Choosing Spoon Sizes for Great Lakes Trout, Salmon and Walleye
By: Mark Romanack
Standard sized spoon such as displayed here are the "work horses" of the Great Lakes. This size spoon is often the best choice for chinook, coho, steelhead, lake trout and of course brown trout like this fine specimen.
In the world of Great Lakes trolling, the spoon has carved out a niche that simply can’t be understated. I think it’s safe to say that spoons have caught more trout, salmon and walleye than all the other lure types combined. It’s simply hard to beat the flash and dying baitfish action that a flutter style trolling spoon produces.
CASTING VS TROLLING SPOONS
It’s important to note that casting spoons and trolling spoons are two different animals. Trolling spoons tend to be made of thinner material that allows the spoon more flash and action in the water. Casting spoons are stamped from heavier material that facilitates the ability to cast the lure significant distances.
Obviously it’s possible to troll a casting style spoon, but because these lures are heavy they do not enjoy even a fraction of the action that a lighter trolling spoon offers.
If trolling spoons have an Achilles Heal it’s the fact that the thin material they are stamped from often leads to spoons that get bent out of shape from struggling fish. This is particularly a problem when targeting large and powerful fish such as chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and lake trout.
Once a spoon gets bent out of shape, it’s pretty much toast. There is no way to bend a spoon back into its original shape and even if you could, the temper in the metal would be lost and the spoon would simply bend again on the next fish. This is why every year I stock up on new spoons to replace the battle worn spoons in my collection.
All the major manufacturers of trolling spoons offer several different sizes of spoons aimed at different applications and also to match the size of locally available forage species. In the case of Wolverine Tackle, they produce four spoon sizes including the Jr. Streak, Mini Streak, Standard Streak and the Magnum Streak.
The Jr. Streak was designed with Great Lakes walleye trolling in mind. This spoon is just the right size to replicate emerald shiners so common in the walleye diet. The Jr. Streak however has other applications. This is the ideal spoon size for trolling for brown trout and rainbow trout stocked in select fisheries. A growing number of anglers also consider the Jr. Streak ideal for targeting Atlantic salmon, a species that is well known for being difficult to fool on artificial tackle.
The Mini Streak is a work horse spoon that works well for walleye and also Great Lakes trout and salmon. The same could be said for the Standard Streak which is the perfect size for most trout and salmon applications.
The Magnum Streak is a specialty spoon that in certain waters is a “must have” piece of equipment. Larger magnum spoons are designed to imitate adult alewife that chinook salmon are especially fond of.
On Lake Ontario where alewife are abundant, anglers favor the larger size and greater flash of the mag spoon. Mag spoons can also be useful in other bodies of water, especially in the spring of the year when run off creates stained water conditions.
Mag Spoons such as this Wolverine Tackle Silver Streak are generally considered salmon spoons, but as you can see here steelhead also like them. Typically mag spoons work best in waters like Lake Ontario where alewife populations are abundant and also when fishing in low light or stained water conditions.
In general, spoons are best classified as lures that produce the most action when trolled at moderate too fast trolling speeds. Since trolling speed is relative to the species being targeted and also to water temperature, it’s important to understand that picking the most appropriate trolling speed is almost always critical to spoon fishing success.
Most trolling spoons don’t start enjoying the desired roll and flash until the trolling speed hits about 1.9 MPH. As speed is increased, spoons simply come alive in the water and typically produce the best results at speeds ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 MPH.
On those days when the fish are especially aggressive, ramping up that trolling speed to 2.6 to 3.0 MPH will often produce the best results.
Spoons are effective because they attract fish from a great distance and look like a struggling baitfish in the water. One of the ways to increase the effectiveness of spoons is to rig in-line flashers ahead of trolling spoons.
Yakima Bait Company produces two in-line flashers including the Fish Flash and the Add-A-Buzz. The Fish Flash is a triangle shaped flasher that comes in dozens of color patterns and several sizes including 4, 6, 8 and 10 inch models. The Add-A-Buzz is a buzz bait blade that spins on a metal shaft. These smaller flashers are available in five different colors and three different blade sizes.
Both the Fish Flash and the Add-A-Buzz are rigged six feet in front of trolling spoons, using a fluorocarbon leader between the attractor and the spoon. The added flash these products create pulls in fish from greater distances.
While using flashers in combination with spoons works in clear water conditions, this technique is especially useful when fishing in stained and off-color water. These same attractors can also be rigged to diving devices such as a Dipsy Diver or Tadpole Diver, making them even more handy to fish.
SUMMING IT UP
In the Great Lakes the trolling spoon is king when it comes to targeting walleye, chinook, coho, steelhead, lake trout, brown trout and even the elusive Atlantic salmon. In short, spoons catch them all and day in and day out they simply can’t be beat.