I’m old, hardheaded and resistant to change, but I try to keep the door to my brain open just enough to occasionally let a little light shine through.
I had just about given up hope on buzzbaits. They’d been my bread and butter in the late 90s and for a few years thereafter. Back then I probably threw them a little bit more than I should have, but the results were encouraging enough that I didn’t mind the occasional dry spell. About seven or eight years ago, though, the dry spells started getting longer and longer and longer. In places where I could often scratch up a few big ones with the eggbeater, the quality and quantity diminished. Eventually it dropped down to nearly nothing.
It became a vicious cycle. Where I used to throw a buzzer nonstop with the expectation that it would produce, now my lack of confidence led me to throw it less and less. If it’s not in the water, it can’t get bit, so my numbers dropped further. Meanwhile, I became more comfortable with frogs, toads, swim jigs and most recently the Whopper Plopper, all of which have had their time in the sun, and all of which stole further playing time from the buzzbait. I still kept buzzbaits in the boat, but I didn’t need to restock, as mostly they gathered dust.
In February I attended a Bass University session in Columbus where FLW pro Wesley Strader gave a riveting talk on buzzbaits. While it was loaded with good information, one tidbit that immediately jumped out at me was that he said that he’d had his best success on tidal rivers on a black buzzbait with a gold blade. While I’d had some success on a buzzbait on rivers like the Potomac, James, Chickahominy, Pamunkey and Rappahannock, that had mostly been ancient history, and to be honest even when it was good I threw mostly white, shad or white/chartreuse skirts. That same weekend, Bass University offered a discount code for Tackle Warehouse, so as I made my unavoidable order I added in a couple of black and gold buzzbaits, one ¼ ounce and one 3/8 ounce.
The buzzbaits arrived, hit the pegboard, and sat there for five months until I started to get the boat ready on Thursday night. While this has been a banner year for many anglers on the Potomac, my results haven’t been quite that strong. I’ve had a couple of good days, as well as some so-so ones, and I needed to rejuvenate my excitement. Almost as an afterthought, I tied on the ¼ ounce buzzbait that I’d ordered from Columbus.
It was already hot when I launched at 5:30 am, with not a lick of wind and the temperature expected to rise past 95. On my first pass along a traditionally productive grass line the bass ignored my frogs, my buzz toad and my swim jig, but when I picked up the buzzbait a 3 pounder absolutely smoked it. Twenty yards later, its twin did the same. Then came a snakehead and a few more bass, before an hour long dry spell when nothing produced. Just when I’d become convinced that the hot sun and clear skies had killed the surface bite, I had another flurry. I could occasionally get a bass to look at my trusty Sugoi Splash popper, but I spent more time pulling strands of grass off of it than I did making productive casts. The buzzbait was the key, and they kept hitting it in spurts as the day got hotter. Eventually the outgoing tide slacked off and they stopped, and while I managed to capture a few more with a Senko, it was the buzzbait that ruled the day.
Now I have another new/old tool at my disposal. The buzzbait bite probably never really went away, I just needed to be throwing the right one, and a pep talk from Strader to get me back in the groove.