How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Believe in Bucktails

I know I've beat this one to death before, but it's got some good information in it anyhow.


Believe in Bucktails
Looking to catch:
A) Your first muskie?
B) Your biggest muskie?
C) The most muskies you've ever caught in a season?
D) All of the above.

Then there is one thing you need to do to accomplish one or all of those goals: BELIEVE IN BUCKTAILS!

After two hours of burning bucktails on a new lake, a mammoth muskie darted from a tiny weed patch only 15-feet from the bow of the boat, opened her mouth, slurped hair and got stung. She walked on her tail like a tarpon, dove deep and then torpedoed into acrobatics. The fight of this 51” fish was surreal. High fives all around, a moment to chill while settling the shakes and then back to casting. We slowly motored back to the location we boated this behemoth. Not five casts later, on the same tiny weed bed, another giant came out and gobbled my bucktail. It was another explosive toe-to-toe battle. The second fish of the day was a spectacular 51”. Back to back 5-O’s in the boat on the same day! The next spot sported a scrappy mid-thirty inch muskie and then, not much more than an hour later, a 50²+ fish came unbuttoned the fourth time she went airborne. I believe that if I was not fishing with a bucktail, in my mind the master lure of efficiency, this day likely never would have had happened.

Believe it: BUCKTAILS CATCH MUSKIES! Bucktails have caught more muskies than any other lure. Why? Certainly because they are thrown a ton, but there is a reason for that. It is mind-boggling how many times muskies see hair in a season, yet they still eat them. I have pulled into an area countless times to watch anglers throwing bucktails, slid in right after they finished, tossed a bucktail into their “used water” and had a muskie eat literally the same offering! Throwing a bucktail is the most efficient use of time when muskie fishing. Bucktails cast lengthy, retrieve simply and can be worked quickly. Fishing the WildSide’s Chip Leer says, “There’s no doubt, whether I’m fishing new water or my favorite waters, my first and foremost choice is a bucktail. Leer continues, “I am a true believer in the basic dogma of bucktail mentality, that is, bucktails rein supreme at: covering water; locating fish; triggering active muskies and hooking and holding fish. The only way for me to hit all the hot spots, especially on the big water I fish, is to keep moving. Bucktails allow me to get through my milk run, catch active fish and locate fish that I can come back to. It’s the perfect program”.

What Exactly is a Bucktail?

When referring to bucktails, most anglers think of the classic in-line spinner: A wire shaft beginning with a blade, followed by beads, then some deer hair and ending with a couple of treble hooks. From all the innovative minds obsessed with these beasts, ballistic versions of the basics have been spawned: Colorado blades, fluted blades, French blades, Indiana blades and on and on. We also have rubber skirts, silicon skirts, marabou skirts, feather skirts and basic deer hair. In almost any color pattern imaginable! Of the whole wide array of in-line bucktails out there, one in particular has produced great numbers for me - THE Llungen Tail. This bucktail features a silicone skirt that brings life to the bait and a fluted blade that makes its presence known. The Llungen Tail produced my biggest MN muskie and is my go-to bucktail.

Not all bucktails are inline. The term bucktail comes from the hair traditionally used as dressing on these spinners. Since rubber skirted spinners are still referred to as bucktails, why separate spinnerbaits from the class “bucktail”? After all, they are certainly seen sporting deer hair. Spinnerbaits, in my book, are equally as effective as in-line spinners; in fact in many cases there is nothing else that could replace them. Chip Leer says, “When working dense vegetation, spinnerbaits are the call. Because of their sleek safety pin design they part the waters, allowing the blades to keep thumping in even the densest vegetation. Spinnerbaits are also my favorite bait for working deep edges. I’ll cast a Northland Bionic Bucktail over the weeds and let it flutter down for a moment, then with my rod tip low to the water I’ll slowly retrieve the spinner. As soon as the bait approaches the boat I rapidly accelerate the speed of the retrieve. This creates a drastic vertical movement that makes the muskies massacre the bait”.

When Should a Bucktail Be Thrown?

Early spring? Mid-summer peak? Fall? Yes to all three because bucktails produce through all seasons! Throwing small bucktails with a slower retrieve is generally how I will begin the season. Go to mid-sized bucktails and fire up the after burners as the water temperatures rise. Bucktails with big blades, that inherently slow the retrieve, are sensational as summer turns to fall. Again, these are only rules of thumb that have proven themselves over the years for me. Experiment for your own good and don't be afraid to go against the grain.


A straight retrieve will undoubtedly catch fish but getting funky with it ups your odds immensely. Most strikes will come within the first couple cranks of the retrieve or as you turn the bait at the boat. Why? Because in the first instance, the fish saw something it instinctively struck. Fish strike at the boat because the lures speed and direction changes as the angler finishes the retrieve or executes a figure-8. (A figure-8 refers to the practice of making a large eight or oval shapes in the water at the boats side, with the lure close to the rod tip.)

Mid-retrieve changes, such as quick bursts of speed and/or directional changes, can also trigger strikes and produce poundage. To change direction mid-retrieve requires making major sweeps of the rod from side to side. Changing the speed in your retrieve is as simple as turning the reel handle faster than the current rate of retrieve. Another triggering trick is to change direction on a vertical plane. Spinnerbaits with big thump, such as an M&G Muskie Tandem, work tremendously well for vertical triggers. M&G’s unique design allows the bait to work more efficiently than most in deeper water. As you approach the end of the retrieve quickly crank the reel faster and the spinnerbait will accelerate towards the surface, invariably triggering additional strikes.


Bucktails are not only efficient at seducing fish into striking; they are also the best bait for hooking and holding fish. Bucktails are a little bit of hair and a whole lot of hooks; No hard wood or plastic for fish to bury their teeth into, no soft plastic to hold onto and then spit out Naturally so, when muskies eat bucktails they’ll get hooked on them the majority of the time. Bucktails also have a stellar boat side performance; they are supreme in the figure-8. Not only do they turn to trigger but also they cling ‘til closure.

What Color to Use?

This is an often-asked and legitimate question, especially considering the righteous rainbow of colors available. A good rule or thumb when it comes to color selection is Dark days = Dark colors, Bright days = Bright colors It's basic and it works! There is nothing set in stone in the pursuit of these magnificent fish so don't live and die by this, change colors often and let the fish indicate what will turn them on. If faced with the classic hypothetical question “If you only had one lure to fish muskies with, what would you use?” That’s a no brainer! a bucktail! Believe in the bucktail this coming season, pitch it religiously, and you will find a newfound belief in the bucktail.

Here are some equipment and triggering tips to help you put more fish in the boat.

Always make an L turn with your lure as it approaches the boat; if a fish is following keep the bait moving in a large enough 8 or oval shape so that the muskie can turn with it. Never slow your retrieve down for the fish to catch it. It is impossible to reel so fast that a muskie can't catch it and speed kills!
Remember muskie fishing is not overly complicated. The path to getting started is as simple as purchasing a good all around fishing combo like an Abu Garcia 6500 C3 and a 7'0" Berkley Lightning Rod. Load up your box with a handful of Llungen Tails, M&G Muskie Tandems and some Northland Bionic Bucktails and you'll have everything you need to begin buckin.
Each time you cast, make certain to start your retrieve and set the bait into motion the instant it hits the water. This is where you will experience many of your strikes, so be ready to battle.
Use the appropriate bait for the depth you are fishing. Because they ride so high in the water column, Llungen Tails are awesome at covering shallow structure. Northland Bionic Bucktail Spinners have a willow blade that provides the perfect lift and altitude for probing mid-range depths effectively. Spinnerbaits, like an M&G Muskie Tandem, are excellent for slow rolling deep edges.
Remember to mix it up. Quick cranks of the reel handle and sweeping your rod side to side will add action to the bucktail and in turn put more fish in your boat.

Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle 218-829-1714
Llungen Lures 847-302-7558
Northland Fishing Tackle 218-751-6723


Post a Comment

<< Home