Lodging food and more
To Spoon, or not to Spoon
By Jeff Beckwith
There’s no argument, the vertical jigging spoon is ice fishing’s dominant
lure. Fish have surrendered to hammered metal and forged lead since, well…since
folks decided that ice could no longer separate them from quarry. I’m talking
eons. In contemporary times, spoons are linked to the pursuit of walleyes,
lake trout, and perch, although, when given a chance, flashing hardware
will swindle crappies, whitefish and tullibee (ciscoes), bass, northern
pike and bluegills too. And yes, I said bluegills.
Despite the spoon’s universal appeal, though, going to war with an
arsenal of metal only is foolhardy. There are situations, for instance,
where swimming jigs outperform spoons, as well as times when a plain hook
and agitating minnow is the preferred tonic.
But having said that, times are few when I’m not pumping a spoon. Honestly,
I’m sort of passionate about ‘em. I’d much rather rifle through a montage
of spoons – testing different shapes and sizes – than resort to an alternate
And over years, while assessing various types of spoons, I’ve established
that certain styles of spoons excel in certain situations. And while size
and weight would seem to be the chief characteristics of a spoon, I’ve
found that “action” is equally as influential.
On the ice, my attitude is to open with vigor and calm down as conditions
warrant. Regardless of species, that initial drop is executed with a high
profile jigging spoon – something that sends a message, attracts fish,
and challenges aggressors.
The lure must make a spectacle of itself, generating vibrations and
kicking out all sorts of color and sparkles. Scenic Tackle’s Glow Devil,
JB Lure’s Pro Varmint, and Northland Tackle’s Buck-Shot Spoon go beyond
the call of duty to entice fish. The Glow Devil sports eye-popping colors;
Pro Varmint an onboard propeller; and Buck-Shot an internal rattle chamber.
Now, despite the dazzle and fuss, all three lures run pretty much straight
up and down. That’s typical of lead lures. They rise and fall like a yo-yo,
but can be jigged powerfully, jerked toward the sky and pounded on the
bottom. But in turn, elongated lead spoons can be jigged timidly too, catering
to fussy fish. They’re that versatile.
When fish are clearly “on,” I dorsal hook a whole minnow and employ
exaggerated jigging motions, raising the rod tip 6 inches to a foot while
monitoring how fish react to on the flasher. Oftentimes, active fish are
furthest from the bottom too, walleyes included, so it’s important to study
If fish aren’t receptive, though, or seem to be nibbling not biting,
I downsize my dressing, switching from a whole minnow to a head. That change
is accompanied by a subtler approach too. Jerks are replaced by quivers
– rod tip motions of only an inch or two. And I incorporate more pauses
as well. It’s not uncommon for me to hold a lure motionless for 30 seconds
when there’s a curious but passive fish on the screen. Nibblers are known
to hit idle baits.
That’s the lead gig – the opening volley – but not necessarily the
final act. After that, my inclination is to dump lead in favor of thinly
stamped metal. Wide profile, flapping spoons occasionally convert sniffers
into feeders. They also cover more water, winging away from the hole and
drawing fish from great distances.
A great example of a stamped metal spoon is the Scenic Tackle Angel
Eye. The slender minnow-shaped spoon features a unique arched tail that
generates a floating and fluttering action on the drop. It’s been hotter
than pistols. And the new Angle Eye Jr. delivers the same gyrations to
crappies and perch.
Speaking of wintertime crappies, far too often their appetites and
capabilities are underestimated. Fact is, crappies are pigs. They’re constantly
eating. And last time I checked, native minnows weren’t much if any daintier
than a small spoon.
Spoons do a tremendous job of attracting traveling crappies to a fixed
location. And normally, the larger and angrier fish arrive first. They
won’t be bashful about bashing a spoon either, particularly something luminescent,
like a glow red Angel Eye Jr.
Normally, though, I support jigging with a setline. I’ll fix up a small
shiner or crappie minnow beneath a bobber and position it in a neighboring
hole. It’s quite typical to lure crappies in with a jigging spoon only
to have them wallop the setline.
At some point, though, if nothing’s happening, the minnow’s performance
warrants reconsideration. Meat failed and it’s time to reach for the tin
of grubs, maggots or wax worms. For perch, crappies, bluegills, and even
walleyes have been known to swing at larvae when minnows are completely
The spoon is king. Say it, “The spoon is king.” Feel better? I do.
Whatever trials and experimentations you engage in this winter, make sure
spoons are knitted into the tapestry. Dust off the old ones and procure
a few new ones. Fish ‘em with confidence and don’t be afraid to change
up with frequency.
By winter’s end, you’ll have built an ice fishing system around spoons
Editor’s note: The Angel Eye and Angel Eye Jr. by Scenic Tackle are
available at select sporting goods stores and bait shops across the Ice
Fishing Belt. For more information, call (218) 751-9669, or visit their
website at www.scenictackle.com
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