The Blue Fox Fox Roland
Martin Double Buzzer creates a ruckus at slow retrieves and runs straight, due to its counter-rotating blades. During Indian Summer, with a succession of calm, sunny afternoons in the upper 60°F or even 70°F range, bluegills and bass suspend off the outside weedlines where vegetation remains green and standing tall. They often hold from 4 to 8 feet down over 12 to 14 feet of water, where they’re visible in clear lakes. A small buzzbait can be deadly.”
Ron Lindner expresses a slightly different opinion on buzzbait selection: “I like models with a metal clacker on the arm. In any conditions, I like a single-blade model in fall. Noisy double buzzers are for summer. I like 1/4- and 3/8-ounce models for the most part. Small buzzers don’t seem to create enough commotion.” It should be noted, however, that in spring, summer, and fall, many river anglers prefer 1/8- and even 1/16-ounce buzzbaits, like those from M & N Lures and Old Can’Tucky Boy.
“From what I’ve seen,” Ron continues, “no rule for fall buzzbaiting is absolute, except that the bait must be retrieved slowly. Even a slow buzzbait retrieve covers a lot of water. Experiment with lure size, vibration cadence, and color. Fish a productive flat and you may quickly catch the most active fish in just half an hour, including sometimes 4 or 5 good
“Return a few hours later and more fish may respond to the bait. Any bait that runs over the fishs’ heads can attract them from a distance if they’re in a feeding mood. Contrast that to a worm or jig that must be presented close to the fish to be effective, particularly in thick cover.
“In fall, bass bites on a buzzbait can be, well, lethargic. I almost always add a trailer hook, held in place with surgical tubing or a rubberized coating over the hook eye, like Lindy-Little Joe’s trailer hooks. Concerning rods, any good baitcasting rod works fine. I like a 61⁄2- or 7-foot rod to help make long casts and to put pressure on bass to keep them from burying into the weeds.
“Reels with medium-speed retrieve ratios help keep the bait moving slowly. Depending on the density of weeds on the flat, I spool with 14-, 17-, or 20-pound Trilene XT. For fishing through bulrushes on a flat—a great target area—use stout equipment. I like the power and weed-cutting ability of braided superlines, but they make pulling the bait away from bass too easy.”
Strategies for Reservoirs
In reservoirs with substantial weedcover, fall buzzbait patterns evolve as they do in natural lakes. As vegetation on shallow flats thins, these flats become more attractive to bass. The minnows and small sunfish that were hidden in the dense jungle are vulnerable, and bass move from deep areas to feed. In impoundments with dense vegetation, largemouth bass are opportunistic feeders. They take crayfish from weedy habitats, along with sunfish, darters, perch, and other fish species.
Reservoirs with less weedgrowth experience a different pattern of fall movement, but one that also provides prime opportunities for buzzbaits. In many reservoirs from the Plains to the Carolinas, turbid water limits plant growth or even prohibits it. Some impoundments are moderately clear but lack submerged plants because the bottom is unsuitable or because plant species haven’t been introduced.
In these waters, the food chain for bass is shad based, with a huge biomass of shad feeding on dense zooplankton, which feed on phytoplankton that thrives in the absence of submerged plants. Other potential bass forage, such as sunfish, topminnows, sculpins, and darters are less abundant than in weedy waters.
A fall shad migration and human-induced effects combine to bring largemouths bass into shallow water, sometimes less than a foot deep. This scenario begins with water temperatures falling into the mid-60°F range, stirring threadfin and gizzard shad to move from their open-water haunts toward the bank. Schools of baitfish move into main-lake coves or run into tributary creeks, and bass follow, moving as shallow as the shad lure them.
At the same time, many reservoirs begin a gradual drawdown to winter pool. Prime cover such as brush, fallen trees, docks, and stumps lie in shallower and shallower water. Bass seem loath to leave their favorite haunts until they’re high and dry or baitfish move deeper as winter approaches.
Cooling water sets the stage for one of the hottest buzzbait bites of the year. Bass pro Jim Morton used a buzzbait called the Spunky Bug made in his hometown of McCallister, Oklahoma, to win the 1993 Oklahoma BASSMASTER Invitational tournament on Grand Lake in early November. Grand Lake is an off-color shad-based lake that holds largemouth in shallow cover year-round. “When that cold front blew through, I got a hunch the buzzer could be a real ace,” Morton recalls.
“In mid-October, the lake had been around 70°F. A rainy cold snap dropped it to about 62°F at the start of the tournament. Rain and air temperatures around 40°F numbed us all, reminding us of winter. But relating conditions above the surface to what’s going on below always is a mistake. We were miserable, but the bass were basking in ideal temperatures, and the overcast conditions and low barometer reading had them biting well.
“On the third day of the tournament, the air temperature fell to 27°F and it snowed so hard the tournament almost was canceled. But the lake was still 55°F. Many contestants tried to catch bass as though it were winter, but the fish were ready for mid-fall patterns. And on Grand Lake and many other waters, that means buzzbaits.
“I’ve been relying on this fall buzzbait pattern for several years, ever since my wife Linda proved its productivity. We’d signed up for a husband-and-wife tournament, but the morning dawned 39°F and raining. She wanted to forget it, but I more or less dragged her into the boat.
“We had our rain hoods pulled tight down over our ears as I happened to look back to see her tossing a buzzbait, a lure she loves to throw. ‘Sugar, you’d be better off with a crankbait,’ I urged. But she’d have none of it. ‘You dragged me out here so don’t you dare tell me what to throw,’ she replied.
“Well that shut me up until she started hammering the fish with that thing. By the end of the day, she’d caught 9 of our 10 keepers, and we won the tournament. After a while, I tied on a buzzbait, but she still outfished me 4 to 1. She’d make a cast, put her head down to keep the rain out, and just crawl that lure along. Suddenly, a bass would just suck it under and she’d have it hooked. Since then, I’ve forced myself to retrieve a buzzbait as slowly as possible during conditions like those.
“In the Oklahoma Invitational, the big largemouths were holding among large rocks just offshore in water from 12 to 24 inches deep. Smaller bass were holding from 3 to 5 feet deep, and I caught some of them on crankbaits. But for the big ones, I’d cast the buzzbait onto shore and start retrieving. As the water temperature dropped day by day, I slowed my retrieve even further. Some of my biggest bass hit within 18 inches of the bank. I always use a trailer hook in this situation, but in the tournament, every bass had the main hook.
“While I’ve found this ultrashallow buzzbait presentation effective in off-color impoundments, in fall it also works in clearer reservoirs like Lake of the Ozarks. Most anglers can’t believe how shallow the fish move.”
Veteran bass pro Rob Kilby of Arkansas notes another fall pattern for clear impoundments that’s often overlooked by anglers who move far up creek channels or into the backs of coves. “Look for bluff banks,” Kilby says, “and run the buzzer so it almost clips the rocks.
“Bass suspend along these walls in fall, apparently in position to attack schools of shad that pass along creek channels swinging along rock banks. They’re looking up and will hit a buzzbait hard. You’ll catch some spotted bass that way, too,” says Kilby, long-time buzzbait aficionado and designer of Terminator’s new titanium buzzbait.
Kilby also has refined color recommendations for reservoirs, based on water color. In clear water, he uses light skirts (clear, smoke, or white) and silver blades during sunny conditions. On cloudy days, he switches to black with silver blades.
“In stained water, I use black or brown buzzbaits almost exclusively. Often the fish will boil at white or chartreuse baits, but switch to black and they eat it. Also, compact baits with a moderate-size blade and a rather short shaft are the key in fall.”
Buzzbait popularity has seen several cycles of waxing and waning since the Lunker Lure hit the market. We’ve been through a lull during the last couple years. Time is right for a big harvest of lunkers. Whether you choose the venerable Lunker Lure or a new-style buzzbait like the Terminator, Headbanger, or Cav-I-Tron, get out there and raise a ruckus.
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