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Jim Porter

More than at any other time, the onset of the summer months signals the start of great topwater action for bass. While it builds from the warm days of spring, topwater really peaks when the temperatures get consistently into the mid-80's, and above. For sheer angling pleasure and excitement, nothing beats the excitement of the buzz baits.

Topwater lures, such as plugs, depend on some amount of skill of the angler. Enticing a bass to take a shot at a hunk of metal, wood and/or plastic occasionally requires that the angler apply a degree of finesse to attract the fish. Not so with the buzz bait.

The buzz bait could almost be considered an idiot-proof lure. All one has to do is toss it out and reel it back. There is virtually no learned skill required and that makes it a perfect lure for newcomers and children. But, as with any 'sure thing', there are a few minor items to be considered and we will look at them next.

The first rule of the buzz bait is to fish it where there are likely to be bass. That is the exact same rule that applies to ALL fishing and is based on the fact that we have to find the fish before we can catch them. We can toss that buzz bait around all types of good-looking locations. But , if those locations are not likely to hold bass, we are just teaching the lure how to swim.

The best places to present the buzz bait have cover and concealment capabilities for the fish. Possibly the best is a grass bed. Fish love grass. Not only does it provide cover, but grass is the nursery and food source for most small aquatic life. Nearly everything that swims feeds in areas of vegetation. The better grass will be just at the surface, or slight under, and does not restrict the passage of the lure across the top. Pulling a buzz bait ACROSS a grass bed is always better that coming along the sides, in that it provides wider visibility. Off course, if the grass is the standing type or is too thick to come across, by all means fish the lure along all sides and through any open places within the bed. Other areas that work well are boat docks, logs and stump fields. Water depths of 2-8 feet seem best.

The second rule of the buzz bait is to keep in on the surface. The angler must adjust his/her retrieve speed to assure the lure says at the surface and churns the water. Whether it is the sound or the motion on the surface that attracts, we will probably not know until we get a chance to sit down and ask a fish, face to face. Suffice to say, it performs best on the surface. The angler should be aware that a reasonably high retrieve reel will make the work of keeping the lure on top much easier, as will holding the rod tip high.

The wire frame of a buzz bait will often get bent in handling and, in particular, when a bass is trashing around on it. That may cause it to run incorrectly. Please not that the turning blade of the single-bladed lure creates a torque effect that will cause the lure to track slightly to the side. That is fine and does not interfere with the buzz bait's effectiveness. Just use a bit of 'Kentucky windage' to compensate for the side tracking past objects and grass. The lure also normally performs better if the blade is at a slight up-angle from the line of the body and hook. If the lure tends to turn on its side too far, it will tend to grab onto grass and other debris. That may also call for an adjustment to the alignment of the blade.

Setting the hook on topwater comes in two flavors - 'real quick when you see the strike' and 'wait until you feel that the bass has the lure'. Waiting to set the hook is terribly hard to do, especially when the bass has exploded on the lure with the violence normally associated with a topwater strike. Not even seasoned anglers are able to do it often. But, it is really not required. When you see the bass attack the lure, he will obviously have the lure before you can even react. You can't set the hook quick enough!! The trick is actually not to set the hook TOO MUCH. What that means is that, at the visible strike, quickly raise the rod tip up and back to get out all slack and to assure a tight line. The bass will set the hook himself when he turns to run. Suppose, however, that the bass smashes the lure, but misses it. If the angler then, at the sign of that strike, gives a big jerk with the rod and reels like the dickens he will quickly move the lure away from the location of the fish. He then loses the advantage of a second follow-up strike from the fish.

Selecting a quality buzz bait lure is important. Since we are trying to keep the lure running on the surface, a buzz bait with a flat head will obviously plane the water and be easier to keep on top. Buzz baits should have a large, wide-gap hook so the bass will have every opportunity to hook himself if he slightly misses the lure body. That hook should also be a long-shank style that stretches out behind the blades and lure body. The skirt should be checked to assure it is not too loose on the collar of the lure body. Most today have small rubber rings that hold them on very poorly. The skirts, then, are constantly slipping down. The best will be firmly attached.

There are two other things you can do to assure a quality buzz bait has that 'extra edge' for you. ALWAYS add a trailer, or stinger, hook to the lure. That greatly increases your strike-to-hookup ratio and save a lot of otherwise lost bass. The other is to slide that skirt down on the collar of the lure body, apply a drop of super glue, and slide it back up. That will hold it in place and allow you to concentrate on your fishing.

Buzz baits are great fishing tools. Try 'em; you'll like 'em!!!


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