Tackle Time - Fall Issue 1994

by Max Hunn


When you walk into a well stocked, tackle shop featuring salt water lures, you can't help but wonder will those odd shaped hunks of metal called spoons on display really catch fish? Why would they?

Veteran anglers know these spoons can catch fish, lots of fish, and neophytes soon learn how effective they are. These odd shaped lures have been used for centuries. Native Pacific fishermen used shell versions of today's spoons in the 18th century, and undoubtedly for centuries before. Fish were a staple in their diet. They fished to eat.

Captain James Cook, famed British sea explorer, in 1772 when visiting the Sandwich Islands, today's tropical playground called Hawaii, noted in his log that native fishermen were using a spoon-type lure fashioned from a shell.

Today, the metal version of an ancient idea is an important item in any salt water angler's tackle box. Effective as the spoon is, the reason for its effectiveness is uncertain. The lure doesn't resemble a bait fish as some artificial lures do. However, being shiny, the reflections may imitate those from a floundering bait fish. An injured baitfish is an invitation to a strike by any predator seeking a meal.

Because spoons are designed to wobble or revolve, their effectiveness depends upon the speed of their gyrations. Different shapes cause various spoons to react differently at various speeds. To use them properly, you have to control their actions by the speed of your trolling. or the speed of your retrieve if you are casting.

When first using a spoon, test it at various speeds in the water to determine at which it functions best. Some demand extremely high speeds. Others perform best at slow ones. The individual design is a big factor in this variation.

Spoons can be identified in three ways: 1 - wobbling; 2 - revolving; and 3 - jigging. The first two can be identified further by their shape. The wobblers are much broader and often shaped like a spoon, while the revolvers are long and narrow. Both get their action being retrieved, either by trolling or casting. The jigging spoon's action results from raising and lowering it with your rod. All types of spoons are effective when used properly.

Hooks are attached by two methods. They can be either single or treble. They can be free swinging when attached by means of a split ring. When attached by soldering or means of a screw, they become a solid part of the spoon. Treble hooks are not permanently fixed usually.

Many prefer the free swinging arrangement because it enables a hook to be replaced easily is damaged. Hooks for jigging spoons usually are cast in some manner to a heavy chunk of metal.

Years ago an ardent speckled sea trout fisherman living in the Florida Panhandle sent me a sample of his specially devised, homemade lure. He'd taken a treble hook and cast a metal body around the shank, and added a little nylon, rope skirt. He proudly wrote he never lost a fish that hit his lure. He shouldn't have with three barbs. However, I wondered how often he fouled using this unusual jigging lure.

The action of all of the spoons is enhanced by the flash produced as they flutter either being trolled, retrieved, or jigged. Probably the flash is just as important as the actual action, and this combination probably appears to a predator to be baitfish in trouble. As a result, you find spoons generally are silver or gold in color.

Spoons designed for fresh water often are other colors, and they will work in salt water. I've tested the famous fresh water red and white spoons widely used for muskies, pike, bass and other game fish and caught briny fish. But I'm not certain the paint was a factor because one side of the spoon was either silver, gold, or copper color. Anyway, the fresh water spoons with one shiny side wobbled and flashed enough to attract salt water fish.

Although you can use fresh water spoons in salt, you are better off using lures designed for the ocean. Fresh water lures aren't made to withstand salt water.

Manufacturers specializing in salt lures such as Clark, Hopkins, Reflecto, Accetta, Drone, Kastmaster, Lure Jensen, Krocodile and others realize the salty problem. They make their lures as resistant as possible to corrosion and tarnish, but a smart angler washes his spoons with fresh water, allows them to dry, and then wipes them with a clean cloth. You also can profit by giving them a polishing.

Spoons come in a variety of sizes from tiny ones suitable only for ultra-light tackle to models more than a foot long. Spoons are usually classified by length, eight to 12 inches being rated as big; six to eight inches, medium; and anything less than six rated as small. The small size is best for casting. The larger spoons generally are used for trolling.

Naturally, your tackle has to match. Don't try trolling a big spoon (or casting one) with light tackle.Remember a big spoon can be heavy, and this coupled with the resistance its size encounters when dragged through the water puts a heavy strain on your rod and line.

The rule of thumb for big spoons is a minimum of 25 to 30-pound class rods and matching tackle. With medium ones, you can use 12 to 15-pound tackle. And, of course, for smaller spoons with 8 to 12 pound tackle will add a lot sport, but also may produce either an IFGA record or an abundance of broken lines.

Your choice depends upon much gamble you like to do with your fishing.

Remember a big fish will hit a small spoon at times. If it does, you're in for some rugged sport if your tackle holds. But little fish seldom attack a 12-inch model. After all, they're looking for an easy meal, and they know what size they can handle. To keep from tangling with too many smaller fish, it's best to pick a big enough spoon to discourage them.

If you like casting, then you might like to try an idea popular along the Florida Middle Gulf coast. When the redfish are in the shallows around the numerous rocky islands, smart anglers load their tackle boxes with fresh water Johnson-type spoons. They cast them tight against the shore, retrieving rapidly to keep from fouling. Of course, you can't help but foul often, but redfish will chomp on the flashing metal, and provide a spirited fight.

Spoons attract a variety of salt water fish. Even marlin have fallen for the wobblies. But as a rule, spoons are most effective with kingfish, Spanish and cerro mackerel, bluefish as well as blackfin tuna, bonito, wahoo and amberjack.

Because so many of the fish that eagerly attack spoons have sharp chompers, it's mandatory that a wire leader be used. Don't make the mistake of using shiny wire. A toothy fish might hit it by mistake. You want the spoon to provide the attraction, not the wire. Dull, coffee colored wire is best for your leader. How long your leader is depends upon whether you're casting or trolling.

Try feeding 'em spoons, and stand by for action!

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