It's loud, obnoxious and its annoying chatter dares a bass to chase it.
Consider a buzzbait as the bass world's equivalent to the heckler — that loud-mouthed fan seated next to you at a baseball game. Both try to irritate with their relentless taunts in hopes that their targets will make a mistake. The heckler succeeds when a ballplayer makes an error, while in the watery world a bass makes a mistake when the irritation causes it to swallow the heckler whole.
So a big loud buzzer should produce the most strikes, right? Well, yes and no. "The whole goal for most of the buzzbaits out there is to make a whole lot of noise," says Brent Chapman, the 2005 Busch Shootout champion. "Everybody knows that fish get accustomed to something and tend to shy away from it."
The Lake Quivera, Kan., angler has seen many times on the Tournament Trail when bass would crush a buzzbait during practice and the first day of competition, but then ignore the buzzer by the end of the week. "Typically, when we are fishing tournaments, we are fishing under heavy fishing pressure conditions," Chapman discloses.
When fishing pressure slows the topwater action, Chapman believes some fish can still be taken on the surface so he switches to subtle buzzing lures. He tones down his buzzing tactics by switching to a 1/8-ounce Terminator Tiny Buzz, an Ambush Lures Buzz-a-Long Buzz or a Zoom Horny Toad.
"Subtle buzzing is more of a shallow water technique," reveals Chapman. "A big 1/2-ounce buzzbait will draw some fish out of that 5- to 8-foot range, where the smaller buzzbait will work better in 2 to 3 feet of water where you need something a little more subtle."
Low-pitch buzzers work best for Chapman during the prespawn and postspawn when bass are cruising the shallows. The Bassmaster titleholder has done well with his subtle buzzing tactics in the extreme shallows of Florida lakes, the Potomac River and other tidal waters.
Water clarity also determines the type of buzzbait Chapman selects. "A big, loud, gaudy buzzbait will work well in dirty water, but subtle buzzing works better in clear to stained water," advises Chapman.
If bass continuously short strike his full-size buzzer, Chapman scales down to his 1/8-ounce Terminator buzzbait. "I'm finding that most people will fish with a 1/2- or 3/8-ounce buzzbait, and a few fish a 1/4-ounce, but very few fish a 1/8-ounce," he says. Chapman believes other anglers tend to avoid the smaller buzzer because it is harder to cast, and they perceive it attracts mostly small fish.
"At times, I have had very good success with a 1/8-ounce buzzbait, especially early in the fall when the fish are finicky and the baitfish tend to be small," says Chapman, who also likes to throw the lure at bedding fish in the spring. "I've caught some 5-pounders on them, so it's not like they won't catch big fish."
The small buzzer allows Chapman to cover water quickly just like the larger model does. "The 1/8-ounce buzzbait is hard to beat because you can fish it fast," says Chapman. "It is still real subtle on the surface but I can fish it faster, and I'm the type that wants to fish it as fast as possible."
The Kansas pro keeps his color selection simple for his Tiny Buzz: black for low-light conditions; white for light, overcast days; and chartreuse for bright sunny afternoons. He winds the buzzer with a high speed reel (6.3:1 gear ratio) and 50-pound braided line. "I use a high-speed reel for pretty much all of my topwater fishing because I can catch up with the fish quicker when it hits, and I can move my bait faster when I need to," says Chapman. "I usually use a steady retrieve, but try to bump it into something to make it do something different."
The braided line prevents a bass from sawing off his buzzer when Chapman throws his lure behind dock cables. He relies on an AllStar Brent Chapman signature series fiberglass rod to cast his small buzzer.
When encountering heavy cover in stained shallow water, Chapman opts for an Ambush Lures Buzz-a-Long, a topwater stickbait with a buzz blade located in the middle of its body. The blade and head of the lure slide on a medical grade titanium wire shaft to maximize its water-throwing capabilities.
"The thing that is so neat about that lure is you can work it like a buzzbait and a prop bait," Chapman emphasizes. "Sometimes fish will wake after a buzzbait without committing. With this bait, you can pause it to make the fish strike. On a regular buzzbait, all you can do is keep reeling and the fish will turn away."
The Buzz-a-Long permits Chapman to steadily sputter the lure along the surface or occasionally twitch it to keep the lure in the strike zone longer. "It allows you to experiment more with one bait," says Chapman. "You can work it fast and have it make noise, or you can work it slow to make it work like a Tiny Torpedo or a Devil's Horse. It doesn't produce as much commotion as a double-blade prop bait and it is more subtle than a buzzbait."
Either popping or buzzing the lure creates enough commotion to draw bass out of the heavy cover. Chapman works this topwater bait with a 6 1/2-foot medium-heavy action rod and a high-speed baitcast reel filled with 20-pound monofilament or 50-pound braided line. His favorite hues for the Buzz-a-Long include shad patterns and chartreuse sides with black or green backs.
In crystal clear water, Chapman coaxes skittish bass into biting a Zoom Horny Toad that he buzzes across the surface. Although originally designed for skimming over heavy vegetation, the Horny Toad has become another weapon in Chapman's subtle buzzer arsenal. He has discovered the lure is ideal for skipping under docks. When he retrieves it at a steady pace, the twirling action of the toad's legs produces a subtle buzzing action that becomes irresistible to bass.
Chapman rigs the lure on a screw-in 5/0 hook made by Zoom specifically for the Horny Toad and glues the lure's head to the screw-lock to prevent it from slipping. The lure is designed with a head and eyes on top and a groove on its bottom. "I like to rig it upside down so the groove is on the top and the point of the hook will be in the groove," says Chapman. He believes this rigging hides the hook point better, yet it can slip out of the plastic body easier for a better hookset. His favorite hues for the Horny Toad include watermelon or green pumpkin for the clearest water, black for lowlight conditions, white on light, overcast days and chartreuse in sunny weather.
Brent Chapman's subtle buzzers trigger more strikes from finicky bass, but the following minor modifications can make his lures even more productive.
Terminator Tiny Buzz: Chapman adds a No. 6 trotline hook for a trailer hook on his buzzbait. "I've never found another trailer hook that is made that small, but it works great," says Chapman. He prefers this hook because it is small and stout, yet has a big enough eye for slipping over the buzzbait's hook point.
Zoom Horny Toad: Chapman enhances the flash of his lure by dipping its legs in chartreuse dye.
Ambush Lures Buzz-a-Long: The Kansas pro attaches an extra split ring to the lure's rear hook. "You tend to lose fewer fish that way," he advises. "I do that on most of my crankbaits because it gives the hook more freedom to turn and twist when the fish is on there."