Trolling spoons are among the most iconic of all Great Lakes trolling lures. The familiar wobble and flash of a trolling spoon have been widely in use to catch lake trout, brown trout, steelhead, king salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon and even walleye for nearly four decades. Few would argue that spoons catch just about every sport species that swim in the Great Lakes.
The Jr. Streak is considered a walleye spoon, but they are widely used to catch other Great Lakes species like this cisco that came from Grand Traverse Bay. Fishing spoons on downriggers and in combination with attractors like this Big Al Fish Flash are some of the most effective ways to get the most from trolling spoons.
During my tenure as an outdoor writer in the Great Lakes region, I’ve witnessed trolling spoons make some amazing adjustments. When salmon were first introduced into Lake Michigan back in 1966, the only spoons on the market were heavy casting versions like the Eppinger Dardevle. Unfortunately the Dardevle wasn’t made to trip the trigger of trout and salmon, but rather conceived as a casting spoon for toothy critters like pike and musky.
Ironically, one of the first spoons designed for Great Lakes trout and salmon trolling was a spoon called the Flutter Chuck and it was designed by Chuck Cartwright. The ironic part is that Chuck Cartwright was one of the early pioneers of salmon fishing in the Great Lakes and got his start in the fishing business working for Eppinger.
Chuck Cartwright would eventually leave Eppinger and start his own spoon company called Wolverine Tackle widely known these days as the folks who produce the “Silver Streak” spoon. Chuck was a conservative man, but he was also passionate about building a trolling spoon that would be the obvious choice of serious fishermen.
I started fishing Chuck’s trolling spoons in the late 1980’s. It didn’t take me long to determine that Silver Streak spoons catch fish day in and day out. Over the years I’ve found little reason to fish other spoons when targeting trout, salmon or walleye.
Chuck Cartwright passed away some years ago, but his son Chip has carried on the tradition and kept the passion for producing exceptional fishing lures burning. Currently, Chip is spearheading the company and keeping things rolling forward with the help of both his Mom Arlene and sister Kim.
Wolverine Tackle has settled upon producing four different sizes of spoons including the Jr. Streak, Mini Streak, Standard Streak and Magnum Streak. Each of these spoons have earned a place in my tackle box for different reasons.
Dave Cronk of Jay’s Sporting Goods caught this very nice rainbow trout from Mullet Lake in Northern Michigan trolling a Silver Streak spoon in combination with lead core line.
The Jr. Streak is the smallest spoon in the Wolverine Tackle line up and was designed as a walleye trolling spoon. Anglers use this spoon to routinely catch a host of other species including spring coho, Atlantic salmon and early season brown trout, but the majority of the Jr. Streaks are used on places like Lake Erie’s Western Basin and also on Saginaw Bay to target open water walleye. Jr. Streak spoons are available in silver, gold and copper backs, plus several dye coats and painted back finishes.
The Jr. Streak has good action at a wide range of speeds, making it very popular among walleye anglers from May until November when the water temperature finally gets too cold to support spoon trolling speeds conducive to walleye. Most commonly fished in combination with floating divers like the Luhr Jensen Jet Diver, the Jr. Streak is also routinely fished with Off Shore Tackle Tadpole Divers and the Big Jon Mini Discs.
A five to six foot leader of 15 pound test fluorocarbon and a small ball bearing snap swivel are considered standard rigging when targeting walleye with Jr. Streaks.
The Mini Streak fills a lot of niches, but is the master of none. Often used as a walleye trolling spoon, most noteworthy as a spoon for the corner diver rods, the Mini Streak is sometimes paired up with Jet Divers for targeting late summer and early fall walleye when forage minnows are maxing out in size.
The Mini Streak is also popular among anglers who target steelhead, spring coho and also brown trout. A lot of anglers also like to use the Mini Streak as the bonus spoon on their slider and Add a Line rig set ups.
On places like Lake Erie the Mini Streak is widely respected as a spoon that catches both steelhead and walleye. A mixed bag is always a good thing in fishing.
The Standard Streak is the spoon in the Wolverine line up that does the heavy lifting day in and day out. Considered by countless anglers to be the ultimate spoon for trolling king and coho salmon, steelhead and lake trout, the Standard Streak is also just as deadly on brown trout and Atlantic salmon. Available in the widest assortment of finishes, the Standard Streak is popular in literally every major Great Lakes port.
Standard Streaks are routinely fished at the terminal end of diving planers, downriggers, lead core, copper line and weighted stainless steel wire rigs.
The Magnum Streak is the largest spoon in the Wolverine line up and popular in geographic regions where alewife numbers are thriving. Lake Ontario is one such area where the alewife population is not only thriving, but the average size baitfish in the system comes in very close to the size of the Magnum Streak.
Spring, summer and fall, lots of trollers on Lake Ontario never take the Magnum Streak off their lines. The Magnum Streak is also popular in the spring in other fisheries. It’s during the early spring that the average size of alewives reaches a peak and larger spoons do a great job of matching the hatch.
The Magnum Streak is also commonly used by salmon fishermen who hit the water before sun rise. The larger size of this spoon makes it an obvious choice for trolling in low light conditions.
MIXING IT UP
The vast majority of serious spoon trollers mix spoon sizes routinely in their trolling spreads. Walleye anglers mix Jr. Streak and Mini Streak spoons while salmon fishermen mix Mini Streak, Standard Streak and Magnum Streak spoons routinely.
The idea behind mixing spoon sizes is to provide fish some options and see which spoon size and the amount of flash on any given day produces best. A lot of factors dictate which size spoon fish are most likely to key on including water clarity, lighting conditions, trolling speed and locally abundant forage species.
Glow in the dark paint finishes are popular among spoon fishermen, especially salmon anglers who often start their day in the pre-dawn darkness. Spoons that feature a glow back and also glow tape or glow paint finishes on the convex side of the spoon are common.
A camera flash is one of the fastest and best ways to charge a glow spoon before fishing it. The soft glowing light produced lasts for about 30 minutes before it must be recharged with another burst of light.
Anglers who routinely troll using Great Lakes style spoons will need to carry several sizes to be most effective on trout, salmon and walleye. Spoons are without question a “go to” bait among trout and salmon anglers. At times of the year the spoon is also “lights out” for those who target open water walleye on Erie, Saginaw Bay and other Great Lakes waters.
Trolling spoons are simple to use, adaptive to a host of popular open water trolling presentations and effective at catching a wide variety of species. Some anglers might go so far as to say trolling spoons represent the foundation upon which the Great Lakes trolling scene was built. One thing is for sure, spoons catch fish and if it ain’t broke, there is no need to fix it.