Consider the Bucktail- a piece of lead with a few strands of hair and maybe a trailer. On the shelf it looks like nothing special. But in the water, its action is everything.
The bucktail mimics many kinds of bait, and when fished correctly under the right conditions, it is a deadly part of a surfcaster’s arsenal- especially anglers who want to slay big fish. The Bucktail jig has been a go-to striper lure for generations. I strongly recommend having a variety of Bucktails in your surf bag at all times. This article offers my tips for catching fish from shore using this classic saltwater lure
Methods for utilizing bucktails from beaches or inlets vary to some degree, yet anglers find that the most important principles apply to both locations. These principles include- in no particular order- knowledge of water depth, tidal flow, current, structure, and determining the proper lure weight to use. Each of these variables is vital to fishing success when using a Bucktail. Water depth, tidal flow (vertical movement of water) and current (horizontal movement of water) are grouped together because all three of these components will guide you in determining the weight of the Bucktail you want to use. When fishing shallow with minimal current and tidal flow, a lighter Bucktail (with an abundance of hair) is a wise choice. Under these conditions, the lighter Bucktail will swim slightly higher in the water column. On the contrary, when presented with deeper water, maximum current and strong tidal flow you want to take the opposite approach using a heavier jig head. You definitely need to carry a full spectrum of different weighted Bucktails.
The need will arise to increase or decrease weight to adapt to the changing conditions in order to stay in the strike zone. For me, using jigs developed specifically for the conditions and bait here in the Northeast is critical. A company such as S&S Bucktails has years of local experience in making jigs that work from Cape Cod all the way to the Outer Banks.
Bucktail jigs work well in areas of no current, but they are really effective in spots where the current is ripping. Faster current goes hand in hand with points of land, channels, and other odd pieces of structure that funnel the water. These are the types of areas you need to try to identify when scouting your fishing spots. Big fish like current because baitfish are drawn in and disoriented making them an easy meal. In such a situation, a Bucktail cast up current, and slowly worked back along the bottom will cause the lure to tumble mimicking disoriented bait.
To have this type of structure available means you need to know how to identify sandbars, troughs, holes, cuts, submerged points etc. along any given section of beach to make your fishing more successful.
These types of areas provide both a haven for baitfish to gather (or be disoriented), and ambush points for larger fish to obtain an easy meal. The open beach is a vast place, so knowing how to read the beach and identify the various types of structure will enhance your opportunities for landing some quality fish. To gain such beach reading knowledge for finding structure, I recommend scouting areas you intend to fish during low tide. This will expose a great deal to the human eye that cannot be seen when the tide is full.
Fishing an inlet provides a number of advantages when it comes to structure, most notably, rocks, frequently in the form of jetties. These rock formations provide habitat for a total ecosystem of aquatic life. They serve as a shelter for a wide array of bait that can become an easy meal for a variety of fish. Equally important is the movement of water. The constant tidal flow and current compression through the small spaces between the rocks consistently brings bait in and out of the inlet, attracting predatory species- such as Striped Bass- seeking food. Inlets can be difficult to fish at times and may present challenges for novice anglers. However, they are some of the most productive places to catch fish.
Knowing these principles allows an angler to increase their knowledge of the areas they fish, while being prepared to expect the unexpected. It is the preparation that in turn produces greater results. Tight lines! Live the passion!
Bernie Hoyt is from Aquebogue, Long Island. He is a NYS Certified Fishing Guide specializing in surfcasting with over 30 years experience fishing the legendary waters off Long Island shores. He is well known for his informative seminars, particularly at off-season saltwater shows up and down the Atlantic seaboard. He offers trips for all ages and skill levels throughout the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as the Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Striper locations in the northeast. He is a team member for S&S Bucktails, ODM RODS, Eposeidon.com and GOIN’ EAST as well as being a long time member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. We are honored to have Bernie join the blogging Team! You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at www.Berniebass.com