By David A. Brown
Special to BassFan
In 2001, an injury to New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe gave a baby-faced backup his shot at stardom and, suffice it to say, Tom Brady’s done well for himself. Same goes with some of the baits we consider backups or B-teamers – when given the chance to show their stuff, we’re often pleasantly surprised.
Case in point: the jigging spoon. Often brought in as a relief pitcher, occasionally the closer, when the ledge-bite dwindles, this bait also merits consideration for a starting role.
It’s definitely a deep-water application, but Toledo Bend guide Darold Gleason points out several benefits.
> Casting call: Length and accuracy, even in windy conditions; Gleason knows that not many baits can punch through a stiff breeze like the jigging spoon.
> User-friendly: “It’s a fast and easy technique anyone can use to get down there and the timing of the hookset is pretty easy.”
> Broad appeal: “It’s a good way to ID fish. If you’re in a tournament or maybe practicing for one and you see a big school of fish on your graph, you can drop in there a few times and determine what’s down there. If you only catch white bass, then you know that’s what it is.”
Missouri competitor Tom Murphy is so convinced of this bait’s effectiveness, he’s established his own line – Dixie Jet Slab Spoons. Not only can he count on identifying the species, he knows the jigging spoon will often light the feeding fuse for whatever’s down there.
“On Missouri Lake, I routinely catch Kentucky bass, largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, bluegill, crappie and catfish on a spoon,” Murphy says. “You will see your electronics light up as the entire school will follow the spoon or hooked fish to the surface and that’s a blast to see.”
When and Where
From ledges to humps to deep points, Gleason won’t hesitate to drop a 7/8-ounce silver War Eagle jigging spoon into a promising area. Peak time, he says, is when the bass are eating smaller baitfish like juvenile gizzard shad.
July through October’s a good window for Southern fisheries, Gleason notes, as you catch the deep summer patterns and then the frantic fall feeding, when the spoon’s castability allows you to quickly reach schooling fish that often rise and sound too quickly to chase. Work it high in the water column, or let it drop to reach the ones mopping up wounded descending baitfish; the spoon’s options get the job done.
Double hookups are common on a jigging spoon when you run a stinger hook.
Summer finds Murphy targeting deep docks and break walls at least 20 feet deep on highland reservoirs. He likes to mix it up with 7/8-ounce spoons in white, blood trail or coleslaw.
“I’ll position my boat 3 or 4 feet from the outside of the dock slip’s shady side, preferably with a boat on a raised boat lift, and pitch my spoon as far back into the slip as possible,” Murphy said. “In many cases, I’ll pitch it over the boat lift supports and when the spoon hits the water I just let the reel free-spool the spoon until I see my line stop and it starts to accumulate on top of the water.
“I know my fall rate is about a foot per second, so if I’m fishing in 30 feet of water, it should take about 30 seconds to reach the bottom. So after I make my pitch and my line stops in 5 to 10 seconds, chances are very good that a fish had picked up my bait and I reel up my excess line quickly and set the hook.”
Murphy expects the fish to be suspended anywhere from a few feet off the bottom to a few feet below the surface. Trial and error tells him where they are and how fast they like the bait moving. The bait’s inherent swiftness yields big-time bites.
“Because the spoon falls so quickly, it will blow by the fish before he realizes what it is, and then he turns quickly and dives for the spoon at a very fast and aggressive rate,” Murphy said. “His goal is to kill whatever it is and eat it. Once I figure out what depth the fish are at, it becomes very easy to target them.”
Rigged and Ready
For the close-range dock presentations, Murphy uses a 6-foot-6 medium-heavy G-Rod with a 6.5:1-ratio Lew’s Tournament Pro reel carrying 20- to 25-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon to wrestle big fish out of the snag-prone habitat. For open water, where long casts are sometimes needed, Gleason goes with 15- to 20-pound fluoro and a 7-foot-3 medium-heavy Falcon Cara Amistad casting rod. The stout rod has just enough tip to let the fish load up – a critical element of consistent hooksets.
“I always use a Gamakatsu G-Stinger kook on the top eye of my spoons for two reasons: First, it ensures a good, clean hook-up and most importantly, fish school in large numbers under docks and breaker walls in the summer,” Murphy says. “You will catch two and sometimes three fish on this spoon set-up as they fight for the bait and try to take it away from a hooked fish.”
Gleason also ups his hooking efficiency with a second point of contact, but for him, the stinger plays a dual role.
“I’ll run a free-sliding feathered treble hook on my line before I attach my spoon. I feel like that treble looks like some kind of smaller insect that a shad is feeding on. When I hop my spoon up and down, that treble will separate from the spoon and when it sinks down, they kind of come together.
“It’s something that piques the fish’s interest and if you get them in a good feeding mode, you can catch two at a time. In the summer, you get small windows when they’ll bite, and when you hook one, two or three will follow it in and they’ll see that other hook, so it’s a good way to catch doubles.”
Gleason closes with this tip: Whether you’re casting, pitching or vertically dropping, let your spoon go all the way to the bottom. If you only work the water column, you’re missing a lot of opportunity.
“During a retrieve, I’ll disengage my reel and let line out three or four times just to get the bait back to the bottom,” he says. “I think a lot of times, people are working above the fish. The big thing is you want to let the spoon fall on a slack line so it looks natural.”