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Effective Spooning Techniques by John Kolinski

At first glance, a jigging spoon doesn't do much to grab an angler's attention.

Aside from a shiny finish, most spoons are nothing more than an odd-shaped blank of metal with a hook attached. Many anglers don't even include them in their walleye fishing arsenal. Those who do, however, know exactly how effective, and explosive, this lure can be during certain times of the year in certain water conditions.

Spooning Eyes Maybe it's a confidence thing. Non-spooners always seem fascinated when word of a spooning bite gets out, but they always seem reluctant to act. They simply don't know what they're missing.

Spooning is effective for three primary reasons.

First of all, walleyes in clear-water lakes tend to feed as much by sight as by their olfactory senses. A school of flashy baitfish will catch those big, marbled eyes from distances that scent and sound often can't cover through the water. Nothing imitates the erratic behavior of a wounded shad or alewife better than a jigging spoon, and that's what hungry walleyes are after during most of the season.

The Great Lakes, where alewife and smelt are the primary forage for many game fish, are a perfect example. For years, trout and salmon anglers have relied on trolling spoons to get those fishes' attention. Shore anglers who venture out on the breakwater walls cast heavier spoons for the same reason. Slowly but surely, walleye anglers are catching on, too.

The second reason spooning is so effective is that it provides a presentation that can reach fish in difficult places, such as steep breaklines and weedbeds. A half-ounce spoon can be ripped effectively through most weeds, and it can also be bounced and fluttered down every inch of a 20-foot breakline.

Finally, spoons provoke reaction strikes. Those neutral walleyes that swim up behind a minnow, leech or crawler and turn away often attack a spoon with a fury.

Not only is spooning a great way to catch walleyes, it's a method that relies on input from the angler to bring the lure to life, and a method that produces explosive strikes.

Over the past few years, I've crossed paths with a handful of anglers who share my passion for spooning. Two of the most fanatical, and successful, are Masters Walleye Circuit veterans Doug Newhoff and Neil Hammargren. More than once, I've seen them salvage a tough day by spooning up a limit. A couple of years ago at Green Bay, they had the rest of the field buzzing when they took the first-day lead in an MWC event by averaging over 6 pounds per fish while jigging with spoons.

"It's kind of funny," said Newhoff. "Everybody always wants to know about spooning, but it seems like hardly anyone actually gets out and does it. We get asked all the time to show anglers we know how to catch fish on spoons."

Hammargren said successful spooning starts with the appropriate equipment. "I like a medium-heavy 7-foot rod with a baitcasting reel," he noted. "I don't have to move my rod tip very far to make my spoon hop pretty good. It's more a flick of the wrist than anything.

"I used to always spoon with monofilament line, but that's changed over the last couple of years. We used to be concerned that Fireline was too visible for clear-water fish, but that just hasn't been the case. I really think the flash and action of the spoon takes the fish's attention away from the line. Now we jig spoons just like we jig leadheads -- with high-vis green Fireline."

Several brands of spoons will work. Newhoff and Hammargren do well with Northland's Buckshot Rattle Spoons and Hopkins spoons. Depending on the wind and water depth, the size typically ranges from 1/2-ounce to 3/4-ounce. I've added the System Tackle Rattl'r spoon that's new from Lindy-Little Joe to my arsenal this season.

"The key things you want in a spoon are a profile and flashy finish that resemble an alewife or shad and a fluttering action on the fall that doesn't foul up the hook," said Newhoff. "If a spoon sinks like a rock when you drop your rod tip, it's not going to be as effective as one that takes on the motion of a pendulum or a swing as it falls."

As with conventional jigging, strikes usually occur when the spoon is falling.

"They can be absolutely ferocious," said Hammargren. "Sometimes, they hit it so hard they nearly yank the rod out of your hand. It's really a fun way to fish."

When Hammargren and Newhoff decide to go spooning, they look for certain types of structure.

"The best spots always feature a fairly steep breakline," says Newhoff. "If there are weeds on top of the break and even part of the way down it, so much the better. A lot of times the walleyes hang right on the edge of those weeds.

"Rock is usually pretty productive, too, when it falls off into deeper water. We pitch spoons up shallow and work them down the break just like we would a jig."

Hammargren said spooning isn't restricted to lake situations, either. It can be just as effective in clear-water rivers like the Great Lakes tributaries. "Changes in water level dictate how good the spooning bite will be in a lot of those river cases," said Hammargren. "Most of those rivers are shipping channels, so some of the breaklines are always good because they're so steep.

"What we like to see in rivers are sudden changes in the water level. That often pins the walleyes tight to those deep-water breaklines. That's an ideal situation where you can really knock some quality fish."

Tuck that information away and give spooning a try the next time more traditional methods don't seem to be producing the results you'd like. Sometimes, the best way to stick a fork into a crispy, golden walleye fillet is to feed that fish a spoon.

Editor's note: John Kolinski is an eight-time championship qualifier during his seven years of professional fishing on the Professional Walleye Trail and Masters Walleye Circuit. His writings can be read in a variety of publications across the Midwest.


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