The metal fishing spoon lure was believed to be first used back in the 1840’s. Spoons are a simple design, an oblong shape, concave on one side that catches water producing a wobble and light reflecting flash imitating a fleeing or crippled bait fish. Because spoons appeal mainly to the sense of sight they work best on clear or lightly stained water conditions.
The long standing popularity of spoons results from ease of use as a fish usually will hook itself when it grabs a spoon. Spoons work best for larger predators such as northern pike, largemouth bass, muskies, walleye, salmon and trout.
The action of a spoon is based on it’s shape and thickness. A long spoon will display a wider side to side wobble than a shorter spoon. A deep concave spoon will also produce a wider wobble than a flatter spoon. Thin spoons used for trolling have an erratic wobble compared to thick spoons but thick spoons have advantages as well, the extra weight casts better, sinks faster and will run deeper than thinner spoons.
There are five types of spoons: Casting, trolling, weedless, jigging and the surface spoon. Spoons are stamped, forged or molded from brass, copper, steel, lead, plastic or wood. Most are painted on one side with a polished metallic surface on at other side to reflect the sunlight making the spoon visible. Some spoons have a hammered or rippled finish that transmits light in multiple directions such as baitfish scales scatter light.
When casting or trolling a spoon the speed is critical for success, if fished too slow or too fast the spoon will not wobble properly, you should experiment to find the precise speed for each spoon to perform its best. When casting a spoon anglers will cast 10 to 20 feet beyond the area they believe the fish are and retrieve through the strike zone. For flat line trolling from behind a boat the speed and amount of line out should be the main consideration, as well as in using depth control rigging such as downriggers and dipsey divers.
Rod Action with Spoons
Dependent on the species you’re targeting, small spoons for stream trout, larger spoons for bass, pike and salmon or vertical jigging for walleyes the preferred choice when casting/jigging spoons is a stiff tipped fast action rod. Ultra sensitive, soft action rods are not recommended as they do not telegraph the fish strike as quickly a fast action rod will accomplish. Your success in using spoons is to immediately set the hook upon feeling a fish bite.
Spoons & Leaders
Anglers using casting, weedless or trolling spoons should attach their lines via a leader with a ball bearing swivel and snap or a combination snap ball bearing swivel.This allows freedom of movement for the spoon and will keep the fishing line twist to a minimum. For surface and jigging spoons the best is to tie directly to the eyelet or snap. Both will work better without too much play at the lure line connection.
The main fish attracting component on a spoon is the flash, some spoons have additional attractors placed on the spoon or are added by the angler, they are: Clickers: Two small willow spinners on split rings located the end of spoon for vibration and noise. Flippers: A small oblong piece of plastic (red or yellow) for added color attached on the split ring and hook. Trailers: For added color and profile Feathers / Tied Tail / Soft Plastic or Pork Rind.
If you ever had the opportunity to open Grand Pa’s old metal tackle box it would be safe to say you would find quite a few of the traditional red and white casting spoons that where popular back in the 1940’s – 50’s. Following the same path as crank bait lure companies spoon manufactures have over the years introduced hundreds of new colors patterns and finishes using prism, holographic, glow and glitter all to enhance vibrant colors and flash of spoons.
In selecting spoon colors to build your tackle assortment, the choices can be overwhelming but some colors have been tried and true over the years. For casting spoons in clear or slighty stained water the classic colors of red and white with nickel back, black and white with nickel back, yellow five of diamonds in red with brass back, and combinations of nickel/silver – gold/brass are your best bet. On stained or darker water use, firetiger with brass back or orange/yellow and nickel combinations.
For trolling spoons on the Great Lakes the universal best color is all silver or gold with including combinations of purple, blue or green hues to mimic the forage of alewives, ciscoes, and smelt. Many Charter Captains on the Great Lakes use spoons as their main lure presentation and usually have a couple hundred on board in multiple color patterns (some with creative color names) and size variations to accommodate all fishing conditions.
Each body of water or river system fish will have a tendency to favor a specific color. If you’re going to fish an unfamiliar water system and spoons are a part of your lure selection, it would be best to do research with local guides or the fishing pro shop for that lake or river.
Listed below is a reference guide to help you identify the common types of spoons and how they are used:
Traditional Casting Spoons
Stamped metal casting spoons are also known as Traditional or Canadian spoons. All display the distinctive back and forth wobble action as they run underwater based on their oval shaped cupped bodies. Casting spoon sizes range from ultra light 1/36 ounce for panfish up to over 3 ounces for big muskies, pike and lake trout. The most popular sizes are 1/4-3/4 ounce used for bass, walleyes and pike. All casting spoons have either a treble or a single (siwash) hook attached with a spilt ring which allows the hook to swing freely as the spoon wobbles.
Trolling spoons are much thinner and lighter than casting spoons, a typical 3″ trolling spoon only weighs about a 1/8 ounce which makes them too light for casting.. They are designed to be fished using a depth control trolling system such as off a downrigger or diving plane. With the wide fluttering action they are an excellent lure choice for salmon, trout, walleyes or other open water species.
When fishing in thick cover, aquatic weeds, wood and logs, you can’t beat using a weedless spoon to provoke a fish strike. Most feature a single hook design welded on the body with a wire guard to prevent most snags. Experiment with different retrieve methods. Try twitching and pausing letting the spoon settle into open holes. Or straight retrieve over and through the cover. Tip the hook with a trailer for added attraction using a soft plastic grub or pork rind. Weedless spoons come in 1/4 ounce up to 1-1/8 ounce.
When conditions are right during the summer months, large predator fish like bass, pike and muskies will take refuge in thick cover. This is an ideal situation for using surface spoons. When cast over heavy matted vegetation the spoon floats with the hook riding upward avoiding being caught up on snags. Most surface spoons are made from plastic’s with a few in wood with having an added attractor, mainly rubber skirts. When fishing surface spoons point the rod tip directly at the spoon whether you’re retrieving straight or using a jerk pause method. Upon a fish strike, never set the hook until you feel the pressure of the fish, then set the hook. As with all surface lures fish have a tendency to miss the lure, keep the lure moving even if the fish misses usually they will come back to strike again.
When you locate a deep water school of fish such as walleye or bass on your electronics, one of the best presentations to reach them is vertically jigging. Jigging spoons are made of metal or tungsten, are flat, thick and heavy and flash when jigged. They are designed to get down quickly reaching the deep water holding fish. When fishing jigging spoons all of the action is applied by the angler using short jerks to encourage strikes, but keep in mind many strikes happen on the fall of the jigging spoon as well. Keep awatch on your line as it falls, if it stops or twitches set the hook. The best tackle for jigging spoons is low stretch line of 12-20 lbs with a medium to medium heavy fast action rod.