Buzzbaits are known to entice strikes from big bass - but first, you need to learn how to use them.
Last updated: February 26, 2023
By: Jon Stewart
When searching for strikes at the water's surface, few lures will provide the excitement felt when fishing a buzzbait. It's a classic top water lure that will let you cover a lot of water in a short amount of time.
Are you looking to increase your total pounds caught at the weigh-in, or want to swing that big lunker into your boat on the next trip? Fishing with a buzzbait can help you do both.
Like all your tackle, knowing how this wire lure works and when and where you'll want to cast it are the differences between a live well full of largemouth and a day without a single bass to show. Let's take a closer look at buzzbaits and see why they need to be in your tackle box.
A buzzbait is what anglers call a surface lure, meaning it is a type of tackle you fish at or near the top of the water. There are many types of topwater lures, most of which float. The buzzbait is not a lure that actively floats, however, and must move through the water, or it will sink.
Anglers and lure makers refer to it as wire bait; the lure uses a wire frame in its construction. The frame is J-shaped, with the hook molded into the long arm and a spinning blade attached to the short arm. An additional R-shaped bend in the corner elbow provides a location for you to tie the lure.
There is a lead head on the bottom where the hook connects to the wireframe, and many designs include metal keepers to hold plastics you slide up the wire. Manufacturers will sell this gear with a lead keeper and a silicone skirt. You can attach a bait trailer to the lead keeper, using a crawdad or frog to add more appeal while fishing a buzzbait.
Buzzbaits come in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 3/8-ounce sizes. A single-bladed design is considered standard, but you also find multi-blade configurations. In-line buzzbaits are a design that does not use the J-shaped wireframe but connects the buzz blade in front of the hook. You might also come across In-line/Toad hybrids that use weedless hooks for attaching a soft plastic trailer.
Not only do the blades come in different weights, but they also are available in a variety of colors and patterns. They can have an anodized metal coating of gold and silver or have solid colors painted on them.
These blades come in metal or plastic and are available with clockwise turning, counter-clockwise turning, clacker blades that make additional noise during rotation, and tandem blades. A properly-stocked tackle box will allow you to match your buzzbait to the fishing conditions for the best chances at landing those bruisers.
You'll know where the name came from when using a buzzbait. Its spinning blade(s) position and shape lift the lure as you retrieve it. It creates a commotion on the water's surface that resembles a distressed or injured bait fish or animal while also generating vibrations through the water column.
Just like you, your buzzbait will sink or swim in the water. You'll need to engage the blades once the lure hits the water's surface. That gets the buzzbait lined up and forces water through the spinners before it has time to sink.
You will hear the water churning and see bubbles and a trail while the buzzbait is retrieved. More importantly, so will the bass.
A largemouth bass, for example, has an inner ear and lateral line that allows them to hear underwater. Their ear has no exterior connection points and sits inside their skull, where sound waves can trigger the ear bone. The lateral line consists of a head component and a canal that runs the length of the bass' body, which senses movement in the water.
The churning water, blade vibration, and sounds can draw the fish's attention as the lure moves overhead. It will then use its eyes to pinpoint the buzzbait. This wireframe lure stands out in low-light conditions, where bass must explore and hunt without sight, and is loud enough to be noticed when fishing for bass when the conditions are a little wet.
Bass can see well in water and distinguish some colors with fields of vision along their sides, in front, and above them. The latter plays well to the buzzbait since it will move overhead as it goes by the fish.
Blade colors can play a role in visual stimulation, with metallic and light colors offering reflections in clear conditions and dark colors providing a silhouette in low-light conditions. Skirts add movement that draws a bass' attention, and many anglers will add a soft plastic crawdad, frog, or another trailer to the hook for even more action.
Most beginners (and some more experienced anglers) often overlook how their fishing line affects their success on the water. We've looked at the pros and cons of braided, monofilament, and fluorocarbon lines before, but a closer look at line selection is warranted when fishing a buzzbait.
Monofilament is the least expensive of the three and provides the best resistance against the abrasive environment bass favor. That resistance is not much of an advantage when fishing top-water lures like a buzzbait. Also, the single-strand design stretches, making it harder to set your hook.
A step up for many anglers, including professionals like Andy Montgomery, is the use of the modern fluorocarbon fishing line. Experienced anglers may find it easier to perform some casting techniques, and it offers a limited stretch that improves shock strength. Advocates for this fishing line also believe braided lines are less forgiving during the hook set, pulling the lure away too quickly or causing the fish to toss the buzzbait during the fight.
For most of us, however, a braided line offers several advantages worth considering. This type of line can be more sensitive than the others, allowing for faster detection on strikes that aren't super hard grabs from a big hawg breaching the surface. Quicker reactions are advantageous for all anglers but especially beneficial to those learning to set hooks while top-water fishing.
As the name implies, a braided line consists of several individual strands woven into one line. It provides superior strength and allows anglers to use smaller diameter lines when fishing for big bass. You'll be able to add more to the spool, and you'll lose fewer lures due to breaks from frays or nicks.
If you want a bit of stretch for added shock strength, consider adding a leader of fluorocarbon line. The biggest hurdle for inexperienced anglers with a braided line will be knots coming loose, so take the time to practice tying the Palomar knot, among others.
Retrieval is king when fishing a buzzbait. This lure will sink if it is not moving, so you want to start reeling when it hits the water. You'll get the buzzbait in a proper presentation position and agitating the lure on the surface where it is effective.
A good rule of thumb is to raise your pole to about ten o'clock as you start the retrieve and crank quickly to get the lure where it needs to be on the water. You can drop the tip down at this stage and continue cranking at a pace that prevents the buzzbait from sinking. Don't be afraid to change the retrieval speed, as that might stimulate a strike.
One of the best reasons to start using a buzzbait is that it will allow you to cover a lot of water quickly. When you find an area you suspect the fish are at, a buzzbait lets you cast and retrieve across the entire area faster than other lures. This top lure can be thrown into various types of cover, allowing you to explore without needing to swap out gear.
Bass tend to swipe a buzzbait rather than inhale it, so you'll need to pay attention to these more subtle strikes. Hesitate for roughly a half second before setting the hook to allow the fish plenty of time to take in the lure. That will give you a better chance to hook those lunkers instead of yanking the buzzbait out of their mouth.
When you're bank fishing a buzzbait, moving is crucial to success. You want to attack cover from several angles instead of casting from the same spot, including running along the edges of grass beds or both sides of the blowdown you've targeted. Throwing from the water lets you retrieve along shorelines, and you can attack structures from all sides when you're utilizing a quality fishing kayak or a bass boat.
Water temperature controls what lives in your favorite body of water, the chemistry of that water, and how things grow and live there. If you live in a colder state, this explains why you might find bass in certain lakes or rivers but not others. Temperature can also affect fishing.
Once spring weather starts to warm the water above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, many anglers will pull out their buzzbaits. These lures won't get packed away until late Fall when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees. You'll find water surface temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees good markers to go by, with temperatures outside this range causing bait fish and the bass to move out from the shallows.
The seasons play a critical role regarding temperatures in most North American waters. During the winter, fish are lethargic and stay deep in the water column, making top-water fishing unproductive.
Conversely, the fish will go deep in the summer for cooler water that is more oxygen-rich. However, you'll find bass following bait fish into the shallows in the morning and night while the water is cooling off.
Spring is the spawning season, making top-water fishing productive in certain situations. Southern waterways can get warm faster, giving you a chance to swing a suspended female onto your boat. After the bass spawn, you'll find they also get more active.
When the water temperature cools down, fishing for bass in the fall season is often the most productive. The cooler temperatures allow the bass to move shallow, where they actively feed this time of year under all lighting conditions.
Tuning is one of the things that can improve lure performance when you're using a buzzbait. Anglers modify their lures for better movement, attraction, and hook setting.
When you first get your buzzbait, check that the hook point and the blade arm align with the main shaft of the lure when viewed from the back of the hook shaft. Turn the buzzbait to view it from the side and verify the blade arm is parallel to the main hook shaft. If anything is out of alignment, bend the component to keep the lure running straight.
If these components are straight and your buzzbait drifts to one side during retrieval, you can bend the blade arm to compensate. As you view the lure from behind the main shaft, adjust the blade arm in the opposite direction it was pulling. Several adjustments may be necessary to make it run straight.
Anglers struggling with hook sets due to swipes might consider adding a stinger hook. Attaching it to the buzzbait hook's bend will place the trailing hook at the end of the presentation. Connecting it with the point-up helps to reduce snags, while a point-down hook can catch a bass that swipes at the lure.
To improve noise levels, check that the rivet holding the blade on the frame is crimped tightly. Bend the rivet's flanges to make them flat. That provides more surface contact at the contact point between them.
Other modifications include removing the skirt, adding some soft plastics, and swapping blade designs. These alter the appearance during retrieval, allowing you to match conditions more closely.
A simple trick is to replace the skirt that came on the lure with a soft plastic. These trailers can better replicate what the bass are foraging. You can cast them farther, and they work better for skip casting.
You can sometimes get strikes by changing retrieval speeds, adding small jerks, or pausing for a split second. Changing retrieval speeds for each cast helps you present different audible and visual presentations to the bass. Changing movements by adding little jerks or pauses is one way to stimulate a reactionary strike.
Changing the direction of retrieval is an old trick many professional anglers use to generate more strikes. Tuning your buzzbait to move left or right (see the previous section) provides greater flexibility as you fish. When buzzbaits are getting hit hard, many pros have one pole equipped to move left and the other to the right.
Scaling down the size of the buzzbait and using a single-blade design can generate reactionary strikes in clear water. The presentation offers enough to grab the bass' attention with less chance of spooking it as a larger lure might in clear water with good visibility.
Buzzbaits are known to be difficult throws in windy weather. Many pros will remove the skirts on their buzzbaits for less wind resistance. Also, you can add weight by replacing the skirt with a soft plastic trailer.
Now that you can appreciate why this lure is so popular with other anglers and the fish, it's time to practice what you have learned. Fall bass fishing is a prime time to target, but you'll find that using a buzzbait is productive anytime your favorite fish is shallow. Tuning your lures for optimal performance can increase your total catch and might attract the attention of that wall hanger hiding in the grass.
Remember that retrieval speed is key to keeping those blades churning along the water's surface. You might want to get your hands on a fast-retrieving reel.
Anglers like Paul Cullen demonstrate how consistent buzzbaits can be with his 1,000-plus bass exceeding ten pounds. With a bit of practice and a better understanding of buzzbaits, the next fishing article in your local paper might be about you!
Bass are opportunistic eaters known for biting off more than they can chew, so a good size buzzbait for bass is 3/8 ounces. Pros anglers like Chase Simmemon use a big buzzbait to cover lots of water quickly, and the extra weight lets anglers cast farther than a 1/4 or 1/2 ounce wire lure, especially in windy conditions. Lighter tackle should earn a place in your tackle box when you need more finesse on calm water or when fishing in thick grass.
Fishing with a buzzbait is best when the bass is in shallow water or suspended higher in the water column in deeper water. Fall is the best time of year for most anglers since the fish are coming into shallow water to warm themselves and are aggressively eating. Conversely, winter is probably the least productive time of year because the fish move into deeper water, where these lures are less effective.
A buzzbait will stay on top of the water when you fish it as long as you don't let it sink during the cast or retrieval. When using a buzzbait, most anglers will engage the reel slightly before or right as the lure hits the water. Your retrieval speed needs to get the blades gurgling at the surface, and you need to maintain that speed to prevent your buzzbait from sinking below the top of the water.
While buzzbaits are known for their vibration, blade color does appear to matter based on light conditions. Black or other dark colors do well in low light conditions like overcast days or when you're night fishing. White is a good option when you are fishing during sunny days or night fishing with bright sky conditions right before or after a full moon.