Buzzing from a canoe!
It was a nasty shoal to maneuver. The creek had split into channels at the head and logs had piled up on the islands formed by the channels. I had my hands full with the boat paddle! Making the bends with my 18' canoe and weaving through the stick ups in the current was taking both effort and skill. It's in these situations where many a canoe is dumped and where fishing tackle is lost. I was taking my time getting through. Being slow and safe, walking around or dragging through when it's an obvious risk to do otherwise is always my approach when float fishing. Fortunately, I knew what lie ahead and how to best get through as I had made this float often. A part of my anticipation, too, was that a big hole of water was coming up and I knew it held good bass. Finally, the shoal opened up and the current fed into deep, shaded water that pushed to the bank on my right. I back-paddled on my left, pulled out of the current, and reached for my rod. Against the right bank in about 8' feet of water was a submerged log pile. The current came to it full force and made a hard turn to the left into a wide hole of water extending a quarter mile downstream. Hanging off my rod tip was a buzzbait, near big as your hand. Growing up, I had heard the phrase: Big baits catch big fish; but, coming from the "show me" state, I'd never put two and two together until years later. I can no longer overlook the proof of a boat load of big bass taken on big lures. A part of the beauty of a buzzbait is that you can throw it into a honeysuckle thicket and reel it out of there more times then not. And there, against the right bank, in perfect bass holding water, was a partially submerged log pile. I tossed to a plate-sized pocket of water within a foot of the bank and started coming out of there at a slow, steady retrieve. A buzzbait is a topwater lure, and in my own experience, it's pretty much a hot weather bait. It's a lure to use when fish are "feeding up", meaning when they tend to be lying in the shade, idle, yet in a surface feeding mode. It's also important to keep a buzzbait on top of the water. Have your rod tip up and at a retrieve as it hits the water so that it won't sink and begin the retrieve immediately . Watching a buzzbait, you sometimes wonder what it's intended to mimic. I'm not sure it's really important. I've seen more then one baby woodduck eaten by a bass and naturally, I've seen a lot of frogs, grasshoppers, mice, birds, insects and snakes taken by bass feeding on the surface; but, a buzzbait doesn't remind me a whole lot of any of them. I think it's mainly a "triggered" reaction. The key I believe is that it's an OBVIOUS attraction. It's noisy, it's big, it's on top and it's trying to get away. A bass is able to survive and thrive as an ambush feeder because it's idling there in the shade with a hair-trigger, much the way a cat waits for a mouse to move. My buzzbait had made it out of the pocket and had climbed over two limbs when the surface boil came. It was a largemouth, and a dandy. I set the hook and had him (or her) for a few seconds. I even made it over one more partially submerged log, before she got her mouth in the air and shook the bait loose. I didn't have enough leverage on her and the fight was over. I caught others that day that were nice fish; but, I don't have the same vivid memory. I had fought her through half a brush pile and one good jump before she gained her freedom. My hat's off to the old gal, she's likely grown up in that hole of water and may have fought loose from a hook set on more then one occasion. It's summer time and chances are, I'm top water fishing. I do know I'll have one hanging off one of my rods in the boat at all times. There's no telling how many creek bass I've caught in a life time; but, there's one sure fact: I'd rather catch one of them on top then a half-dozen any other way. It's also my experience that it'll be one of the better choices for catching your best bass. In fact, ALL of my biggest creek bass, Smallmouth, Largemouth or Kentucky have been caught on a topwater lure. I'll not forget a Smallmouth summer before last, EVER! My youngest son had come up for a few days to fish. Ryan grew up with a fishing rod and a boat paddle in his hands and he's now way past any "coaching" I might have on fishing...............he's heard it all and can cover creek water with a fishing lure like no one else I know, except maybe for his pop! Anyway, it was early in the morning on a river not far away and we started out tossing Zara Spooks. It's a walk-the-dog lure and if fished right, a deadly bait. We weren't on the water 20 minutes when Ryan had a surge under his Spook and though we didn't see the fish at the strike, we knew it was a good one. The bass headed up stream swimming next to a weed bank. Ryan had a good hook set and was keeping the rod low and the line tight. Then, at about thirty feet and in plain view this Smallmouth cleared water a good foot and simply tossed the bait back at our canoe. She was gone! Neither of us could speak, and then Ryan turned to look at me, "did you see the size of that Smallmouth?" Indeed I had and I was still setting there trying to contemplate the experience. I have been fishing the Ozarks my entire life and I've caught, and have seen others catch a lot of 20 inch Smallmouth. I've caught two myself that exceeded 22 inches; but, this bass was in a class of her own. How big was she?......... Yes, I know, I'm a fisherman. I can't say for sure because we didn't land her for the tape and the camera. But, I will say that I believe she was as close to 24, maybe 25 inches, as I'll ever see.................and, the Zara Spook? Yep, it was one of the big ones, too.