your tackle box.