Spoon Feeding Bass, Pike and Walleyes

As one ages, what was popular fades out, sometimes never to return. Well, for my friends and me, spoon fishing is back on the front burner. A lure that can land multiple species and be fished in many manners attracts my attention.

The old spoon produces fish from ice-out until ice-over. Many anglers think of jigging spoons and yes, they are part of the equation. However, as much as I enjoy jigging style spoons, I really love casting spoons from opening day into the dog days of summer. And once mid-October arrives, spoons rule for us again.

This is not just a piece on pike, but a technique that works equally on bass and walleyes. Without a doubt, some of our largest bass are caught each season on spoons. Working cabbage weeds, we pull out many walleyes. In fact, weeds of any type hold gamefish all season.

On any lake that holds walleyes and has cabbage weeds, that will be the first location we try. We catch fish all season on weeds. Weeds and the adjacent drop-off are fish magnets that many anglers ignore.

Two spoons do most of the damage—the Johnson Silver Minnow and the Dardevle. Both are similar, yet different enough that both warrant a place in your tackle box. Both are fished in similar manners, but each has their strengths. A third spoon has worked itself into our selection, the PK Flutter Fish spoon. Two seasons with the Flutter Fish spoons and we are very happy with the results.

Living near Lake Michigan gives us an edge. The piers are open much of the year, and casting spoons for brown trout and Coho jacks is one of my favorites. In this situation, the Little Cleo spoon and the Flutter Fish spoon from PK Lures excels. They both cast a mile and work well under a slow retrieve.

Opening day of walleye and pike season will put us on the warmest water that we can find: north bays, marshy areas, areas with some current and any location that might be holding perch. After the spawn, pike and walleyes are ready to feed.

Most often a slow retrieve is best. And think shallow water. Many times, you can spot a large pike just sitting still with not a care in the world. Cast beyond the fish and reel slow. A light spoon that is pumped up and down will trigger a pike.

New weeds maybe only a foot tall can attract walleyes and pike. Most often, the best fishing is on the northeast end of the lake. Shallower lakes warm the quickest, followed by deeper ones. As we move into mid-May, the weed beds get taller and panfish move in to spawn. This is a super time for spoon anglers.

At ice-out, we go with light spoons, and when mid-May arrives, we switch over to larger spoons. The weedless Johnson Minnow works great in thick weeds and thru cabbage weeds. We add a white, 3- or 4-inch Mister Twister tail when targeting pike. Walleyes favor the yellow- or chartreuse-colored tails.

Once bass season opens, the weed beds are at least halfway up. All three species will use the weeds and the adjacent drop-off for the duration of the season. Work your spoons over the weed tops, much like a buzz bait. Let the spoon throw a wake.

Then start working the edges and letting the spoon free fall. Pump your rod up and get the spoon moving. Last, work the very deep edges of the weeds and the first drop-off. Some fish will be suspended at the depth of the weeds and other fish hugging the bottom. Cast out and let your spoon sink until it hits bottom. Then start your retrieve. Throw a pause in for good measure.

Every now and then I run into someone who shares a fondness for something I like. In this case it was John Cleveland, marketing manager for Eppinger Company. The Dardevle, the Red Eye and the Rex Spoon are part of this company.

“I like shallow-water fishing, and that is why ice-out and fall turnover are my favorite times on the water,” said John Cleveland. Fifty-degree water is the magical temperature. Opening day into the summer, and then once again starting in October when the water temperature will drop.

A prime location in the fall includes any green cabbage weeds. If you find green weeds, you will find pods of active pike. Some anglers like to troll and others, like John, will troll until they find a fish or good structure, and then cast.

Casting is like hand-to-hand combat. I love the feel of a nice pike ripping a spoon and the wild battle that they will put on. Spoons are deadly baits and should be a huge part of your pike arsenal. Hands down, the Dardevle spoon is my favorite.

Best spoon size for large pike: the 1-ounce spoon, which is about 4 inches long. Even a small pike will slam this large spoon. Second choice, the weedless Rex Spoon. Best color patterns: red and white with a copper back, 5 of diamonds with a brass back, gray ghost and the black spoon with a white stripe.

Most spoons come with a treble hook, but trust me, you will get a better hook-set using a 2/0 or a 3/0 single hook. Mustad and Eagle Claw both make a very nice hook for this application. The Rex spoon is a great spoon to run when fishing in and around any type of slop. It is snagless and will wobble thru grass, around stumps and logs and thru the thickest of weeds.

The Rex spoon is a spoon that I want to try in 2020. I like a near-weedless spoon in the thick weeds and in the timber.

“Anglers need to learn to become a spoon master,” said Cleveland. Run a spoon as you would a buzz bait. Cast it out and let it flutter down before reeling. Reel and then stop for a few seconds. Cast it out, let in sink to the bottom and try jigging it back. Make the spoon work as a wounded or scared baitfish would react.

“Pike are hard on lures; therefore, you must keep your hooks sharp,” said Cleveland. Carry a small file, and after a few fish, or if you banged into rocks or timber, touch your hooks up with a few stokes. Makes a huge difference!

Slowly, more anglers are learning the secrets of spoons for both open- and hard-water fishing. Recently, I sat down with Pat O’Grady, the owner, innovator and inventor of the PK Spoon family. He shared some really cool insights in the spoon fishery.

“I spent a lot of time lying on the ice, belly down, face over an open hole, staring at fish,” said Pat O’Grady. He explained that he needed to actually see how baitfish moved thru the water, how wounded baitfish moved and how panfish and gamefish reacted. He then spent considerable time casting and checking his baits and lures in a swimming pool.

Actually seeing how any given lure reacts in the water is huge. Try various retrieves—stop-and-go, pause, pump the rod, etc.—and you will quickly understand how one type of lure produces best over another in certain situations.

This led to Pat creating PK spoons, which includes the Flutter Fish, the Predator and the Panic spoons. Each is designed for a particular presentation. Some fall very quickly, while others flutter more. It depends on the wind, the current, the depth and the mood of the fish.

I really enjoy the flutter fish. It can be trolled for panfish, trout or walleyes. Vertically jigged, it is awesome. It really dances and moves side-to-side. There are various sizes, with the smaller sizes great on perch, bluegills and crappies. The larger sizes work great on gamefish.

In deep water, you drop it down and give the spoon a hard pop. In shallow water, you can cast them to the shoreline, and swim or pop them back. The Flutter Fish spoon comes in many different sizes. The small mini spoons do a number on perch and crappies—just something to keep tucked in the memory bank.

The beauty of weeds is that all species will use them and their adjacent drop-offs. When fall comes and the weeds die off, look for the steepest break lines or drop-offs on your lake. Spend some time with spoons and you will be pleasantly surprised.