By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
(Editor's note: This is part one in an occasional three-part series on various pros' tactics when fishing a mega-sized spoon, a popular technique for summertime bass.)
The first time JT Kenney saw a magnum-sized spoon used to catch largemouth, he was literally stunned.
It was during an FLW Tour event at Kentucky Lake. He’d marked a bunch of fish on a ledge and was trying to fire them up with a crankbait and a drop-shot rig. Frustrated and with no fish in the livewell, he was trying to figure out his next move.
Along came FLW Tour competitor Mark Rose, with whom Kenney has a working agreement about the spots they share on the Tennessee River chain. Each willingly shares the spot with the other until they get the fish they need and leaves.
On this day, Rose pulled up after Kenney waved him over. Kenney told him how he couldn’t get the school to fire. Rose pulled out a monster-sized spoon and boated two 5-pound class fish on consecutive casts.
Kenney had tried a smaller 5-inch spoon, but had no takers. Rose turned to Kenney and said, “Alright, I’m out of here. That’s what I needed to make the cut,” and left without making another cast.
“I already knew how to ledge fish, but I knew I had to have some of those,” Kenney said.
A magnum-sized spoon is ideal on lakes that count gizzard shad among their forage base.
“When it’s really good is when the body of water has a big population of gizzard shad in it,” Kenney said. “Gizzard shad are the same size and profile of that spoon.”
Prime conditions for a big spoon are stained water that’s 75 degrees or warmer during the post-spawn and summer. Kenney’s caught them in colder water and clear water even, but there are definitely better options to be throwing under those conditions.
Kenney fishes the 8-inch Nichols Lures Ben Parker spoon when the situation arises. It weighs 3 1/2 ounces and Nichols also makes a 6- and 10-inch version.
Out of the package, the spoon is ready to go, but Kenney makes a couple modifications to increase his success rate.
“I put two stinger hooks at the top, but in Tour completion, I cut one of them off to follow the rules,” Kenney said. He has also added a treble hook to the top split-ring.
He’s also laid two spoons together and joined them at the top and bottom with over-sized split rings. Not only does this double the weight of the bait, but it makes the spoons flutter harder and faster as they tick together. The trick doesn’t work all the time, but there are days when they want nothing else.
Kevin Snider, one of the best anglers on Kentucky Lake that Kenney has encountered, taught him that by keeping a tight light once the spoon hits the water on its descent towards the bottom, the spoon will “slide straight down instead of fluttering and gets to the bottom way quicker”.
The sooner it gets to the bottom, the sooner Kenney can start pumping it to entice a reaction strike.
“If it saves seven seconds on every cast, all day long, you are getting way more casts in, it’s much more efficient,” Kenney said.
Some days, he’ll let it sink to the bottom and he’ll jerk it off the bottom. He’s assuming that when fishing the 7-foot, 11-inch heavy-action Halo Fishing Ledgemaster Spoon Rod, each time he pumps it the bait is rising six feet off the bottom. If he’s getting bit at the top of the arch, he would let the spoon sink all the way to the bottom the next time and fish it a little higher.
“One of the main things is that when you’re jerking it up and you are letting it flutter back down, you have to follow it,” he said. “You want a little bit of tension on the line so you can feel it flutter as it falls to the bottom. You don’t it to spiral.”
Generally, he’s found fish near the bottom really eat the spoon well and are aggressive while those suspended in the water column take a lot more effort to get to commit. He has caught those suspended fish by reeling through them, but he’d rather hop it and let it flutter down three to four feet.
“I remember this one time on Pickwick, I was jerking it and reeling up the slack, then jerking up again and letting it flutter back to the bottom,” he said. “There were fish across the bottom and suspended through the water column when I idled through the school. Sometimes I would get them at the top of the second hop which had to be 14 feet off the bottom and they were in 25.”
Fishing a jumbo spoon requires the right tactical gear. A garden variety 7-foot medium-action casting outfit won’t cut it. Kenney likes the Halo spoon rod for its heavy action, parabolic bend and moderate tip.
“It’s a specialty rod, which is needed when throwing those heavier spoons, especially when you are doubling up the spoons,” he said. “I like the long rod because if I want to jerk it high off the bottom, the longer the rod, the more angle there is on the line, the higher up I can rip it if I need to with the longer rod.”
Paired with an Ardent Apex Grande reel with 7:1 gearing and spooled with 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, Kenney feels like he has the upper hand. It handles big baits especially well, but because he’s moving so much line when he works the bait, if he gets hit at the top of the arch of his hopping motion, he has more of a chance at getting hooks into the fish due to the rod’s length and heavy action.
“If I had a 7-foot rod at the top of my arch, before I turned the reel handle to pick up the line to start following the bait down, I wouldn’t move as much line as I would with a 7’10”,” he said. “When you jerk it up and it hits right at the top, my hand is going into scramble mode to turn the reel as fast as I can. I still have to swing an 8-inch piece of metal is not something they are going to hang onto very long to allow you to jerk. When you feel a bite, you swing right now, they won’t hang onto it. Once they get it in their mouth they realize, ‘This isn’t good.’”