AZ Lakes, AZ Pros - Tim Van Vliet On Lake Pleasant

Spoons On Any Lake Are Killer Lures!

Series: Arizona Lakes Arizona Pros | Story 25

Largemouth Bass On A Crippled Herring Spoon

The legend is that an angler eating lunch on the lake accidently dropped a spoon overboard. As he watched the silver spoon drift downward, sun glinting off the handle and bowl, he saw a fish dart out and try to eat it. A typical angler, this guy was inventive and always looking for a new bait, so he went home, sawed up some spoons, and put hooks and a place to tie the line on them. Voila! A new killer lure is born!

All Designed To Do Same Thing

Today's spoons are usually store-bought, and they aren't cheap. The ones I just bought were almost five bucks a pop, and they weren't the most expensive ones in the store. Some of the spoons are just dimpled slabs of metal with a hook on one end and a split ring on the other. Others are more shapely, formed into slim shad-shapes and painted with glittering colors that reflect like prisms.

Some spoons look like the handle, and some are shaped like the bowl. You can get them in a huge variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. There are even glow-in-the-dark spoons! But all spoons are designed to do the same thing: They are supposed to flutter down and look like a dying baitfish.

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Minimize Risk

Since these little hunks of metal are so pricey, a few steps taken to minimize the risk of snagging and losing them are in order. Most experienced spoon fishermen immediately change the hook on a spoon. A softer treble hook that will straighten out under heavy pressure will let you pull a spoon off a piece of submerged wood or rock. A brittle one that will snap off when jerked hard will also let you retrieve a snagged spoon. Either way, if your line breaks you're toast, so your spooning reel should be spooled up with some really stout line.

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Some anglers go as heavy as 50-pound-test, but a line in the 20- to 25-pound-test range is usually pretty adequate. I haven't had good results with braided line - it is too floppy and the hook tends to get wrapped up in it constantly, which is very frustrating.

Catching Is Easy

A shorter rod is easier to snap up and down all day long, and your reel should have plenty of power. If you've changed the hooks to make snags less fatal, you need to keep that in mind when you are landing a fish: too much pressure and you'll lose that toad. Some spoons, like the Crippled Herring, come with a single hook that seems to snag less, but treble hooks are usually preferred because they seem to catch more fish.

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Catching fish on spoons is easy. Finding the fish, however, may prove more difficult, especially when it's really cold out. Your depthfinder is your best friend under these conditions, particularly if you are after stripers, white bass, crappie, or largemouth bass. If you are after trout in one of our lakes, the depthfinder comes in handy then, too.


Stripers are suckers for a big shiny spoon. They hit hard, fight hard, and taste great. You can find stripers in Lake Pleasant and just about all the Colorado River waters. These tasty critters can get huge, so if you are after the big ones, spool up with some turbo line and make sure all your knots and split rings are in excellent shape. A large net is also advisable.

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Stripers follow the shad around, so you may have to do a little searching before you get into them. At Pleasant, the intake towers by the dam are good places to start. You have to stay outside the buoy line and cast your spoon to the towers. Let the spoon fall on an open reel for a long time, then jig it back to the boat. If the stripers aren't there, you'll know pretty soon.

If It's Crowded

It can get crowded there, so if you prefer a little more isolation, go down to Cole's Bay or some of the large coves in the main lake and start watching the birds and your depthfinder. If gulls are diving and carrying on, you can bet that there is a school of shad in the area. Watch your depthfinder until you spot baitfish, then drop your spoon down. Let it hit bottom, then give it a couple of cranks to take out the slack and get the spoon a couple feet off the bottom. Then all you have to do is snap the rod up and follow the spoon back down. Some people like a one-two, one-two cadence and some just snap up and down.

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In winter, search creek channels, drop-offs, and the centers of coves for schools of shad and stripers. At Pleasant, you may find that instead of catching stripers you are netting white bass. They are good to eat, too, and a lot of fun to catch. You may have to stay on the trolling motor the whole time and follow the school around. I've caught stripers at Pleasant in the area of the ten-lane ramp, in Coles Bay, in Buzzard's neck, and in Jackass Cove.

White Bass Nearly Everywhere

I've caught white bass nearly everywhere in the lake. It may take a while to locate them, but once you find them you can usually catch a bunch. They tend to stay in groups according to age, so most of the fish in the school will be about the same size.


In cold water, crappie tend to school up pretty tight. Normally they aren't more than about twenty-five feet deep, but there are times when they hang out deeper. During most cold conditions, you can start your search for crappie in water fifteen to twenty-five feet deep. Concentrate on the shoulders of creek channels, and on big shelves on points - places where submerged brush or old trees can be found. Sometimes they will just hang out in the middle of a cove in open water, or be scattered around on a steep rocky shoreline. Watch for the tell-tale streaks on your depthfinder, or the familiar Christmas-tree formation.

For Deep-Water Winter Crappies

Curt Rambo likes the 1/12-ounce Kastmaster spoon for the deep-water winter crappies. The Kastmaster is the one that looks like some chef cut an extreme diagonal slice out of a silver carrot. It flutters and falls slowly, especially this tiny one, so light line will help speed things up for you.

Crappie feed up, so it is better to be too shallow rather than too deep. Below twenty-five feet, Curt says, the crappie will usually be two to five feet up off the bottom. Once you get your spoon to the bottom, crank it a few times to get it up over them, then start raising and lowering your rod. Sometimes, Curt says, it's better to just move around with the trolling motor a little and not even move the rod. You'll be surprised at how often they will hit when you are just holding the rod still.

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