How to Fish a Buzzbait: An Old-School Top-Water Killer

Written by: John Baltes
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Buzzbaits may be old school, but they still have a lot to teach bass fishermen about how to cover water quickly and fish shallow cover!

Once an almost forgotten option, buzzbaits are getting more attention as anglers look for something that isn’t like what everyone else is throwing. And the more that people fish them, the more they wonder why everyone stopped.

Buzzbaits are an amazing option when the water is warm and the bass are aggressive. 

But to get the most from these unusual, top-water lures, you need to know how to fish them.


Buzzbait 101: What the Heck Are These Things?

best buzz bait

Buzzbaits share some similarities with spinnerbaits, in that they’re formed from wire, feature a skirted jig head and a single hook, and use a metal blade to create their distinctive presentation.

That’s where the similarities end.

Buzzbaits are topwater lures. You read that right! 

Designed to be retrieved quickly, they run just under the surface, clattering, gurgling, and bubbling for all they’re worth. They cover water in a flash, too, making them an ideal choice for running down banks, along points, or over shallow weed beds.

Some buzzbaits use a “clacker” to really up the ante on vibration and sound. This small metal fin gets hit by the prop as it spins, and this can be a deadly choice in murky water or at night. Others sport more than one prop.

But what they have in common is topwater commotion that really draws bass in when visibility is poor.

When to Fish Buzzbaits

Buzzbaits demand a fast retrieve, and when you’ve got them running right, they zip along, covering a lot of water.

If the bass are sluggish, they’ll be too much: too fast, too noisy, and too aggressive.

But when the bass are aggressive in shallow water, typically when water temps are ideal in late spring and early fall, or in the summer at night or during a period of cooler weather, buzzbaits are just what you’re looking for.

They can also be deadly pre-spawn, when bass move shallow and are hungry after the long, torpid winter.

And again in the fall, when the bass sense the water cooling but before water temps drop below 60 degrees, buzzbaits can be a killer choice.

Where to Fish Buzzbaits

Buzzbaits cruise at the surface, and while I wouldn’t run them through a grass mat, they tend to be pretty weedless because the point of the hook is turned upward.

They can be an awesome choice to hammer bass that are holding over live weed beds or sticking tight to a blow down, log, or other structure in shallow water. Aggressive bass are going to leave that cover to hammer your buzzbait as it passes.

They’re also great for running down a long stretch of bank, or along the edge of lily pads or other floating vegetation. The bass that are waiting there aren’t going to ignore your buzzbait in action, and you can quickly move on to more promising spots if nothing happens.

How to Fish Buzzbaits

Buzzbaits come in a variety of weights, with small sizes as light as 3/16 ounce and big sizes as heavy as ½ ounce. Obviously, the smaller buzzbaits will create less noise and vibration, while the big guys will really stir things up.

The traditional way to run a buzzbait is to either fish it as is or sweeten it with a trailer, like a paddle tail, toad, or craw.

A big, 5-inch paddle tail like the Z-MAN DieZel MinnowZ is going to add to the thumping vibration and color of your buzzbait, and you know it’s going to get the right kind of attention.

Z-Man DMIN5-309PK4 Elaztech Diezel MinnowZ Swimbait, 5' Ayu 4 Pack Pack


And when the frogs are out in numbers, a Strike King Gurgle Toad can hardly go wrong. At 3 ¾ inches, the Gurgle Toad’s long, flailing legs are irresistible.

Strike King Gurgle Toad,Green Pumpkin Pearl Belly, 3.75'


And a 4-inch Strike King Rage Tail Space Monkey is simply murder, especially at night.

Strike King Rage Tail Space Monkey Lure, Falcon Lake Craw, 4-Inch


But new-school innovations scrap the skirt.

Instead, modern anglers are feeding a toad up and over the keeper, providing a more stream-lined presentation. And buzzbaits like the War Eagle Buzz Toad reflect that change.

War Eagle Buzz Toad Buzzbait

Whatever your choice, buzzbait technique is pretty simple.

After the cast, keep your rod tip relatively high, and burn your buzzbait until it gets up to speed and hits the surface. Then you can slow down a bit, but you want that buzzbait gurgling on the top of the water - not riding below the surface.

But think like you’re fishing a crankbait: if you can hit a stick, stump, or blade of grass, do it. That’ll create an erratic darting motion that’s more deadly than a straight-line retrieve.

Barring that, try to change directions a bit, and vary the speed of your retrieve until you find exactly what the bass are looking for.

Buzzbait Tackle

The right tackle will allow you to work a buzzbait properly, set the hook securely, and fight that bass decisively.


For buzzbaits, you want a medium-heavy to heavy rod with a fast action.

You need real backbone for hooksets at a distance, and you want a sensitive tip to help you detect strikes and feel swipes that miss the hook.

One of my favorite rods for buzzbaits is the Dobyns Rods 734C FH Champion Series. It’s an amazing option, offering both sensitivity and strength. 

Dobyns Rods 734C FH Champion Series

You want a stout, stiff rod with a sensitive tip like this St. Croix Mojo Bass.

But I’m also a huge fan of the 7’ 5” St. Croix Mojo Bass. Its medium-heavy, extra-fast blank is ideal for throwing buzzbaits, and you’re going to love the way this rod performs.

St. Croix Rods Mojo Bass Casting Rod



The main thing to look for in a buzzbait reel is speed.

And to figure that out, don’t just look at the gear ratio. Yes, you want that to be fast, but you need to know how quickly your reel picks up line, not just how many turns of the spool are created by each turn of the crank.

I’m looking for a reel above 7.0:1, and I want something in the neighborhood of 30 inches per turn (IPT).

Buzzbaits demand speed, and the Daiwa Tatula delivers!

Two great choices are the Shimano Curado K and the Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R. Both offer uncompromising performance, and they’ll burn a buzzbait, no problem!

Shimano’s Curado K 7.41


Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R 100HSL 7.3:1 High Speed Left Hand Baitcast - TACT-R100HSL


What I need from my line when fishing a buzzbait is simple: I’m looking for as little stretch as possible on the hookset.

I need to bury that hook when the bass hits my lure, and for that, I’m choosing braid.

20-pound test Sufix 832 is my favorite braid for buzzbaits. Give it a try - you won’t be sorry.

Suffix 832 Braid 20 lb Low-Vis Green 150 yards


Final Thoughts

Buzzbaits are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, and modern anglers are rediscovering the effectiveness of this old school lure. And as they do, plenty are left wondering why anyone stopped throwing this awesome top-water option.

We hope that you learned something new from this article and that it has encouraged you to give a buzzbait a try.

We’d love to hear from you, and we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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