Day or night, spring or fall, New Jersey or Maine—if you don’t have an assortment of bucktail jigs in your surf bag, you are not catching as many fish as you could be. The bucktail jig’s pulsing hair combined with a fluttering trailer looks as alive as any hard-bodied plug or soft-plastic bait. A straight retrieve is all that’s needed to bring the lure to life, but snapping the rod tip or pausing the retrieve will trigger strikes from following fish. You can control where a bucktail swims in the water column by adjusting the speed of your retrieve, keeping it above a weedy bottom, or dropping it behind a submerged boulder or into a trough where big stripers lie in wait. In terms of versatility, the bucktail is the ultimate striper lure. It can be fished near the surface or on the bottom, jigged vertically, or retrieved like a plug. It can be tied sparse to imitate a thin-profiled sand eel or with extra hair and feathers to mimic an adult bunker. From open beaches to backwaters, quiet bays to ripping inlets, there’s always a situation that calls for a bucktail.
Andrus Jetty Caster
This classic jig is tied with extra-dense bucktail hair to slow its sink rate and keep it above the rocks in shallow water. It first gained popularity at Montauk Point, but is productive on open beaches, around boulder fields, and in back bays. Available in sizes from ½ to 3 ounces.
Andrus Rip Splitter
Tied with a thinner profile than the Jetty Caster, the Rip Splitter is designed to get a little deeper in waters with strong currents. It is deadly in inlets and along shorelines with deep, fast-moving water. Available in sizes from ½ to 4 ounces.
SPRO gave their Prime Bucktail a surfcasting-specific makeover to create the SPRO Power Bucktail. This jig features a heavy-duty hook that will hold its shape against anything that swims in the surf. The jig also has extra bucktail hair and a forward-positioned line-tie to improve its swimming action and easily glide over rocky bottoms where big stripers lie in wait. Available in four sizes (1, 1½, 2, and 3 ounces) and two colors (white and chartreuse).
These beautifully made bucktails became available for sale in February 2015. Jeck used a decade of experience fishing the Cape Cod Canal to craft a jig that could stand up to the rocks, currents, and large bass found in the Big Ditch. They are tied on Mustad hooks with tails built up in thin layers to improve durability. In the water, they give the impression of large baitfish, making them perfect for tempting big bass throughout the Northeast surf. Large eyes, unique colors, and a combination of premium bucktail hair and hackle feathers give the Jeck’s Bucktails a lifelike appearance. Available in sizes from ½ to 5 ounces.
Joe Baggs Bullet Bucktail
This bucktail is tied on a heavyduty hook. It sinks a bit faster than an Andrus Jetty Caster of the same size, making it perfect for inlets and steep-sloping shorelines. Available in sizes from ½ to 5 ounces.
Blue Frog Arrowhead Swing Hook
The arrowhead shape of this jig helps it cut through current to get into the strike zone. The swing hook has two benefits, providing extra action to the trailer and taking away the leverage a big fish might use to spit the hook.
S&S Rockhopper Pro
Available in a large variety of colors including favorites like chicken scratch, sand eel, and blurple, Rockhopper Pro bucktails give fishermen plenty of options for jigs that “match the hatch” or stand out in the surf. Tied with extra hair to slow the sink rate, the Rockhopper Pro also has a hackle trailer that adds a tantalizing fluttering action to the jig.
While strictly optional, many fishermen wouldn’t think of fishing a bucktail without a trailer. Trailers add action, color, and sometimes scent to a bucktail presentation. Options vary, depending on the target species, the location, and the baitfish present. For fluke, fishermen use trailers to add scent from synthetic baits like Berkley Gulp, cut baits such as strips of squid or fish, or whole baits like sand eels, spearing or live minnows. Striper fishermen use trailers to add action, color, and extra length to their presentations. Options include hackle feathers tied into the jig, soft-plastic baits, synthetic trailers, and natural pork rind trailers.
It’s been more than three years since Uncle Josh Bait Company announced that they would no longer be offering fishing lures made from pork products. This ended a 93-year run of producing pork rind lures that began with Allen P. Jones and Urban Schreiner carving “frogs” out of fatback during a summer when the actual amphibians were tough to come by. The official reason was that pigs today are being brought to slaughter at a younger age, and the fatback and skin that Uncle Josh required was too thin to make durable fishing lures. Read here about the end of Uncle Josh Pork Products
Fat Cow Jig Strips
Fat Cow Jig Strips are a new generation of fishing baits made from a durable synthetic material that will never dry out.
Berkley Gulp baits are available in a variety of styles. These heavily-scented soft baits are a great addition to any bucktail jig.
Ottertails are scented synthetic trailers available in 9 sizes and 11 colors. Otter Tail trailers share many of the features of pork rind trailers, such as durability and fluttering action, but they don’t dry out or rot if left on the hook. Otter Tails are available in three sizes and six colors.
Squealing Reel Hog Baits
Squealing Reel Hog Baits are made from pork rinds and are extremely durable.
Some bucktails are tied with hackle feathers that function like trailers, extending beyond the bucktail’s hair and undulating in the water. The hackle doesn’t significantly slow the sink rate of the jig, making it a good choice for fishing deep, fast-moving water.
Making the choice for your trailer can be challenging. Knowing what they look like underwater can be a big help.