The metallic ‘zzzzzipppp’ of the prop is unmistakable. That’s the sound of a buzzbait as it leaves the rod and sails through the air. Each time I hear it, I go back to a very specific moment nearly 20 years ago.
It was mid-September and Kevin Turner of RiverPro boats in Missouri was delivering a jetboat to northeast Pennsylvania. While east, we made plans to spent a few days fishing the Delaware River just below Delaware Water Gap. Prior to this visit, our time on the water was spent running various shallow-water crafts. So, I was looking forward to wetting a line with KT.
My jetboat was loaded with tackle, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, soft jerk baits and a host of other lures. When I met Keven at the hotel, he had two baitcasting rods rigged with buzzbaits. Aside from first and last light conditions, or chasing green bass in lily pads, I never considered buzzbaits as an all-day option. I often share what I refer to as “lightbulb moments”. These are experiences or insights that change the way I approach river fishing. For me, it is about learning, growing and being successful in any situation on the river. While I had fished buzzbaits for decades, this was my light-bulb moment when it comes to how I use buzz baits today.
Our first stop that morning was a rocky shoreline a few miles from the DWG Welcome Center. This spot had giant boulders with modest current and depth to about 8 feet. I took a few smallmouth on a medium diving crankbait and followed up with one or two more by bouncing a creature bait off the bottom. Kevin had a couple bass blow up on his buzzbait, none of those connected. It was not until we headed into a riffle area that the buzzbait began to shine. The riffle area was a long rocky stretch where a pool in the river shallowed to about 2-4 feet deep. This nervous loud water is where the magic began.
Kevin made a long cross-current cast and before the buzzbait went five feet, I heard the explosion. A healthy 17-18” bass leaped out of the water with that crazy buzzbait firmly in the top of its lip. I ripped a 4” swimbait threw the current and we were fish for fish, but I was losing the battle in size. His bass were consistently 16-19 inches, while my bass were considerably smaller.
Grabbing a white buzzbait from a bag at the bottom of my tackle compartment, I began to join in. Kevin was throwing the buzzbait in all directions, stating; “just throw it out there and retrieve”.
To be honest, tossing blindly without a target was something I had to overcome. But bass were blowing up on these lures early and late into the cast, so visible targets did not seem to matter. They were eating it coming down river, up river, cross current, close to shore, way out in the middle and all points in between. “You can not catch them if it isn’t in the water” he mumbled.
This year, and every year since, my buzzbait collection has grown. While I have narrowed it down to two brands, I have dozens upon dozens at arm’s reach for these summer and early fall days. My two favorite buzz baits are based on these factors.
1 – It must surface quickly with little to no effort. Reaching the surface quickly, means the buzzbait is visible, making noise, spitting water almost immediately. The earlier it comes to the surface the more success you will have.
2 – It must remain on the surface even when fished slowly. Buzzbaits that need too much speed in order to remain on the surface will miss opportunities. The combination of moving slow and remaining on the surface is critical.
3- It must work with spinning gear as well as bait casting gear. While I prefer throwing buzzbaits on a bait casting set up, many of my clients prefer spinning gear.
First on my list is the tried and true Mega Strike Cavitron Buzzbait. (Shown at the top of the photo) The packaging boasts; “The Slowest Buzzbait Ever!!!” and to be honest, it is certainly one of the slowest I have ever used. Coming in 1/8oz and 1/4oz, it may seem surprisingly light for a buzzbait. But believe me, that is all the weight you need. For those wanting heavier, 3/8oz and 1/2oz are also available.
Second on my list and one that should make claim to being the “Slowest Buzzbait on the Market” is the Counter-Rotating Buzzbait by Fitt Premium Lures. (Shown at the bottom of the photo) This dual blade mini buzzbait catches BIG BASS. It is also extremely easy to throw on spinning gear as well as bait casting gear. The dual blades bring the lure to the surface quickly and remains on the surface with little effort.
Like myself, Curt Kirby spends about 250 days annually on the river. Curt owns a small campground on the North Branch of the Susquehanna in the Endless Mountains Region. Rain or Shine, every morning from March through December you can count on Curt being on the water. If the water temperature is 60 degrees or higher, his go-to lure is the buzzbait. Knowing this, I placed two Fitt buzzbaits on the bow of his boat early one morning and asked him to give them a try.
I could tell by the look on his face, there was some reservation. Fifteen minutes later, my phone buzzed. It was a selfie of Curt, bass in hand with a text that stated; “Second bass already, this little buzzbait from Fitt is gonna be a must have! How do I get some?” Curt went on to catch 17 smallmouth on it the next 2-1/2 hours.
Some helpful hints when starting out with buzz baits. While I agree with just getting them out in the water, selecting target areas such as shorelines, micro eddies, exposed rocks, wood or grasses are areas to focus on. Riffle water, no matter how fast it seems, hold aggressive bass that will strike buzzbaits. Water does not have to be soft to catch fish on a buzzbait.
Lastly, if you are experiencing a lot of strikes, but few hook-ups, try these two tips. First trim some of the skirt length, this gives the bass less to zone in on. If this doesn’t work, remove the skirt all together and replace it with your favorite swimbait or grub tail lure. Smallmouth can often target these trailers better than a skirt. Especially in swift current.
So there it is, the best BUZZ this month for river smallmouth!
Author Chris Gorsuch is a licensed charter guide in the state of Pennsylvania. He started the Reel River Adventures guide service in ‘07 and spends 225-250 days on the water annually. His home base is on the Susquehanna River where he operates 20’ jetboats. Chasing smallmouth is his specialty, however he enjoys catching walleye and other freshwater gamefish on the upper North Branch. He has written 100’s of articles. You can follow his daily fishing reports on Facebook ‘Reel River Adventures-RRA’ & Instagram @Chris_Gorsuch