13 Jun Saltwater Edge Tackle and Tactics How to Fish Andrus Bucktail Jigs
The bucktail jig is indisputably one of the most productive artificial lures ever designed. For this reason all military survival kits include at least one jig in case of a stranding at sea. I personally have caught everything from walleye to tuna on bucktails and always carry a range of colors, sizes, and profiles. However, as with all popular artificials many an individual has put their spin on things unnecessarily confusing a relatively simple subject. In this article we will first describe the basic situations and how one would use a bucktail in these areas. We’ll follow with short discussions on color, the pork/plastic/plain dilemma and the difference between the Andrus Rip Splitter and Andrus Jetty Caster series. We’ll be touching on the basics, but for a more in-depth discussion of all tactics both from shore and boat refer to “Fishing with Bucktails” by Doc Muller and/or “Fishing the Bucktail” by John Skinner
Open Sand Beaches
There are two important factors to consider when fishing bucktails at open sand beaches: the first being how quickly the bottom drops off and the second being the amount of fishable structure (i.e. sandbars). On true sand beaches (little or no other structure) the main factor to consider is water depth. This will determine what size bucktail you will need to get down. Many sand beaches have patches or extensive areas of rocky bottom. Such locations are better fished by the methods we’ll discuss later for rocky shores of glacial origin. Whatever the combination of depth and structure I focus on using one of three sizes. The lightest will be the 1oz which I use when either the bait present is very small, when the bottom is excessively shallow, or when I am focusing on thoroughly fishing the white water close to shore that often occurs during the summer migration of sandbars onto the shoreline. Increasing in size I use 1 1/2oz. bucktails when covering water searching for fish. These bucktails allow for a longer cast while still light enough to fish effectively right to your feet. The largest I’ll regularly use on sand beaches are 2oz. and are the “go-to” in my favorite conditions…rough and windy. Heavier bucktails are useful when fish are feeding far from shore and not responding to tins. While these three sizes will cover the majority of open sand beach situations, bucktails from 1/2 – 2 ½ oz all have their moments be it a match-the-hatch situation or an issue of punching that few extra feet through the wind. Whatever the size my retrieve from the sand beach remains the same, slow as possible while keeping the bucktail near but not on the bottom combined with a sharp but small twitch every 4-5 cranks of the handle. When using heavier bucktails I’ll start the retrieve as soon as the bucktail hits the water. If using a lighter bucktail or fishing a deep hole I will allow the bucktail to touch bottom before starting the retrieve.
Rocky Shoreline (Glacially Created)
Great fishing can be had on the rocky shorelines made up of rounded pieces of stone which are remnants of the Glacial melting after the last ice age. Some of these areas consist of rocks of many sizes (some as large a mid-size vehicles), existing together. A second type of rocky shoreline area consists of rocks from baseball to bowling ball in size. Finally, come the many spots that fall somewhere in the middle. All three are equally effective locations but require a different approach. When confronted with the first situation, consisting of rocks of different sizes in relatively shallow water (less than 15’ deep), I use one bucktail: the 3/4oz. with 7/0 hook Jetty Caster. This jig is often light enough to swim right over the top of some serious boulders while maintaining the hook size necessary to land a slob. Locations similar to this where such a bucktail shines include most of the South Shore rocks in Montauk, Squibnocket on the Vineyard, and the various reefs off the Elizabethan Islands.
For the often very shallow sloping locations where the rocks are more consistent in size the key factor is not so much depth as the combination of wind, current and wave action. The idea here is to cast as far as possible while remaining able to keep the bucktail from making all but the occasional contact with the bottom. A classic example of such a location is the fabled North and False bars of Montauk. Here stable weather means 1 1/4oz. Rip Splitters. Once weather moves in creating some swell and increased current many people opt for the 1 1/2oz Jetty Caster and as much as 2oz. Jetty Caster when a hard NE or equivalent wind is blowing in your face. The third situation is by far the most common one experienced by surfcasters. Water depth ranging in depth can require two different bucktails even if you’re only moving a few feet. An example of such a location is Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, where a very North Bar like bottom is interspersed with the occasional large boulder. One can either risk losing a few more 1 1/4oz bucktails than normal to fish more effectively or fish smaller jigs such as ¾oz. and 1oz. Jetty Casters for a more affordable excursion. Personally I risk a few jigs and try to save money by making an extra effort to recall and avoid snags. Here is where knowing the water will really pay off. I would not really recommend increasing to more than 1 1/2oz bucktails as the winds make it harder to control the path of the bucktail and avoid snags. Rocky Shoreline (Bedrock) When discussing fishing bedrock structure we are referring to Mainland rock structures that are stationary or part of the earth’s actual surface. This type of structure occurs mostly in Maine and in RI but also in parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The main issue here is that within 100 yards one can encounter entirely different depths and structure. The deep troughs, shallow reefs, ledges and more are all excellent bucktailing water but require completely different approaches. Since there are often drastic rises and drops in the bottom I do not recommend long casts which will more than likely result in a snagged lure. Instead I focus on the water within a few feet of where I am standing, water that due to the nature of bedrock areas is often quite deep. Here the idea is to float bucktails right in the white water much as one would use a Hab’s needlefish. The current will cause the lure to dance enticingly providing all the action necessary. The angler needs only to ensure a slow progression through the water and hopefully right in front of a bass’s lips. I like to fish as light as possible in this situation with the ¾ Jetty Casters being my “go-to” unless wind becomes an issue causing me to move up to a 1 1/2oz with no preference between Jetty Casters and Rip Splitters.
Whether they are sandy or rocky, points are almost always fish magnets. While all can be fished in the manner dictated by the bottom-structure it is important to note that due to the increased current anglers are able to fish bucktails as much as an extra half ounce or more than could be fished in a similar location without the current. This allows one to cover more water while keeping the bucktail near the rocks, something especially important when fish hunker down to escape the current.
By discussing inlets we open up a whole new world of bucktailing opportunities. At times inlets can concentrate and hold large populations of, and sometimes very large fish. While size and bottom make-up may vary, there are two main types. The first are inlets from naturally flowing rivers. Short of a few behemoths such as the Hudson, Connecticut, and Merrimack rivers most are less then 100 yards wide, have a main channel and sandbars at the mouth. During periods of slower current or when fishing the shallow water on top of sand and sediment deposits I use small bucktails such as the 1 1/4oz Rip Splitter and swim them as if fishing a shallow sandy beach of little or no wave action. When targeting fish in the channels I use the same approach as one would use for any of the man made inlets from New Jersey to the Cape Cod Canal. With all locations the two primary spots where fish will hold are the center of the channel and the edge of the channel. Bucktails (such as the Andrus Big-Eye) will range in weight from 2-6oz and up during strong canal tides. Of course during slack tide almost no weight will reach the bottom however, it is rare for fish to respond well to bucktails during this time. For most places other then the Canal 2-3oz is ideal. Once rigged, I’ll make two types of casts. The first is a short cast often no more then 10-15 feet out and a few feet up current. Most often used on the inlet side of jetties or other steeply dropping man made shoreline the objective is catch fish holding to vertical or near vertical structure by swimming a bucktail right along the edge. The second cast is a long cast up current enough so that the bucktail can reach the bottom before sweeping down current of your location as once this happens your bucktail will be swept up out of the strike zone. In either case it is important to note that due to the current these fish are hunkered behind rocks and in order to catch these fish your bucktail needs to be on the bottom, a tactic that will lead to snags. As it is so important to keep your bucktail in the strike zone the typical swimming retrieve we previously used is not ideal. Instead we “jig” in these situations. This involves keeping a semi taught line and either aggressively or softly lifting and dropping the bucktail to the bottom. On a perfect cast the jig will hit the bottom just as it is passing directly in front of you, then be moved by lifting the rod from 3am to 1am before dropping the tip until the bucktail again makes contact with the bottom. This will generally allow one to fish about 10-20 yards of the bottom. The length of drift can be increased by free-spooling an extra 15 yards and then restarting the jigging process. However, while this may result in a few extra fish it often results in significantly more snagged bucktails. It is best to vary between aggressive and slow jigging until one finds what the fish are responding to.
We’ll be touching on the basics, but for a more in-depth discussion of all tactics both from shore and boat refer to “Fishing with Bucktails” by Doc Muller and/or “Fishing the Bucktail” by John Skinner