Rocky, wind-blown seashores present striped bass with a smorgasbord of bait, the perfect bucktail fishing situations through the fall migration. Picture by Tom Lynch – ANGRYFISH.TV

Slightly over 5 years in the past, I walked into sort out outlets and acquired bucktail jigs, anticipating to tie one on and magically catch fluke and striped bass. I ventured to open seashores, jetties, boulder fields looking for stripers, with minimal success. I managed to seek out bluefish or, fairly, they managed to seek out me, however too usually, jig-stealing rocky construction despatched me proper again to those self same sort out outlets to re-up on bucktails. This repetitious and unforgiving expertise is precisely what deters many anglers from utilizing bucktails. I at all times had them with me, however on the time, my understanding of the numerous jig types, options, and strategies to efficiently fish these lures for striped bass was restricted; that’s, till I listened to famend surf and boat bucktail fisherman, John Skinner.

After studying his e-book Fishing the Bucktail, I spoke to John for one among On The Water’s “Striper Season Replace” movies about focusing on striped bass with bucktail jigs. John fishes with bucktails as a result of there are only a few different lures as versatile and multi-faceted. When fished correctly, a bucktail can be utilized in nearly any setting, in any situations. Relying on elements equivalent to present, wind, construction, and depth, every jig fashion and weight has a selected time and place for use successfully. As a surfcaster, understanding the purposes of various bucktail types, options, and weights earlier than fishing them round rocks will simplify the training expertise, resulting in extra productive fishing journeys and fewer journeys to the sort out store.

Why Boulder Fields?

Rocky shorelines and boulder fields are filled with snags—snags which are usually residence to hungry striped bass. As opportunistic predators, stripers use the duvet of huge rocks and related present breaks to ambush any prey that will get trapped among the many exhausting construction. Small scup, black sea bass, sea robins, crabs, lobsters, and baitfish like peanut bunker or silversides are identified to dwell in these environments, all of which might be imitated with the best measurement and colour bucktail jig.

Step one to choosing the proper bucktail weight and colour is to scout a spot earlier than you fish it, ideally at low tide. Observe the environment and make psychological notes in regards to the setting; bear in mind the places of the massive boulders, deep pockets, and sandy patches to keep away from dropping jigs and higher find potential feeding zones throughout larger tides.

assortment of bucktails
The creator retains a choice of bucktail shapes and sizes in his surf bag all through the autumn to imitate several types of bait present in rocky, surf-fishing settings.

Boulder fields, typically talking, are comparatively shallow areas and the scattered rocks inhibit present, so except there’s plenty of sweep, a bucktail weighted between ¾ and 1 ounce will usually get the job performed. Over deeper water or in stronger present, bucktails of 1½ to 2½ ounces could also be crucial.

After finding out the setting, observe the water for bait and be aware of the forage within the space to make an knowledgeable choice in your bucktail colour. White, pink, and wine-colored jigs often cowl all my bases. Moreover, I carry purple, white, and pink jig strips to tip the bucktails. With a number of totally different bucktail types in every of the aforementioned colours, I really feel assured about with the ability to match the shade, measurement, and profile of the numerous choices stripers have for snacking.

Bucktail Kinds and Options

The important thing function of a bucktail jig is the deer hair. The hair in a deer’s winter coat is hole, which helps entice air and maintain it heat through the chilly months. On a jig, this hole hair provides buoyancy, slowing the sink charge. Because of this, a jig tied with extra deer hair sinks extra slowly.

The deer hair undulates naturally underwater, pulsing and “respiratory” because the jig swims, hops, and drags alongside the underside. This permits it to imitate prey from crabs and shrimp to an enormous number of baitfish.

For instance, a sparsely-tied, ¾-ounce white bucktail would possibly seem like a lone sand eel, whereas a fuller-bodied pink bucktail jig of the identical weight might resemble a small squid or a juvenile scup.

Sea Striker Popeye bucktail with an Otter Tail
A 3/4-ounce, chartreuse Sea Striker Popeye bucktail with an Otter Tail trailer is a small, easy and engaging baitfish imitation to be used in shallow areas with transferring water.

There are a number of types of jigheads used on bucktails, however the most typical are the “Smiling Invoice,” the bullet head, and ballhead. Every of those types work in a boulder discipline, supplied the burden and bucktail density is matched to the depth and present pace. With an upward-facing line tie, all of those types might be fished above shallow construction by holding the rod excessive.

One other attribute that varies with every jig fashion is the hook shank. On a bucktail jig, the shank is the house between the jighead and the bend within the hook. An extended shank means the fish can acquire extra leverage and could also be extra more likely to throw the hook, or if the fish is massive sufficient, bend the hook out. Nevertheless, with a brief shank, there may be the danger of the hook not totally piercing the lip of a bigger fish. I like bucktails with a medium shank that’s lengthy sufficient to get a safe hookset, however not as long as to provide the fish extraleverage.

Some bucktails are made with a swing hook, which, along with giving the trailer further motion, makes it much less seemingly for a fish to throw it through the struggle. Utilizing a swing hook might be extraordinarily useful in boulder fields as a result of the shallow water and plentiful construction leaves the fish much less room to run, which suggests it may extra simply floor and shake its head to free itself.


Jig trailers give much more lifelike motion to bucktail jigs and, generally, the extra motion they supply is what triggers a strike. Quite a lot of synthetic and pure baits can be utilized as jig trailers. Some are lengthy and skinny with appreciable motion, and a few are thick and stout with tons of colour. One fixed amongst trailers is that they add size and bulk to a bucktail, present further motion, and impression the sink charge of a jig. Some even present further scent.

Fat Cow Jig Strip
Synthetic jig trailers like this Fat Cow Jig Strip give much more lifelike motion to bucktail jigs. Typically, the extra motion they supply is what triggers a strike.

A lot of custom-tied bucktails have hackle feathers hooked up to the bend of the hook that operate as a trailer. The feathers additionally make the jig look extra filled-in by giving the phantasm of perceived density with out including any further weight or impacting the sink charge. Jigs missing hackle feathers might be spruced up with detachable trailers.

Gulp Swimming Mullet
Gulp Swimming Mullet

A number of the greatest synthetic jig trailers should not at all times marketed as such, like Berkley Gulp. It’s one among my favourite additions to a bucktail, however till my dialog with John Skinner, I ignored the impression it had on my jig’s sink charge. Gulp floats, so pairing it with a fuller-bodied bucktail drastically will increase the jig’s buoyancy. The floating capacity of Gulp makes it an important trailer for fishing shallow water in boulder fields as a result of it assists the jig in gliding over rocks by maintaining it larger within the water column. The Grub and Swimming Mullet types are an all-around favourite due to their kicking tails and the big variety of vivid colours they’re obtainable in.

Otter Tail
Otter Tail

Different trailers are designed particularly for use with bucktails jigs. Some, like Fats Cow Jig Strips and Captain Bruce’s Otter Tails, come doused with a fish-attracting scent in a small resealable container that may be simply saved in my plug bag or on my surf belt.

Fishing Bucktails by Boulders

After two seasons of unsuccessful trial and error, I gathered my ideas and picked up all of the jigs I had accrued. I used to be going to place what I’d discovered from the web page and the pc to the take a look at. So, pissed off however decided, I headed out to the North Fork of Lengthy Island looking for a mid-fall striper chew.

That evening, I crashed at my aunt’s summer time residence simply exterior of Greenport. The comfortable, single-story seashore home nestled within the woods has at all times been an escape for me from the malaise of suburbia—and it simply so occurred to be a brief drive from a few of my favourite, rocky surfcasting spots. I’d had success at these places with topwater plugs and floating swimming plugs, however this may be my first try at fishing them with a bucktail.

bucktail setups
Two of the creator’s favourite bucktail setups are chartreuse and white jigs with trailers to enrich the present colours, and to supply further scent and motion.

As I buckled my waders within the car parking zone of spot primary, I thought of every part I had learn in Skinner’s e-book and the errors I had made throughout earlier makes an attempt. Too many occasions, I had gone too heavy for the waters I used to be fishing or had chosen a jig with too little deer hair that brought about it to sink and snag. This time, although, I took Skinner’s recommendation. I tied on a 75-pound Tactical Anglers Energy Clip and slid on a ¾-ounce white Sea Striker Tidewater Popeye bucktail with an extended, white, curly strip of Captain Bruce’s Otter Tail.

It was excessive tide, however I walked westbound down the seashore and waded out to {a partially} submerged rock that will permit me to solid to bigger, totally submerged boulders. The wind was blowing straight out of the northeast, and this usually tranquil cove on the Lengthy Island Sound was roaring with whitecaps that crashed abruptly into the pebbly shore. The present was transferring east, so I solid towards the left facet of the largest boulder, which I’d situated throughout an earlier, low-tide exploration. Virtually instantly, I used to be hooked as much as a striper. It was only a schoolie, however this was a serious victory for me. I took one other solid to nearly the identical precise spot, and inside seconds of retrieving, I gave my rod a small twitch, and one other fish took the jig. Then one other, and one other. I felt like I had cracked a secret code. At that second, I noticed what I had simply performed proper, and what I had been doing incorrect all alongside.

This time round, I fished my bucktail with confidence—one thing I had not performed throughout earlier outings. Like an equation, the tide, wind, depth and construction have been all contributing elements that knowledgeable my choice about which bucktail in my bag was greatest to throw. To fish with confidence is to not second-guess your personal decision-making. For a split-second, I had the thought, “There’s no manner this ¾-ounce bucktail is heavy sufficient for me to solid straight into this headwind,” but it surely reached the spot I wanted it to, and it sank simply sufficient to hit the strike zone with out the fear of dropping it within the rocks.


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