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By Margie Anderson
Outdoors Editor 

Spooning A Mixed Bag

Go Fish: It's A Good Way To Cool Off


August 1, 2023

This bass at Pleasant took a Crippled Herring spoon. They come in a huge variety of patterns and sizes and they work great.

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 some spoons up, and put hooks and a place to tie the line on them. Voila! A new killer lure is born!

Large Variety

Today's spoons are usually store-bought. 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.

Minimize Risk Of Losing One

Since these little hunks of metal can be 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.

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.

Catching Is Easy

Catching fish on spoons is easy. Finding the fish, however, may prove more difficult, especially when it's really cold or really hot out. Your depthfinder is your best friend under these conditions, particularly if you are after stripers, white bass, crappie, or largemouth bass. And 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.

They Follow The Shad

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. It can get crowded there, so if you prefer a little more isolation, go down to Coles Bay or some of the large coves in the main lake and start watching the birds and your depthfinder.

Watch The Gulls

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.

Follow The School

In winter and summer, 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.

They're Groupies

I've caught stripers at Pleasant in the area of the ten-lane ramp, in Coles Bay, in Buzzards neck, and in Jackass Cove. 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.


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 or hot conditions, you can start your search for crappie in water fifteen to twenty-five feet deep.

Concentrate On These Places

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.

Curt Rambo

Curt Rambo used to like 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 said, the crappie will usually be two to five feet up off the bottom.

You'll Be Surprised

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 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.

Nine times out of ten a crappie will hit the spoon on the fall, so when the spoon is falling, follow it down with the rod tip to keep the line a bit taut. That will help you see the bites and you'll get a lot more fish that way. You can drop a lure in front of a crappie all day long and he won't take it, but tease him a little by lifting and dropping it in front of him and he'll grab it.

When crappie go really deep, you have to stay right on them. At 40 feet or so, the whole school may be in an area only fifteen feet square. This is when a buoy to mark the school and an anchor come in handy. They won't be moving much, so stay right over them and fish the spoon slowly, keeping it just above them. Most of the year the crappie are going to be in the bowl or the belly of a cove where the brush grows when water is down. Get in the middle of the coves and look for brush or rock piles to find them. Curt always spent a lot more time looking for crappie than he did fishing for them, so take that as a hint.


Although most of the trout are stocked in winter, the ones you might catch in summer will be the big ones that survived. There are plenty of warmer spots that hold trout all winter and you won't have to drill a hole to get at them. The Salt River below Saguaro is one such spot. The urban lakes are stocked with trout all winter, and Apache and Canyon Lakes have trout in them. Patagonia Lake in southern Arizona is stocked with trout all winter, too. Riggs Flat Lake is also stocked with trout.

Kastmaster Spoon: Curt Rambo's Favorite For Crappie

Try casting a small spoon and let it sink, then sweep the rod and reel a bit. Let it sink some more and sweep again. Cover a wide range of depths until you find the trout. At the Salt River, try the three miles between the confluence with the Verde and Granite Reef dam. Get the spoon near the bottom, and let it drift through riffles.

At Apache and Canyon, try the steep shores of the coves near the dam. I once fished a bass tournament at Apache in winter and caught tons of trout in the little coves near the dam. Jamie Box caught a huge on right in front of the marina at Apache. Also try the swimming beaches and launch ramp areas.

Spoons may not be the most gorgeous baits around, but they sure are effective on a variety of species. I don't know about you, but I sure am glad that guy dropped his silverware overboard that day.


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