Location: Orange County
|An Idiot's Guide to Bucktailing
(written by an idiot)
Bucktail jigs are an old school lure that have been around for a relatively long time, yet fade into obscurity when things like fancy spinnerbaits and crankbaits are thrust into the spotlight. Hopefully my miniguide here will persuade some of you to give these proven lures a try because I strongly believe that bucktails don't get enough credit.
Rods, Reel, and Line
Just about any any rod/reel combo and line can work, as long as these are used with the appropriate bucktail. Most of the time, I like a light 7 foot Ugly Stik lite with a small spinning reel spooled with 12 lb line. For leader material, I have around two feet of fluorocarbon. I switch between a half ounce and 3/4 oz bucktail for the vast majority of the situations I find myself in. One of the big advantages of the bucktail is that these lures can be fished at almost any depth so whatever situation you're in, it's more than likely you can use an appropriate bucktail to be catching fish.
There are a myriad of bucktails out on the market with varying colors, shapes, and sizes. When choosing the weight, choose one that allows you to get your bait in the strike zone in a timely manner while making sure that it stays in there long enough for predators to notice. Using a 6 oz bucktail when fishing kelp beds 50 feet at the most is obviously inappropriate. Use something more like half ounce or 3/4 ounce bucktails when potholing kelp or fishing from shore. When you are trolling and bottom bouncing from boat, choose between 1.5 oz and 3/4 oz bucktails depending on depth. Make sure the lure can maintain the depth you want at an appropriate speed. There are also numerous types of bucktail heads (football, open mouth, round etc etc) and I tend to stick with the Spro type bucktail. These are extremely effective for most situations and are easier to retrieve. (which brings us to the next topic)
How to use one
There's two main schools of thought right now in regards to how a bucktail should be retrieved. One side dictates that the bucktail should always be at the bottom and constantly bouncing along. The other side maintains that the bucktail should be used at any depth desired and swam along with period twitches and pauses. The reason why I side with the latter is because you don't often see a baitfish bashing its brains into the rocks below at a furious rate. I advocate swimming the bucktail along with twitches and pauses to give a more natural presentation.
You can present your bucktail with or without a trailer and which one you choose to do will heavily impact how you retrieve the lure.
Don't feel pressured to always attach a trailer. A stock bucktail can also be used effectively and I'll show you why.
I wet these two bucktails to demonstrate what the actual hairs do when in water. The bucktail hairs bunch up together when retrieved in water and form a general fish shape. Fishing a bucktail stock should involve mostly retrieving with fewer twitches and pauses.
Fishing a bucktail with a trailer will allow you to retrieve it much like a stock bucktail or retrieve it with frequent twitches and pauses.
When choosing a trailer, you can choose quite literally any soft plastic or natural bait. In terms of soft plastics, great choices are slug-gos, Big Hammer swimbaits (yes I'm not kidding), Swimming Mullets, and Zoom super flukes. However, two trailers that have constantly proven themselves are the Berkley Gulp Shrimp and cut squid.
When using Berkley Gulp Shrimp, I highly recommend purchasing the buckets so you can store other soft plastics and rejuvenate your used Berkley Gulps.
While not as effective as ordinary Berkley Gulp baits, I still store a variety of soft plastics in the Berkley gulp container. But anyway, the Berkley Gulp Shrimp holds an advantage over other gulps in that it has a slightly flat tip which allows you to hook it onto the bucktail better. When using the Berkley Gulp shrimp as a trailer, I like to twitch it often and make it jump up and down in the water. When I want the bucktail to maintain bottom contact, I tend to drag it across the sand a bit more with some jumps incorporated every now and then.
When using squid, I tend to use it two ways. If I just got a large pack of squid, I usually pin on a whole squid and rehook it 2 or 3 times. It's a big bait and it just sticks out in the water but don't worry too much about its size. Rockfish and bass can swallow the thing without breaking a sweat. The other way I use squid is to cut it in half and cut one end 5 or 6 times to give it a skirt that can flutter.
Be sure to rehook squid again and again because it's easier for fish to rip off pieces, if not the whole thing. Thread the Berkley Gulp Shrimp through the body but when removing it, remove it from the head to prevent tearing the body.
Some Final Tips
When fishing from shore, grab yourself a nautical map so you know the depth of the water you're casting into. As mentioned earlier, the depth is very important in influencing what bucktail you choose you use.
Finally, safety first and have some fun. Perhaps after a successful day you'll be looking at right at this, just as I did.
Special thanks to Clayman and his tutorial for giving me a basic idea on how to order this.