Trolling With Spoons
Mar 3rd, 2002 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Mar 3rd, 2002 at 12:00 AM
You’re probably asking yourself if I am really serious. Trolling spoons for muskies? Why? Because they work very effectively, and very few other anglers use them! The fact is that less than one percent of all muskie anglers use spoons at all, and likely less than one tenth of these people regularly troll a spoon. Ask yourself a question. If a 30 to 40 pound salmon will attack a relatively small spoon, why would a big muskie not attack a larger spoon? Fact is, they will if you can put that bait in the right location, with the right action! There are some key differences between salmon and muskies that you have to come to grips with before you will understand what makes a good trolling spoon, and be able to start scoring consistently. First and foremost are teeth. Muskies have lots, and they re big too. When they decide to put the bite on your spoon, you need a bait that has a smooth finish that will slide through those teeth until the hook points find flesh. Baits with ripples, ridges, and holes are not good because those big teeth can get caught in these, preventing a good hook-up. You need a bait that has good paint adhesion, because those big teeth can do some serious damage to a bait where the paint has not set well. This will give you a bait with durability and longevity. The big difference between salmon and muskies is the strike angle. Huge muskies tend to strike from the back in an upward motion. Salmon strike a bait typically from the back, but on a similar plane. The majority of muskies strike a bait from the side and also from a slightly lower angle. What this means is that baits with a single heavy siwash hook will not consistently hook-up on muskies. Trebles are a must! Oversized split rings of the stainless steel variety are highly recommended, as muskies are notorious for incredible bursts of power on the strike that can literally bend open lighter rings. Trebles should be at least a size 4/0 to have sufficient gap between the point and shank for a hook set on larger fish. The general rule of thumb is bigger is better provided it does not hurt the action of the bait. Colour is a pretty interesting subject of discussion. Personally, I like bright fluorescent colours or contrasting colour combinations. This makes for an easy target for a muskie to see. Remember that on bright sunny days, a fish looking up sees a dark background, and vice versa on dark overcast days. So, if you re going to use a standard colour, try to contrast this against the background that the fish sees. (And yes, muskies do see colour well especially colours at the bright end of the spectrum.) The key to presentation is speed. You MUST know precisely how fast the spoon can be trolled without it breaking its action and simply spinning. This takes some experimenting with the bait at the side of the boat and noting your trolling speed. You can use a gauge, or the speed indicator on your depthfinder if you have this option. It is important for you to understand that quick turns or subjecting the spoon to the presence of turbulence will accelerate the water flow around the spoon, and cause its action to break. Keep the spoon away from the prop wash, and keep turns slow and easy. Typically spoons with a long thin profile will run faster than spoons with a shorter wider profile. I have found that longer rods (at least 7 6 ) with a stiff backbone, and superbraid lines work the best with spoons. The longer rod allows you to see and feel the spoon working, and while the superbraid line is less likely to be damaged in the event of a spinning spoon. (TIP: If your line gets badly twisted, simply cut off your leader, and spool out about 150 feet of line with no lure or leader. Several minutes of trolling like this will remove most of the twisted line.) Superbraid line is very narrow in diameter versus other line types, giving you a little extra depth, and these lines also have an extremely low level of stretch, meaning you get solid hook sets. A good set of rod holders is a worthwhile investment if you want to troll for muskies, whether or not you choose to use spoons. There are three ways to present a spoon. The most obvious is to flat-line the spoon anywhere from 25 to 75 feet behind the boat. This is very effective over weed flats, and along weed lines. Fishing a spoon on a downrigger as you would for salmon also works. This is particularly effective for open water suspended fish that are in close proximity to schools of baitfish. Stagger your baits to put one through the school at mid level, and a second bait through the lower part of the school. The flashing and dancing of the school as your baits and cannonballs pass through them, can often trigger feeding activity from nearby muskies. The last method involves the use of a planer board or outrigger to place the spoon out laterally from the boat. This is effective in the heat of summer, when fish tend to be holding tight to structure. This lateral presentation allows you to get the bait in where it needs to be without getting in too close to spook the fish. Because of the nature of the way both pike and muskies strike a bait, you will experience an abnormally low hook-up ratio with planer boards, but they re still worth a try and can be a lot of fun.The best times to use a spoon are following a severe thunderstorm, or during frontal periods when fish are neutral or negative. That slow dancing spoon can be surprisingly effective when nothing else seems to work. During the cold water period is another very productive time for spoons. Early morning hours, when baitfish tend to be feeding shallow is another peak time to give spoons a try. Lakes where heavy muskie fishing pressure is evident can also produce, because chances are that few fish have ever seen a spoon before. I have not had good success with spoons under low light conditions. Clearly their action produces best during daylight hours. I believe this is because muskies have problems targeting the wobbling spoon in the dark. As a last word of advice, remember to take the time to sharpen those hooks. Razor sharp hooks must be maintained in order to secure consistent hook sets on muskies, who have very bony mouths, lined with large teeth. Keep some extra hooks and split rings aboard too so that your hot spoon doesn t have to be retired in the event of a problem. If you still aren t sold on spoons yet, then I urge you to go to your local tackle store and compare the price of a spoon versus a typical muskie lure. You ll quickly notice that spoons can be had for up to half the price of a conventional jerkbait or crankbait. Economics aside, I fish spoons because they work! They are an under-utilized and highly effective presentation approach that put fish in my boat for my clients, family, and friends all year long. And often, they produce under conditions when conventional muskie baits just aren t getting the results I want. So, if you re looking for an edge this season, take a look at the vast array of quality spoons made by both Eppinger and Gibbs you won t be disappointed.