Can't buy a summer bite? Bernie Schultz says a buzzbait may cure what ails you.
Though a lot of anglers don't take them out until fall, buzzbaits can be just what you need to get a summer bite going. However, Bernie says they really shine on dull days.
"When you've got low skies, low light, and a slightly cooler day than you've been having, the topwater bite turns on. Typically this happens right before or after a thunderstorm, but the common denominator is low light.
"The farther north you go, the less limiting this factor is; you can fish them under less restrictive circumstances," he says.
Where to buzz 'em up
These conditions position fish around cover typically associated with spring. The best choice is grass, be it submergent, emergent or flooded terrestrial grass. Schultz has found that irregularities — an indentation, an isolated patch, or areas with two or more types of grass mixed — often hold more bass than a solid mat.
If your lake is devoid of grass, he says to work laydowns, stumps, docks, bushes and flooded areas if you're on a tidal river. Points are another important structure that is easily overlooked.
Schultz bases his casting outfit around the heavy line he uses with buzzbaits. He uses a 7-foot, medium-heavy Shimano rod with a 7:1 Shimano reel spooled with either Sufix braid or Sufix Tritanium monofilament. He likes the distance and hook setting power a 7-foot rod offers.
"I use braid when I'm fishing around really thick grass, cypress trees, or docks on tidal rivers that have barnacles," he says. "Otherwise, I'm using 17- to 20-pound-test monofilament. It's really limp for how strong it is, which is crucial for casting into the wind."
Bang, squeal and burn
Wind happens to be one of the main determinants for Schultz's buzzbaiting. If there is a light chop, he likes a clacker-style buzzbait. Under calmer conditions, he throws a squealer, and when the grass is just touching the surface, he throws an in-line buzzbait.
"The Hildebrandt HeadBanger is my choice for windy conditions that put light chop on the water or when the fish aren't actively feeding. The way the blade bangs the tin head gets the fish irritated which can prompt a strike," he says. "I'll throw this over emergent and submerged vegetation, flooded timber, or when other buzzbaits aren't working."
Calmer conditions and sparser cover call for a less aggressive approach. This is where Schultz reaches for a Yamamoto buzzbait. It has a rivet that emits a high-pitched squeak and can be retrieved very slowly, which is what you want in calmer weather.
When you know bass are holding in grass that is crowning at the surface, attack it from the top. Though buzzbaits are fairly weedless, these special mats require a special bait. Hildebrandt's Gold Wing fills the order well. Schultz says the Gold Wing's design is inherently weedless, but to keeps snags at an absolute minimum, it has a weedguard.
These three types of buzzbait — while different — have a common thread: plated blades.
"Regular aluminum or brass blades sound muted underwater. You need a blade that's plated in either chrome or gold to really resonate the sound underwater," he says. "Also, I like to have a trailer hook on my buzzbaits when possible, and the HeadBanger comes with one right out of the box. You'll lose a lot fewer fish with that trailer hook."
As cliché as it sounds, Schultz lets the fish tell him how they want a buzzbait presented.
"Though you do need to experiment with retrieves, there are a few guidelines. Clacker-style baits like the HeadBanger typically do better with a faster retrieve, while squealer-style buzzbaits are best when fished slow enough to keep them just on the surface," he says.
Stick with it
Schultz says the No. 1 problem he sees from novice buzzbaiters is their lack of dedication.
A buzzbait is something that you need to work at. A lot of guys will throw it a few times, and if they don't get a hit, they'll put it down," he says. "Though you've probably got the right bait, you may not be in the right area. Take some time to figure out where they're holding."
Originally published August 2009