A Guide to Striped Bass Fishing on a Bucktail Jig Lure

News & Tips: A Guide to Striped Bass Fishing on a Bucktail Jig Lure...

Casting Jigs for Stripers from trolling to vertical jigging to soaking live bait, but few methods are more exciting and fulfilling than casting and retrieving lures. And for this tried-and-proven tactic, no offering can compare with a plain bucktail jig dressed with deer hair, with a plastic twister tail occasionally added for extra attraction.

offshore bucktail jig
Offshore Angler Holographic Bucktail Jig

Interestingly, many of the best varieties of these fishing jigs are available for purchase from Bass Pro Shops and other retailers are found in the saltwater lure sections of the catalogs and the websites. That’s not surprising, though, when you think about it since striped bass were originally saltwater fish. They only caught on and were stocked in freshwater fisheries after they were accidentally trapped in Santee-Cooper Lakes in South Carolina during spawning runs way back in the mid-twentieth century.

All Varieties of Fishing Jigs are Available

Some excellent choices from Bass Pro Shops include the unique head shape of a SPRO Bucktail Jig, Rattling Metallic Baitfish Bucktail Jig, Felmlee Buckytail Jig, and the popular Offshore Angler Holographic Bucktail Jig. Bean Jig. Productive weights can range from ¼-1 ounce for general casting, heavier if you are trying to reach fish at long distances in tailraces below dams. In that situation, jigs in the 1-3 ounce range may be required.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: If you’re the creative type and like working with your hands, you can also tie your own using jig heads, thread, cement, and bucktail, with an optional saddle hackle tied in along each flank to add bulk and flutter to the lure.


spro bucktail jig
SPRO Bucktail Jig

Why Bass Can't Resist Bucktail Jigs 

Unlike many lures that wobble, shimmy and sputter, jigs do well in action. That’s undoubtedly one reason they’re so productive. They glide through the water with a realism few other lures can match. When fished properly, this action almost perfectly duplicates the appearance of a slowly swimming shad. That’s something reservoir stripers find themselves almost powerless to resist.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: While this article focuses on freshwater stripers, all of these tactics and presentation techniques apply just as well to saltwater bay and ocean stripers. The lures and retrieves are every bit as deadly on those waters’ inhabitants. 


angler landed striper1 
Angler landed this hefty striper with a jig dressed with a plastic trailer. Casting and retrieving this simple lure is one of the most effective tactics you can use for freshwater (or saltwater) stripers.

Tips for Deciding Bucktail Jig Weight and Length Options

Bucktaill jigs can be purchased in a variety of weights for fishing different depths where the fish may be hanging out. You might want a light version for fish breaking on top as they bust into a school of bait or a heavier model, up to an ounce, for the true bass hanging deep after a cold front.

A variety of lengths are also available to match the size of the bait these fish are feeding on. Is the bait you see mostly mature, or do smaller shad predominate? Try to match whatever size shad is most abundant on a particular day on the lake.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Fishing jigs are versatile. They can be fished at a variety of speeds and still maintain their lifelike action. Lethargic, post-cold-front fish may want a jig crawling along barely moving. Active feeders demand a spunkier retrieve, like a baitfish streaking through the water, trying desperately to escape a predator.


Best Rigging to Catch Striper Bass

You certainly can catch stripers on light or even ultralight tackle. A better bet, though, is a medium to medium-heavy baitcast fishing rod of 6-7 feet with a quality level wind fishing reel spooled with 17-40 pound line. If you’re fishing from shore and trying to reach distant turbines and eddies in tailwaters, a long rod of 9-11 feet will give you the distance you need to reach those far away hotspots that anglers with traditional length rods can’t get to.

rod reel bass 300 
A baitcast fishing reel with a smooth drag works best for casting jigs for stripers. Stock a variety of weights for fishing different depths.


1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Make sure you have a smooth drag set below the break-point for the line test you’re using. Even a ten pound striper will strip line from the reel in sharp bursts of energy. A drag that hangs up is definitely going to mean lost fish. 


Top Bucktail Jig Color Options

The majority of jigs you see on the Bass Pro website and catalog are white, and that’s definitely the top color. Chartreuse is another good option. Hair dressings and any extra added feathers, Mylar, or plastic can be white as well or red, orange, silver, or chartreuse.

strike king grub
Strike King Rage Tail Grub Soft Bait Lures make excellent jig trailers for Striped Bass

Adding Jig Trailers to Bucktail Jigs

Depending on how and where you fish, if the water is stainy or fish are feeding on particularly large baitfish, adding a plastic fishing lure twister trailer can sometimes improve the effectiveness of bucktail jigs. For clear water, following a cold front, or when young baitfish are present, the plain jig is usually best.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Jig trailers will make jigs fall more slowly in the water. If fish are suspended at shallow levels, a twister tail added to the jig can keep it in the strike zone longer and allow a slower retrieve at that level.


1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Jigs tipped with a trailer are great for fishing in tributaries when striper bass are on their spawning runs, typically from February through April. Even though they can only successfully spawn in a limited number of lakes, they surge up feeder arms on “false” spawning runs on many lakes and are suckers for a twister-tail tipped jig in these shallow areas. 

bucktail with trailer2
photo credit: David Pickering

Water Temperatures Regulate the Depths to Fish

Late winter and early spring is prime time for catching inland stripers on jigs. The fish move into thin water at this time in search of shad as water temperatures rise into the 40’s. The best fishing is often found in these areas until the mercury reading climbs into the 60’s. Then the fish will retreat back to deeper areas to find oxygen and more comfortable water temperatures.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Shallow water may mean near shore, but it could also be long points extending far into the lake or underwater humps and islands that rise up from deeper areas offshore.


fishing shop bannerHow to Find the Prime Spots to Fish Striped Bass

Top structure includes flats, long, slowly sloping points, red clay banks, coves, and creek arms. Watch for shad activity, either on the surface or on your depth finder. Unless these baitfish are present, you probably won’t find the stripers. An area may have stripers one day, and if the shad move, be devoid of fish the next. Once fish move deeper, find the nearest points or humps offshore from the areas where they were in spring.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Watch for breaking stripers on top slashing into shad and get to the commotion quickly before the fish go back down. Surface action in summer may last 60 seconds or 20 minutes. Get to it quickly but stay a long cast away so you don’t spook the quarry.


The Best Fishing Presentation By Far

The name “jig” fools many novices into thinking they should jerk or “jig” the lure to catch fish. In a few situations this approach will work. By far, however, the best bet is a steadily retrieved lure that mimics a slowly swimming shad.

Cast out, count down anywhere from a couple of seconds to 20 or more until the lure gets to the level of the fish. Then begin a slow, slinking retrieve. You may want it two feet down or 15 feet deep. The instant you feel a strike, which might seem like just extra weight on the line, set the hook fast and hard by reeling sharply and raising the rod.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: The only added motion you may want to try is pausing your retrieve to let the lure sink back deeper. This imitates a wounded shad swimming along and running out of steam. That vulnerability is something that often triggers reluctant fish to strike.



Whether you’re going after spring fish surging up tributaries on spawning runs or summer stripers slashing into baitfish on top, it’s hard to find a more reliably effective method than casting and retrieving bucktail jigs. Not only is it effective, the constant casting and probing new areas makes it one of the most engaging and exciting techniques you can use.