Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Bountiful White Bucktail.....

The Bountiful White Bucktail
Jan Stephen Maizler

If I were compelled to fish with only one lure in my tackle box, it would surely be the white bucktail. Whether in a survival kit or a tournament bag, this venerable lure has the pedigree of an incredibly long history of popularity- and the reason is simple: versatility in all kinds of marine settings from the inland flats to the cobalt depths while sporting a “universal” color that mimics so many of our baitfish.

I like to think of this lure as kind of a Superhero or X-man- basically magnificent, but when given a new quality or feature, capable of even so much more. Therefore, the white bucktail is inherently perfect, but may take on “another form” based on how and where it will be used such as different head shapes and different hookeye placements for different action as well as different head sizes for different sink rates and operating depths. Remember, though it may be slightly altered for each unique piscatorial purpose, it’s still the same Superhero!

It’s extremely important to choose a white bucktail of the highest quality where the materials and construction are of the finest kind. Be sure that your white bucktail has an abundance of skirted hair material that is sufficiently wrapped to the jighead. It’s even a better sign if the hairs look “overwrapped” and that said wrapping has a clear coating of some sort binding it together.

There are two essentials of the jighead construction itself. Firstly, the hook must be of the finest grade wire and must feature a point that is “sticky-sharp” right out of the box. Secondly, the finished details of the jighead itself should be as life-like as possible- this is particularly true of well-designed eyes. For these reasons, I choose a white Backbone bucktail for the flats and a white Spro Prime bucktail for bay, bridge, and ocean applications.


The white bucktail is basically some hairs tied to a jighead, which is the essence of simplicity itself. This lure has the striking white coloring that matches or mimics that vast majority of scaled baitfish around the world like minnows, shiners, whitebait, sardines, mullet, and balao. Even the darker forage fish that live in the offshore weedlines have white bellies, which is exactly what gamefish like mahi are aiming for as they attack upwards in the water column!

While it’s often claimed this lure has no built-in action, thoughtful consideration will reveal this conjecture as only partially true. Fast-reeling a white bucktail creates a streaking presentation that no feeding kings, mackeral, mahi, jacks, or barracuda can resist- ask these fish whether that white bucktail has no action! Perhaps it’s more accurate to convey that a jigging or bouncing retrieve allows this marvelous lure to attract more of the same species of fish (as well as other species) in a larger window of water, weather, and feeding conditions.

You’ll find white bucktails are available in sizes ranging from 1/32 ounce to 5 ounces. Water depth, degree of current, size of the forage fish, and size of the target gamefish will determine the size of the bucktail. The basic rule is to keep the size of your white bucktail as small as possible, which allows the smallest of your target species (as well as the largest) to partake of your irresistible and somewhat generous pseudo-meal.

The above factors as well as the actual action of the drop and retrieve of the jig in the water column determine your choice of jighead shape and style. The hookeye placement in your white bucktail will determine its retrieve action as well as its retrieve in relation to the actual bottom, be it mud, grass, sand, reefs, or wrecks.

It will always pay to rig your bucktail with a loop knot to give it maximum action: this is regardless of whether you use a leader or not. As to knot choice, either the Uni-Knot or Homer Rhode loop knot are fine.


You’d be hard-pressed to find a more universal lure for the flats and shallows than the white bucktail. Because of the brevity of the water column, choose smaller white bucktails from 1/8 ounce to 3/8 ounces. You’ll also find it prudent in your skinny water tactics to choose a flat skimmer head that will sink a tad more slowly than other jighead shapes. The flathead skimmer also retrieves up and over grass clumps and beds most effectively as well.

When you fish “deeply-forested” grassflats, be sure to use a white skimmer jig that features a weed guard accessory. These monofilament devices project outward and ward off grass blades that might entangle your hook. They also bend quite easily and nicely to maximize your hookup as your quarry gobbles up your bucktail. BackBone lures come with a standard weed guard.

When you’re casting on very shallow flats, as soon as your bucktail lands, keep your rod
high and begin retrieving. Make sure your retrieve style includes frequent and gentle upward sweeps of the rod, particularly when you’re blind casting to flat bottom. When you blind cast to structure like potholes, pause your bucktail so it sinks into the depths of that hole briefly.

On ultra shallow flats where you see your quarry-such as tailing bones off Abaco or redfish off Flamingo- make your cast in front of but beyond your quarry. This achieves two things. Firstly, it won’t plop next to the fish on the landing and blow them off the flat. Secondly, the retrieve you make will take your bucktail on an intercept course where the feeding fish will see it a reasonable distance in front of them and go after it.

When you’re casting to tailing or “heading” permit, you have two choices. The first is to cast it in front of the fish, reel it past the fish until it sees it and begins its pursuit and then drop it to the bottom dead-still like a hiding crab. The other choice- particularly with schooling permit- is to cast to the periphery of the school in front of them or alongside them and bring it back with short, hopping jigs. I used this latter technique recently off Belize River Lodge and broke the Club Record with an astonishing nine permit in one day with my bucktail.

When it comes to rolling tarpon, it always pays to retrieve your bucktail with a slow sweep of the rod and then retrieve the line, much like a slow motion of pumping a fish back to the boat. Tarpon seem to like a pause and retrieve effect, not a jig-and-hop style.

My tackle choice for bucktailing the flats and shallows is spinning tackle featuring a nine-foot steelhead rod for the longest casts as well as a super-fast retrieve spinner loaded with eight-pound test mono line. Braided line is not needed as strikes are obvious, the fish are not far away, and braided line is too unforgiving on the soft mouth of seatrout.


For starters, change your tackle over to stouter tackle. This includes seven-foot long graphite spinning rods combined with reels loaded with 8/30 braided line, such as PowerPro. Baitcasting tackle should utilize similar graphite rod and braided line profiles. Understand that bay waters begin “deeper water” applications where braided lines’ strike detection and power loading features for solid hooksets far outshine monofilament.

Now is the time to consider changing jighead shapes to peahead, beanhead, and “smiling fish” types. Bridge and bay white bucktails usually range in size from ½ ounce to 1 ½ ounces.

Bucktailing these areas is best served by using a longer-interval lift and drop slow-jigging technique that is always oriented to the bottom where most inshore fish spend their time. Even mackerel will blast a bucktail flying up off the bottom. If you see a fish like this following your jigged bucktail, speed it up!

White bucktailing bridges, always should orient to the bottom when the fishing starts. Start working your lure in slow hops right off the bottom, where more snook and tarpon “suspend” than you could possibly realize. One special accessory is the addition of a plastic bait to your white bucktail. I particularly like to add a long red or glo-white plastic worm that extends a few inches past the bottom of the bucktail skirt. Working this rig deep under nighttime bridge shadows has taken countless snook as well as tarpon in my angling history.


As you go deeper, more modifications are in order. Jighead shape should be bullet-headed to allow for a fast descent. Spinning tackle and bait casting tackle should continue to emphasize graphite rods, and fast-retrieve reels. It’s a given that the reels be loaded with braided line because its’ thin diameter allows for a faster drop or descent as well as the previously mentioned advantages over mono.

The precise methods of deep jigging are already well known. Specifically, there are two important features to remember. Firstly, your white bucktail often gets hit on the drop and a fast pickup and come-tight strike is needed for a solid hookup- this is where graphite rods, fast-retrieve reels, and no-stretch braided line all shine quite brightly with deep jigging. Additionally, getting hit “on the drop” is often signaled by the line “stopping” too soon relative to the depth as well as by the line suddenly flying off the reel far too quickly in the free-spool tempo. Secondly, it will always enhance your catch rate to adorn or “dress up’ your white bucktail for deep jigging. My personal choice is to hang a six-inch long pearl-colored Culprit worm on the hook. My next step is to give a scented squirt of Rip Tide Blast Shrimp Spray to the worm and let it out. I’ve never been disappointed by the results, as I’m sure you won’t be either!



Friday, November 23, 2007

Angling Travel and a Personal Thanksgiving....

It's a great time to reflect over the year at all my angling travel experiences that
began in the early spring and are just beginning to settle down- briefly, I hope. Many of the guides, resorts, and lodges gave it their best and took their chances on stories that reflected exactly what happened and what I experienced.

*Captain Butch Constable/SeaSport Marina, Jupiter,Florida. Butch took on the challenge to ply deep into the Loxahatchee River to go for a grand slam day of all four snook species. When the dust settled, Capt. Jon Cooper and I lost count of all the common, fat, and tarpon-snook we caught and released. We were thoroughly satisfied with Butch's expert guiding and would probably would have gotten the usually-tiny swordspine snook if we plied the backwater docks in the dark with tiny lures.

*The Island of Curacao, Netherland Antilles- This experience would take a book to describe, but I'm sure one day I'll be back again.

*Belize River Lodge, Belize- Thanks, Mike, Margueritte, Misha, and a big high-five to Raul Navarette, an incredible guide. In the five days photog. Art Blank and I spent there, Raul was able to find the habitat to match the weather conditions, which kept us deep in snook, tarpon, bonefish, permit, or ladyfish. Grand slam days were possible in two of those days, but we bypassed that thrill for the thrills right in front of us! Owner Mike Heusner gave me a hackle jig to use on the flats for permit and on the last day, I broke the Club's record with nine - that's right- permit caught and released. This was a day I'll never forget!

*Bimini Bay Resort and Casino, Bahamas- Bimini is enhanced by the development of this fine resort. I was satisfied that they were sensitive to preserving the mangrove ecology and flats. The resort's rooms, dining, and services are excellent. Guide Bonefish Tommy Sewell gave Jon Cooper and I a fantastic day of bonefishing. Jon and I spent the balance of the time light-tackling -via the cast and jig method- loads of snappers, 'cudas, and some big horseye jacks.

*South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island, Florida- Captain Tom Walsh had to contend with 25 mph northeast winds, yet his strategies in the open Gulf kept us deep in spanish mackeral, ladyfish, and blacktip sharks. We topped off the trip with two large snook on a Captiva canal. South Seas Island Resort is an exquisite full-service resort that has everything for angler and non-angler alike.

*Kingfisher Fleet/Fishermen’s Village, Charlotte Harbor, Florida- We spent some real quality time in an area that deserved my attention for a long time. Thanks to the expert guiding of Captain Ralph Allen of Kingfisher Fleet, we had an action-packed day with mackeral, ladyfish, seatrout, redfish, and quantities of snook that were mind-boggling! At the days end, we worked a school of dock snook that was huge, but had to leave to avoid a storm. Fisherman's Village is a perfect one-stop resort for anglers and their families in Punta Gorda.

*Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama- Thanks to Holly, Edgar, Benjy, Nodiel, and Katarina for such a memory-making trip. Gamboa is like a Shangri-La right in the midst of Gatun Lake and the surrounding tropical rainforest. Special thanks to local fishing legend and new friend Horacio "Chicho" Clare for helping me to prepare for the trip. Gamboa's lodgings, grounds, cuisine, and services are superb and is a short boat ride with one of their guided boats to some incredible peacock bass fishing mixed in with some whopper snook and tarpon.

*Captain Butch Moser of Delray Beach is one of the top live bait freshwater guides on the Gold Coast. He's got me totally spoiled as we hit the "century mark" with peacocks to five pounds and largemouths to eight pounds.

*Grande Tours, Placida, Florida/ Captain Dave Loger- Thanks so much, Captain Marian, G.M. Mary, and Captain Dave Loger for showing me the world of inshore marine kayak fishing. I have an indelible memory of a 2 a.m. trip into the nightime mangrove cathedrals that were almost frosted by a cold front. Despite that, Captain Dave put me in the right spots and with my DOA shrimp, Spro bucktail, and Rip Tide Blast shrimp scent, I caught a big red, big snook, and 15-pound goliath grouper.

*Island Vista/ Captain Dicks/ Captain Smiley, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- It has not been long since I've returned from this great destination. Island Vista was a great place to stay in Myrtle Beach. Photog. Art Blank and I would stoke our furnaces with hearty breakfasts while we watched loads of porpoises feed and cavort in the ocean. Captain Jonathan tried hard the first day, but a severe cold kept it to two flounder. The next day warmed, and Captain Patrick Kelly kept our rods bent with flounder, redfish, black drums and bluefish. I callled Patrick this morning and he told me he had a charter yesterday that released over fifty reds on the flats- I wish that charter would have been me!

Thanks to Everyone!

Jan Maizler

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Back from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina...

Photographer Art Blank and I had never fished the coast of South Carolina: it's a big habitat composed of beaches, inlets, rivers, creeks, and marshlands. When we got an assignment to do a piece on the fall fishing there, we jumped on it! Due to other trips, I wasn't able to commit until mid- November, a time well after the fall mullet run. It's also a month for the advent of cold fronts.

The day Art and I arrived, a cold front moved through the Grand Stand and Myrtle Beach that night. We were cozy in our digs at the Island Vista, but we wondered what this would do to our fishing plans the next day with Captain Jonathan Stevens aboard Captain Tom Swatzel's 25-foot center console. We arrived at the dock and saw the sign for Capt. Dick's( We spotted the vessel "Fish Finder", climbed aboard, and were soon fishing. The water was ice-cold, but we did miraculously manage two nice flounder thanks to Jonathan's tireless efforts.

The next day was much warmer, and prompted the old adage "what a difference a day makes" which proved so true when we fished with Captain Patrick Kelly the next day in the Little River area. He's also known as Captain Smiley because of his upbeat mood; indeed, his website is Patrick runs a 21-foot custom Carolina center console boat which draws only 12 inches of water.

In the improved conditions, we fished every imaginable habitat and caught fish whereever we went. I came close to a Grand Slam with a bunch of redfish (locally called spot tail), a few flounders, a black drum, and a bluefish. I could have caught the final "card" in the royal flush- which was a seatrout- but a late afternoon redfish bite was too hard to resist.

I'll be telling this story in full form in the coming months.

Captain Dicks- 866-557-3474
Captain Smiley (Patrick)- 843-361-7445

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Back from Grande Tours in Placida, Florida...

It was a wonderful weekend to travel to the preeminent southwest Florida leader in kayaking, Grande Tours ( Their facility sits on Coral Creek in Placida and just inside of lovely Gasparilla Sound. Although most of my experience with marine fishing vessels was from pushing skiffs with a pushpole since 1962,it was clear that a gaping hole in my shallow water stealth arsenal was the mastery of kayak fishing- so I came to Grande Tours as a student.

I was in the best of hands: Captain Marian Schneider, the owner of the facility, and Mary Cordero, the resident general manager put me in the hands of their finest kayak guide, Dave Loger ( The weather featured bluebird skies with light northerly winds. However, a cold front had cooled the waters to the point where fishing would have a bit more of a challenge.

On the night of my arrival, Captain Dave took me out for my first kayak fishing experience in the wee hours. Under star-filled skies, we traveled through mangrove creeks, tunnels, and intersections. The silence of the night was occasionally broken by the plop of a large mullet jumping,the cranky croaks of blue herons, and the welcome pops of feeding snook.

Within the first hour, using a DOA shrimp and a white SPRO bucktail, I(respectively) caught an 8- pound redfish and a 12-pound snook. I also had an excellent surprise as I jigged the channel in front of Grande Tours with my Spro when I hooked and released a nice goliath grouper around 15-pounds: this is a fine catch on 8-pound spinning in such close quarters to oyster bars and mangroves. It would have been easy with an expert like Captain Dave to have a guided "paddle" into the Sound at dawn and nail a seatrout to complete my west coast slam, but the beckoning of a hot shower and warm bed proved irresistable.

I'll be reporting much more on this experience, which proved to me that a sit-on-top kayak is the apex of flats fishing access-creation and stealth.

Grande Tours- 941-697-8825


Friday, November 02, 2007

Captain Butch Moser, Part 2

When I fish with captain Butch Moser far inland in south Palm Beach County, we have a mind-meld as to what we like- and that's action and plenty of it. With Butch's live shad baits and ultralight spin tackle, we always have a ball. Fall is a great time for peacocks and bass in those canals and lakes and today was a winner.

In 4 hours of fishing between us, we released over 100 peacocks and bass. The biggest peacock was about 5 pounds and the biggest bass topped 8 pounds. Days like this are the norm with a great live bait guide like Butch. I personally love that kind of fun-packed day rather than flailing away with a fly or lure at a big bedding peacock and harassing it half to death. Captain Butch can be reached at 1-561-254-2790 cell phone and 1-561-732-5996 home phone.