Freshwater bass anglers simply do not use jigging spoons enough for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Spoons are especially effective in winter and summer when bass are deep. But spoons will work any day year-round provided that you are able to find the right type of structure and cover where spoons are most effective. In fact, a few bass anglers in deep lakes even fish exclusively with spoons - no other lures - and score well! So spoons will work all the time if you give them a try.
The Best Spots to Spoon
Jigging spoons are fishing lures to use from boats. It's not nearly as effective to cast and retrieve jigging spoons from shore. However, the topwater skittering technique (described below) is one reason why a shore angler should always keep a spoon or two in their lure bag.
With a boat and an electronic fishfinder, the absolute best type of cover or structure for spoons is to locate a school of baitfish such as shad over deeper water, meaning anything from fifteen feet or deeper. Yes, I am referring to baitfish schools as the best form of structure and cover for spooning. If you are able to drop a spoon through a baitfish school, there will often be gamefish below. Find baitfish and little else matters, not the time of year, time of day, cloud cover, wind or water conditions, location, etc.
You may be able to spot these baitfish on the surface, or see thick clouds of them darkening the water like a shadow moving below the surface. Most of the time, however, the baitfish are too deep to see, and their presence is only given away on an electronic fishfinder screen. So you need to hunt the baitfish schools using the fishfinder, then spoon right over the "structure and cover" when the baitfish show on the screen.
When Scads of Baitfish Don't Abound
When baitfish schools and/or bass don't appear on the graph, you need to find some good bass-holding bottom features. You really are fishing blind and therefore covering featureless (and fishless) bottom most of the time.
The ideal depth to start spooning is 15-20 feet of water.
Get into a good general area and put the trolling motor on very low speed. Fishing the spoon directly below the bow of the boat can be more effective than casting blind (assuming you have a sonar transducer in or mounted on the trolling motor). Concentrate on spooning over any small gravel patches or any little rough rubble spots that show up on the sonar screen. Some of these spots may be no bigger than a sedan. Learn how to maneuver with the trolling motor so you can reverse or change direction right away. Move in whatever direction lets the bow linger right over these small rough patches.
You read a lot in fishing magazines about how boats spook fish, but that's not always true. If the motor's on low enough speed and if you perform direction changes slowly and smoothly, this often does not alarm fish to have the bow directly overhead, especially in lightly stained water. Yet even in fairly clear water, a bass that's tucked under a little ledge or bottom ridge or under a bush, that bass can feel very secure and willing to belt a spoon right under the bow of a boat.
Very often the "jig" or how you raise and lower the spoon should be slowly and gently directly beneath the bow. To get it out there, don't cast or toss the spoon any further than 20-30 feet ahead in the direction you are moving with the trolling motor. Simply lift and lower the spoon, often softly. A lot of solitary fish (often good ones) hold on these small and obscure rough patches of bottom that are difficult to target any other way.
What Weight Spoon to Use
If gamefish are actively feeding, the spoon will often be whacked as it flutters and falls through mid-depths. When bait or gamefish can be graphed suspended in mid-water above bottom, the 1/2 oz spoon falls a bit slower through mid-water, and stays in the strike zone longer, fluttering side-to-side like an injured falling shad.
If gamefish are not up and actively feeding, they can still be present, lurking on the bottom, biding their time. Where gamefish aren't showing up on the fishfinder, I tend to use the 3/4 oz size, since it falls faster, bouncing bottom on rough patches, cover or structure.
Few anglers have ever fished for bass in water over 40 feet deep. When bass are active that deep, many favor the 1 ounce spoon because it will get down and stay down in the strike zone better than a lighter spoon.
Match the Micro Hatch
Day in and day out, many specific tend to favor the 3/4 oz size spoon most of all. Keep in mind however that schooling bass can get fixated on a certain prevalent size of bait fish. At times they may concentrate on very tiny baitfish or "no see 'ums" and ignore larger lures, which can be very frustrating for an angler.
If you're not having much success although you can see bass breaking the surface blasting bait, yet you can't quite see the bait itself? Those are no see 'ums which could be most any type of fish fry, but often tiny shad, shiners or whatever is most common. These small balls of no see 'ums are more like a bowl of soup to a bass than anything else. The no see 'ums can't really swim well or fast, and the more bass bust them, the closer they ball into a bowl for protection. So if the bait looks super small (or can't be seen), that's a good clue you need to downsize your offerings to the 1/2 or even 1/4 oz spoon size.
What Color Spoon to Use
Spoons can be stainless steel, chromed or nickel plated, and all these shiny finishes are called silver spoons, which are the best color spoons. Gold spoons do work at times, but are hardly ever used by freshwater bass anglers. Painted spoons, especially white do work. There are fully-painted spoons that have very nice crankbait-like paint jobs - fire tiger, black/white, blue white, chartreuse/white and they all have their moments, yet the plain "silver" (stainless, nickel, chrome) accounts for the overwhelming share of bass caught on jigging spoons.
What you rarely see but is the best of both worlds are silver jigging spoons with feathered edges, where just one side of the spoon is hit with a metallic blue, neon green, fluorescent chartreuse or flat white flash of color accent. With feather-edged spoons, you get the same silver flash as usual with an added element of color flash. There are times you'd almost swear the feathered edge attracts more strikes.
How to Rig a Spoon
To me, a simple, plain treble hook hung on a solid split ring is often the best way to rig a spoon. A plain treble allows for the best side-to-side fluttering action on the fall, which is when fish strike spoons.
A hook hone or file is a must to keep the hook super super-sharp and extra strong. Fish will practically hook themselves when they strike the falling spoon.
I favor an oversized extra-strong stainless steel split ring to attach the treble hook. That plus a stainless steel Duolock snap on the nose gives you everything you need to go spooning. For best spoon action, tie your line directly to the Duo-Lock Snap. In place of the Duo-Lock, a split ring can be used to attach your line to the spoon. However, keep this front split ring about the same size as used on the nose of a crankbait, for example. This is so the knot will cinch down tightly on the split ring.
A swivel is not required although some anglers use one. A feather, bucktail, nylon or natural hair dressing on the hook isn't required, although some anglers use them. They will work, but any add-ons like swivels or feathers may stifle some of the side-to-side free-falling movement which fish find so attractive.
I do like to use a red hook to add a flash of color.
In terms of hook size, I often like to use am X-Strong #2 treble on the 3/4 oz spoon; #4 on the 1/2 oz; and #6 on the 1/4 oz, but it's your call.
Vertical Jigging in Deep Water
This is the most common way to use spoons. Hit bottom, then lift-and-drop the spoon by lifting the rod. The speed and height you lift the rod may vary, but expect most hits to come on the downstroke. As the spoon drops, it flutters and rocks from side to side. The bright finish flashes while it falls, looking quite like an incapacitated baitfish drifting helplessly toeard bottom.
Bouncing the Bottom
In a bottom-bouncing approach, it is often best if the spoon hits bottom each time it falls after you lift it. Hitting bottom is often the critical aspect of the presentation. Who knows why? Sometimes, the fish want you to swing the spoon up off the bottom the instant it touches down. Other times, bass may want the spoon to lay on the bottom (deadsticked) a long, long time before they will come over to pick it up off the bottom as if it was a dead shad just laying there.
Spoon Speed-Reeling Technique
It's true that most all strikes occur on the downstroke as the spoon freefalls, not on the upstroke or lift. But then again, there are times when bass want the spoon "speed-reeled" fast as you can halfway up to the surface. After it strikes bottom, speed-reel halfway back to the boat, then stop abruptly, before letting it flutter back down. Hit bottom (so key) again and speed reel it halfway up again. The hits that come while speed-reeling will be vicious. It's too much fun!
Many bass anglers favor the 3/4 oz spoon (shown) over other sizes.
Topwater Skittering With Spoons
Another less common but highly effective method is to skitter and splash the spoon across the surface in the vicinity of surface-feeding schooling fish. There's a definite knack to doing this. With practice, you can become adept at this topwater skittering presentation. Keep your rod tip high, and you want the spoon to develop that side to side wriggling cadence it has on the fall - except you want it to shimmy and gurgle side to side across the surface. Once the spoon starts to shimmy, just keep it coming, splashing and gurgling all the way. When it gets a bit jitterbuggy on you, that's the sweet attraction, and this surface shimmy is necessary to spark the grand illusion of life in the spoon. At that point, especially if following fish are seen swimming behind it or slashing at it, you can toss in a sudden pause or simply let the spoon slip a few inches under the water and keep it coming. It seems once a fish gets after it, then letting the spoon lower below the surface a few inches can draw a more solid strike some times.
One thing you should not do however is to pop it or use jerks or twitches of the rod tip. Most times, this will cause the spoon to tangle. You may use soft slow draws of the rod tip to manipulate it, to get the surface shimmy started, but once that side to side action develops on the surface, just keep it coming and get ready for a pulse-quickening explosion on top!
Jigging Spoons is an Art
Yet there are few artists. Unfortunately, freshwater bass anglers simply don't use spoons enough. So why not use the information in this guide and go give jigging spoons a try?
You'll be glad you did when you get on a wicked spoon bite!