By: Shaye Baker
Buzzbaits have been around for decades now. As one of the most consistent topwater strike producers of all time, a buzzbait belongs is an exclusive group of topwater lure that a complete novice can tie on and catch fish with, while at the same time some of the greatest anglers in the world still use it to win hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A buzzbait’s effectiveness and versatility naturally lead to dozens of anglers flinging it around all through the spring, summer and fall on countless fisheries across the country. So, how do you continue to catch fish on a bait that the bass will inevitably become conditioned to? Well, we’re going to talk about three ways to do just that today.
Adding a Trailer Hook
A surprising number of anglers still to this day do not add a trailer hook to their buzzbaits. This is something that I saw my dad do growing up and is just a habitual practice that I picked up at an early age. But I have seen it pay dividends time and time again over the years as one of us would drag a fish into the net with nothing pinning it to the bait except for the trailer hook.
Sometimes, bass just don’t strike a buzzbait all that well. Whether the bite is just a little off that day, the fish are getting conditioned to the bait or perhaps the water is a little muddy and the bass just couldn’t get a good bead on it before the strike — whatever the case may be, often times the trailer hook is all they get. And if the trailer hook wasn’t there in those situations, a big boil on the bait and a broken heart from a near miss is all we’d get.
Adding a trailer hook to a buzzbait is super easy. There are lots of different trailer hooks out there designed with an enlarged eye that goes over the main hook point and barb. You want to slip the hook on so that the point is oriented in the same direction as the main hook, and then use some sort of rubber or other keeper so that the trailer hook eye can’t slip back off the main hook during the fight. Or you can open the eye of a trailer hook like the one you see here just a little with a set of dikes and then crimp it back closed once you slip it on the main hook.
Swapping the Skirt for a Soft Plastic
Most buzzbaits come with skirts. I’d venture to say 99% of them did until the last decade or so. But one buzzbait fishing trend that has seen a pretty good uptick in the last few years is swapping out the skirt for a soft plastic. By doing this, you not only change the profile of the bait drastically, but you also change how the bait can be fished. Let me explain.
A buzzbait with a skirt does not skip. But when you remove the skirt and add something like a Zoom Horny Toad pictured here, you can effectively skip a buzzbait nearly anywhere you can skip a hollow body frog with a little practice. Being able to skip a bait with the action and sound of a buzzbait where the fish don’t usually see it, say under docks, for instance, is another great way to get more bites on a bait that might otherwise be a little overused on a particular fishery.
Replacing the skirt with buzz frogs, Flukes, swimbaits and other soft plastics really opens up a whole new realm of possibilities with buzzbaits. And this trend has become popular enough in recent years that there are now several companies that offer buzzbait/soft plastic combos without even having to modify one that comes with a skirt, like the Dirty Jigs Scott Canterbury Pro Buzz for example.
Adding a Little Squeak
The sound a buzzbait makes is certainly the signature characteristic of the whole genre. As the prop spins and slaps the top of the water, a buzzbait creates a consistent and irresistible attractant that a bass can then track down and annihilate. But, when everyone is throwing one, its allure loses some of the luster. One great way to make the sound of your buzzbait stand out from the crowd is to add a little squeak to it. Here’s how to do that.
First, straighten the end of the prop shaft and remove the prop. You’ll notice the holes in the prop that the arm of the bait goes through are perfectly round. If you take a nail with a square point to it, position the lip of the prop over a block of wood and then gently give the nail point one good tap into the prop holes, you’ll effectively turn the round holes into square ones.
I’ve seen a few people from my dad to Kevin VanDam do this and it’s an extremely effective way to make your buzzbait sound noticeably different. Making the hole a square causes the prop to rock slightly as it tries to spin on the shaft, producing a high-pitched squeak. Simply enlarging the hole a bit tends to have a similar effect, and I’ve seen my dad do this by tying a buzzbait to the radio antenna on his truck and then driving for a couple of days to “break in a buzzbait”. Though I have never seen KVD do that one…
"VanDam, who learned to bass fish on Michigan's ultraclear natural lakes, says buzzbaits can produce a lot of exciting topwater strikes, provided you choose and fish the topwater lure appropriately." - BASSMASTERSo yeah, there are three ways to get a few more bites than some of your buddies on what is already arguably one of the best bite-producing baits of all times. Buzzbaits are the essence of what bass fishing is all about. They’re easy to use and create memorable strikes that you can go back to in your mind over and over again and relive for a lifetime. Hopefully, these three little hacks will help create a few more of those memories for you. Happy bass fishing!