Buzzbait vs Spinnerbait: Battle of the Blades
Both the buzzbait and spinnerbait have been around for a very long time. The earliest memories I have of these baits involve me at 10 years old, casually digging through my ‘extensive’ tackle box (the old red tin ones), finding and fishing very basic versions of these. I walked along the banks of my local river and to be honest, caught some of the biggest fish I have ever landed to this day - including a PB of 11.4lbs. Blades bring big bass – that is a rule I remember whenever I need bigger fish. As much as I will attempt to dive into their differences, the common denominator shows us one thing - they catch monsters.
This lure to topwater fishing is what a jig is to bottom fishing. It has a wire frame similar to that of a spinnerbait and a weighted head above the hook. Most come with skirts in their packaging.
The buzzbait is one of the most unique topwater lures in bass fishing, but it is also one of the most effective.
Rod and Reel Setup
I normally fish buzzbaits on a 7 – 7’2" medium-heavy or heavy action baitcasting rod, 15 – 20 lb monofilament line or 30/40 braid spooled on a high-speed baitcasting reel. The reason mono is ideal is because it stays up in the water column better than fluorocarbon.
If I am working weeds or grass I will fish it to straight 30/40lb J-braid. The braid helps to cut through grass.
Cadence and Blade Type
With blade sizes, I use a bigger blade for cooler water and a slightly smaller blade for warmer water. The bigger blade helps create more resistance on the water, thus slowing the bait down and gives the fish a little more for it to strike when they are lethargic.
If I am fishing a pressured fishery, I will very often use the quieter, hard plastic blades. A quieter presentation with a slow retrieve can often bring those fish up where they would normally ignore a loud invasive metal blade.
Buzzbaits are not always thrown traditionally – by that, I mean standard out of the packaging with one hook and a skirt. As we all know, buzzbaits relate to both a profile it mimics or the sound it makes on the water. Both of these aspects can be customized by the angler.
I never throw a buzzbait with a skirt. On the single hook, I will add a white or black plastic horny toad or similar profile to add some visual as well as sounds attraction. Before this, I will remove the shirt - personal preference.
If I am fishing above dense weed just below the surface, I will not add a stinger hook. This can be added when you are fishing a more open water scenario and do not have any heavy cover that will hinder the action of the bait.
When to Fish a Buzzbait
The norm for this topwater lure is to throw it at dawn or dusk and cover water close to structure to catch your big bass that have moved up to feed. This would be a great place to start. However, on cloudy days, this lure can be thrown throughout the day. Because visibility is not at an all-time high, bass feel more comfortable to move around and feed without risk of predation from bigger more aggressive predators.
If the sun is high and bright, then midday can also be a great time to catch bass. The bigger profile on the water can cast a silhouette far into the water column and with the obvious attractant of noise, the buzzbait is capable of drawing bass out of their cover to come and eat.
Look for sparse weed lily pads and fish through these thoroughly and patiently – do not try and move the lure too fast, especially during the heat of the day. Standing timber is also a great place to catch fish on this lure.
This lure is a big fish attractor – it draws big strikes and is often used to find the bigger fish in our day. I will fish a buzzbait in anything above 60-degree water.
Recently, the spinnerbait has come under a lot of scrutiny – the chatterbait or vibrating jig have taken a lot of this lure’s limelight, and although some would argue that the spinnerbait is an outdated and ‘stale’ lure.
It's been around for decades for a reason. Pros around the globe usually fish this as a prominent bait and it is a great tournament lure as you can cover plenty of water in several scenarios.
I keep both my sizes and colors simple. ¼oz to 1oz sized spinnerbaits are the norm and the bigger the spinnerbait I am fishing the deeper in the water column I am trying to fish.
Rod and Reel Setup
Like the buzzbait, I’m fishing my spinnerbait on a slightly shorter rod of 6’6 – 7ft in length with medium power and a fast action. This rod will protect the wire from breaking and also allow the fish to totally inhale the bait without the angler pulling it away from its mouth.
15-20lb fluorocarbon is ideal on a 6 to 7 gear ratio. Too fast of a gear ratio is not beneficial to the slow-rolling retrieve.
Color of skirts I break down into two categories – clear and dirty water. I’ll fish a white skirt in both clear and dirty water with an added chartreuse to skirt if water gets really muddy. In clearer conditions, I will match the hatch depending on the prominent fodder fish in the system.
Plastic trailers can also be added to this lure much like the buzzbait and stinger hooks can be experimented with by the angler. I only fish a stinger hook if the structure will let me get away with it.
Regionally the bass will differ as to which blades they prefer with choices ranging from the following:
- The Willow leaf blade is a longer thinner blade that imitates more of a baitfish profile.
- The Colorado blade is a rounder blade designed to give out more vibration and is also a good choice for dirty water.
- The Indiana blade is a cross between the two and looks more like a teardrop. This too gives off a lot of vibration and is often a personal choice with anglers who have really dialed in on their spinnerbait bite.
Blade combinations vary with the single smaller Colorado on the top and a Willow blade as the trailing blade. Other variations include the double Willow combination, the double Colorado, and the Indiana + Colorado blade.
When To Fish a Spinnerbait
Spinnerbaits work best in windy conditions. The chop on the water breaks up the surface and offers security to wary bass. Bass are harder to see and therefore hunt, and always remember when in pursuit of them – that we are not their only predators.
For smallmouth lovers, spawn time is a great time to throw a spinnerbait. I normally downsize for this time of the year and a ¼oz, or even a 3/8oz spinnerbait normally gets a lot more bites than the bigger sizes.
Colored blades, by this I mean chartreuse or white blades should be tried. Smallmouth will react aggressively to one or the other of those colors depending on the fishery. Target gravel flats, as well as rock/gravel or rock to sand transitions.
Tournament anglers that love spinnerbaits are big-bite getters and for largemouth, this is mostly true. I find that in the post-spawn period when largemouth first pull out to their summer haunts and suspend in submerged trees, a big ½ to 1oz spinnerbait fished slowly at their suspended depth can result in arm jarring strikes.
From submerged weed, trees, and offshore ledges to tidal fisheries and the great smallmouth up north – a spinnerbait can be adapted to any situation. The only places I would not fish it is through is thick weed which can be targeted with a frog or a punching rig.
The spinnerbait is without a doubt, an all-season lure.
First and foremost, it’s the visual aspect that comes to mind. A skirted hook on both, with vastly varied blade attractant on the opposite side. The buzzbait with its propeller or propellers and the spinnerbait with its blades.
The second is that a spinnerbait is a subsurface lure where as a buzzbait is a topwater lure
- Spinnerbaits shine in wind, whereas buzzbaits you tend to need slightly calmer water for the presentation to create maximum awareness to bass in the area – especially in low light conditions where visibility is not at its best
- I like to fish a buzzbait if there is a topwater pattern and the regular topwaters such as spooks, pop R’s, skitter pops and other variations are only catching a certain size of bass. The buzzbait will always draw the bigger fish to the surface and tying one on can often result in a size upgrade
- Spinnerbaits are a lot quieter than buzzbaits. That’s not to say that they do not have their own frequency under the water but their attraction is based on flash and cadence
- Buzzbaits are not quiet at all. A lot of the time and note, the squeakier they are - the better
As I mentioned before, both of these baits have the potential to get some really big bites. They look weird and are clumsy to throw but both have very user-friendly applications.
One (the buzzbait), because it is visual, and the second (the spinnerbait) because the bite is so definite and either just stops or gets ripped out of your hands. So, if you are struggling with undersized fish, take the initiative and put in some time with both of these - it’s a technique that every keen bass fisherman should own.