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Jigging Spoons
by David Wharton

Reprinted at Bassdozer with permission of Honey Hole Magazine, Inc.

During the fall months and on into winter, a jigging spoon is one of the best, if not the very best, lure choice for bass fishing. It is also one of the techniques that is not used as much as it should be by bass fisherman. Maybe this is because jigging a spoon is not as glamorous as pitching a jig in hydrilla, or casting a spinnerbait or crankbait around cover. Or maybe you don't hear much about jigging a spoon from the touring pros. Or it could be that not many tournaments are won on a jigging spoon, although there have been in the past.

No spoon fishing is not glamorous. In fact, jigging a spoon is down right boring. Boring until that magic spot is found, and then it is the fastest action you will ever experience in bass fishing. There is no lure that will catch bass faster than a jigging spoon!

A spoon is the best imitation of an injured or dying shad of about all of the fishing lures. As you know, shad is the number one food source for bass in all of our Texas lakes. There are different designs, shapes, colors, and sizes of spoons and whether they are called a casting spoon or jigging spoon, the central idea is to imitate an easy meal for a bass or other fish that dines on shad. Not only will black bass inhale a spoon, but other freshwater and saltwater game fish will readily take a bite as well. If there was ever a universal lure, it would have to be a spoon.

Now let's talk about where and how to fish a spoon. The basic presentation of a spoon in most Texas lakes is vertically jigging it. Virtually all the spoons on the market have exposed treble hooks which will hang on any underwater object like brush, logs, stumps, rocks, or anything else that is underwater. Since bass are very much object oriented, i.e. close to brush, logs, trees or other underwater cover trying to cast a lure with exposed trebles will only hang in the cover and spook the fish. The only alternative is to position your boat directly over the cover and jig the spoon in and around the cover directly under the boat. All of the good bass lakes in Texas like Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend, and Lake Fork have standing timber, brush piles, tree lines, creek channels, or river channels. These are all prime areas to jig a spoon. Where a channel of some type intersects a tree-line is a prime spot, especially if there is good underwater cover.

Creek or river bends in standing timber are other topnotch spots. Don't be afraid to fish right in the bottom of the channels. Normally we try to fish the edges, or outside bends of channels, but during cold weather months it is not uncommon to find bass in the bottom of the channel. Once again, look for brush in the bottom of the channel to hold the bass.

As you may be able to tell, spoon jigging is basically a deep-water technique. Normally in the 15- to 25-foot range is best, and occasionally even deeper. The deepest I have ever caught a bass on Sam Rayburn was 48 feet, in the bottom of the river channel on a cold January day. This is an exception, but shows bass will get that deep in Texas lakes, and a spoon is the best lure when they do.

When fishing in deep water, there is an added significance to the use of good fish locators, and being able to read the screen. There are a few really good locators on the market that will show the detail that is needed to be successful with this fishing technique. A Zercom LPG 2000 is one of those units. What you need to look for is some type of bottom change, and sometimes it does not take much of a change, some type of cover to hold the bass, and shad. If you find this combination, the bass are not far away. They will not be very far from their food source.

As you work your boat along with your troll motor, watching your locator for cover or shad, pitch the spoon slightly ahead of the boat, let it get to the bottom, and jig it up then let if fall back. Instead of working the spoon to the boat as you would with other lures, jig it in one spot and work the boat toward the spot. This is the only way you can successfully present a spoon in heavy cover without hanging up constantly. Being hung up a lot is one thing that turns people off from fishing a spoon. This takes a lot of patience, some time, and the knowledge that when the exact right spot is located that the payoff is some of the most rapid and exciting bass fishing possible. Bass school on the bottom just like the visible surface schooling activity we see during the summer months. This is what we are looking for with the locator and the spoon.

A really accomplished spoon fisherman can jig a spoon in some unbelievable cover without hanging. Just as with any lure, you have to develop a "feel" with a spoon. You have to sense when you are about to hang or when it is possible to jig it with more abandon. A really high percentage of strikes will come as the spoon falls back. Snap the spoon off the bottom with your rod tip and let it fall back on a rather slack line. If you are in heavy brush lift the spoon up slightly, and if you don't feel brush, then snap the spoon upward. If you feel brush, drop the spoon back and try again until you don't feel any obstruction, and then snap it upward. When you do this you are developing a "feel" and will not hang up nearly as often. Not only is this more productive, but it is much more enjoyable not to be hung all the time. So try to be patient, and try to develop a "feel" for what is happening with your lure.

We have only been talking about jigging a spoon on bottom so far, but there are some other areas that a spoon is super effective. Suspended bass are the hardest to catch of all fish. One of the most successful lures for suspended bass is a spoon. When bass suspend say 20 feet down over 40 feet of water, or they are suspended under balls of shad in deep water, then a spoon is the best choice. By jigging under the boat, you can control exactly the depth you want to fish. Drop a spoon to the desired depth and you can keep it there exactly by watching your locator. Once again, a good locator is essential for this type fishing.

Occasionally bass will be located on clay or sandy points that have little cover. This is when you can cast a spoon and let it go to the bottom and yo-yo it back to the boat. When bass are in this type of water they have pushed the shad there and are in an eating mood. Make a cast of comfortable length, let the spoon sink, and sweep the rod tip up, and then let it sink. The strike will come on the fall, because the falling spoon resembles and injured shad. Another presentation in this type water is to cast the spoon out, let it sink, and start a slow steady retrieve to the boat. When you do this there can be no brush to hang on, or those treble hooks will hang immediately. This isn't a tricky presentation except for the speed of the retrieve. Too fast and the spoon will twist your line. Too slow and it will be dragging on the bottom. A steady retrieve is really good for white bass or stripers. As mentioned earlier, a spoon is pretty much a universal bait for any game fish.

The rod, reel, line, and lure selection are all keys to success.

First let's talk about the rod. There are two different thoughts on this subject as to whether to use a heavy or a medium action rod. I lean toward a medium action with a rather forgiving tip. To develop the "feel" you need, and to keep from hanging up often, the sensitivity from a medium action rod is essential. The same rod you use for topwaters or spinnerbaits should be good for spoons. You may prefer to use a heavy action rod like an All Star AST785C Titanium, which is about as good as it gets for spoon fishing. This is a 6-foot, 6-inch graphite medium action rod that is extremely sensitive and light.

About any high speed reel will work for jigging a spoon. A quality 6:1 ratio reel should be sufficient.

The line size should be matched to the amount of cover. If you are fishing heavy cover, use heavy line. The lightest line size you can use would be best. It is very important to be able to see the line since most of the strikes come as the lure falls back. I use clear Trilene XT in 17- to 20-pound test.

All spoons are not created equally. There are three types that you need to be aware of. First is a shoehorn type that is a stamped silver or gold plated metal spoon. This one is somewhat rare these days, but is really good for casting into schooling bass or jigging in extremely cold water. The shoehorn spoon is wider and has a slower fall and wider wobble. It gets the name because it looks like a shoehorn with hooks. The next is a hammered spoon made of stainless steel. These spoons are more slender than a shoehorn and have a faster fall. A Hopkins Shorty 75 is a good example. These spoons have been the standard for many years. The new breed of spoons are more natural looking in appearance and action like Horizon Lures' Pirk Minnow.

This is the most natural looking and acting spoon on the market today. Horizon Lures changed the spinnerbait market when they came out with the Ghost Minnow. Mel Kirk, the president of Horizon Lures, was the first to use metallurgy to create a natural looking head on a spinnerbait, and carried this practice to his spoons. If copying is the utmost in flattery, then the Ghost Minnow is a very flattered lure. Every major spinnerbait company copied the Ghost Minnow in a short time. They had to copy it or be left behind. The Pirk Minnow is no different.

A few tips that will make spoon fishing more enjoyable need to be discussed. First, keep the boat directly over the top of the cover you are jigging in, so you can stay in contact with the spoon. Develop a "feel" with the spoon so you don't stay hung up. When you get hung, which you will, give some slack in the line and shake vigorously with the rod until the lure comes loose. If it will not come loose after shaking, take an old sparkplug and slide it down the line, and shake again. Most of the time the added weight will knock the lure loose.

Change the hooks to round-bend thin wire hooks. These hooks are very sharp, which you need while jigging, and also can be straightened on a pull when hung. Use a split ring on the front of all spoons instead of a swivel. If the line twists while you are jigging, you are keeping the line too tight on the fall. Leave the line slack enough on the fall that a natural fall occurs, but not tight enough that it twists the line. It is natural for the line to twist when the lure is snapped off the bottom. It is also natural for the line to untwist if there is enough slack given on the fall.

The size of the spoon is important to a certain degree. The most popular sizes range from 1/2- to 1-ounce. Select the size depending upon the size of the shad the bass are chasing.

Generally the heavier spoon is a little easier to fish because of two reasons. One, the heavier spoon will shake loose from being hung up easier, and two, the slightly heavier spoon is easier to stay in contact with as it is falling back.

Color is another consideration. Most hammered spoons are chrome, and that is a natural choice since we are trying to imitate a shad. The Pirk Minnow comes in various natural colors, but generally if you stay with a silver/black or a gold/black you can't go wrong.

Since spooning is generally a deep-water technique water color comes into play. Relatively clear water is needed to be successful. As a rule, the clearer the water the deeper the bass will be located in a certain lake. The opposite is true if the water is more stained, look for them in shallower water. The water temperature comes into play also. A jigging spoon is one of the best cold-water lures. When the water temperature gets into the 40's, bass become very sluggish, but they will hit a spoon that is dropped right on their nose. A smaller spoon will work better in these situations because it will fall slower.

Spoon fishing is a great technique for catching numbers of bass. It is not known as a big bass bait, but it will catch as big a bass as there is under your boat. If you are in a school of big ones, they surely will hit a spoon.

Spoon fishing isn't glamorous, but it is effective. It is one of the easiest of all techniques for catching fish. Be patient while you are looking for that magic spot, and when you find it you will enjoy the art of spooning.

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