Bucktail Secrets from Stan Kuzia
By Jeff Miller
Canal Bait & Tackle in Sagamore, Massachusetts, specializes in tackle for fishing the Cape Cod Canal. As such, owner Jeff Miller gets to meet some of the best Canal fishermen in the world. A few years back, Miller interviewed Stan Kuzia, a master at fishing bucktail jigs in the Canal, and came away with loads of valuable advice. Here’s the scoop on bucktail-jigging the Canal, from the master himself:
My name is Jeff Miller, and I’m a very fortunate person because I’ve had the privilege of fishing with many men and women who are now considered legends. All have taught me a lot, but none more than the great Stan Kuzia. Just as Stan Gibbs was the master at topwater fishing the Canal, Kuzia is the all-time champ of bottom fishing the Ditch.
Kuzia, who is 90 years old, is well known for having created the Ku-Jig—the most popular bucktail jig design used in the Canal. While he hasn’t poured a jig for the market in 20 years, every single lure company that makes bucktails uses the Ku-Jig design.
Jig Size & Color
“To fish bucktail jigs in the Canal, you need a strong rod that can cast at least 5 ounces, and a reel with a fast retrieve,” Kuzia advises. “And you have to use braided line, so you can feel the bottom. Monofilament has too much stretch.”
According to Kuzia, the best bucktail colors are white and black. He says that you can use Spro bucktails if you want to get fancy, but a standard white jig will do the job just fine.
“You have to bring different sizes though,” he points out. “I usually carry a 2 oz., 3 oz., 4 oz., 5 oz., and a 6 oz. in white because I usually fish during the day. At night I carry the same sizes in black, as dark colors work better at night. Remember, you need to carry at least 3 of each jig size—don’t be cheap and fish with just 1 jig in each size. The bottom is covered in seaweed, rocks, eelgrass, and lobster pots. You will lose jigs, so stock up. By the way, if you don’t lose any jigs, you are not jigging correctly. You need to pay homage to the Canal gods to catch a river monster; it’s just that simple. You have to give to receive, as fishing is all about karma.”
As for trailers, Kuzia recommends Uncle Josh’s 5” pork rinds. You can use Split-Tail or Sea Rind style, whichever you like. “Size and shape is just personal preference, and everyone has a different opinion,” he says. “But for colors you will need a good selection. The best colors are white, red, pink, and green. The go-to color is red—always start with red.
“For a scent, use Bio Edge, but use the wand-style, not the oil. Petroleum-based scents don’t stay on a lure for long, but the wand has a scented cream that sticks forever.”
Current strength plays a role in bucktail fishing, and Kuzia likes the water moving fast. “I usually fish bucktails at mid-tide, which starts 2 hours after slack and ends 2 hours before slack. That’s when the current is strongest. The jig needs to be rolling on the bottom, so experiment with the weight and remember to always tap bottom.
“Cast out at 12 o’clock and let the jig roll to your 10 or 2 o’clock position, depending on the current direction. When the lure gets close to shore, reel as fast as you can. Don’t be stupid and try to jig along the shoreline or you will lose a lot of jigs to the Canal gods.”
Kuzia points out that there are many jigging techniques. Some fishermen let the jig roll on the bottom and not give it any action; others like to keep the jig moving with sweeps of the rod. To figure out which works best, you need to watch the other fishermen and study their movements, then experiment.
“The different jigging styles include the 3-Snap Drop, the Jako Jerk, the Gorilla jig, the Ku-Jig Slide, and, my favorite to watch, the Sawyer Snap,” reveals Kuzia. “The names are funny, but all of them are effective. The experienced Canal fishermen have been skunked hundreds of times. But they did what every great fisherman does: they asked questions, learned from their mistakes, and used patience to evolve and adapt their fishing game. Fishing is an art form; everyone can learn it and perfect it, but to be perfect you first need to be patient.”
That’s good advice from a Canal master.
To learn more about fishing the Canal, visit Jeff and Bruce Miller at their shop.
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