STORIES OUT THERE FISHING By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton 9 Tips on How to Catch Fall and Winter Bass on Spoons If you're trying to reel in some cold-weather bass this season, I encourage you to become familiar with fishing spoons Few lures work better than spoons when you're targeting cagey cold-water largemouths. (Keith Sutton photo) Picture yourself and a buddy fishing on a scenic lake this season. The sun illuminates tall snags standing in deep water, the primary aquatic cover. You drop a jigging spoon beside one tree and work it with short hops. Nothing happens at first. Then you feel a sharp downward pull and know a gaping predatory mouth has inhaled the spoon. With a sharp upward snap, you set the hook, and a skirmish ensues. The largemouth fights hard and manages to loop around the tree. There seems no way you can work the fish loose, but keeping constant pressure on the line, you finally do. Now you see her. She’s a lunker. Fortunately, your friend is there to help. He grabs a net and deftly scoops up the 6-pound bass. Before the day ends, you and your partner will use spoons to catch 25 more 1- to 7-pound fish. Fishing trips like this have convinced me to pursue bass more often during late fall and early winter. I’ve also become a firm believer that spoons are among the best cold-weather bass catchers. When properly pumped, cast, trolled or fluttered, spoons wiggle like baitfish with the bends. Bass become aroused upon seeing this action, and big catches of big fish often result. Spoons include a big family of lures in many shapes, sizes, colors and weights. There are two primary groups, however: 1) casting and trolling spoons, which have curved bodies, and 2) jigging spoons, which generally have flatter, thicker bodies. When fishing open waters where hang-ups aren’t a problem, casting and trolling spoons can be used. Jigging spoons work best when fishing standing timber and other bass cover that’s best plumbed using a vertical technique. Here are some tips for using both types of spoons this season. Search Spoons When searching for concentrations of cold-water bass, cruise over underwater creek and river channels, humps and other favored structures while pulling a trolling spoon or weedless casting spoon behind the boat. Boat speed should be such that the lure rocks gently back and forth without spinning. Adjust the amount of line until the spoon achieves the depth where you believe bass are holding, then move slowly over good bottom structure while watching your sonar. Casting spoons also produce when retrieved across open horizontal structure such as submerged points or roadbeds. Throw the lure and let it sink, then reel up slack line. Next, rip the spoon off bottom by snapping the rod from a 10 o’clock position to 12 o’clock, then allow the spoon to flutter back to bottom. Take up slack and repeat this process until the lure is beneath the boat. Be alert, and set the hook at any unnatural bump, wiggle or weightless feeling. No Twist If line twist is a problem when retrieving casting spoons or pulling a trolling spoon – and it often is – tie a barrel swivel into your line about two feet ahead of the spoon. The weight of the swivel won’t impede the spoon’s action, and your line won’t twist and get loopy. Fishing Weedless Spoons Weedless casting spoons like the venerable Johnson’s Silver Minnow have been popular bass catchers for decades, especially when anglers are targeting bass in heavy cover. You won’t catch fish bass on them, however, unless you work them properly. First, it’s important to point rod directly at the lure when retrieving. This puts you in position to strike hard when a big bass engulfs the lure. This is particularly important when making long casts in relatively shallow water. If your spoon that has a stiff weedguard, however, it’s best to keep your casts relatively short. You need a stronger hookset to sink the hook with this type of lure. If your cast is too long, there may be too much line stretch to accomplish a good hook-up. Using braids and superlines instead of mono may also increase Trim the Skirt When bass are strike short, preventing hookups, trim the skirt, if your lure has one, to create a lure with a smaller profile. With a shorter skirt, the fish are more likely to strike the hook and get caught. Jigging Spoon Tips Unlike casting and trolling spoons, jigging spoons do not work well as search lures. Instead, an angler should pinpoint fish first using electronics or other methods, then position the boat directly over them before using these lures. Bridge pilings, standing snags, ledges and other vertical structures may hold bass that can be worked in this manner. Present the jigging spoon using short, vertical hops. Lower the lure until it hits bottom or to a depth where bass are suspended. Reel up slack, then sweep your rod tip upward one to three feet. Now slowly drop the rod tip, letting the spoon free-fall but keeping “in touch” with the lure at all times. Repeat, and be attentive for strikes as the lure falls. Alterations If you’re using a jigging spoon and action is slow, making minor alterations can improve hook-ups. For example, in muddy water, it’s sometimes helpful to superglue an Excalibur Rattle to the spoon as the added sound may help bass zero in on your lure. If the spoon you’re using has a plain treble, consider using a feather-dressed treble instead. A plastic tube body or soft-plastic curlytail grub can be added to the hook to change the texture and color, or you might tip the hook with a minnow or scent bait. Many jigging spoons come with cheap nickel hooks. Replace these with quality bronze hooks that are sharper and straighten more easily when you get snagged. Remember, too, when fishing with jigging spoons, you need some added hardware. All such spoons are punched with a hole for a line attachment, but if you tie directly through this hole, the sharp metal edge can cut your line. Be sure you add a split ring first to avoid problems. Unhang a Spoon If you get snagged when working a jigging spoon vertically in timber or other heavy cover, pull the line tight, then let the spoon drop. The weight of the spoon often pulls the hook free. Restore the Finish Shiny spoons work best because they have more flash, giving the appearance of a dead or dying baitfish. If your spoons have become dull after long use, you can give them new shine by polishing with a piece of fine steel wool. Metal polishes can be used as well, but many contain petroleum-based ingredients that could make bass less likely to strike. Seeing is Believing Hardcore spoon fishermen usually have sensitive fishfinders that allow them to actually see a spoon as it is worked around bass beneath the boat. When fish are especially finicky, use of such equipment allows you to place the lure right on a bass’s nose and work it with various actions. Knowing you’re in the strike zone reduces the frustration often brought on by finicky cold-water lunkers, encouraging you to try various tricks until one produces the desired result – a bass in the boat.