Casting bucktails in the Spring can be one of the most effective techniques for catching striped bass. Bucktails come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors and each have their place. On some days bucktails will out produce live bait. That is hard for some to believe, but it is very true. The biggest reason bucktails are so effective in the Spring is the ability for you as a fishermen to really saturate the prime shallow water. The shallow water will most likely be warmer and as a result this is where the bait will be and the stripes will not be far behind. Furthermore, bucktails allow you to really keep the boat out of the shallow water and keep from spooking the fish. Also, bucktails allow the fishermen to work the lure perpendicular to the fish. Most of the time they will be cruising the bank when they are actively feeding on the baitfish. If ten boats are pulling the bank with planer boards, a meal coming from a different direction might look a little more appealing to the fish. Stripers will eat bucktails all winter into the Spring but the strongest part of the pattern will be when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees. At this time, the stripers will most likely commit to the shallow water unless you have some kind of severe weather pattern come through the area. Even then the fish will normally come back fairly quick once the shallows warm from the sun.
Several factors come into play when fishing bucktails successfully. One of the most important factors that is often overlooked is line size. Remember the lighter the line the deeper the bucktail will run. During the early part of the Spring, smaller bucktails typically better “match the hatch” when it comes to threadfin shad which are most often the bait of choice just about anywhere you go during the last part of cold weather going into Spring. Remember threads are slow swimmers and an easy meal without burning necessary energy. If you increase the size of the jig to get to the right depth, many times you will decrease your bites sometimes significantly. Stay with the smaller jig and go to a lighter line to get the appropriate depth. Next is the color of the jig. Two colors rule the market when it comes to bucktail colors. As you would expect it is white and chartreuse. These two colors have worked since the beginning of time. In clear water use the white and in murky stained water go with a more chartreuse color. If the color is just slightly stained go with a white bucktail with a chartreuse back or a white bucktail with some sort of chartreuse flash. Another consideration is the color of the head and the thread of the jig. Personally, I most often use red thread on my bucktails. If the bucktail uses white thread which is also common, try getting a red permanent marker and make the bottom part of the thread of the bucktail red. This is a trick many use during the hot Summer months while trolling big bucktails on leadcore that works all year long. A bucktail that has a red head can also be very productive. At one time, this was one of the most popular jig head colors on the market. It has tapered off over the years in some areas but lures with a red head are as popular as ever especially on the salty side. One factor that gets overlooked is the simply the shape and design of the jig. On different years, a slightly different shaped jig will many times get much more action. Different shaped jigs track differently through the water. A striper has a very finely tuned lateral line which picks up on these slight variations in resistance coming through the water. Also, some head designs have a different rate of fall for the same giving weight. A slower fall in cold water typical of early Spring can be a big plus.
What you tip your bucktail with is also important. Be sure to take into consideration the movement of the trailer and the color. A good rule of thumb is the colder the water the less movement in the trailer. If the water is below fifty degrees a good trailer to begin with is the Zoom fluke trailer. The fluke trailer comes in many sizes to help match the size of the bait. Typically the fluke Jr. is a good starting point. If the water is clear and the fish are feeding on one inch threads do not be afraid to trim the bucktail with a pair of scissors and use a fluke size trailer or even the tiny fluke trailer if the hook is small enough. Paddle tail trailers have become the rage the last several years and look like they are here to stay. Paddle tail trailers have always been on the market but the recent success by bass fishermen have caused a multitude of companies to produce paddle tails of every shape and size. Many of the smaller paddle tails now being produced have proven deadly to stripers. As the water temperature rises in the Spring, the trailers with more movement like standard curly tails tend to produce more bites. A good one start with is the Zoom Fat Albert Grub. Another good curly tail grub is the six inch grub by Capt. Mack. This six inch grub is especially productive late in the Spring as the fish move deeper and their metabolism increases with the increase in water temperature. As always in fishing, this is only a rule of thumb. Some years the fish do not know the rules.
Now for what color trailer to use while striper fishing. Basically the same rules for bass fishing applies for striped bass when it comes to color choice. For the most part, use trailers that help imitate the natural forage. The most reliable color is white in clear water. Most baitfish are white in color on the bottom side and stripers tend to strike from underneath which is expected since a stripers eyes are located toward the top of the head. White has always been the standby color but each year more and more colors are becoming more popular. More realistic colors like Albino, Green Albino, Smokin Shad, and Baitfish by Zoom are all very good colors in clear water. These Zoom colors are especially popular during the dead of winter when the Fluke style baits are being used by fishermen. The more vibrant colors are more common in stained water or during periods of low light. This is when the good old color chartreuse shines. Another overlooked color that performs well in low light is a pink trailer. Also, don’t be afraid to try different shades of pink and chartreuse. At times, a clear chartreuse works better than a solid chartreuse.
This is just an overview to the many uses of bucktail jigs in the Spring. Do not be afraid to try something a little different. Many strange or slightly different colors have come onto the market with surprising results like the Spro Magic Bus. Also do not be afraid to throw a simple jighead tipped with a Super Fluke. Sometimes the jighead without the bucktail and only the trailer will out perform especially with the more realistic colors that are now on the market.