12 tips for fishing a bucktail in the surf

Before reading the following tips for fishing a bucktail in the surf, let’s review what a bucktail actually is. It’s a lead-headed stencil covered with hair from a deer. Doesn’t have to be from a buck, but bucktail sounds better than doetail or deertail, doesn’t it?

Before the advent of plastics and synthetics, buoyant deer hair was the best material available to attach the shank of a jig hook (squirrel tail hair was / is large on freshwater spinners too). Now there are all kinds of soft plastic bodies for attaching devices, either with or without bucktail hair. But a bucktail jig remains one of the best and most versatile lures for saltwater fishing in general, and surf fishing in particular, perhaps because it can mimic the feed of most wild fish.

Here are twelve tips on how to fish a bucktail in the surf:

  1. Carry a selection of bucktails of different colors and sizes (weights).
  2. Mainly focus on fixtures with a round or spherical head shape. these throw well and sink quickly.
  3. Use a thin diameter line when fishing a bucktail in the surf to maintain control and feel in an often turbulent environment. This also supports the throwing distance.
  4. Adjust the bait size to match the size of the local bait that is in the foreground at the time of fishing.
  5. Although many colors of bucktails are available, there is a good reason a red head and white body are an all-time favorite, especially when bucktailing striped bass in daylight.
  6. Other top color considerations include chartreuse bucktails and bucktails with sparkling stripes like mylar or crystal flash in body treatment. The latter are especially good for blues and Spanish mackerel.
  7. Vary your retrieval based on the species available. When fishing a bucktail in the surf, quick retrieval just below the surface is good for bluefish and Spanish mackerel. A slow retrieval along the bottom is generally best for flounder, speckled trout, and striped bass.
  8. If the local bait is small, a simple bucktail with no additive is best.
  9. Soft-bodied pendants can be an attractive addition to a bucktail. Try a curl-tail version for stripes and flounder and a shad-tail version for drum, speckled trout, and redfish.
  10. Natural bait is also a great addition to a bucktail; Squid and fish belly are common, the former especially for flounder. Robust and durable are important properties.
  11. Hard to find today, the pork skin has long been a popular and long-lasting jig trailer and is especially useful when bluefish is prevalent. Instead of pork rind, try strong synthetic (and fragrant) strip baits.
  12. Get a template up to your position and through the surf line when you are on the beach. Fish often follow a bait and strike when they think the prey is about to flee. So don’t stop your call too briefly.

There’s no better way to learn how to fish a bucktail in the surf than to get out there and do it as often as possible. Make sure you have your fishing license every time.

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