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Bucktails for Stripers Bringing up Baby
get a reaCtion FroM striped bass, WeakFish, hook into a ballistiC bundle oF Joy—a Juvenile tarpon
and CoCktail blues With irresistible buCktails BY caPt. GreG BoWDish
BY Joel lucKs
few fish are as moody and frustrating a
when chasing spring species from a kayak, nothing beats the
target as a baby tarpon. then again, few
excitement of dancing bucktails with four- to five-inch trailer
fish offer the same piss-and-vinegar fight
baits off the bottom on light tackle. A bucktail, with a long
and jaw-dropping acrobatics as these
natural trailer that undulates off the bottom or through the
feisty toddlers. their choice of crib is usu-
water column to the surface, is irresistible. in late summer and
ally a secluded body of water located far
fall, after the weakfish have moved out and stripers are gorging
up a tiny creek where boats and predators
themselves for their long fall migration, this becomes more
can’t reach—the kind of place only acces-
T h e R i g
exclusively a striper tactic. here are a few
sible by kayak. once you’ve located some
tips to keep in mind.
rolling fish (fish coming to the surface to
gulp air), these tips should not only help
worK tHe tIdes you get a hookup, but also keep you stuck
let the incoming and outgoing tides work to one of these ballistic bundles of joy.
the zoom horny toad is
for you. stripers, in particular, are lazy fish
my favorite baby tarpon
and prefer to sit and wait for moving water
HIt tHe FIsH
lure. i usually reel it
to push bait into their feeding zone. strip-
When a small tarpon rolls, it is usually either
very slowly across the
ers would rather lie below a surface blitz and
facing into some current (and will then drift
surface. to rig, i use a
pick scraps off the bottom than compete at
g e A R T i P backwards to its starting point) or headed
the top. Weakfish and cocktails can be a bit
straight for the bottom. either way, leading
gamakatsu superline
more aggressive.
the fish is not a good idea. instead, try to
5/0 or 6/0 and, instead
hit the rolling fish with your lure or fly. since
of putting the hook
FIsH struCture
this is nearly impossible, usually your lure or
through the frog’s body
sandbars, ledges and pilings will hold more fly will land right in the face of the fish as it
like a texas rig, i put it
fish. Drift your kayak over these hotspots and
drifts back to its place in the current. or, if between the frog’s legs
bounce that bucktail down the sandbar, up a
bucktail designs vary
the tarpon is headed to the bottom, it’s likely while pulling down on
rock pile or off the outside of an eddy.
from tapered heads
another fish has followed it to the surface
the body. the heavier
and your lure will land in its face.
presentatIon to banana heads,
hook placed farther back
stay in water no deeper than 25 to 30 feet,
big-mouth heads and
MaKe It wIGGLe
and the swayback of the
where you can control your bucktail better and
other shapes. try them
tarpon love to eat things that don’t travel
frog gives it an action
effect more flutter from your trailer. Perfect the
all. a 1/2-ounce to
very fast, yet wiggle, shake, or twitch. While tarpon can’t resist.
jigging action and your trailer will dance.
1-ounce white bucktail
adult tarpon are fond of crabs, juveniles love
to cut their teeth on frogs, lizards, snakes and anything else that falls
taCKLe with white hair is a
into the water in these tiny, hidden ponds. a good trick is to imagine
i like a medium-weight rod, not more than 7 good producer. natural
that instead of fishing, you are teasing a cat with a piece of yarn.
1/2 feet long that combines a whippy tip with
trailers, such as
some backbone. You can easily hook up with a
fluke strips or porgy
Let tHe tarpon set tHe HooK
25-pounder or bigger, but you need to feel the
strips, are best. good
these little monsters have mouths like a cinderblock, so if you pull
fish and set the hook fast. i prefer baitcasting
alternatives are uncle
back with your rod when you get a strike, you will only be flexing the
reels for balance, cranking power, and main- skinny top of your rod against those concrete lips.
taining a low center of gravity. use your spin-
Josh’s pork rinds or
so, drop anchor, tighten your drag, and keep your rod tip down
ning tackle as a backup. i tie 25- or 30-pound
striper sea strips
and pointed at your hook. When a tarpon strikes, there will be no
braid to a snap swivel. if bluefish are around,
in white or red. also
give between the hook and your reel and the sheer momentum of
use a double swivel and leader.
experiment with bass
the striking fish will drive the hook home. once you feel the tarpon
JoeL LucKS is a field editor for the Fisherman magazine, saltwater writer
assassins or berkley on, lift your rod and enjoy the mayhem!
for Bass Pro Shops’ online Library, and has contributed to cabela’s outfitter
gulp! plastic baits.
caPt. GreG BoWDISH ( is a fishing guide, outdoor writer and FFF certified Fly casting Instructor from
Journal (
Sarasota, Florida. He is on the pro staffs of ocean Kayak and rajeff Sports.

kayak angler spring 2009
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