May 12, 2017
For some anglers, the buzzbait is old school stuff, a lure from an era gone by when there weren't as many options on the market as there are today in this age of swimbaits, Chatterbaits, buzzing horny toads and the Whopper Plopper.
But old school or not, Bassmaster Elite Series pro and Major League Fishing champion Kelly Jordon said that the bait still belongs in an angler's tackle box.
"Yes, it absolutely still works," said Jordon. "It's kind of gone out of fashion, I guess, but it used to be a mainstay and everybody used to throw it."
That includes Jordon, who nevertheless has a rueful tale of kicking himself after not using an eggbeater last season.
"I'm guilty of not throwing it as much as I should," he said. "I’ve actually paid the price for not throwing a buzzbait when I should have."
That happened in 2016 during the Wheeler Lake Bassmaster Elite event in Alabama when Jordon went into a shallow area and heard the voice in his head tell him to throw an eggbeater.
He didn't and eased out of the area after not catching a fish. KJ then watched as one of the tour's red-hot anglers a year ago motored in and tossed a buzzbait into the water.
"It was Gerald Swindle, you know that fellow who ended up winning Angler of the Year," laughed Jordon. "He went into that shallow area I had fished and he threw a buzzbait and caught a 7-pounder.
"And after he caught a couple of other key fish in there, I remember thinking dad gum it, why didn't I do that?"
Given KJ's penchant for catching big bass – he's the Elite Series all-time leader for most daily big bass awards including one at the 2017 Toledo Bend event – that makes his failure to throw the bait even more painful.
"It's not necessarily a numbers deal with a buzzbait," said Jordon. "But it's always had an ability to make a bigger fish bite. They are not all 10-pounders of course, but it produces plenty of three, four and five pounders, which can be great kicker fish. It's just a great bait for getting a strike off of a big fish hanging around cover."
Kelly Jordon says some bass anglers are finding success using a buzzbait with the skirt replaced by a buzz frog soft plastic body. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
For Jordon, the bait excels in the post-spawn period of the late spring and early summer, especially when the fish are in less than four feet of water and are relating to shallow cover.
"My favorite buzzbait of all time is no longer in production," he said. "But I do have a little stash of them. It's the old Boogerman Racket Buzzbaits, where the prop hits the head of the bait. And the Dixon buzzbaits, they are pretty good too."
When it comes to buzzbait colors, KJ primarily uses a black hued buzzbait along with a white or white/chartreuse version.
"I always throw both of them to see which one they want more," said Jordon. "A lot of people like to throw the black one early and late in the day or at night because it is contrasting with the sky. And the white or white/chartreuse one, it usually works better during the brighter daytime hours.
For Jordon, the issue isn't so much the color of the bait or the brand of the bait as much as it is how the bait makes subtle squeaking noises as it plops and gurgles its way back to the boat.
"All buzzbaits need to squeak somewhat," said KJ. "Some are designed that way, but some, you have to do something to the rivet on the back.
"You can always get some pliers and crimp the sleeve on the rivet that is holding onto the prop, roughing it up so that it will make some noise," he added.
"And you can use a file to rough that rivet area up a little bit to make some noise. Or you can even go as far as replacing the rivet with a stainless steel one that will rust because that will make some more noise too."
How big a buzzbait does KJ use?
"The standards are ½-ounce and 3/8-ounce," said Jordon, a four-time winner in BASS competition. "Typically, on the ½-ounce, you'll have to retrieve it a little faster."
To fish the bait, he'll use his Duckett Fishing Kelly Jordon Pro Series White Ice 7-foot, 1-inch, medium-heavy casting rod.
"I can cast a buzzbait a long way with that one," said Jordon, a one-time winner on the FLW Tour. "It's a powerful rod with a soft, forgiving tip."
With that rod, he'll have a Duckett 360 RB high speed baitcasting reel attached in a 7.1:1 gear ratio. Spooled onto the reel, Jordon will use 17-, 20- or even 25-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon.
When he tosses a buzzbait out, Jordon said there are three basic retrieves: slow, medium and really fast.
"My standard retrieve is just fast enough to keep the blades going, which is fairly slow," said KJ, winner of the 2014 MLF Challenge Cup. "I keep my rod tip pretty high during the retrieve and when a bass hits it, I'll drop the rod tip, let them eat it a little bit, make sure they've got it and then hit them."
Are there any special tricks for a buzzbait? Jordon will sometimes put a second skirt on the bait to make it bulkier and to slow it down. He says that other anglers will remove the skirt entirely and replace it with a swimbait, a buzz frog or a trailer of some sort.
And sometimes, he says that throwing the ¼-ounce version on a spinning rod can be particularly deadly when the bite turns tough.
Not surprisingly, Jordon's two favorite buzzbait fish stories involve big fish - huge fish, in fact.
One was on the California Delta years ago when he was practice fishing with his brother.
"I was flipping shallow grass and reeds and I told him to throw the buzzbait by a wall," said Jordon. "He threw it out there, started reeling it back in and it got smoked. I think it was an 11-pounder."
The other story was on Sam Rayburn in East Texas when Jordon took a teenaged family friend out for a day of early September fishing. In similar fashion, Jordan handed the young man a rod with a buzzbait tied on.
After some trial and error casts by the young man, KJ gave him some timely advice.
"I said 'See that hole in the hydrilla? Throw it in there,'" Jordan reminisced. "A couple of moments later, it sounded like a cinder block had just hit the water after getting dropped out of an airplane.
"It was a vicious explosion kind of strike. I had to go in and pull that bass out of the hydrilla, but it weighed over eight-pounds."
So what's the moral of this buzzbait story? Jordan chuckles and provides an honest answer.
"They're always tied on to a rod in my boat," he said. "So I should probably take my own advice and fish them more often."
That doesn't sound like a bad idea at all, old school or not.