Bucktailing Big Fluke
BUCKTAILING BIG FLUKE ( SUMMER FLOUNDER )
Here are a few tips we have developed to catch Big Fluke with Bucktails. Everyone in NJ and surrounding states have been facing greater size restrictions on Fluke year after year and although there is no lack of catching, putting keepers in the box has become a much harder task. Personally i have been bucktailing for fluke for a long time but I have definitely seen the method gain more popularity of the last 5 years on Private, Charter, and Party Boats. We run special deeper water Bucktail trips for fluke and the trips have been a great success the last few years. Fluking itself as well as the tackle that is available has changed a lot over the years. We always receive questions from anglers looking to take up the bucktail method for the time. Here are some of the new methods we have learned over the last few years. Bucktail Selection, Line, Lures, Stinger Hooks, Teasers, Depth and Technique are a few of the tips I will cover.
Bucktail Selection - Everyone always asks what size bucktails we use and what size works best. We use sizes from 1/2oz to 8oz. but Our most popular size is 4-6oz. Don't be afraid to go heavier, for some reason anglers are afraid to go heavy even when it is more productive when conditions warrant it. One angler will be using 2oz letting out their whole spool barely holding bottom while another is catching away with 6oz jig. A lot of our fluke fishing is now done in 55-70ft of water so you have to change with the conditions faster drift heavier bucktail. In terms of colors all produce but ya cant go wrong with Green/chartreuse or white/glow.
Line - Hands down there is only one type of line to Bucktail with in my honest opinion and that is Braid. Braid cuts through the water like a knife with little resistance letting anglers hold bottom better, a must for bucktailing. Braid also lets you feel the structure of the bottom better than mono. Since a lot of bucktailing is done over rough bottom braid allows you feel the rocks and bounce over them. There is no stretch in braid so you will feel the bites better and setting the hook on a fluke is done with just a simple lift even in deep water.A mono shock leader should be used for your rig and for your main line 20-30lb test braid is a good go to size.
New Lures - Over the last few years many new types of lures have come along and alot of them are fluke killers when combined with bucktails. First one that comes to mind is GULP. I was a little skeptical at first but the last couple of years made me a believer. Gulp Swimming Mullet, Shrimp, Twister tails, and the new belly strip are what we have had the most success with. We use them right on the bucktail and above as a teasers, some days they out fish bait! We always use teasers and a big majority cant resist looking and grabbing the bait offering above the bucktail. Usually about half the fish we catch are on the teaser above the bucktail. More 2-5lb "boxer" fluke come on the teaser where most of the bigger fish from 5-10lbs come on the bucktail. Many company also have a holographic soft plastic whole squid which we have also had good success with. Stack the odds in your favor with newest lures available on the market
Teasers - Improve Your Odds with a teaser above your bucktail. Many Fluke will come right off the bottom for the offering which is right in there strike zone.We use both lures and bait above the jig. There are a couple of ways we rig up a teaser both are productive. The first way to rig a teaser above you bucktail is a dropper loop right on your mono up 6-12 inches from your bucktail usually gulp is used this way. The second way to use a teaser is a three-way swivel. Run one long piece of mono leader around 2 1/2 feet from your swivel to bucktail, then run a separate shorter piece around 1 1/2 ft of mono for the teaser hook. This will make the teaser swim just the right length above the bucktail , this method is popular with bait like whole squid or big strip bait. We use a 4/O gami baitholder as our go to teaser hook.
Stinger Hooks - You will improve your odds at hooking and landing fluke with bucktails by adding a stinger hook. We have tried and tested almost every brand and type of stinger hook on the market. All work but we found alot of the stinger hooks on the market are made for butterfly type jigs. The material used to connect the hook was flexible as for a swing hook. When used with bait attached to it they were not stiff enough and a lot of baits come up fouled up and balled over the hook points. This makes your bait lose its action thus you will get less bites or when you do get a bite you bait is covering the point of your hook not allowing the fluke to be hooked. We came up with our own solution and have never looked back. We use a real small piece of Heavy Mono 100lb+ test make a small perfection loop on one end then crimp a hook at the desired length at the other end the loop to your bucktail hook. The heavy mono is strong and stiff as an arrow leading to almost zero fouled baits. Now you will have more productive time with your bucktail on the bottom and for this you will be rewarded with more big fluke in the cooler.
Bait - When we target big fluke with bucktails a lot of different types of bait. It always changing what they want hot bait today they wont sniff tomorrow. So we always have a big selections of fresh baits aboard. We stay away from the small spearing that everyone is used to using. Instead we use Big Smelts,Sandeels, Sardines, Whole Squid and Big Strip baits. Some of our favorite strip baits are Bluefish, Mackerel,and Squid but the hottest strip bait last year was false albie, tuna and mahi skins. So ask your offshore friends to save ya some scraps. The shine of these baits drives the fluke crazy!
Technique - So you have everything you need so how do you use it? There are many ways to work a bucktail and the more you go fishing the better you will get but we have had our fair share of anglers who never fished with bucktails and picked up the knack and big fluke very quickly. Besides putting your time in here are a few tips and methods to get you going. Two of the most important tips are KEEP IT BOUNCING, most of the time you will be fishing rough bottom such as rocks and reefs where there is a higher concentration of keeper fluke. If you just drag your bucktail on the bottom you will spend most of your day stuck and re-rigging. The second is being in the strike zone. You should feel your bucktail making contact with the bottom a you are bouncing it if you are not holding or fishing to light you simply wont get the bites.
There are alot of different methods when it come to bucktails.Personal preference plays as a big role here as they all work at different times depending on conditions and locations. Some anglers favor a Larger bucktail fished straight up and down where others fish light and let out line to make contact with the bottom. Casting against the current (The Under the boat drift) is also a popular method working the jig back to the boat and starting over when it back in front of you. The Bucktail Strings is also getting alot more play lately. This rig Consists a big Bucktail or weight on the bottom and two smaller 1/2oz bucktails(popcorn jigs) on droppers above it. Similar to a seabass rig except the weight is replaced with a 4-6oz Bucktail and where the hooks would be is replaced with the small bucktails. When we have a real fast drift we just add a heavy weight below the two small bucktails. So experiment mix it up some days they want the jig with fast high bounces other days small bounce low and slow.
Depths - Go Deeper!!! With the regulations in place now and higher size restrictions we find ourselves fishing alot deeper than in the past in order to put keeper fluke on the ice. Although you will catch a fair amount keepers and have loads of action in shallow water and bays keepers are becoming harder to come. In the deeper water from 45-75ft around the rocks and reefs the fluke avg alot bigger in size. The fish always have been in these areas but when the size limit was smaller we rarely had to go that far to put together a nice catch of keepers. Nobody is happy about the regulations, but we make the best of it and try to go where we can get some keeper size fish. So if next time your out and the catchin is good but the keepin is slow head a little deeper and around some structure.Try bouncing some Bucktails you wont be disappointed!
Hope you enjoyed reading this and it answered some of the questions for those of you who are looking to get into Bucktailing Big Fluke. New Techniques might just put the doormat in your Cooler.
See ya on the water!!!
Capt Jerry Postorino