S o there I am, sitting one rainy Saturday in January, watching westerns on INSP. During a particularly gripping episode of The Virginian (more gripping for Sandie, since it featured a very young Robert Redford), there was a commercial for a particular lure that the talking head swore would revolutionize my fishing. It came with all sorts of add-ons and all sorts of fish would suck it down like Purina Fish Chow.
“Well, just when you thought you’d seen everything in fishing lures…” Sandie said. Then Robert Redford came back on the tube, sans shirt, and she got quiet all over again.
Being the unapologetic literature major that I am, I appreciated the symbolism of the open-ended statement my Immortal Beloved left hanging in the air. It seems every time I’ve thought I’ve seen every permutation and version of an artificial bait to fool fish, another one pops up to prove me wrong. If it is true that the good Lord loves variety, then He has to be a fisherman, because there is certainly variety in lures.
Still, there are a selection of old stalwarts that have been pushed to the back of the fishing shelf by all the other new and purdy stuff. It doesn’t mean they no longer work (in fact, some still work spectacularly well), just that they’ve been bumped aside by what’s new and flashy.
The bucktail jig is a great example. Hair jigs were a major part of every angler’s arsenal up and down the coast for decades. First in natural, and later dyed in various colors (white and yellow being the most popular, with pink pulling a close third), leadheads dress with various types of hair and feathers became popular staples among anglers.
They slowly lost popularity as soft plastics became increasingly prevalent among briny lure fishermen. Now, unless you see someone tossing the venerable yellow/white Speck Rig under the lights (and even those are often dressed with a plastic tail), you will never see a bucktail hanging from a fishing pole.
That’s too bad, because the bucktail has never lost its fish-catching mojo. The flaring and pulsing of hair or feathers give a lifelike “throb” to a jig that soft plastics lack. They also have a stealthier delivery and don’t make much noise landing, an advantage when stalking spooky redfish on a shallow flat. They can be fished under a popping cork, much like a soft plastic, or fished along the bottom with a strip of belly or pork rind for flounder.
I used a pink ¼ ounce Spro Jig tipped with a live shrimp this past summer to absolutely wear out the black drum. The same rig was absolute death for a variety of species along the jetties in the fall. A large, white bucktail with a curlytail grub will catch several different nearshore species such as cobia, snapper, and grouper. Bucktails may not get the love other lures get, but they’re still very effective.
Joining bucktails in the realm of the neglected is one of my all-time favorite surf lures: the Kastmaster spoon. If ever a lure was made to sling in the Texas surf, it was the Kastmaster. The stout chunk of stamped metal is wonderfully aerodynamic, and it casts a mile. Even with a stout southeast wind, which is typical of the Texas Coast in summer, you can punch it out into the second gut with little effort (even farther if you know what you’re doing). The design of the Kastmaster enables you to fish anywhere in the water column, so it is equally effective jigged down deep around the jetties, or burned over the flats in the bay.
They catch fish, too. For years, my favorite trout spoon was a chrome Kastmaster with a red bucktail trailer. In my teens, there used to be a ½ ounce chrome/blue version with a white bucktail tied to a 3/0 Siwash hook. I caught lots of trout around the Brazos Santiago jetties with that until a Spanish Mackerel nailed it and parted my mono leader with nary a “how do you do?” I’ve never found another version of that setup.
A third old producer that has been relegated to the bench for newer, sexier lures is the broken back minnow. For decades, the Cotton Cordell Jointed Redfin was a renowned big trout lure among Texas grinders. It boasted a state record trout. One of the older how-to videos in Academy on catching big trout on the Texas Coast features Mike Williams landing a 12-pound Baffin Bay trout that he hooked on a Texas Chicken, the famed Pink/Gold/Silver Jointed Redfin.
On the Lower Laguna Madre, a redhead/white-bodied, jointed Long A was a popular snook plug in summer. The erratic, non-mechanical action of the segmented body sends off vibrations that mimic a wounded baitfish, and the body shape resembles a mullet. What’s not to like?
There are other lures that don’t get as much attention as they used to. How many shrimp tails do you see hanging from rod tips? Curlytailed grubs? Rat-L-Traps? You see them on the shelves every time you go to your favorite tackle shot or big box store, but they just sit on the shelves. If for no other reason than nostalgia, you should buy a couple and take them out for a spin.
A little retro is good for the soul, and it would give a whole new meaning to the phrase “throw-back.”
Email Calixto Gonzales at
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]e.com