How to Catch Fish Using Spoons
January 11, 2013
Everybody got a spoon? No ice fisherman is without one. Pier fishermen need them. Reservoir dogs and river rats hoard spoons. Anybody caught trolling for salmon, pike, or trout without spoons may be considered daft.
Anything that common is bound to be taken for granted. Spoons were already considered "traditional" lures when W.D. Chapman began designing his versions prior to the Civil War. Hinkley Spoons, invented during the late 1800s, are still available. Dardevles have been with us since 1912. The action of a spoon is so universal, so fundamental to the process of catching fish that the best sellers way back when look just like the best sellers of today.
Just because spoons change little doesn't mean we don't find new ways to use them. In-Fisherman recently ran articles on revolutionary spoon tactics for largemouth bass. There, we looked at new ways to catch walleyes, salmon, trout, and pike. When it comes to triggering strikes from any species, the wobble and flutter of a spoon is one of the most universal triggers.
We might cast a Dardevle Husky Jr. for pike in the afternoon and troll it for lakers in the evening. Certainly, their universal appeal works magic on those species and many more. The shape and thickness of a spoon, with speed factored in, come together to determine nuances of action, but core edicts surrounding that action are timeless constants: When a spoon rolls, flutters, or slides, it shines. When it spins, it sucks. Cave men knew that. Aided by computers, we're finally making progress in that regard.
"Jigging spoons took 8 of the top 10 spots in the Last Mountain Fall Classic Walleye Tournament in 2011," says Tim Geni, a walleye pro from Saskatchewan. "Spoons that worked best included the PK Lures Flutterfish and the PK Spoon. Most fished them vertically, but casting was a factor, too — letting it fall to bottom, ripping it up, letting it fall, and ripping it again. It's a dying baitfish simulation, and I think the Flutterfish and PK Spoon provide a unique take on that."
Obviously, jigging spoons are not going away any time soon and new ones are showing up all the time, like the PK Lures Panic Spoon, which might be the most innovative new jigging lure around. The jointed body sports twin Colorado blades between segments, dishing out more rattle, flash, and sexy moves than a Vegas chorus line. It doesn't just look good. It is good, and comes in 5 sizes (4 from 1/2 to 1½ ounces and an 8-ouncer for saltwater), with each available in 5 colors. "The Panic is going to start a craze around here," Geni said.
That's just one of many great things happening in the world of jigging spoons. Northland Tackle's Whistler Jig has always been a favorite of In-Fisherman staff when vertically jigging for walleyes in rivers. Now, Northland put a blade atop the now-famous Macho Spoon to create the Whistler Spoon — sure to be a classic in still water as well as rivers. The slab-sided spoon is a cut of brass, comes in three sizes (1/4- to 1/2-ounce) and six realistic, holographic, patterns. Noise from the "whistling" prop is accompanied by the clack of hollow brass beads.
Mack's Lure just released the Sonic Baitfish — a jigging spoon with the line connection in the center for increased flutter, flash, and thump. "I'm really wound up to see what this lure will do for ice fishermen," said owner Bobby Loomis. "People are already catching big walleyes on the Columbia River with it." Sonic Baitfish are available in 7 colors and 6 sizes, from 1/10- to 3/4-ounce.
Bass Pro Shops added several new jigging varieties, including the XPS Tungsten Jigging Spoon. This dense, compact design gets deep quick. Choose from nickel or gold versions from 1/2 to 1 ounce. The realistically colored XPS Lazer Eye Minnow Spoon (1/2 to 1 ounce) is gaining popularity with bass and walleye fishermen.
Cabela's new HDS Spoons feature incredibly realistic photo-finish patterns. The HDS is a deep-water specialist, designed to plummet into rockfish and lake trout habitats in seconds. It's ideal for "troll jigging" (waiting for the spoon to hit while trolling at 2 mph, then ripping it up off bottom) for browns and kings, too. Four sizes (1 to 2 ounces) and four lifelike patterns.
Northland Tackle's new Live Forage Flutter Spoons feature realistic photo-image patterns. In 7 patterns and 4 sizes, from 3½ to 5 inches, all are equipped with KickerTail Fins that clack and flutter independently of the spoon's roll. Lake trout, salmon, walleyes, bass — these brass beauties have universal appeal.
Few captains know king salmon better than Mark Chmura of Pier Pressure Charters in Michigan. "Moonshine Spoons are on fire this year," Chmura says. "It's the spoon of the year. Doesn't matter if it's sunny, cloudy, deep, or shallow, this one puts fish in the box. It has great thump — you can feel it pounding when you drop it back." Moonshine trolling spoons come in 5 sizes, from a 2½-inch "walleye size," to a 5-inch magnum, according to owner Tom Gudwer.
Growing fast in the world of salmon spoons is UV coloration. "We don't know why it works, but it really does," says Terry Weber, part owner of Michigan Stinger, which came out with 13 new UV patterns for their popular salmon spoons in 2012. "We thought UV would only be a shallow-water thing, but guys are reporting increased catches wherever they put these lures in the water column."
Wolverine Tackle's Silver Streak spoons were among the first to offer UV models for salmon and walleyes five years ago. "It really shines when fish are deep, it seems," says Chip Cartwright, Wolverine president. "A lot of our older patterns reflect UV, so we've been doing it for years. It's glow-in-the-dark for daylight, and when the light changes it seems to increase the odds of fish seeing it. New this year are hot-pink metallics over our anti-freeze colors, which have been hot for walleyes." Silver streaks run from 2¼ inches to 4½ inches, in about 500 colors.
Luhr Jensen, which has a full stable of spoons for every occasion, added UV Bright patterns for the Laxee Spoon — an innovative casting-trolling spoon with sharp edges and a blunt cut on the forward end. This one kicks like a mule, pauses, and kicks again — a timeless trigger. This hefty spoon has a wider range of effective speeds and won't spin out until you jam the throttle down.
Williams and Mooselook (subsidiaries of Brecks International) added a slew of new color patterns in 2012 to the highly popular Williams HQ, Williams Envy, Mooselook ThinFish, and Williams Wabler series. Always innovative with shape, thickness, and weight distribution, classic gold-silver Williams Spoons have caught fish where others struggled for years. Now they appear in 4 sizes and about 15 patterns. Mooselook Spoons, crazily effective when downsizing for rainbows, browns, Kokanee, and cutthroats, now appear in ThinFish and Wobbler models.
Art Lavallee, president of Acme Lure Co., oversees tons of production. Literally. "We manufacture 900 shapes, sizes, and colors of spoons," he says. "I hate to say there's nothing new in casting spoons, but how do you improve on perfection? Some are classics that have fooled fish forever, so we haven't introduced much — but we did have customer demand for an elongated Kastmaster. Surf fishermen wanted it for stripers, bluefish, bonito, salmon, and other gamefish. The XL is a hot-looking spoon that imitates elongated baitfish like eels and smelt."
The Kastmaster XL (3/8 to 1½ ounces) is sleek — a dynamic jigging-casting crossover. Acme's Little Cleo is versatile; trolling up salmon and catching crappies through the ice. It's a classic caster with a seductive roll trout can't resist in lakes or rivers — especially in the new "Wonderbread" pattern. Cleo comes in 9 sizes from 1/16 to 1¼ ounces.
Surf and pier anglers love to cast jigging spoons. When the wind blows inshore, thick cuts of steel punch into the gale like bullets. One of the most time-honored of such spoons is the Hopkins Shorty, and surf fishermen have been making demands of them, too. Marlene Cipriani, operations manager for Hopkins, said surf anglers wanted a black-nickel finish. "They were painting spoons black to create a stronger silhouette at night," she says, "so we added one with black-nickel plating that stands up to saltwater."
One of the most innovative spoon designers in America is Pat O'Grady, owner of PK Lures. His famous Flutterfish casting-jigging-trolling spoon now sports a unique pineapple hammering pattern that catches and reflects light at all angles, producing a textured look underwater. The Flutterfish, with its one-of-a-kind hourglass shape, stays horizontal on the pause and drop — thus the name.
Luhr Jensen's Krocodile — another classic trout and salmon casting spoon — introduced a few UV Bright patterns to the many already available. The slippery "Kroc" array includes 10 sizes between 1/16 and 2¼ ounces, most sizes with 24 to 26 color options.
The standards among weedless spoons have forever been the Hopkins Hammered Spoon and the Johnson Silver Minnow. You could say they worked so well nobody bothered trying to imitate them. But that's never been true in the fishing industry.
Fifty years ago, the Silver Minnow was one of those "must have" lures every bass fisherman had in his box because it snakes over impenetrable slop and flutters down into the pockets. Today, bass anglers would rather fish slop with a hollow or solid plastic frog, which floats and rests on the vegetation. Which is all the reason you need to try a weedless spoon instead.
Every lure has triggers the others don't. More than two decades ago, Bass N' Bait Company came out with the Snakie Spoon. The stamp is a little lighter, it has a thinner, two-prong weedguard, and it's narrower. The shape makes it snake across the surface. I had the privilege of watching the guy who invented it, Ron Perrine, work it through some slop for overlooked, backwater largemouths on Lake Erie last summer.
"The Snakie has unique action," Perrine says. Of course, he's prejudiced. But he's right. On a tough, post-frontal day, we managed to haul big largemouths out of the slop with a Snakie. I was impressed.
The Dardevle Rex Spoon joined this category recently, and I had a chance to watch one of its progenitors, John Cleveland of Eppinger, work it successfully for giant pike in the Yukon. That's probably where most anglers reach for a weedless spoon today — fishing pike in the slop. But smaller versions of the Snakie, Rex, Hopkins Weedless, and Johnson Silver Minnow, as well as the deadly Zook, PT, and Barney spoons, produce bigger largemouths in lakes fished with a million frog lures.
Captain Mike Hakala, owner of Aqua Dream Living, developed Captain Mike's Classic years ago and followed with the recent ADL Weedless Spoon for redfish. "I designed my first weedless spoon in 1993," he says. "Those on the market weren't right for saltwater. I needed something the average angler could cast, retrieve, and catch fish on grass flats — one that sinks slowly and holds up to big reds. But I've been getting orders from smallmouth and walleye anglers, as well as pike fishermen."
So what could possibly be new about spoons? Plenty. Ok — not much. Spoon companies tend to stick around. Think of it this way: If they were stocks, you'd be stupid not to balance your portfolio with a few boxes of spoons.
*In-Fisherman Field Editor Matt Straw, Brainerd, Minnesota, is a dedicated multispecies angler and spoon fishing aficionado. Catching Fish On Jigging Spoons