O ne of the oldest saltwater lures remains one of the best. I am, of course, referring to the simple metal spoon.
The modern spoon has been a proven choice for generations yet many of today’s coastal pluggers tend to favor soft plastics or the latest “killer” hard baits. Nothing wrong with either choice under suitable circumstances, but the often-overlooked spoon can dominate a rich tide.
Here are several reasons why the old lure deserves top-tray status.
First, the typical two- to three-inch inshore spoon is an excellent imitation of a wounded baitfish. The jiving combination of flash and flutter can really reach out to trigger a reflex strike. This is especially true in the sandy-green water of limited visibility common along the Texas coast.
For this reason, gold has been the go-to color for decades in the bays. The bright finish radiates through murky water. Frankly, I believe darker copper is even better but for some bottom-line reason, copper spoons are hard to find.
Under super-green conditions, silver often gets the nod—although no law says a prowling red or speck won’t smack a gold spoon in gin-clear surf. (I dislike using that tired old cliché “gin-clear” but, being partial to Gordon’s and Beefeater, not to mention Bombay, I can attest to its accuracy.)
Various other color combinations are available, and all work, but basic gold and silver should cover the nearest fishable tide.
Second, the typical spoon is easy to retrieve. It basically fishes itself. A rod flip here and a pause there, probably enhance the allure, and such touches make you feel like you are doing something special. Yet the straight crank of a beginner will put fish on the stringer. The spoon is that good.
This is assuming it is rigged properly. Some “out of the box” models are not. The metal lure should be fitted with a stainless split ring or a no-nonsense snap through the line-tie hole punched in the metal nose. A small swivel helps minimize line twist although if no suitable swivel is handy, it’s not a deal killer.
Tying 10- to 12-pound casting mono straight to the hole is a rookie mistake. The stress of a hard cast or a thrashing fish can break the knot against the rough edge. Also, a typical improved clinch knot snubbed against the spoon impedes the side-to-side wobble and flutter—the spoon still works, just not as well.
Another option is to rig a two or three-foot “shock leader” of 20- or 30-pound test and secure the spoon with a loop knot (the abrasion-resistant shock leader is a great concept regardless of lure selection). On a gin-clear (here we go again) tide, fluorocarbon is less visible.
The spoon has superior ballistics. The solid metal construction provides a compact payload you can really chunk, even into or across a stiff breeze. No jig head fitted with a pinwheeling plastic tail can challenge it. Some aerodynamic dog walker surface plugs might come close, but I’ll still bet on the spoon of comparable weight.
Those few extra yards on each cast are a bonus when blind casting to cover water. Drifting a bay flat or wading the surf or walking the rocks—take your pick, but the spoon launched by skilled hands can reach more fish.
The spoon is versatile. You can fish it fast or slow, high or low, to maximize potential in a given situation. A longer (7- or 7-1/2-foot) rod held at 45 degrees and backed by a peppy retrieve can skip and bounce the spoon across the surface. This can be a killer technique for reds and specks over shallow grass beds or oyster reefs.
When allowed to settle deep in a pass or channel and fluttered along bottom, the same spoon can box a limit of flounders.
In this unabashed tribute, I would be remiss in not harping on durability. Going back to the casting ballistics, the spoon is a full metal jacket projectile. There’s nothing flimsy or soft about it, which is more than can be said for the nearest pouch of squiggly plastic tails.
Granted, a well-made tail can withstand several maulings from specks and reds, but when something with cutting teeth zips by—not so good. Chomp, chomp, slice, and time to re-rig with a fresh tail. Pitch a spoon out there amid a school of surf-run Spanish mackerel or bluefish and chomp, chomp, clank!
The basic spoon is durable, but I must admit that the shiny finish on some models is cheap. The plating can be quick to wear with contact with the bottom, and tarnish with exposure to saltwater. Regular washing and an occasional rubdown with a polishing agent such as Brasso can bring a lackluster spoon back to temporary glory, but the decay over repeated trips is inevitable.
Some hardcore pluggers paint worn spoons in gaudy colors and this surely works, but I tend to just spend several dollars for a bright new one. Or, in traditional outdoor writer style, hold out my hand and hope a manufacturer parts with a few.
On the subject of manufacturers, I am reluctant to name products but numerous 1/4- to 3/4-ounce inshore models are on the shelves. Some are relatively new; others have been available for decades. Colorful trailers of nylon strands or bucktails are optional (I tend to prefer undressed spoons. If you opt for a trailer, trimming it back cuts down on short strikes).
On second thought, I must give credit where due and acknowledge the venerable Johnson Sprite. Introduced in 1950 (to complement the original Silver Minnow), it is literally, the gold standard for spoons on the Texas bays.
Without question, the gold Sprite is a killer. However, the plating is a bit cheesy. So are the treble hooks in the smaller sizes—and the Sprite is packaged without a line-tie split ring.
If you change out the riggings and faithfully wash the thing, you have a lure that generations of A-list pluggers have sailed across sparkling tides.
Regardless of model, I do believe one thing: Select a suitable spoon for the depth and clarity and you can fish from Sabine Lake to the lower Laguna Madre and still be in the game.
Email Joe Doggett at
Email Joe Doggett at [email protected]