Advice on catching bigmouth buffalo

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Advice on catching bigmouth buffalo
I've been seeing bigmouth buffalo rolling at the surface of local lakes around Madison WI and am interested in targeting them, if it's possible to do so on rod and reel with any consistency. When I lived in Texas, I would fish for smallmouth buffalo basically using the same strategies as carp: small doughballs bottom fished. It's my understanding that the bigmouths are very different fish in their feeding habits - mostly plankton feeders and not primarily bottom feeders. Has anybody figured out a consistent way to target them on hook and line? Will they intentionally go after doughballs and other baits that work well for other suckers, or are almost all hook and line catches almost by accident - snags or fish "inhaling" small baits and lures as they sift plankton?
Peeling Line
Peeling Line's picture
Most of them I caught were

Most of them I caught were with twister tails on jig heads.  In the winter I would get them with worms on the bottom but that can be tricky.  The one time I got one when they were sucking cottonseed off the surface and I had a worm under a bobber and dragged it through the school and one sucked the worm in its mouth and I set the hook and got him.  Here's my video where I caught them 5:50 for the bigmouth buffalo.

When you caught buffalo on

When you caught buffalo on curlytail jigs, were you sight-casting to them? In other words, were they actively going after the jig, or just inhaling whatever was thrown in front of their noses?

I take it from your comments that doughbaits on the bottom probably wouldn't be a good strategy for them.

P.S. Is that a blue sucker that you're holding in your photo? Where did you catch it?

Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
I do

So, I can catch them consistently... but that is with some caveats. First they have to be actively feeding on or near the surface. Second, I have to be able to see that. 

My experience is basically the opposite of Peeling Line. I don't say that to cast doubt on his experience, but just to point out that bigmouth buffalo don't play by any set of rules. Bass are bass no matter where you find them. BMB are their own fish... and you'll have to learn what those ones like. 

My technique is to pinch a nightcrawler in half, put the hook on a #6 hook and inflate it with air. Then let it float, drag free, in front of a feeding buffalo. Most of the time they ignore it. Occasionaly they eat it. When the stars align they'll even move several inches to take it. But, it has to be a perfect dead high line drift. Every time I move the worm the clock starts over. I have watched innumerable times as they feed in a straight line, duck under my worm and pop up on the other side to keep feeding. At some point it isn't an accident. 


So, to ansswer your question directly, small baits and lures. I have seen one caught on a worm on the bottom (out of 100 days fishing at that same spot). 

Thanks for the comments.

Thanks for the comments. Unfortunately I doubt your strategy would work for me. I'll occasionally see one roll near the surface, but I don't know of places where I can sight cast for them. Perhaps my best bet would be to just throw an inflated piece of worm (or a corn kernel) on a bobber in the spot where I've seen them roll and hope for the best.

The fact that some people get them on curlytail jigs suggests that they're at least somewhat visual feeders who'll pursue a bait, but that doesn't seem to be your experience. Then again, when I fished for smallmouth buffalo, a lot of people swore by tiny minnows below a bobber. Nothing but small doughballs on/near bottom in flats or dropoffs near flats ever worked for me. Sounds like bigmouth buffalo are even more finicky.

Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
They like what they like.

They do have Keen eyesight, and I have seen them move to take a bait (but more often avoid it). That being said, I asked Dr. Lackman about the odds of a bigmouth eating a minnow and he said he has never seen a minnow in a bigmouth stomach. 


Yet, more than one person says they have caught them on a jig. So, yeah... I think you need to try everything and report back. That is the joy of rough fishing, there is no "manual" on how to do it.