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.
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.
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.
These jigs sink quickly and cast extremely well. The 1- to 2-ounce sizes are effective off sandy beaches where fishermen bump bottom to imitate a fleeing sand eel. In deep inlets, the 3- to 5-ounce jigs are popular for imitating baitfish like peanut bunker, juvenile scup, and butterfish.
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.
This bucktail is tied on a heavy-duty 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.
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.
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.
No bucktail is complete without a trailer added to the hook. A trailer makes the lure appear larger and adds action to the presentation. In some cases, the trailer also slows the jig’s sink rate, which is especially appealing to surf fishermen.
Uncle Josh Pork Rind
Pork rind trailers have been a longtime favorite of bucktail fishermen. The pork rind’s natural flutter in the water is tough to imitate, and it’s durable enough to withstand bluefish teeth—at least for a while. The most popular trailers among striper fishermen are the 70-S and the 50. The 70-S is a 5-inch straight piece of rind that slows the sink rate and has an undulating action on a straight retrieve. The 50 is 4 inches long and has a split tail. The 50 adds action but does not affect the sink rate or casting distance like the 70-S.
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.
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.