L ate this past spring, a regular listener to my radio show reminded me on air about the fish-catching qualities of a lure I’d all but forgotten. I’m glad he did, but selfishly, I wish he’d made those observations via email.
The part about not blabbing the secret so publicly is delivered with tongue-in-cheek. I’m always glad to share information that might help someone become a better hunter or fisherman. In this case, however, what he said out loud, over the radio, sent enough people into local sporting goods stores ahead of me to empty the shelves.
So what is this mystery fish-catcher? A one-ounce chrome spoon. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Where I usually shop, at Fishing Tackle Unlimited in Sugar Land, they come in a variety of styles—none of which was available when I swung by the store on the way home one Saturday morning—or a couple of days later.
For several weeks, as fast as they were restocked, they were grabbed up. All I’d see was an empty metal rod and a sticker on the peg board, to let me know what was supposed to be there.
I have one-ounce spoons in my garage somewhere, at least a dozen; but odds say the store’s supply will be “restored” before I can dig them out of what my wife calls “The Black Hole.” Besides, the store is air-conditioned, and my garage is not. That’s important in summertime.
In this age of increasingly realistic lures—that work really, really well, it should be noted in fairness—all of us have seen great plugs rise and fall in popularity. In the case of lures, however, age in no way is a measure of potential performance.
I’m old enough to remember the second generation, if not the first, of soft-plastic baits—ever. Purple worms cost less than a nickel each back then, and some stores offered all you could grab from a big jar in one open hand for about a dollar. Or, you could get a nice spoon for about as much.
There were no other colors, and there was no aisle of worm hooks from which to choose. You bought purple worms or you bought something else, and you threaded those worms onto whatever hooks you had in your box.
Or you threw Jitterbugs or Bingos or Lucky 13s or—spoons. Thinking back, spoons were on my line as often as anything else until the big explosion of soft plastics beginning around the late 1960s or early 1970s. It got harder to find space even in a big tackle box for the simple, humble spoon.
From way back through now, I recall some banner days on spoons in freshwater and saltwater. Spoons were great for largemouth bass in open water and still are. Ditto their effectiveness on speckled trout, reds and Spanish mackerel along the coast.
As a young man, I threw more second-tier spoons than popular brands because the former cost a few nickels less per copy. Cost was important then for two reasons: I wasn’t scared to throw a lure anywhere there might be a fish, no matter now thick the cover; and, I didn’t have much money.
I dressed those spoons with heavier split rings than stock, added colored-bucktail trebles, and lead with a few inches of wire when teeth were in play. I’d throw spoons anywhere, any time, and usually caught fish on them.
On a particularly forgettable morning in the surf some 30-odd years ago, I’d slung a spoon long enough to know it wasn’t going to work on that day and tide. Conditions were right, but I was getting “outfished” badly by waders throwing live bait on either side of me.
Tired of the beating, I stood tall on the second sandbar and slung that spoon as far across green water as a red baitcaster could sling it. I left the spool free and peeled line off it all the way back to the beach.
The reel was engaged and handle turned. Two rotations into the exercise, the line came suddenly tight with something heavy but not moving. Great, I presumed, a giant cabbage head.
Not interested in losing the spoon and turning a bad day worse, I reeled it and its payload gingerly to hand.
Instead of a slimy jellyfish, however, one of the spoons three hooks had stuck a stringer. And at the end of that stringer – was a plastic bucket filled with live shrimp.
I waded back out to that second bar, tied on a bare treble (peeled off the spoon), and turned those live shrimp into six nice trout. Spoons always catch fish, even if they sometimes have to do the job indirectly.
Email Doug Pike at
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]