Spoon Feeding Walleye
By: Mark Romanack
Lake Erie is perhaps the “spoon trolling capital” of the Great Lakes when it comes to catching walleye on spoons. The truth is, spoons work very well on other bodies of water such as Saginaw Bay, Green Bay or anywhere walleye are found feeding on suspended forage species.
Trolling spoons are often thought of as the ultimate trout and salmon lure. It’s true that cold water species seem to go weak in the knees around the flash and wobble produced by a trolling spoon. What many anglers may not realize is that trolling spoons are also deadly effective on Great Lakes walleye.
Trolling spoons, designed with walleye fishing in mind, are one of the most efficient lures for covering water and catching tons of walleye. They say that size matters and in the case of catching walleye on trolling spoons size isn’t everything, but it’s critically important. The standard and magnum sized spoons (3-3/4 to 4-1/2 inches) so commonly used to catch trout and salmon, simply don’t work that great on walleye.
MATCHING THE HATCH
Smaller spoons (2-1/4 to 3-1/4 inches) are designed to closely imitate the forage species walleye more commonly feed on. “Walleye spoons like the Jr. Streak were designed to imitate emerald shiners, spot-tail shiners and young of the year yellow perch,” says Chip Cartwright of Wolverine Tackle Company. “The slightly longer and wider Mini Streak spoon does a great job of imitating larger profile forge fish such as gizzard shad and also young alewives.”
Using a spoon that perfectly matches the hatch is critically important to targeting walleye. It’s also important to select a spoon that has great action at a wide range of trolling speeds. Depending on the time of year, water temperature and the mood of the fish, spoon trolling for walleye is a game that is commonly played at 1.8 to 3.5 MPH. “A lot of the smaller baits marketed as “walleye spoons” simply don’t have good action at the slower trolling speeds,” says Jake Romanack. “Back in my high school and college years, when I was working as a first mate for a number of different captains on Lake Erie, I learned that it’s tough to beat the Wolverine Tackle Jr. Streak. The Jr. Streak produces great results day in and day out.”
To achieve good action at slower speeds, a spoon must be rather thin and also feature a distinctive cup. Slab style spoons like the classic Luhr Jensen Crocodile are the right size and shape, but they are too thick and heavy to have good action at slow speeds.
The spoon bite typically kicks in in late spring when water temperatures hit 60 degrees and this bite continues all summer long. In the fall of the year when water temperatures once again dip below 60 degrees other trolling lures such as crankbaits become more dependable walleye producers.
The most consistent spoon bite for walleye takes place in the mid-range trolling speeds. Most days trolling speeds of 2.0 to 3.0 MPH produce the best results.
Spoons are a great option for trolling up Great Lakes walleye, especially in the summer months when the water is warm and the fish are very active. The key to finding a good walleye spoon is understanding not all spoons have good action at all the trolling speeds an angler might be faced with. Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 TV has a lot of faith in both the Wolverine Tackle Jr. Streak and Mini Streak Spoons.
GETTING THE MOST FROM TROLLING SPOONS
The natural wobbling action of a trolling spoon screams out for a line connection that features a dependable swivel. Garden variety barrel swivels work, but not as well as quality made ball bearing swivels.
Anglers have a couple choices when it comes to attaching trolling spoons to the main line. The most common option is to select a small No. 1 or No. 2 size ball bearing snap swivel. Tie this swivel to the main line using a Palomar knot and attach the spoon using the attached snap.
A second option involves rigging a ball bearing swivel in-line a few inches in front of the spoon. In this case the ball bearing swivel is attached to the main line again with a Palomar knot. Then a short (12-18 inch) leader of fluorocarbon line is tied to the ball bearing swivel and at the other end of the leader a small round snap is added. The snap is then attached to the spoon, creating an in-line swivel system that keeps action killing weight away from the spoon.
This second rigging option is a good idea especially when trolling at slower speeds and in cooler water conditions. The weight of a snap swivel doesn’t seem like it would matter, but these lightweight spoons function best when little or no weight is used at the terminal connection point.
Walleye trolling spoons fish nicely with both monofilament and also super lines. Monofilament produces a more subdued spoon action due to the stretch associated with monofilament lines.
Super lines of course have zero stretch and as a result impart a little more snap and a somewhat more aggressive action to trolling spoons. Which works best frankly depends on the trolling speed and the mood of the fish on any given day.
The majority of anglers who are serious about spoon trolling for walleye tend to favor the low stretch characteristics of super lines. Not only do super lines give spoons more action, super lines last much longer than monofilament.
The down side to using super lines is that special after market line releases must be used when fishing spoons in combination with in-line planer boards and also planer board mast systems. On in-line boards the Off Shore Tackle OR18 Snapper Clip is very popular among anglers who fish super lines. Another good option is the Silverhorde Sam’s Pro Release which was designed with super lines in mind.
Spoons are commonly fished in combination with in-line planer boards and also planer board mast systems. Off Shore Tackle produces products that work flawlessly with both trolling options.
Anglers who troll spoons with a planer board mast system will want to half hitch a rubber band onto the super line after setting the spoon behind the boat on the desired trolling lead. The rubber band is then placed into a traditional pinch pad style line release such as an Off Shore Tackle OR10 or OR14 that is clipped to the planer board tether line using a shower curtain hook.
The rubber band provides two important functions. The rubber band provides a convenient way to attach a traditional pinch pad style line release to super lines. The rubber band also stretches when a fish is hooked, helping to detect light strikes and hooked fish.
Spoons have a lot of wobble and flash that helps to attract walleye. Using natural scent products such as Pro Cure Super Gel creates a natural scent stream in the water that helps fire up walleye. Good choices for targeting Great Lakes walleye include Super Gel Emerald Shiner, Gizzard Shad and Alewife formulas.
SUMMING IT UP
Spoons used properly are a dynamite way of trolling for walleye. Spoons work best in warmer water conditions and generally at faster trolling speeds. Don’t forget to use scent products when spoon trolling and keep the landing net handy. You’re going to need it often.