One of the most common questions I get is also the easiest to answer: “If you had only one lure to fish with, what would it be? My answer, without hesitation, is a jig. Why? Because a jig can be fished at any depth, can be worked vertically or horizontally, and comes in a ridiculous range of sizes, colors, and profiles. See, it’s an easy choice for only one lure.
But what if I was allowed two lure types? Would the second choice be harder to make? Nope, I’d immediately answer with jigs and spoons. Why? For the same basic reasons as the jig, but let’s look a little closer at spoons. Why are they so versatile, and why, at least in my mind, they are under-rated for multi-species angling.
The first reason spoons are so versatile is that they can be fished either vertically or horizontally, or better yet a hybrid of the two approaches. They can be simply cast out and reeled in, in which case the action built into the spoon is your basic trigger. They wobble along, never doing exactly the same thing twice. Depending on your spoon selection, it might be a super-tight, high frequency wiggle or a big, sweeping wobble; either way the spoon will be inherently erratic which is an excellent trigger.  Add a few rod tip twitches and you may be in business.
If you’re approaching deep lake fish, perhaps walleye or lake trout, fishing your spoon vertically is the ticket. By this I mean literally dropping the spoon straight down under the boat (or through a hole in the ice!) and working it with a series of lifts and drops of the rod tip. This technique allows for perfect depth control and you can work a piece of structure very thoroughly. Total depth is a non-issue; it’ll work at 20 feet, 100 feet or anywhere in between, and again the specific spoon you choose will dictate the exact action and sink rate.
My favorite spoon presentation is a hybrid of horizontal and vertical, where the spoon is cast out and allowed to sink, then ripped up with the rod tip and allowed to sink again, all the way back to the angler. This allows you to cover water as though you’re fishing horizontally, yet with depth ranges and control similar to fishing vertically. This is the most common way I work spoons regardless of species or whether or not I’m in a boat or on shore.
There are some very important keys to success starting with tackle. The tackle detail that improves spoon fishing more than any other is the use of braid or “superline”. Because braid has basically no stretch, the spoon responds very well to whatever action you apply, and the thinness and limpness of the line allows the spoon to fall very naturally.  When you rip the spoon up, it jumps and when you give it some slack, the spoon will flutter down with minimal drag from the line. Braid also allows us to use heavy pound test line for a given spoon weight which is good for dealing with the requisite quick hooksets. Specifically, we use Berkley’s Fireline TracerBraid while spooning for a major reason I just hinted at — hooksets.
What makes hook-setting tricky is bite detection, not the set itself. We often “slack line” dropping or fluttering spoons meaning you’ll have minimal feel. Most bites are detected by line watching and TracerBraid’s signature color changes every 2.5 feet make it very easy to detect subtle differences in fall rate or direction. Simply watch the color change closest to lure and jerk at the any difference. If no fish is hooked, allow the spoon to fall back immediately. When it comes to fishing spoons, hooksets truly are free because the act of setting the hook is, in effect, ripping the spoon up as if you were just working it.
Our spoon rig consists of the braid Palomar-knotted to a small swivel which is knotted to a Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader ranging from 18” to four feet long. The leader is somewhat stiffer then the braid which helps prevent lure fouling and is also invisible to the fish. A very small Berkley crosslock snap tips the leader to allow the spoons to act as unbound by the line as possible. Rods for spooning are relatively stiff and fast for crisp spoon action and immediate hooksets; I mentioned bites are hard to detect due to the semi-slack line, but also keep in mind that fish will not hold a spoon at all. Unlike something like Gulp! or live bait, spoons don’t feel or taste right. Fish are striking on action and color/flash alone and will spit it out quick. Set the hook very quickly and with gusto; the no-stretch braid and fast rod will do their job.
Specific’s on line size and rod power are dictated by the weight of the spoon such that heavy spoons are fished on heavier tackle and vice versa. My general bass/walleye/wiper/big reservoir trout set-up is a 6’6” medium heavy power, fast action St Croix rod, 15# TracerBraid, 15# 100% Fluorocarbon, and an Abu Garcia Revo spinning reel which is designed for superline use with big ol’ anti reverse bearings and a non-slip braid spool. I’ll adjust the system up or down for very heavy or very light spoons.
Speaking of the spoons themselves, I choose them based on a combination of size, profile, weight, and color. Size is a reference to length, profile the general shape, weight seems self-explanatory except that it’s related to profile, and color is obvious. What I mean about weight is that a spoon with a small profile will vibrate and sink faster than a spoon of equal weight but with a larger profile. It comes down to thickness of the metal they’re stamped from. In general, I like faster vibrating  spoons, which means heavy for their profile, in colder water, and wider wobbling spoons in warmer water. Water temp is relative to the species, too; what’s cold for bass is warm for trout and so on. As for colors, I strongly prefer chromes, golds, coppers, and/or some version of white or pearl. Spoons excel in clear water, hence the “flash” I like with metallic finishes. When fishing deeper than the light can penetrate, whites really shine. I look most often to Johnson for a quality cross section of spoon types covering the whole range.
Pick up a couple of small heavy spoons as well as a few larger thinner ones, tie ‘em up as we noted, and proceed to ripping them around your favorite lake or stream, always keeping an eye on the line. I think you’ll find that they are quick way to locate and catch fish under a variety of conditions. They may not be quite as versatile as the jig, but spoons run a close second in my book!