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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
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
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 bait.
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
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 Go Devil, JB
Lure’s Rattlin' Varmint, and Custom Jigs & Spins , Willow
Spoon all go beyond the call of duty to entice fish. The Go Devil sports
eye-popping colors; Rattlin’ Varmint an internal rattle chamber, Willow
Spoon an incredible action and flashy attraction.
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
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 the screen.
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 or Angel Eye Jr., the Custom
Jig’s & Spin’s Slender Spoon or the Phelps Glo Spoon. 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 Angel 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. Pigs are lazy and want to eat all they can
without all the effort.
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 shirked.
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 too.
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 or
wholesale orders, please call (218)
To see more spoons, save money
and/or order online go TackleCity.com