July 16, 2012
A wide variety of metallic concoctions have metamorphosed out of the original basic rig-jig format, broadening the scope of heavy-metal walleye spoons. Some incorporate livebait or plastic tippers-trailers, while others are best fished unfettered by clutter or bait. Most, by their heavyweight nature, excel in deep cold-water jigging conditions.
Jigging Spoons -- Unlike traditional wide wobbling spoons like Dardevles, which are designed for shallow swimming retrieves, most jigging spoons are narrow, thick, and heavy, designed primarily to sink quickly and be vertically jigged in deep water. A thin, wide spoon for vertical jigging will sink slowly, wobble dramatically, swing wide to the side as it descends, and offer much more water resistance. Traditional spoons are difficult to fish deep, as the slightest drift or current makes them begin to plane behind the boat and rise off the bottom.
Open-water jigging spoons for walleyes usually weigh between 1/2 and 1 ounce, with 3/4 ounce a popular choice. Lead bodies predominate, though slower-falling tin (Hildebrandt Bun-G-Blade) and zinc models are available. Silver, gold, and fluorescent are the most popular colors, though a wealth of shades and realistic finishes (Luhr Jensen Crippled Minnow) are available. Adding colorful Witchcraft reflective tape also enhances attraction.
Drop speed and action, two of the most important characteristics of jigging spoons, are primarily determined by shape and weight. Flatter, wider spoons like the Hopkins, Bass Pro Shops Strata Spoon, Cordell C C Spoon, Acme Kastmaster, and Bullet Spoon (zinc, for a comparatively slower drop speed) provide the most wobble and descend the slowest. Narrower lures with a distinct bend, like the Bay de Noc Swedish Pimple, sink a bit quicker, vibrating more than wobbling. Bomber's Slab Spoon and Bait Rigs' Deep Willospoon are nearly oval in shape, but quite heavy, combining a quick drop with a flutter. Slender minnow-shaped spoons like the Luhr Jensen Crippled Herring, Horizon Pirk Minnow, and Bull Dog Feather Jigging Spoon tend to drop quickly with less side-to-side action. Match these aspects to the aggressiveness of the fish -- faster and prominent for active fish, slower and subtle for inactive fish.
Drop a spoon to the bottom, then engage the reel, taking up slack until the line is tight with the spoon touching the bottom. Beginning with your rod tip pointed down at an angle (about 8 o'clock) toward the water, lift your forearm slightly while modestly snapping your wrist upward to about 11 o'clock. The combination flexes the rod tip and pops it upward about 18 to 24 inches, transmitting a bit less lift to the spoon, due to line stretch. The lure scoots upward with little vibration, eventually coming to a momentary rest at the top of the arc.
As the lure begins to descend, follow it down with the rod tip. Maintain slight tension to feel strikes. You'll simultaneously feel the wobble and vibration of the spoon as it flutters to the bottom. It'll either hit bottom or be stopped by a fish. Any doubt, set the hook.
While the hook rattling against a spoon's body and the natural throb of displaced water create sound, recent success with additional sound suggests new modifications in the near future. Bass 'N Bait's Rattle Snakie features enclosed rattles. Alron's Fergie Special -- a flat spoon with a rattling bead-and-brass combo on a wire leader at the head -- produced phenomenal deep-water reservoir catches in the plains states last season.
Jigging spoons traditionally are used most during the cold-weather months for deep-water walleyes. Primary reservoir points, for example, are favorite vertical spooning areas during winter. Yet spoons also produce year 'round, particularly where walleyes are near schools of open-water suspended baitfish like ciscoes, shad, smelt, or alewives. Apparently, a fluttering, shiny spoon imitates an injured easy meal.
Ice Spoons and Lures -- Ice-anglers typically use lighter jigging spoons than do open-water anglers, to achieve a slower, more-subtle drop and less action in cold water. Spoons can be lighter because they're fished from a stationary platform -- no drift. The Swedish Pimple is a good example. It's lighter than the average open-water jigging spoon, but heavy enough to fish through the ice.
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Let's divide ice jigging spoons into four categories: (1) swimming lures that move in wide circles beneath your ice hole, like a #5 Jigging Rapala, #3 Nils Master, System Tackle Walleye Flyer, or Northland Air-Plane Jig; (2) straight, wide spoons for slow descent and flutter action, like an Acme Kastmaster or small Hopkins; (3) narrow or bent spoons for intermediate drop speeds and moderate flutter action, like a Bay de Noc Swedish Pimple, Ivan's Slammer, Northland Fire-eye Minnow or Rocker Minnow; and (4) thin, wide-bodied bent spoons like the Blue Fox Tingler or Reef Runner Slender Spoon for ultraslow descent and maximum flutter. Fluorescent orange, yellow, and chartreuse colors; silver and gold; and prism tape finishes in silver, chartreuse, blue, and green are popular. In general, tip the hook with a minnow head to add scent and taste.
Even a light wide spoon like the Reef Runner Slender Spoon can be vertically jigged beneath the ice, combining abundant action with a slow descent -- perfect when fish are fussy and you have the patience to wait 'em out. Narrow spoons display less inherent action, sink quicker, and typically are better choices for ice-fishing, however. An intermediate choice like a Luhr Jensen Krocodile -- a medium-width, medium-heavy curved spoon often used for open-water trolling -- occasionally produces through the ice, particularly when fish are aggressive.
Trolling Spoons -- Thin metal flutterspoons like Oak Tree Silver Leaf Spoons, Luhr Jensen Diamond Kings, Sutton Spoons, Arbogast Thin Doctors, and others associated with Great Lakes trolling for salmon, trout, and steelhead often are excellent walleye lures. They lack sufficient weight for casting, but can be trolled with planer boards, downriggers, diving planers, or on weighted lines to achieve the proper combination of depth and speed. While not so popular as crankbaits in most walleye trolling fisheries, they do provide the added dimension of speed. Spoons trolled up to about 4 mph, and sometimes a bit faster, take walleyes under certain conditions, and water can be covered quickly. If you fish the Great Lakes or bodies of water with silver suspended baitfish like shad, alewives, ciscoes, smelt, or shiners, be prepared to experiment with spoons. Select sizes and shapes that match prevailing baitfish, typically in flashy silver, gold, or fluorescent colors. Multispecies spoon-catches of steelhead, salmon, lakers, and walleyes are common in various Great Lakes ports and on numerous reservoirs, too.
Tiny flutterspoons like walleye Willospoons also work with bouncers or three-ways, plain or tipped with livebait or plastic.
Casting-Swimming Spoons -- Miniature standard spoons like the Acme Little Cleo, Eppinger Dardevle Midget, Northland Fire-eye Minnow, or #8 Len Thompson provide an additional casting option for shallow-water walleyes. Small spoons (1/8- to 2/5-ounce) cast well on 8- to 10-pound test, swim over weeds nearly reaching the surface, and flutter downward a few feet on the pause. Hold the rod tip high while reeling. If the treble hangs up, give a quick wrist snap to pop and flutter the lure free, potentially triggering strikes. Spoons can be surprisingly effective on fertile prairie lakes with dark water and patchy weed cover, where fishing is concentrated in less than 4 feet of water.
Narrower spoons like the Mepps Syclops (light) and Luhr Jensen Krocodile (heavy) defy description, since they're versatile enough to function as vertical jigging, trolling, and casting spoons.
For a heavier, faster-moving casting option, try some of the 1/2- to 3/4-ounce jigging spoons mentioned earlier. Cast, swim, pop, and retrieve 'em across sand-rock-gravel flats, across weed tops and down into pockets, or down sloping shoreline points. They're great when fish are spread across expansive areas -- even suspended. On a long cast, pop the rod tip up, then reel up slack while dropping the rod tip, repeating all the way back to the boat. Spoons come through weeds somewhat easily if you jig and retrieve simultaneously, keeping the spoon just above the weed tops. If snags are abundant, try a small version of a more weedless Johnson Silver Minnow, Mepps Ultra Lite Timber Doodle, or Normark Rapala Minnow Spoon, using a slow swimming retrieve.