FLASH AND DASH
VERSATILE AND TIMELESS SPOONS GET THE JOB DONE THESE POPULAR LURES CONTINUE TO ENTICE FISH INSHORE AND OFF.
As a kid, I was shore-bound, so if I couldn’t cast to a fish from the beach or by wading, I wasn’t going to catch it.
But that limitation didn’t deter me, and I spent much of my childhood and teenage years patrolling mid-atlantic beaches and estuaries, looking for bluefish, red drum, trout, flounder, and other fun and exciting species.
The tackle industry hadn’t yet erupted back then, and only a sampling of spoons and bucktails populated my elementary tackle box. But my grandfather always told me all a saltwater angler really needs to catch fish anywhere in the world is a spoon. He explained that spoons are fundamental artificials that every angler needs to have on hand and learn to use. And many years after his passing, those words of wisdom still ring true.
As I grew older and my angling experience expanded, so did my tackle arsenal. But you’ll always find a variety of spoons in my box, because every task is easier when you have the right tool.
The popularity of casting spoons is almost universal. Of course, the keys to success are learning the proper spoon size and weight to mimic the prevalent baitfish and achieve the necessary casting distance, and to use the right retrieval speeds for the different lure weights and shapes.
Decades ago, anglers didn’t have the variations we now see, so we relied on Krocodiles, Kastmasters and Clarkspoons to fish East Coast beaches, inlets and tidal waters. We learned which
models swam fast and which swam slowly, which ran deep and which fluttered just below the surface, and used the ones best suited for different situations.
A LURE FOR ALL SEASONS
Casting spoons are an inshore angler’s bread and butter because few other artificials offer the castability, flash and built-in action that appeal to numerous species in a range of situations.
In the spring, when it’s time to wade inlets and estuaries, smaller casting spoons with deep concave bodies — that won’t fall fast and snag on the bottom, but rather dance enticingly as they sink slowly — are just the ticket. Thinner spoons, such as the Johnson Sprite (or the weedless Johnson Silver Minnow, if fishing over grass or oysters), that suspend, tremble and sparkle above the estuarine grass, mimicking pinfish and other small forage fish, are tailor-made for attracting speckled trout and flounder.
Later on, when thick schools of menhaden run close to shore, darkening the water, Krocodiles and similar spoons that wobble and flash the most should get the nod. We caught many bluefish by cranking those “Krocs” at a moderate speed within the chaos of bunkers under attack. Their highly reflective, polished chrome finish and seductive swimming action high in the water column are a killer combination.
In the dog days of summer, when water temperatures so ar and the afternoon breeze kicks up ac hop, spanish mackerelbecomea top target. Then, the smaller, sleek-bodied Kastmasters or Clarkspoons produce more strikes from these aggressive predators. Unlike Krocodiles, the narrower spoons produce a tight quiver that suggests the smaller, more nervous baitfish that mackerel can’t resist.
And in autumn, once the water begins to cool down and big red drum or fastmoving false albacore come within range, heavier, wider spoons that sink deeper and present a broader profile ought to be called into action.
Once I finally graduated from shore-fishing to dragging baits behind a boat, I soon turned to the trolling spoon, the classic L.B. Huntington Drone spoon, to be precise.
From the 4½-inch down to the 1½-inch, I found the Drone extremely effective for Spanish mackerel, kingfish, blackfin tuna, wahoo, and even dolphin. A similar single-hook trolling-spoon design, the Reflecto, has also proven its worth over the years. In fact, during a recent trip to the Middle Grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, both spoons put tuna and wahoo on deck, while my companions’ big-lipped, hard-bodied lures went untouched.
And while anglers from Hawaii to California, the South Atlantic and the Caribbean count on trolling spoons to catch pelagics offshore and nearshore, those same lures are also responsible for plenty of big bluefish and stripers in inshore waters along the Northeast coast.
Like their casting counterparts, trolling spoons now come in many colors, shapes and sizes, but understanding the proper speed and depth adjustments (sometimes requiring the use of trolling sinkers or planers ahead of the lure) necessary to catch different game remains essential.
But spoon designs of both the casting and trolling varieties also include some made for specific needs and niche approaches. Back in my days of surf-casting for bluefish, for example, the Hopkins Shorty and NO=EQL spoons were seen as specialty lures you tied on during a bluefish blitz. Their bodies are a derivative of traditional casting irons and jigs. Their substantial thickness and heft for the relatively slender shape enable the long casts, quick drops and fast retrieval speeds needed to reach swift-moving fish that often run deep. To this day, the very name Hopkins resonates synonymously with bluefish for me.
Tony Maja’s bunker spoon designs are another important innovation. These wide, pear-shaped spoons created specifically for striped bass fishing in the Northeast remain regional favorites. Hybrid spoons that blend elements of spoons with crankbaits create new kinds of trolling spoons that are gaining popularity with offshore and nearshore anglers.
Over time, inshore anglers have found that integrating spoons with various attractors often improves the overall effectiveness of the lure. Inshore, the addition of a bucktail or soft-pastic trailer frequently accounts for more redfish, trout, snook, stripers or bluefish.
Likewise, the addition of a short length of surgical tubing in neon green, red, it to endure repeated attacks from toothy species.
Modifications or not, spoons will continue to catch fish inshore, offshore and in between. As my grandfather used to say, every saltwater angler should always have some and know how to use them.
2 3 SWIVEL 1 ALBRIGHT KNOT 4 25 FEET OF MONO LEADER ner pla
GOTCHA: Spoons prove effective on a variety of inshore and offshore species.
TONY MAJA BUNKER