Re-shafting Your Bucktail
Craig Sandell 2019

Over the course of a Muskie season, our lures take one heck of a beating. They are stepped upon, they have heavy objects set upon them; not to mention being abused by our Muskie friend. Probably, among the most used lure in a tackle box is the bucktail. In this article we will go through the steps required to disassemble, re-hook, re-shaft and re-assemble a bucktail. Remember that not all bucktails are exactly the same, so you can use this article as a general guideline. For this article we will use a Skimmer Bucktail, however, the use of a Skimmer should not be construed as an endorsement for the lure or as a testimonial to its effectiveness.

You will need to get a length of wire shaft. The wire is usually .051 in thickness and a length of 12" should be enough for any bucktail. Pre-cut shafts are available From Moore's Lures.
Here Are The Tools That You Will Need:

Compound Cutters

Since you will be using some heavy gauge wire, you will need to have a healthy tool for cutting wire to length and trimming the ends from wire wraps.

The compound bolt cutter shown here will meet all of your needs for this job.

Available From Jackson Lures

Round Nose Pliers

You will need a round nose pliers. Don't confuse them with needle nose pliers. These pliers have circular points and are used to make eyelets in the shaft wire for the rear treble hook and the front eyelet for your leader connection.

Round Nose Pliers

Channel Locks

Channel Locks

You will need channel lock pliers to wrap
the tag end of the shaft wire around the shaft.

Vice Grips

Vice grip pliers are essential to the process.
You will need them to hold the shaft wire
stationary while you wrap the tag end of
the wire around the shaft to close the
shaft eyelets.

Vice Grips

Split Ring Pliers

Split ring pliers should be in every tackle box.
You will use them here to install a split ring
on the rear hook of the bucktail

Available From Moore's Lures.

Bent BucktailPreparations And The First Incision

In order to be sure that you do not loose any parts, you should prepare a clean work place. You may want to place a white hand towel upon the work surface so that you have a good contrasting background as you lay out the individual pieces of the bucktail as you disassemble it.

Inspect the bucktail upon which you will be performing surgery. Decide what you are going to replace and make sure that you have all of the new parts available. The last thing you want to do is leave this type of job uncompleted. You can see from our bucktail that it is going to need a new shaft, although you would be replacing the shaft even if you only needed to replace a body hook. We will also replace the body hook and the tail hook.

Bucktail PartsMaking The First Incision

While holding on to the bucktail, use your cutters to cut off the eye loop at the head of the bucktail. Once this is done, be very careful because all of the parts of the bucktail are now free to fall off of the shaft. Now, one piece at a time, remove each piece of the bucktail body and place each on the clean work space in the order in which you removed each piece. Our disassembled bucktail is shown here. The only part that should be left attached to the old shaft is the rear hook. Since we are going to replace this hook, you can throw hook and shaft away.

Preparation for Re-assembly

    Before I begin to re-assemble our bucktail, we need to take a closer look at our parts:


Note here that the Skimmer has a body hook that has an angled hook shaft eye. You can't buy hooks that have an angled hook shaft eye, but you can easily bend the hook shaft using the vice grip pliers or a bench vice while exercising caution not to hurt yourself with the hook.
If you question the strength of split rings, you can get some of the "heavy duty" splits rings to put your fears to rest.

You will notice that the hooks are not dressed. This bucktail dresses a lure body sleeve. If you are so inclined, now is the time to add additional dressing or replace the dressed sleeve with another of your choosing.
The Skimmer also has an "in-line" weight to give some casting distance to the lure and to keep it running true in the water.

Since we are talking about body parts, here are some things to consider:

  • I am recommending that you use the Owner Stinger 3/0 treble hooks...they require no sharpening and have good penetrating characteristics.

  • If you are using regular hooks, sharpen the hooks now (You won't have to fight the bucktail hair).

  • Install a split ring on the rear hook now.

Putting It All Together:

Starting Loop

Step #1

Using your cutters, cut a length of shaft wire about 12 inches in length. (Next time you may want to use a shorter length but for now error on the side of too much rather than too little.) Typically, bucktail shaft wire for Musky lures is .051 gauge. Taking your round nose pliers, make a loop in one end of the wire as shown here.

Loop With Hook

Step #2

Before you close the loop, slide the hook, with the attached split ring, onto the wire and into the loop that you made. You can wait and attach the hook/split ring later if you wish, however, if you are not going to use a split ring, you MUST install your hook now.

Loop and Vice Grip

Step #3

You can now close the loop using your vice grips clamped onto the loop to stabilize the wire while you use the channel locks to make a complete loop of the tag end around the shaft. Remember to trim the tag end using your cutters.

Note: If you would rather attach the hook directly to the shaft, just remember that you will have to re-shaft again to replace a damaged hook

Finished Loop

Step #4

Now it is just a simple matter to slide the bucktail components onto the shaft, taking care to make sure that they are assembled in order. See the assembled bucktail below.

Bucktail Assembled

There is only one more step to take. We must make another loop at the head of the lure. There are some things to consider first.

Getting Ready To Close

Now that the bucktail is back together, it is time to make the final loop in the shaft. Before you do this, however, consider this:

We have seen that this Bucktail has some weight added to it. This extra weight makes the lure more "cast friendly" as well as making it run deeper in the water than if it had no extra weight. You may have a bucktail in your tackle box that just doesn't work right. Sometimes adding a little weight can enhance the action of a bucktail. There may also be times when you want your bucktail to run deeper and adding a little weight can accomplish that goal. For these reasons, leave some extra shaft when you close the front loop. This will allow you the option of moving the lure body components up so you can add some weight to the back of the lure. A "dog eared" sinker that is cut down for the proper weight will usually do the trick.

Closing Loop

Make your front loop the same way you made your back loop. Then close the loop with a turn or two using your channel locks while you hold the shaft stationary using your vice grips. You are now ready for action. It is a good idea to check your lure out for performance before you hit the water.

Finished Bucktail