It's in Webster's Dictionary -- "Spoon-feed" means to coddle or pamper. A spoon-fed child has every need met, every whim satisfied. Such a child frequently becomes spoiled to a life of ease.
If there is a fish that feeds on minnows, there is a spoon and a method to catch it.
The same could be said of spoon-fed fish, except the spoiling comes before spoon-feeding instead of after. Fish get used to easy pickings -- a crippled shad here, an unsuspecting shiner or bluegill there. Then along comes a flashy, wobbly lure that looks like easy prey, and surprise! In this case, "spoon-fed" is frequently followed by "pan-fried."
No question, spoons are among the most widely used of all fishing lures. This is because they will take many species in a broad range of situations. They are extremely effective, versatile lures, and they are easy to use. This is why spoons of some variety are found in the tackle boxes of the vast majority of North America's anglers.
Spoons' attraction stems from their action. -- pulled through the water or over the surface, these lures rock back and forth like a baitfish with a case of the bends. Such predators as bass, trout, walleyes, pike, muskies, stripers and myriad other game and panfish (freshwater and saltwater) are aroused by this cripple-simulating look.
This deception has gone on since sometime before 1850, when lure maker Julio T. Buel of New York invented the spoon. Most likely, Buel severed a silver teaspoon from its handle, attached a hook, tied his new lure to a fishing line and set about catching bass and pike from nearby ponds.
Buel was as good at promotion as he was innovation. In a few years anglers all over the continent were using spoons and adapting them to specific situations. The result was the eventual development of a broad family of shapes, sizes, colors, weights and hook configurations. Truly, modern spoons are like the Smith family which landed at Jamestown, then spread across the country. There are many offshoots of old Julio's original.
Today, specialty spoons are fished from the surface to the bottom. They are used in heavy cover and open water. They are cast or trolled, pumped or fluttered. If there is a fish that feeds on minnows, there is a spoon and a method to catch it.
Indeed, there are many situations when spoons are more efficient -- hence effective -- than any other lure. This is why fishermen who don't make spoons part of their normal repertoire should consider doing so. Stock up on these lures and bone up on their use, then start spoon-feeding fish for more on-water success.
Basic Spoon Categories
These lures are divided into four categories: Casting spoons, trolling spoons, topwater spoons, and jigging spoons. They are stamped, forged or molded from brass, copper, steel, lead or plastic. spoons share the same basic components -- body, hook(s) and eye. However, spoons in each category have unique differences stemming from where and how they are used.
Casting spoons are so-called "traditional" spoons which run underwater with a distinctive back-and-forth wobble. These lures are oval-shaped and have cupped bodies. Their thickness and weight dictate where and how they should be used. Thin, light casting spoons sink slowly, so they are better for fishing in shallow water and/or over the top of submerged weeds or brush. Also, light casting spoons can be retrieved slower, making them the choice for fishing in cold water.
In contrast, thick, heavy casting spoons sink faster and are better in deeper water or swift current. They must be retrieved faster, and this presentation is better suited to warm water and active fish.
Casting spoons have a single or treble hook attached on the rear via a wire split ring. This allows the hook to swing freely as these lures wobble.
Fishermen using casting spoons should attach their lines via a split ring or ball bearing snap swivel in the eye of the lure to allow freedom of movement. A snap swivel will keep line twist to a minimum.
Casting spoons come in sizes from 1/36 ounce for small panfish to over 3 ounces for muskies, lake trout and large saltwater fish. Most commonly-used sizes for bass, walleye and other popular species are 1/4-3/4 ounce.
Trolling spoons (also called "flutter spoons") are similar to casting spoons, except they are much thinner and lighter -- too light for casting. They are designed to give off a wider action at slower speeds than casting spoons. Trolling spoons are typically fished with downriggers or some other depth control system for trout, salmon, walleye and other open water species. A typical 3-inch trolling spoon weighs approximately 1/8th ounce.
Topwater spoons, also called "weedless spoons," are for casting and retrieving over and through thick cover, typically aquatic vegetation. When reeled rapidly, these lures rise to the surface and skim over matted cover without snagging. Most feature a single hook welded to the body so it rides with the point turned up and away from snags. Frequently, this hook is adorned with a vinyl, rubber or feather skirt for extra attraction. Also, the hook is shielded by a weedguard. Topwater spoons range from 1/24 to over 1 ounce in size.
Jigging spoons are specialty lures designed to scour deep areas for bottom-hugging fish. They are thick, flat and heavy by design. They may be jigged vertically or cast out, allowed to sink down to bottom, then hopped across the structure. In either case, most strikes occur when a jigging spoon is freefalling down.
Jigging spoons typically have treble hooks hanging from their tails. The line is attached at the nose to a fixed wire eye. Jigging spoons come in a broad range of sizes, from 1/8 ounce to more than 2 ounces.
Methods for Casting Spoons
Casting spoons are the most generalized members of this lure family, thus they are the most widely-used by anglers. They are search lures which allow users to cover broad areas in a short time. Their attraction stems from their flash. For this reason, casting spoons are especially well-suited to fishing in clear water.
Casting spoons are good for a number of situations: Fan-casting flats, working the tops and edges of weedbeds, prospecting along a shoreline, etc. In these applications, casting spoons are another alternative to spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Also, they can be fished at any depth an angler wishes by waiting until they sink to the proper level. (The countdown method works with casting spoons, which sink approximately a foot per second.)
Tackle for casting spoons must be balanced to the size of the lure used. Tiny spoons require light spinning outfits for proper castability. However, more popular-sized spoons may be fished on either spinning or baitcasting outfits. Medium to medium-heavy rod actions are preferred by most spoon-fishing experts. Line size can range from 10-20 pound test. (Line size affects spoons' running depth. The lighter the line, the deeper a spoon will run. Conversely, the heavier the line, the shallower the same spoon will swim.)
The basic technique for a casting spoon is a no-brainer: Cast it out and reel it back. The only trick is to find the proper retrieve speed. At the right speed, this lure will ride up on one side almost to the rollover point, then swing the opposite direction. If a spoon does roll over and spins through the water, the retrieve is too fast. Slow it down to achieve the right action.
Different spoons have different actions - some tighter, others wider. Fish may prefer one action one day and the other the next day. The only way to match their preference is to have selections of both types of spoons and try them both, and then stick with the one that gets the most bites.
In most cases, a steady retrieve is best with a casting spoon. However, if fish are following this lure without taking it, the fisherman might try lifting the bait or lowering it suddenly while continuing to reel. Sometimes this change in direction and speed makes the fish believe its prey is trying to escape, and this triggers a strike.
Methods for Trolling Spoons
Because of their light weight and concave design, these spoons can be trolled at a snail's pace.
Casting spoons are frequently trolled behind a downrigger or on a long line to take fish in open water. However, true "trolling spoons" are a category unto themselves, with unique actions and applications. These lures are too light to be cast. They work only when attached to a line and pulled behind the boat.
The main purpose of trolling spoons is depth/speed control. Because casting spoons are heavier, they must be trolled faster to be kept at a desired depth. If a boat slows down, a trailing casting spoon will sink.
However, trolling spoons will stay up in the water at very slow speeds. They are typically used with downriggers and set to run 5-15 feet behind the cannonball. Because of their light weight and concave design, these spoons can be trolled at a snail's pace and still maintain its depth and fluttering action.
Another way to use a trolling spoon is to tie it onto a 3-way rig with a diving crankbait, then to troll it on a long line. The crankbait will take this rig down, and the spoon will flutter on a longer leader above the structure. This method is extremely effective on such bottom or near-bottom species as black bass, white bass, walleyes, etc.
Methods for Topwater Spoons
Bass, pike, muskies and other predator fish frequently bury themselves in thick cover where they can't be reached with most lures. This is the ideal scenario for topwater spoons. These lures can be cast across weedbeds, heavily-matted vegetation, logjams, etc., then retrieved back through or over this cover without hanging. Fish lurking below "blow up" on these lures as they slither overhead.
Topwater spoons come in three varieties: Heavy metal spoons that roll back and forth around a lure's vertical axis during the retrieve; lighter, flatter spoons that zigzag back and forth horizontally; and spoons with built-in noisemakers, such as buzzers and small paddlewheels.
Heavier spoons must be fished faster to keep them on the surface. Lighter spoons can be fished slower, but they can't be cast as far. Noisemaking spoons offer another option for attracting strikes. Sometimes fish prefer bait that's quieter. Other times they like the extra commotion. The only way to learn which is best is through experimentation.
Fishing a topwater spoon requires stout tackle. Since heavy cover is the rule, most pro's cast heavier spoons on a heavy action rod (6-7 feet) and strong line (20-30 pound test). When downsizing in lure weight, they also downsize in tackle.
This is one time when it's best to tie the line directly into the eye of the lure instead of using a split ring or snap swivel. Topwater spoons run better without too much "play" at the lure/line connection.
Experts usually add some type trailer to a topwater spoon to present a larger profile and to increase the lure's buoyancy. This is done by applying a pork rind or soft plastic trailer (split-tail, grub, etc.) to the hook.
Having a needle-sharp hook is critical to success with this lure. Use a hook file to hone topwater spoons' hooks so they will dig in when drug across your thumbnail. Also, bend the hook out slightly with pliers so it will have more "bite," which increases the odds of good hooksets.
To fish a topwater spoon, cast it over heavy cover, start the retrieve immediately and reel just fast enough to keep the lure on the surface. Point the rod tip directly at the spoon to steer it around objects and over open holes.
Fish are notorious for missing topwater spoons. This is where a fisherman needs steel nerves. If a fish blows up on a spoon but misses, don't jerk. Instead, keep reeling at the same steady speed. Never set the hook until a fish nails the spoon and you feel pressure as it swims off. Then strike with great force!
Experiment with different retrieve methods. Try pausing the retrieve and letting the spoon settle into open holes in the cover. Also, cast to a likely spot several times to aggravate an inactive fish into striking.
Methods for Jigging Spoons
When black bass, white bass, walleye and other predator species are schooling on deep structure, a jigging spoon is extremely effective at catching them. This heavy, flashy lure gets down quickly. It can be lowered precisely in the middle of the fish, and then worked with short jerks to entice strikes.
The best tackle for jigging spoons is a 5 1/2-6 foot casting rod (medium to heavy action) and 14-20 pound test line. (If snaggy cover is present, stronger line is a must!)
A jigging spoon is not a "search lure." Instead, an angler should locate deep-holding fish with his electronics, then position the boat directly over them before using this lure.
Push the free spool button and allow the spoon to freefall straight down. As it falls, it will flutter back and forth, giving off reflection and vibration. When it hits bottom, engage the reel, take up slack line until the rod tip is a foot above the water, then begin jigging the spoon up and down. Use quick wrist action to snap it sharply off bottom a foot or two, and then lower the rod tip back down as the lure falls.
Continue this over and over, approximately one jigging motion every couple of seconds. As you work the spoon, ease along the target structure with the electric motor, watching the depthfinder for fish returns. If fish are suspended above the structure, reel the spoon up and jig it at their depth.
Virtually all strikes come as this lure is falling. Any bump, tug or unnatural feel is a signal to set the hook. If you miss the fish, jig the spoon again and get ready! They usually come back on this lure.
A jigging spoon is great for fishing in submerged timber, but it requires a refined touch. This lure can be worked down through the limbs. When a snag occurs (and it will!), jiggle the lure continuously, and its weight will usually shake it free.
Also, a "slab spoon" (a type of jigging spoon) may be cast and retrieved across horizontal structure, such as a submerged point or roadbed. Throw the lure and let it sink, then reel up slack line. Next, rip the spoon off bottom by snapping the rod from a 10 o'clock position to 12 o'clock, then allow the spoon to flutter back to bottom. Take up slack and repeat this process until the lure is beneath the boat.
Again, strikes will come as the jigging spoon falls back toward bottom. Be alert, and set the hook at any unnatural bump, wiggle or weightless feeling.
A Word on Spoon Colors
Spoons come in virtually every finish, color and combination imaginable, and this confuses many anglers. Which color is best? It is impossible to own and use them all.
A few simple guidelines can clear up this confusion. For starters, use light colors in clear water: Silver and white. Go with brighter colors and combinations in stained or muddy water: Red, gold, orange, or chartreuse.
Further; many species exhibit strong natural preferences for particular colors. Fish used to feeding on shad (i.e., black and white bass) may take white and silver spoons better than other colors and fish which feed on golden shiners will readily strike a gold spoon. Many salmonids prefer bright fluorescent colors.
The best advice is to check locally about spoon colors. A knowledgeable tackle dealer or fisherman can offer experienced advice about colors the fish in their area are most prone to bite.