Wesley Strader's Summer Buzzbait Tricks
By Joel Shangle
June 28, 2017
MLF Select pro Wesley Strader readily admits that, in the discussion about the best topwater baits for summer, a buzzbait is regarded as an “old school” bait.
“Yeah, they may be old school, but they still ‘old-school’ ‘em right out of the water,” Strader cracks.
Strader says this as he fiddles with the blade of a black, 3/8-ounce Zorro Head Knocker, one of the basic baits that the Tennessee pro utilizes the most in the post-spawn through early fall, when the buzzbait bite is at its peak.
We asked Strader for some quick-and-dirty tips on summer buzzbaiting, here’s what he had to say:
1. Tight on the target: Strader looks for rocks, docks and “basically any hard objects you can find” in the summer, because shad will be spawning on those hard targets. When he finds them, he puts his buzzbait as close to those targets as possible.
“Sometimes you want to get it just as close as you can, sometimes you want to actually bump (the cover),” he says. “Bass are target-oriented creatures, you definitely don’t want to throw a buzzbait 30 feet away from cover.”
2. Black is the new black: Strader’s color choices for buzzbaits are as simple as it gets: black or white, with a heavy preference for black.
“A fish is looking from the water world up,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s pitch black at night, if something flies over your head in the dark of night, you can see it silhouetted. Darker objects to me silhouette better in the water than lighter objects.”
3. Reconsider the trailer hook: Some anglers swear by a 1/0 or 2/0 trailer hook in all situations, but not Strader.
“I never put a trailer hook on if I’m throwing a horny toad (trailer) because (the hook) interferes with the legs,” he says. “I never put a trailer hook on when I’m throwing a buzzbait around wood, either. If I’m always hung up in the cover I’m throwing it around, it doesn’t make sense to put a trailer hook on because I’m not going to get the bites.”
4. Upside-down and backwards: Blades, that is. Strader will frequently have two buzzbait rods on deck, and will reverse the pitch on the blade of one buzzbait to run a specific direction.
“First, you’ll never get a buzzbait to run straight, it’ll either run left or right,” he asserts. “I’ll reverse the pitch on one bait’s blades, so I have one that runs right and one that runs left. Depending on which way I’m running up the bank, I want my buzzbait to run toward the bank, I don’t ever want it to run away from it.”
5. Ultra-special-secret MLF-pro bait tweak: A pair of pliers is Strader’s best friend when he’s experimenting with the action of a buzzbait.
“Depending on the style of buzzbait, I’ll ‘warp’ the blades to make it run out of balance, which gives it a different action,” Strader says. “When you’re using a buzzbait that’s a wire-through blade, which means it has multiple hinge points, where the blade is wrapped around the wire, you can warp it at the top and the bottom to the bait do crazy, erratic things.”
6. Sunshine is actually helpful: Common agreed-upon thought is that buzzbaits (and topwaters in general) are most effective on cloudy days. Not necessarily so, according to Strader.
“There’s a big misconception that fish bite topwaters better when it’s cloudy and overcast, but in my experience, I like a day that’s bright and sunny with intermittent clouds,” Strader says. “To me, they don’t miss the bait as much. They get a good bead on that bait, and get it in their mouth real good.”