Practical tackle


Spoons are quite possibly the most basic of lures. Let's face it, all they are, at their simplest, is a piece of stamped sheet metal. It is, perhaps, for this reason that they are often overlooked. The biggest problem most people have with spoons is the fact that they sink, and because they sink they are excellent for locating snags. Luckily they are relatively inexpensive, so it is my policy to buy spoons in threes of a kind. At least I know that I will have a direct replacement for a spoon that is catching should I lose it. This will save me rooting about trying to find a suitable alternative that might not appeal to the pike. I have already mentioned the instance when the only spoon I could get takes on was a 28g Toby in zebra pattern, and the fact that my boat partner was catching on a silver version of the same lure was most interesting, notably because my efforts with a silver Toby failed.

There are three main colours for spoons; silver, brass and copper. For once I actually rate copper as a lure colour when it comes to spoons, but still place silver as my number one. Brass or gold is my second favourite. There are now many coloured spoons in the shops too. In the past the classic painted patterns were the red and white stripe, and the yellow with red five-of-diamonds. The red and white is a classic pike taker, but then it is silver on the concave side! Today's excellent patterns, I feel sure catch more anglers than pike. I fail to see how a pike can detect the details painted on to one side of a spoon when they are continually 'flashing' on and off as the spoon wobbles along. I may be wrong here, but I don't think so. having one side of a spoon painted will, though, give a muted effect to its opposite side, and some patterns will offer a high contrast flash. Either of these two contradictory effects might just make for the lure the pike want on any particular day. Having said all this I have caught a lot of fish on pike and perch patterned brass spoons. I guess a plain spoon might have done just as well!

I have mentioned the Abu Toby and it is a most useful lure, rather smaller than I would like but this, coupled with its density makes it such a good casting lure. It cuts into the wind like few other spoons, and will reach pike that other lures can't. This feature is of most use to bank based anglers, but can be beneficial to boat anglers too - reaching into nature reserves for example! The profile of the Toby also ensures that it will continue to stay fairly deep when other spoons would have planed to the surface. Originally designed as a salmon lure, the Toby is intended for use in running water where its deep running potential can be most welcome. There are many copies of the Toby available, often at quite a saving. Some are not quite so good, but most match up well. The Toby Salmo, at 30g, is heavier than the heaviest standard Toby, but being wider doesn't cast so well or fish as deeply. When I want a larger lure than the Toby, but still want to fish deep or at distance I go for the Landa Longa in the 35g size, at 4 inches it is also wider than the Toby and so looks a lot bigger. There are some other good spoons for long casting from Kilty, who do some real monsters suitable for deep trolling too, and Gordon Griffiths. Both these firms are primarily game orientated and salmon anglers use a lot of spoons, although their needs are different to those of most pike anglers.

Top row left to right: Kilty Heron (repainted), 7". Gordon Griffiths Atlantic Trolling Spoon, 5½". Landa Longa. Traditional spoon of unknown make. Kuusamo Professor.

Middle row: Mepps Syclops. Landa Lukki Flipz.
Bottom row: Lindy Gator Spoon. Williams Whitefish. Griffiths Lightweight spoon. Abu Toby. Home-made copper spoon fitted with Easi Links.

Landa also make a variant on the Toby theme, the Lukki, which is available in a 35g version which is the same length and shape as its 28g stablemate. You can imagine how this one casts! Tony Perrin (Mr. Landa) has produced some nice spoons and his Lukki Flipz, a Lukki with a spinner attached to the front, is another variation on the spoon theme. I am not sure if this lure is still available, but can be easily created by adding a Flipz-On to the front of a Lukki. Landa market two blade mounts with quick change clevises and four blades in a packet to allow you to so just that. Spinner-spoons, as the combination is imaginatively called, give better casting than plain spinners, deeper running depth and a larger bait. There is more throb and flash than you get from a plain spoon too. Like the weight forward spinner, the spinner-spoon is an overlooked lure.

It might seem strange to refer to sinking lures as running at different depths, but it is a fact that some spoons fish deeper than others. Strictly speaking this will depend upon a number of other factors, again similar to those that apply to spinners. Wide spoons made from thin gauge material fish shallower than narrow spoons made from thick metal sheet. Most spoon manufacturers produce their baits in this way, with two or three weights for each size of lure. Then to give a further range there will be longer, slimmer baits and even shorter, broader baits. The most comprehensive selection I can think of is the Dardevle range from the 'States. At present only a limited selection of these spoons is available in the U.K. Landa in the U.K. also have a pretty good selection enabling the dedicated spoon angler to cover many eventualities. As a guide, broader spoons have a wider wobble than slimmer models stamped from the same gauge of sheet metal, and a much more noticeable thumping throb as you retrieve it. And similarly shaped lures stamped from thin and thick sheet will have slightly wider and narrower wobbles respectively. There are a number of common spoon shapes, and a few uncommon ones too. My preference is for the slimmer versions of the traditional dished spoon shape. These and the Toby type with its obvious 'S' curve. The Kuusamo Professor is more or less a big, broad version of the Toby, but lacking the 'S' curve and flaring out again at the thin end. The Professor is very similar to the Arbogast Doctor spoon.

Spoon caugh fish
A Mepps Syclops fished high over a depth of twelve feet accounted for this clear-water gravel pit pike.

One of the prime uses for spoons is to fish deep water. You can use them to find the taking depth that pike are feeding at too. The much talked about countdown technique is the one to use, in conjunction with a spoon that maintains its depth. A wide, thin spoon is not much use for this tactic as it will plane up to the surface far too quickly. To count a spoon down, or any sinking lure in fact, simply cast it out and as it sinks count steadily (out loud if you must!). This will give you a number that equates to the depth of the water. Let's say it is ten. Try starting the retrieve when you reach nine as you count down the next cast. If you get a take having started the retrieve at five, then the pike are somewhere near mid-water. This information might help you as you move around the water, as you can start fishing your lures at the count of five reducing wasted time fishing deeper in each new swim. of course the pike might easily be lying deeper in different areas, but there is every chance that they are not. Occasionally you might find that spoons are taken on the drop, and this is most noticeable when counting them down. If you are letting the lure sink on a tight line, which admittedly brings it in closer to you, most noticeably so in deep water, then you will feel the take. Either the lure will seem to hit bottom too soon, or you will feel the pike thump the spoon. Strike! If the lure is falling on a slack line then you must watch it where it enters the water. Watch closely for any untoward movement, this will be a take. If the line stops pulling off the reel before the lure hits bottom, a pike has taken the lure, similarly if it moves to one side or the other. When you are counting the lure down without paying attention the take will be felt as soon as you start the retrieve, as something pulling back!

Fishing spoons in shallow water, less than ten feet, doesn't usually require you to count the lure down as pike will either be prepared to come up to take it, or will want it tripped just off bottom if they are lethargic. In this sort of depth most spoons can be used to good effect, as speed control will be easy enough to keep the spoon working off the bottom and away from any major snags. In really shallow water, three feet or less, heavy and medium gauge spoons will need to be retrieved fairly quickly to keep them up, which might not be what the pike want. This is where lightweight and weedless spoons come into their own. Flutter spoons are made from very thin sheet metal which helps give them a lot of lift and, as their name suggests, a wide, fluttering action. These spoons are one of my favourites, probably because a lot of my local pike waters are relatively shallow. Being light and having a high lift factor it is possible to work flutter spoons very slowly. The one I use most commonly is the Landa Longa in its 20g size which is 4 inches long. I have also a larger spoon at 5« inches that weighs just 5g more. Except with a following wind or in dead still air these spoons are tricky to cast on baitcasting gear, and you might find a fixed-spool is a better bet. No matter what outfit you go for you won't be able to cast any great distance and accuracy is not guaranteed as these lightweight spoons catch the wind and have little dynamic stability. This property is actually what gives them their attractive, wide wobble in the water.

Spoons have accounted for a number of large trout-water pike, on some tripped slowly along the bottom, on others worked high in the water. At times a spoon worked quickly, close to the surface can be just what the pike are looking for. Fishing in this way you can cover a lot of water very speedily, and with an excellent chance of connecting with any pike that hits your spoon.

Gord Burton
Gord Burton with proof positive that big lures don't eliminate the possibility of small pike having a go. If the spoon hadn't been fitted with a treble at each end this tiny pike probably wouldn't have got hooked.

What Tobies and Longas have in common is an elongated shape. This makes them good hookers as the spoon will be unlikely to mask the hook in any way. Broader spoons might, therefore, require a larger hook. A good rule of thumb is that the treble should be wider than the widest part of the spoon. Long spoons, such as the Longa and longer (pardon the pun) might also benefit from the addition of a second treble to the front of the lure. This is done as standard on the some of the Kuusamo Professors and is worth trying on similar length lures. Part of the reason for the two hooks on a Professor is that the lure is designed to be fished either way around. But adding a second treble has hooked me the odd extra pike on other spoons. Generally, though, spoons hook well. No doubt because they slip through a pike's jaws easily on the strike, and even if grabbed across the middle the treble should slide into a reasonable hook hold in the scissors.

With all lures there is the perennial problem of fish coming short. One solution that has been put forward is the so called Commando hook. This is a free flying treble wired to the original hook on the lure, an inch or three behind it, a bit like a stinger on a spinnerbait. Another possible answer is to do as the salmon anglers do, and remove the original treble and reattach it with two split rings instead of one. This places it slightly further behind the lure, and nearer the pike. With a bit of luck.

Some spoons come ready kitted out with a small piece of coloured plastic either on the hook or its split ring. This small added attractor rarely lasts long, even if you don't catch anything. At the risk of giving your spoon more lift you could add a dressed treble. Sea fishing muppets work quite well, add some strands of fly-dressing material or wool, or even the hook from a bucktail spinner. Adding wool or other materials to a treble is simplicity itself. Cut the stuff to twice the length you want it to end up and pass a small bunch of it through the eye of the hook. Even it all out and slide a short length of clear silicone tubing over the eye and down the shank of the treble, holding the wool or whatever in place. If this line of attack takes your fancy it might be worth fitting your spoons with quick change split rings. Originally designed for sea fishing applications, I have found Mustad Easi-Links ideal for use on larger spoons. As they allow quick changing of trebles it is possible to carry a load of hookless spoons in a pocket, and just a few hooks in a small box. This cuts down on tangles and bulk.

Fishing spoons is quite simple. You can cast them out and crank them back at a variety of speeds, but note that different spoons will have differing optimum speeds. Some work best fished fast, and some slower. Try a few casts along the margins to see what the lure is doing at various speeds. A straight retrieve will work well for active fish and should result in good hookups. For less active fish it pays to vary the retrieve and start twitching the rod to give the spoon a more erratic action. This will, in most cases, widen its action covering a broader swathe of water. It will also slow the lure's forward speed, giving pike more time to make up their minds. When you drop the rod tip and give a little slack to many spoons they appear to fall back along their track. Use this trick if a pike is following close behind. You never know, it might just open its mouth and inhale the lure. I liken spoon fishing to wobbling a deadbait. The retrieves are so similar, it's just that spoons are fished that bit quicker.

Spoons are one of the few lures that it is fairly easy to make for yourself. All that is needed is some sheet metal, a pair of tin snips, a drill and a ball pein hammer. Making your own spoons enables you to produce larger baits than might be commercially available, and to save a fair amount of money. You also don't mind fishing a home made spoon close to snags when you know how little it has cost! Handmade spoons might not look as good to our eyes, but flickering through the pike's watery world is another matter. So long as they flash and wobble they will catch pike.

But do they have to be highly polished to succeed? Almost every time you read about spoon fishing you are told to carry something to put the shine back on your spoons. I admit that there are times when a flashy lure will out-perform a dull one, and not just with spoons, but it is not always so. I have caught pike on extremely dull copper spoons that haven't been polished for years. I also remember Dave Scarff telling me of his preference for spoons plated with real silver as they were not as bright as chrome plated lures. I think he had a point there. Don't get blinkered in your approach. Try to learn the times to shine your spoons, and those to leave well alone.

There is another type of spoon, that behaves completely differently to the standard baits. This is the weedless spoon. Most spoons come back flipping and flopping through the water, only spinning if retrieved too quickly. Weedless spoons are designed to fish with the concave face and rigidly mounted single hook uppermost, rocking from side to side. Lighter versions of these spoons can actually be fished on the surface, a little like a stickbait. The big drawback to weedless spoons is that they are almost as good at avoiding hooking pike as they are at avoiding hooking up on weed! This is down to the weed guard in part, but mostly the way the hook is firmly attached to the rear of the spoon. For a prime example of this watch the Barrie Rickards "Success With The Lure" video and see a big pike come adrift on a Heddon Moss Boss, a plastic weedless spoon - if that makes sense.

Weedless spoons can be fished in much the same way as standard spoons, but remember that they quickly plane to the surface, which is why they are often heavy lures. You can get away with a one ounce weedless spoon in water so shallow that a standard spoon of the same weight would be dragging bottom. Like all so called weedless baits these spoons are best suited to avoiding the attentions of reed stems, branches and such like, rather than Canadian pondweed or silkweed. Cast upstream, or up-wind, they will come back cleanly through the fronds of streamer weed, but then so will many non-weedless lures. Working a weedless spoon in lily pads can produce explosive takes, but because of the tough rhizomes use stronger than usual tackle. This obviously applies to all fishing around snags.

Traditional spoons turned weedless.

For the majority of spoon fishing in open water with baits up to 1oz lines of 12 to 18 lb test are perfectly adequate but for weed fishing step up to 25lb or more. This might lose you a little distance, but pike in cover will be less easily spooked and allow you to get in close. Light weight spoons, are best fished on fixed spool outfits especially when aiming for maximum distance. A 28g Toby can be cast seventy yards or more on 12lb mono from a small fixed spool on a ten foot spinning rod. The action of the rod can be quite tippy, this will certainly help set the hooks if takes are coming at range. Fixed spool reels also have a big advantage over baitcasters when trying to fish spoons in strong winds, unless extremely heavy/dense baits are being used. Even so my preference is for a baitcaster the size of Abu's 5501 matched to a rod of 6½ft to 8ft for my spoon fishing. Admittedly it limits my choice of spoon to good casting lures most of the time, but I can live with that.