Last winter’s CCA Pickerel Tournament was a turning point for me in my fishing and tackle craft. I have known for a while that rabbit fur streamers were excellent for fly fishing for largemouth bass and thought that perhaps they would work just as well fly fishing for pickerel. I had nothing to lose since the open division required three fish over 25 inches just to make the podium, but thanks to a small rabbit streamer I managed to squeeze in at the last minute with the winning fish in the fly fishing division. I went back to the same lake the following week with some bigger rabbit streamers and caught two more big pickerel, in addition to lots of little ones. Then I took this same pattern into the bass pre-spawn and topped my personal best largemouth on the fly — twice. As the weather warmed up, I took weightless versions of my rabbit streamer to the Eastern Shore, where they got crushed by snakehead, gar, and even channel catfish.
As 2021 rolled on I wondered what else would go for a rabbit streamer. The obvious next targets were in my own backyard: stripers and white perch. I decided to experiment and expand the versatility of rabbit fur by tying it on jigs of various sizes with a tinsel collar for a bit of flash. A 1/8th ounce jig was deadly for white perch. Upping the size to 1/4 or 1/2 an ounce was great for casting and trolling for striped bass. A rabbit jig even caught me my first-ever ribbonfish in Weems Creek. Then a snakehead that tore up a soft plastic trailer on a bladed jig gave me the idea to take the silicon skirt off, and tying it like my other rabbit fur jigs, the fur held up much longer than the more expensive soft plastic. Now it seems I do not leave for a fishing trip without something with rabbit fur.
A wet rabbit streamer looks quite unassuming out of the water. Much like a cat that got an unfortunate dunking, it looks skinny. Skinny to the point that you wonder if it would catch anything. Then in the water it transforms. Rabbit fur undulates and pulses as you work it and has none of the stiffness you sometimes see with feathers and even synthetic materials.
Until this rabbit fur trend becomes more mainstream, you’re not going to see these kinds of lures in tackle shops; you’re going to have to find a fly tier or do it yourself. But tying flies and jigs with rabbit fur can be easier and more forgiving than many of the tying materials out there. My rabbit streamer is quite basic, often using just two strips — one for the tail and one wrapped along the shank of the hook for the body, with the occasional Zonker-style back — and maybe some tinsel or flash. You will want to keep a tube of superglue close to make your lures more durable.
How to Tie a Rabbit Fur Jig
Rabbit fur is available in a wide range of colors, which makes it possible to make any kind of combination. Black and purple is great for leech imitations; olive green can imitate a tadpole or frog; a green back/tail with a white belly can imitate a shad or baitfish; green with a yellow or orange belly is a good yellow perch imitation; pink and orange could be used to look like a shrimp. Let your imagination take over. Most fly shops and big tackle stores offer rabbit strips cut to the right width. However, I love combing the internet for rabbit hides in wild colors. Often I’ll see grab bags with smaller patches that I can cut to the width I like — sometimes I will make the tip of the tail wider like a paddle-tail — as well as make cross-cut strips, which lay down better when wrapping bodies. This allows me to experiment with smaller amounts of fur to find what I like.
My mantra in fishing is to show the fish something different. You can’t get much more different than something not sold in stores. If you need something to do on cold winter days, this is a great way to get you set for the upcoming seasons and give you an edge over other anglers.
- By Peter Turcik