Bring on the buzzbaits!
  |  First Published: July 2003

BUZZBAITS were originally designed for targeting largemouth bass in spring, when they spawn up in the shallows. In the countries that have largemouth bass there’s excellent sight- and shallow-water fishing with buzzbaits at this time.

American bassers know the times of the year when buzzbaits are effective because largemouth movements are predictable by season. Australian bass patterns, however, are more at the mercy of the levels of our impoundments rather than the season. During most of the year, Aussie bass sit fairly deep. Sure – they come up into the shallows during low light when conditions are right, but to get Australian bass sitting in the shallows all day, we usually need unique water conditions.

The recent deluge most of the east coast experienced provided these conditions. Most impoundments rose several feet, inundating terrestrial weeds that have had several years to grow. An afternoon on Clarrie Hall Dam with new Bassman Spinnerbaits proprietor, Glen Casey, really illustrated how effective buzzbaits can be in the right conditions.

With the steady rise of Clarrie Hall, Glen had been braining the bass on buzzbaits for a couple of months. As each rise sunk new structure, the bass moved onto the new ground and were extremely receptive to surface lures. As a lot of the sunken weed proved impossible to fish with conventional lures – even spinnerbaits fouled in this stuff – buzzbaits provided the only real option to target these actively feeding fish.

I met Glen at the Crams Farm ramp the afternoon before the BASS Electric event (that was moved from the still-low Toonumbar to Clarrie Hall) to pick his brains about his buzzbaiting techniques. And I thought he was pulling my leg when he showed me the lures he'd been catching the fish on – big, four-bladed buzzbaits with clackers to maximise noise. They looked like they’d scare off anything but a rampaging Cape York queenfish.

Glen explained the logic behind the lures he’d been making and using.

“The first time we did really well on the buzzbaits was when we visited Clarrie Hall after its first recent rise,” he explained. “It was the middle of the day and we hadn’t been catching too much on conventional techniques, but the bass were popping all over the surface – mostly amongst the plains full of sunken terrestrial weeds. The buzzbaits were simply the only thing we could fish through that stuff without getting snagged every cast.”

It’s usually situations like these that push bassers out of their comfort zone and gets them experimenting. Like Glen’s case, it often works.

During our three-hour session we landed over 20 bass on Glen’s buzzbaits, and as we fished our way down the dam I managed to extract some of the finer points of his technique.

“I use the moulded four-blades because of the added resistance they have in the water,” Glen said. “You can wind them slower than the single-bladed baits and still keep them on top. Also, they’re probably the most weed-proof of the lot, which means I can chuck them into some pretty tight cover.”

And chuck them into tight cover is exactly what we did all afternoon. At times the bass would strike and have us stitched up in the weed in mere seconds. Other times, we’d get the fish’s head out of the water on the strike and just keep it coming. Overall, it was some of the most exciting bassing I’ve had in recent years.

I was also amazed that the percentage of hookups that Glen was achieving on his Aussie bass modified baits. Eight out of ten fish hooked up on the strike, which was the opposite of my previous experience, so Glen ran through his modifications.

“I always trim my skirts to a point just below the hook bend," he said. "This way, even if the bass snips at the tail, there's a good chance it will hook up. Leave the skirts long as you’ll find that the fish will mostly hit the lure and pull the skirt down.”

I asked him why he wouldn’t use a stinger hook instead.

“Stingers always seem to get caught in the weed – especially the stuff that used to be growing on land," Glen explained. "By trimming the skirts you don’t have to use a stinger, which is better on the fish, too.”

During the afternoon Glen used a white buzzbait while I used a black one, and the catch rates were pretty similar. At this stage Glen thinks that colour doesn’t matter nearly as much as getting the lure to where the fish are feeding. Glen does, however, use fluoro yellow beads above the buzz blade and around the clacker to offer extra visibility for the angler. These really do make the lure easy to see in the half-light.

Glen prefers a straight, slow retrieve without any jigs or pauses. It lets the fish home in on the lure and it might help them hit the skirted area with such precision. Surprisingly, most takers seemed to sip the bait off the surface rather than crash-tackle it. Maybe it was because the fish were eating the skirted jig rather than the attractor.

This is THE most important point to note: most success comes on buzzbaits when the retrieve is SLOW. You need the blades just ticking over in the water and just breaking the surface. Hold the rod high to keep the lure up on top at the slow speeds. If you blast the bait through the water clacking and splashing, your success will be limited.

I’m now firmly convinced that buzzbaits are an essential part of a basser’s arsenal. You mightn’t use them every trip, but when conditions are right – as they are now – they’re worth their weight in gold!

For more information on buzzbaiting and buzzbaits, you can call Glen Casey direct at Bassman Spinnerbaits on (02) 6685 7764.

1) Anatomy of a buzzbait.

2) Buzzbaits can work through country that fouls normal surface lures.

3) STRIKE! A Clarrie Hall bass sucks down Glen’s big white buzzbait.

4) After a water level rise, you can fish buzzbaits all day through country like this.

5) Heavy leaders help landing fish in tight country.

6) This 43cm Clarrie Hall fish sucked a buzzbait from between the lilies at 2:30 in the afternoon.

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