Hallelujah for Hair
By: Mark Romanack
When it comes to catching river sauger, the bucktail jig is king. Mike Hanson of Starved Rock Guide Service and Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 proved that point last winter on the Illinois River.
At Fishing 411 we aren’t sure who was the first angler to figure out that dressing a jig with a little hair and hackle works wonders. What we do know is that natural jig dressings such as squirrel, deer, moose and elk hair work wonderfully on walleye and smallmouth jigs. Blend in a little feather hackle or marabou and a host of different synthetic fly tying fibers and the classic “bucktail” jig becomes a colorful work of art and a thing of beauty.
To put it in perspective, the bucktail jig catches just about everything with fins. The natural undulation that various kinds of natural and synthetic hair products produce is difficult to duplicate with other products such as soft plastics, pork rind, etc. In fact, the classic bucktail is so unique, these jigs have stood the test of time from one generation to the next.
To our way of thinking, what makes the bucktail superior is the ability to have “lifelike” action even when the jig is sitting still or barely moving. With other jig dressing options, the jig has to be moving to have any kind of fish catching action.
FISHING IT CLEAN
Traditionalists will tell you the only way to fish a bucktail is clean. Or in other words, the bucktail dressing is all that is necessary to catch fish. With both vertical jigging and pitching presentations, a clean bucktail is a solid fish catching machine. Most traditionalists will also tell you that natural colors are among the best, but the fact is bucktails can be found in every color under the rainbow and a few others to boot!
The modern hair jig or bucktail jig comes is a host of different sizes and colors suitable for targeting walleye, sauger and also smallmouth bass.
We will apologize up front to our traditionalist friends who insist on fishing bucktails clean, but we have found that tipping a bucktail with a live minnow, leech or a piece of nightcrawler often helps these lures produce more bites. In cold water, the minnow is the best choice. In warm water, it’s a toss up between the leech and the nightcrawler as to which works best.
Using live bait with bucktail jigs obviously adds natural scent and a little more action to an already excellent presentation. For vertical jigging all three bait choices are effective. For pitching applications we find that the leech stays on the hook better than either the crawler or the minnow.
ADDING SOFT PLASTICS
A bucktail jig can also be top dressed with various styles of soft plastic. Adding plastic adds action, scent, color and it makes the jig sink slower making the presentation that much more irresistible.
The best plastics for tipping a bucktail jig tend to be action tail grubs, finesse worms and split tail grubs. These are all plastic styles that feature a subtle action and plastics that perform best as slower presentation speeds.
AFTER MARKET SCENT
Adding scent to a bucktail jig is another way to make an already excellent presentation even better. The problem is that hair and hackle are easily gummed up when oil based fishing scents are used.
For example, we use a lot of Pro Cure Super Gel on hard baits and soft plastics. This oil based scent is sticky and will quickly gum up a bucktail preventing the natural undulation that makes bucktail work in the first place.
Instead of using Super Gel, we recommend a couple other products when fishing with bucktail jigs. Yakima Bait Company produces Rooster Tail Spray Scent. This is a water soluble scent product that was designed especially for use on hair and hackle. A couple squirts is all it takes to create an attractive scent stream in the water. It’s important to re-apply every 10 to 20 minutes when using water soluble scent products.
Pro Cure also produces a wide variety of water soluble fish oils that also work nicely on hair jigs. With these scent products we highly recommend shaking the scent throughly before applying. Water soluble oils tend to separate when they sit for a period of time. To enjoy the best benefit from these products, you have to shake them well to blend the oil throughly before applying.
Adding scent products to hair jigs or bucktails is a good idea, but be sure to choose a water soluble scent product. Yakima Bait produces the Rooster Tail Spray Scent that is ideal for adding fishing scent to bucktail jigs. Available in eight different formulas, this unique product keeps the hair and hackles pulsating naturally while generating a fish attracting scent stream in the water.
LOW STRETCH BRAIDS
We strongly advise anglers to use low stretch braids when fishing any kind of jig. The sensitivity of low stretch lines makes it much easier to detect light strikes, especially when fishing in deeper water or current.
For walleye and bass fishing applications, a 10 pound test braid that is terminated to a three to four foot long leader of 10 to 15 pound test fluorocarbon line is ideal. A double uni knot is the best knot for connecting braid to fluorocarbon line. At the terminal end, the improved clinch knot is the best choice for attaching the jig.
If other knots like the Palomar are used and the jig is snagged on bottom, chances are the double uni knot will fail before the Palomar, causing the angler to lose both the leader and the jig. Rigging up using the double uni knot and also the improved clinch is the fast track to fishing success.
SUMMING IT UP
The classic bucktail jig is one of those lures that every angler should embrace. A bucktail is especially deadly for walleye, sauger and bass fishing, but there are few fish these lures don’t catch.