Pay attention to trends in fishing tackle, and you’ll notice that among lure-makers, there is a constant competition to improve upon what has already been working for many years. These days we have spinnerbaits with rattling crystal balls instead of blades. We have plastic worms that reflect UV light. And while they’re more gimmicks than anything (for now, at least), we even have hard baits that swim by themselves thanks to their computer guts. What you rarely see anyone trying to improve upon—beyond perhaps paint jobs and glitz—is the spoon. The reason is simple: There isn’t really anything to reinvent, and it certainly ain’t broke.
Since Lou Eppinger finalized the spoon that would eventually become the Dardevle in 1912, the basic design hasn’t changed. It’s a simple, tapered slab of metal with a hook. Sure, the sizes, weights, and exact shapes vary, but no one has devised a spoon so revolutionary that it makes Eppinger’s classic design obsolete. Ironically, it’s probably the lack of “new” in the spoon category that keeps many modern anglers from using them, and that’s a huge mistake.
Spoons are about as versatile a lure as you’ll find. All you have to do is cast, reel, and catch. You can also make a spoon presentation as technical as you might when using the latest Japanese soft-plastic finesse rig. Spoons will trigger any predator species that swims in salt or fresh water the world over. They can be trolled, cast, jigged, or swung to work in any part of the water column. Provided you don’t lose it, a single spoon can catch decades’ worth of fish.
There certainly isn’t a wrong time of year to tie on a spoon, but the time is just a little more right in the fall. Cooling waters often get baitfish schooling from the striper coast to the bass lake. In river systems, the temperature drop signals trout and pike to chew before winter. Whether you need to imitate a perch or herring, shiner or shad, there’s a spoon that will nail it.
Here are six can’t-miss models and the tricks that I and some of the best guides and pros around the country use to make them work for us in autumn.
Jenko Sticky Spoon – Target: Largemouth Bass
At 8 inches long, Jenko’s Sticky Spoon seems like it would be at home in a saltwater striper box, perhaps even being trolled on sinking wire line. But make no mistake, this big hunk of metal was designed for largemouths, and it’s a back-pocket ringer for bass pro and company owner Coleton Jennings. It shines particularly on his home waters at Kentucky Lake in the late season, but Jennings is quick to point out that the Sticky Spoon is not a numbers lure.
“This spoon is something I always have in my rotation from September through November, but it’s not a lure I’ll be throwing all day,” he says. “You’re only going to get a couple of bites on it, but when you get them, they’re going to be big bites.”
Kentucky Lake is often drawn down in the fall, so shad and schooling bass tend to congregate in deeper water around boat docks and bridge pilings. Jennings fishes his spoon on a 7-foot-6-inch heavy-action baitcasting rod matched with a high-speed reel spooled with 25-pound fluorocarbon. He notes that you can’t cast the Sticky Spoon far, so the game is getting close to the targets and flipping or dropping it vertically. The bite is going to come on the fall as the spoon wobbles and flutters. Jennings says maybe only two or three fish in a school will make a move on this large offering, but they’re going to be heavy hitters.
“When you feel that tick, you don’t want to swing hard,” Jennings says. “You just want to stiffen up, lean in, and reel as fast as you can. Because you’re so close to the fish, there’s no long fight. You’re just going to be swinging that big bass into the boat seconds after the hit.”
Eppinger Dardevle Five of Diamonds – Target: Pike
The first time I ever experienced the potency of a Dardevle in the yellow-and-red five-of-diamonds pattern was at Cree River Lodge in northern Saskatchewan back in 2014. Everyone has known for decades that Dardevles are lethal on pike, but it was the devotion of lodge owner Pat Babcock to this particular finish that struck me. As he explained, if he could fish only one lure in this pike wonderland, the five of diamonds would be it. The hand-painted pike jumping out of the water on the lodge’s front sign even has a five of diamonds in the corner of its jaw. On the day Babcock and I fished together, I fired flies while he worked a spoon, and though the race was close for numbers, he bested me on size.
The Dardevle Five of Diamonds is an autumn icon.Gregory Reid
Babcock admits that while he doesn’t know exactly why the yellow-and-red pattern triggers more strikes than classic red and white, he knows he has a lot more retired five of diamonds with barely any paint left on them than he does wounded warriors in other hues. Babcock praises these spoons for their simplicity; all you have to do is reel steadily, and if a noncommittal pike follows, let it drop, and it’s usually inhaled. I brought a few five of diamonds home from that trip, which I’ve since used on Lake Champlain in New York, and a few lesser-known East Coast pike waters. Success is as simple as keeping the spoon working over weed tops, even if those weeds are dead or decaying in the fall. Weed lines that transition from shallow to deep create prime spooning territory.
If for any reason a steady, rhythmic retrieve isn’t turning on the fish, try throwing shallow, but engage the reel while the spoon is still in the air. The second it touches down, reel quickly with the rod tip high to get the lure erratically jumping out of the water. As soon as the spoon is over deeper water, lower your rod tip and begin a steady retrieve. The jumping and splashing mimics a baitfish struggling in the shallows, which is sometimes the trigger that will get a pike’s attention, and the fish will charge as soon as the spoon dives.
Thomas Lures Buoyant Spoon – Target: Brown Trout
I have to admit that a spoon is rarely the first lure I tie on for brown trout, though there are always a couple living in my pack for just the right occasion come fall. The impetus for me to fling one is a quick bump in water flow in the post-spawn period, which in the Northeast where I live is usually late November. In many parts of the country, fall is a low-water period, but it also happens to be a time when big browns are a little extra hungry. In low, clear flows, gentle presentations and finesse tactics are often necessary to score, but after a solid rain dump or early-season snowmelt, the program changes.
The Thomas Lures Buoyant Spoon is a go-to lure for brown trout.Gregory Reid
A rise in water and a good staining prompts browns to slide out of tucked-up structure and back to midriver feeding lanes. Suddenly, covering wide swaths of water becomes essential, and a spoon does this well. While I’ve used several spoons for this task, a Thomas Buoyant has always been a favorite because its unique fins and wide profile produce more flash, better swimming action, and more vibration than many others. Although a straight retrieve will get browns to attack, I tend to adopt more of a steelhead swing tactic, firing across a likely run, keeping the rod tip high, and twitching the spoon as it sweeps across the current. The hit usually comes just before the spoon straightens out in the heaviest part of the flow. By casting short first and then increasing distance, you can effectively cover a run without moving. On smaller streams with fairly dense cover, a spoon also shines because you can easily skip-cast it under low-hanging limbs or brush.
Luhr-Jensen Krocodile Spoon – Target: Striped Bass
There are hundreds of metal lures that have become staples for salty anglers across the globe, from the Hopkins and the Kastmaster that you can launch a mile, to the light, sharp-angled Clarkspoon that’s been trolling up everything from tuna to king mackerel to dolphin since 1927. Favorite spoons will naturally vary by region and species, but if you chase striped bass anywhere from Maine to Virginia, there’s a strong possibility you’ve got some Krocodile Spoons in an array of sizes stashed among your lure collection.
The Luhr-Jensen Krocodile Spoon is a saltwater staple.Gregory Reid
Originally developed on the West Coast for species like salmon, halibut, and calico bass, the “Kroc” Spoon found a permanent home in the East when anglers realized it shines when jigged in shallower inshore water where stripers like to feed. A key feature of the Krocodile is that it’s slightly thicker than many other spoons, but because it maintains a traditional tapered spoon shape, a 3⁄4-ounce Krocodile doesn’t fall as fast as a 3⁄4-ounce jighead or slab-style metal. It’s as though these spoons have the perfect drop rate—not too slow and not too fast. Factor in a very pronounced flutter and flash, and the Kroc becomes particularly deadly when stripers are homed in on sea herring schools holding midcolumn later in the fall and into early winter. I’ve been out on party boats several times where if you didn’t have a Kroc, at best you were getting outfished 5 to 1, or at worst you weren’t catching any stripers at all. Drop down a few sizes, and a smaller Kroc Spoon is just as killer when bass are feeding on sand eels, mullet, or peanut bunker earlier in the fall season.
The beauty of a Krocodile is that it can be finessed more easily than other spoons and metals, thanks again to its wider profile creating a lot of water resistance to slow the fall. One of the most effective ways to capitalize on this action is to lift your rod high and fast when you jig, and then follow the slack line back to the water’s surface with the rod tip. The Kroc’s action is ramped up even more when you execute this technique with a slower, old-school fiberglass rod. I like to keep a finger on my line during that drop. Any tick or stop you feel, swing away.
Silver Streak Spoon – Target: Walleyes
Veteran Lake Erie guide Ross Robertson knows that as water temperatures begin to crash in the fall, the chill down is going to get forage species like emerald shiners, small white bass, yellow perch, and smelt grouped up. This is both a blessing and a curse for anglers, because you often have to cover lots of water until you find a massive cloud of bait on your sonar. But when you find it, you’ll have also found walleyes, and although there’s a ton of tactics that can catch the fish in these tight bait schools, Robertson says it’s very hard to beat a simple spoon.
“A fluttering trolling spoon is a do-all, catch-all kind of lure,” he says. “There’s really no way to mess it up, provided you pay attention to how you rig it.”
The Silver Streak Spoon has a fluttering motion that brings in trophy walleyes.Gregory Reid
Robertson says that many anglers believe a spoon should be rotating like an inline spinner blade, but that’s not the case. Flutter spoons are supposed to flop from side to side. It’s a delicate action that he says will be instantly marred by tipping the spoon with any kind of bait or soft plastic, or connecting it to the leader via a snap swivel. Likewise, fishermen have a nasty habit of changing the hooks on their spoons without considering how a weight or size increase or decrease can unbalance the lure and rob it of its action.
“I use just a very small snap to connect my spoon to a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader,” Robertson says. “You also don’t want to use a leader any shorter than 5 feet or any longer than 7. That’s critical when pairing spoons with diving devices. You catch a lot of fish on inside turns when the spoon doesn’t have a lot of force put on it from the boat, so you’re relying on your dipsy or jet diver to impart action. If your leader is too long, that spoon will just be hanging there like a sack of potatoes not doing anything.”
During the fall, Robertson keeps a massive spoon arsenal on his boat, but he finds himself reaching for a Silver Streak more than any other. Not only are they available in a vast array of colors, but also, he says, their paint jobs won’t wear off even after seasons of walleye abuse.
Clam Leech Flutter Spoon – Target: Crappies
Lake turnover in fall frustrates a lot of anglers. Just when you were dialed in to a late-summer pattern, the fish vamoose from where they’ve been posted up for the past few months. For New Hampshire–based guide Tim Moore, on the other hand, turnover is a welcome change. On Lake Winnipesaukee, his home waters, turnover in early October gets the crappies out of shallow structure and schooling up in deep basins and depressions. This makes them easier to find, but not always easy to feed. Moore says a spoon really helps.
“Sometimes you’ll mark a little clutter on the bottom,” he says. “That’s typically a school that isn’t feeding. But if you drop a spoon into them and work it aggressively, if you manage to get just a couple of those fish interested, you can get the whole school suspended and feeding.”
The Clam Leech Flutter Spoon is a go-to bait for crappier anglers.Gregory Reid
Ideally, Moore wants to mark schools higher in the column, because they’re the active eaters. Suspended fish are also roving, so the trick is to try to drift with them and move around to stay with the school. According to Moore, when you’re in suspended fish, you can literally let your spoon just dangle. The slight flutter created by the drifting boat is enough to get the crappies piling on, and he’s noticed that a Leech Flutter Spoon in gold gets them piling on extra hard.
“If for some reason a vertical presentation isn’t working, start casting,” Moore says. “Go long, let the spoon hit the bottom, and reel back steadily. Sometimes this presentation catches more fish, but it also helps you locate schools around the boat that your sonar might not see. If you catch fish farther out, move in that direction.”
You can make a killer spoon lure from, well, an actual spoon.Gregory Reid
If you (or you and the kids) need a fun project, it’s fair to say that there’s not an easier, more effective lure you can build at home than a spoon. If you don’t have some old silverware sitting around, a visit to a flea market, thrift shop, or antiques store is in order. And unless the spoons you find happen to have been used on the Titanic, you can expect to pay less than a buck apiece for them. As kitchen spoons come in all shapes, sizes, and depths, experimentation possibilities are almost endless. Once you cut off the stem and file the connection point smooth, you’ve got a blank canvas.
The cool part is that no matter how simple or snazzy you make your spoon, it’ll catch fish. Just drill a hole in each end, add split rings and a hook, and fire away. Or get creative by hammering in scale patterns or adding paint, holographic tape, eyes, and a hook dressed with Mylar or bucktail. For a video tutorial on making a spoon, visit fieldandstream.com/spoonproject.
Red, White, and Blood?
How did this iconic spoon lure get its color pattern?Gregory Reid
John Cleveland of Eppinger MFG says when the red-and-white Dardevle Spoon was created in the early 1900s, there was no science behind the color. “It was an experiment,” he says. “I’ve heard everything from the red representing blood to the white stripe representing a pork strip. But they’re just stories.” Cleveland believes the color combo simply creates contrast that triggers strikes. And thanks to the Dardevle, red-and-white remains a common pattern on all sorts of lures.
By Mason Prince
MLF pro Aaron Martens – whether he wants to be or not – is known around the bass-fishing world for his mastery of the drop-shot technique. Martens rode his drop-shot skill all the way to the bank in June, winning a $100,000 check and the Stage Six Championship on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
The California pro frequently protests that he’s not crazy about being known as a “drop-shot guy,” but if it keeps winning him events, he’ll learn to live with it.
“The thing about a drop-shot is that it is almost always the way to go,” Martens stated. “I kind of kick myself for not using it enough sometimes. I usually have one to three drop-shots tied on and ready to go at any given time during an event.”
Where it Works
Martens has fished a drop-shot all over the country during his 22 years as a professional, so he’s found some places where it can work better than others.
“I tend to throw drop-shots less often when I’m fishing in the southern United States,” Martens explained. “If there’s a really muddy lake with dirty water, then it’s usually not the best place to use a drop-shot. Since a drop-shot suspends instead of hitting the bottom, it’s harder for a fish to locate in dingy water. You need clear water with good visibility to be able to use one effectively. That’s why it’s more of a northern-style bait.”
Follow the Leader
When Martens is setting up his drop-shot rig, he starts with a spinning rod spooled with 16-pound Sunline SX1 braided line. The bait can vary, but the hook stays consistent: Martens goes with a Gamakatsu G-Finesse Heavy Cover Hook when drop-shotting. But almost as important as all of those aspects is the length of his 8- to 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.
“The leader is an important part of the drop-shot and that length can change depending on different variables,” Martens detailed. “If the water is really dirty, then I go with the shortest leaders I use, around 1 to 2 inches. In clear water where the visibility is around 20 to 30 feet, I go with 2- or 3-foot leaders. On average, I would say 8 to 10 inches is probably your best bet.”
Worth the Weight
You can’t have a drop-shot without a weight, and Martens has some preferences about weights. However, it’s all dependent on the conditions.
“I use a 3/16-ounce weight normally on my drop-shots,” Martens said. “Sometimes that can vary with either a 1/16-ounce or a 1/8-ounce if there’s no wind and the water is clear. If the fish are more aggressive and the conditions are a little tougher, you might need to up your weight to 1/4-ounce. It’s just something you have to figure out and adjust to while you’re out there.”
Knot Up for Debate
Martens points out that a drop-shot is one of the most simplistic rigs that you can throw, but there are little things you can change to make it even better. One of the biggest mistakes the Simms pro sees from his fellow drop-shotting anglers is the knots they’re tying.
“A lot of anglers still use a Palomar knot to tie their drop-shots and that’s just not ideal,” Martens advised. “A Palomar knot can take so much punishment from the fish when you set the hook because there’s no weight in front of it, it’s just straight line. What I choose to tie instead is a Double Uni knot, it works better for me and is more reliable.”
Armed with these little tidbits of information, Martens believes that you can catch fish at a blistering pace if you utilize the simple yet effective drop-shot.
Fishing The Filthy Frog In 5 Simple Steps
A hollow-body frog ranks as one of the best topwater lures for fishing in weeds because unlike lures with exposed hooks that bog down in the slop, the lightweight, weedless frog smoothly glides over the vegetation. The Googan Squad Filthy Frog performs to perfection over the slop as its weedless design lets you drag the bait over the thickest cover and its narrow-body presents a lifelike frog profile.
The Filthy Frog Is A Fatty
The weighted Filthy Frog allows you to make long casts across the weeds to cover plenty of water. Whereas other hollow-bodied frogs tend to start filling with water that needs to be squeezed out frequently, the Filthy Frog’s body is designed to keep out water, so the lure stays balanced throughout your retrieve.
Designed to walk in similar fashion to a Zara Spook, the Filthy Frog features rubber legs that generate a lively action. While twitching the frog across the surface, you will know bass go the “Eat Me” text message on the frog’s back when the letters disappear in a frothy explosion of water. After feeling the weight of the fish on your line, the strong, ultra-sharp wide-gap double hook of the Filthy Frog will dig in for a solid hook set.
Bass blow up on a hollow-body frog when you skim it across matted vegetation with steady twitches of your rod, but bass frequently miss the bait as the fish blast through the mat. You have a better chance for a solid hook set if you skim the bait over the mat and then let it it still in the openings of the vegetation.
Fishing The Googan Squad Filthy Frog
When fishing short patches of mats or lily pads skim your frog across the weeds and continue to work it in the same fashion once it slides into open water. Constantly twitching your rod when the lure hits open water will cause the frog’s legs to kick and thrust to imitate the real thing. If a bass blows up on the frog but misses, let the lure sit for a second and then start twitching it again to trigger another strike.
Any time the frog enters open water, retrieve the lure in the walk-the-dog fashion. You can increase the walking action of a Filthy Frog by trimming one of its skirted legs shorter than the other one.
The Filthy Frog Walks The Walk
The frog’s walking ability also makes it a great topwater option for fishing strictly in open water or around other cover such as standing timber, laydown logs or boat docks. Rapidly twitching the frog close to cover imitates the commotion created by a buzz bait, but the buoyant frog has a distinct advantage over the buzzer because you can stop the frog and let it sit for a while when it reaches the cover, whereas with a buzz bait you have to keep it moving or it will sink. The frog sitting there with its legs undulating is hard for a bass to resist smashing it.
Ready to catch a big Fall bass on a crankbait? Matt and Tim share some awesome tips to help you catch more crankbait fish in the midst of a Fall feeding frenzy! They’re catching these bass 2 and 3 at a time but that doesn’t stop them from explaining retrieves, bait modifications and so much more while reeling in their fish! If you’re interested in throwing crankbaits for Fall bass, let Matt and Tim help you do it more effectively.
Big bass are schooling and ambushing baitfish right now! If you’re not using a deep crankbait to reach those fish, you’re missing one of the best opportunities of the year to catch a new personal best bass! From coast to coast, baitfish gather along deep structure (bluffs, long points, creek channels, and cove backs) and bass of all species come together for the feast. There are a handful of baits that will help you target these fish effectively but few elicit as aggressive a response as the deep diving crankbait.
The guys are using 2 different crankbaits today to keep one of these schools of bass fired up. The bass have a school of baitfish trapped on a tapering point full of scattered rock and with 2 crankbaits flying, the action never stops! Any time you get around schooling fish your goal should be to always have a bait in the water. The key to consistent action is keeping the feeding frenzy alive. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the baits and gear the guys were using to catch these bass.
Tim’s Crankbait- Strike King 10XD (Sexy Blue Back Herring): http://bit.ly/2gHT4F0
Matt’s Crankbait- Azuma Z Boss 22 (Grand Shad): http://bit.ly/2poLKUC
Alternate Option- 6th Sense Cloud 9 size 25 (Shad Craft): http://bit.ly/2BQ4uDs
Hook and Hardware Upgrades…
Matt’s Favorite Hook- Owner ST-36 (Size 1/0): http://bit.ly/2cWpeyw
Tim’s Favorite Hook- Owner ST-35 Short Shank (1/0): http://bit.ly/2g8uCMj
Alternate Hook- Mustad KVD 2X Short Shank Triple Grip (1/0): http://bit.ly/2wSxIRz
Split Ring- Owner Hyperwire Size 4: http://bit.ly/2v8ArBX
Tim’s Rod/Reel Combo…
Rod- G Loomis IMX Pro 968 CBR: http://bit.ly/2FQj6CZ
Reel- Shimano Tranx 200 HG: http://bit.ly/2Tv0yCy
Line- 16 lb Sunline Sniper: http://bit.ly/2p7fxju
Matt’s Rod/Reel Combo…
Rod- Shimano Zodias 7’6” MH Glass: http://bit.ly/2cgmMAe
Reel- Shimano Tranx 200 HG: http://bit.ly/2Tv0yCy
Line- 15 lb Sunline Assassin: http://bit.ly/2h4LNjm
Budget Friendly Combo…
Rod- Shimano SLX 7’10” Heavy Moderate: http://bit.ly/2L3wppO
Reel- Shimano SLX XT HG*: http://bit.ly/2BRTYL8
Line- 15 lb Sunline Assassin: http://bit.ly/2h4LNjm
*The added adjustment of the “XT” over the standard SLX makes dialing in a crankbait much easier for long range casting.
**Tim and Matt are both using “HG” models in their reels. This is a 7:1 ratio. This may come as a shock to many anglers but deep cranking on a 7:1 allows for more control of your speed, harder starts and stops, and more aggressive reactions. It is more difficult to reel than a 5:1 or 6:1 but the pros outweigh the cons**
I’m really enthused about next year’s schedule. It’s kind of a big bass deal, and that’s just the way I like it. With the exception of coaching my son’s basketball team and a couple of short hunting trips with family, I plan to spend the winter with a rod and reel in my hand.
I’m in a holding pattern right now, though. My boat from this year is sold and my new one hasn’t arrived yet. Right now my time is being spent with the kids and my wife. That’s a good thing. I enjoy it. But, at the same time, I’m ready to get started on next year. There are some things I need to work on, get better at doing, and this winter will be the perfect time to do that.
With the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk being held on Lake Guntersville I want to be in tiptop shape with everything in my boat. I consider Guntersville to be a lake that fishes to my strengths. That’s serious when you’re talking about a Bassmaster Classic.
I’ll be spending a lot of my time over there working on some old baits that I want to fish in new and different ways. And I have some new ones that I need to learn more about. I plan on spending a lot of time fishing those lures with different lines, different split rings and different hooks. I want to know exactly how deep or how shallow they’ll run and how they’ll act with whatever rod, reel and line I’m using or however I have them configured.
I’m looking at the same plan for Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee, and for the same reasons.
When I’m not studying my lure running depth and action I’ll be working with my Garmin with Panoptix LiveScope electronics. I know how to use them. In truth they aren’t that difficult to master. At the same time, though, this modern stuff is so advanced that I’m not sure you can ever learn to use everything in it. It’s like a laptop computer. We all can use one, but we never get all out of one that it offers.
The one thing that’s really great about my Garmin is that I can watch my lures on the screen. I don’t have to guess how deep they’re running, or watch my line to see if they’re running straight, to the left or to the right. I know exactly how they’re preforming.
This year is one that I feel suits me and my fishing, and not just the two tournaments I’ve already mentioned. It’s the whole year. I don’t need a break this winter. I need to become a better angler in order to take advantage of what’s in front of me.
Next time I’m going to talk about selecting the right hook. There are dozens of ideas and theories about how to do that. But I have a simple system that works real well for me, and I think it’ll work for you. At least it’ll give you a place to start if nothing else.
Big news for all of you game-changer loving fly tyers out there, Spawn Fly Fish has just released a brand new product that is going to be the base for some incredible jigged streamer patterns.
Spawn Fly Fish is constantly working on new projects but something about this one seems just right. After months of ironing out the details, the new Spawn 90º Jig Shank is here. This product brings everything you love about fishing jig-style flies to the articulated world. From movement to appearance, fly tying is continually pushing the envelope.
This shank can be easily weighted with beads or dumbbell eyes. Add more shanks for multiple articulations, or simply slide on a hook to fit your target species. This new product comes in three sizes — 20mm, 30mm, and 40mm — creating endless possibilities for new patterns and adding different movements to existing ones. From steelhead to bass to bonefish, we expect this product to have applications across the globe. Available in 20 packs for just $5.99. With the 90º Spawn Jig Shank, you know it’s right!