By Nick Simonson
The cold weather season presents an opportunity to put together new color combinations and tried-and-true favorites for fish of all stripes, including today’s subjects – pike and muskies. Learning to tie a simple dressed-treble bucktail spinner serves as the base for all forms of toothy-critter creations in the future – flashabou in-lines, marabou spinners and more – and is relatively easy to create, repeat and customize for all the rocket-shaped fish in your waters. In this first part of our two-part series on tying the basic bucktail, we’ll craft a two-tone treble that will finish out the fully-assembled spinner in the second installment.
Hook: 5/0 Mustad 3551 Treble
Thread: Size A, Red
Hackle: 3 Red Hackles
Underbody: White Bucktail
Overbody: Gray Bucktail
Sealant: Head Cement
For the business end of the lure you will need a vise that can hold a larger treble, such as the size 5/0 hook for this tutorial. To start the dressing, have three hackle feathers handy. In our example, tried-and-true red is the color. Over that, we’ll be tying in two layers of bucktail: gray on top and white on the bottom to mimic the colors of a larger baitfish such as a cisco or sucker. We’ll hold it all together with size A tying thread and liberal coatings of head cement throughout the process.
Once the hook is secured in the vise, make the first thread bed on which the hackle and bucktail fibers will sit. Apply the liquid cement to the wraps and allow it a minute to sink in (Figure 1). Place the first hackle feather flat on the hook shank, with the tip curving out from the hook. Make three wraps down the hackle. Rotate the hook and do the same with the second and third hackle. Wrap the thread back up the hook shank and apply cement to the threads holding the hackles and trim the excess hackle stems after the last thread wrap. Allow the cement to dry, which will secure all the hackles in place (Figure 2).
Next, select from a white bucktail a clump of hairs wide enough to fill in the first third of the hook shank. This will be used to start the first part of the hair collar on the treble hook. Just like with the hackles, tie in the first clump of bucktail hairs on the flat portion of the hook, right over the red feathers. Fan the fibers out to cover that third of the hook evenly, as needed. Using more tension when you wrap at the bottom of the tie in point will help the hairs flare, giving the bucktail a fuller look. Secure the hair with several thread wraps and apply cement, letting it set a minute for posterity (Figure 3).
On the other two thirds of the hook shank, place a similar amount of bucktail hair, gently spreading it out evenly and securing it in the same fashion so the tips of each portion are about even with the hackles and each other (Figure 4). Once the first collar is in place, you can form a small, even thread head to secure the hair butts in place; this will also be the base for the second collar of hair. Before starting the thread head, use a scissors to neatly trim the butts of the hairs so they taper down toward the hook shank. This will help form a more tapered and secure tying area for the next collar of bucktail. From that point, neatly wrap the butts down with tight, adjacent wraps that sit evenly against one another so they are all covered. Cement the thread head liberally and allow a few minutes for drying time (Figure 5).
Following the same steps, form the second collar of bucktail, this time using dyed gray hair. Take your first clump, place it angling up the thread head so that the ends of the hair are close to the eye of the hook, but not in it. Secure the hairs with thread wraps, cement and let dry (Figure 6). Do the same with the next two portions of hair, being certain there is no open space between the three sections of the collar. To ensure proper placement, check and see that there is no thread from below showing between the tied-in clumps. If there is, fan the hairs out by pinching and moving fibers until there is an even distribution that conceals the thread beneath it. Complete the second collar in the same manner as the first. (Figure 7).
With your scissors, gently taper the hair butts up toward the eye of the hook, wrap carefully and an form an evenly-covered thread head. Apply cement liberally for posterity. Wrap again, and whip finish or half-hitch several times near the hook eye and cut the tying thread. Cement the thread head and let it dry. Once dry, you can cement the thread head one final time to provide a more-lacquered look. (Figure 8).
These dressed trebles will have to stand up to some abuse – including repeated castings and attacks from hungry pike and muskies – so make sure the bucktail fibers are secure. You may notice a few fibers in the mouth of a fish or floating in the water after some early use next spring. This typically means portions of the hair clumps weren’t wrapped securely or cemented down enough. You can go heavy on the cement throughout this process to help prevent this scenario and go back to the drawing board on next year’s trebles if you find more thread or sealant is necessary.
Additionally, these bucktail dressings can be tied on cable coils for assembly over the hook and added transferability between lures as they age or their wire frames take a beating from hungry fish. Simply substitute a two-inch coil in place of the hook shank as the canvas on which make the bucktail collars. In Part 2 of this tutorial, we’ll put the hook in place on a shiny spinner to complete the pattern, and with a little practice you’ll have an amazing arsenal of homemade in-lines to throw at the pike and muskies in your area waters come springtime.