Heavy Metal or Spoons

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The straight skinny on Salmon and Trout trolling spoons 
By Captain John King 9/14/00 Copyrightę2000  

Let's talk about spoons. and I don't mean the ones played on some Ozark grandfathers knee, nor the silver ones that Bill Gates children will be born with hanging from their mouths.  I mean fishing spoons, those flashy pieces of mesmerizing metal that many fish have fallen victim to!

In the folk lore of angling, it has often been said that a fisherman who was eating his lunch accidentally knocked his spoon overboard into the water. As he watched it sink out of reach he saw a fish grab it.   Now, this nimrod was an Einstein, so he promptly went home and cut the handle off some household spoons, drilled a couple of holes and threw a hook and some line on it.  While I highly doubt this story is exactly true, I understand the concept.

The basic premise, and one that I can easily understand, is that fish don't have arms and hands to feed themselves like we do.  Can you imagine trying to feed yourself without the god given paws we were lucky enough to be born with? The only way a fish is going to grow and survive is by eating. They do this by attacking things with their mouth, striking likely targets until their gullet is full.  Reflective, bright movement and color are the keys to the fishes continued existence and his journey to adulthood, hence the propagation of the species is what I'm talking about.  Fish don't think and reason like humanoids, they are governed by eons of generations of conditioned response.  Let's face it; the real stupid fish have become extinct, so we don't have to worry about them.

I equate the intelligence level of fish as a highly complex set of DNA instructions.  First, they eat a bunch of other fish and stuff to gain adulthood.  The next major step is to insert their DNA into the next generation of their offspring.  Simply put, fish have 2 things to contend with: food and sex.  Sounds like a great life to me! As I've said to my charter guests many times, spawning fish are like a gathering of rowdy folks in a beer joint at closing time with chasing the opposite sex on their mind!  

Spoons are a deadly tool in your arsenal of angling weapons on the Great Lakes.  With them you can cover huge amounts of water acreage at a fair clip.  Spoons have accounted for at least 50% of my yearly fish obituaries over the past 32 years of my Salmon fishing career here in Michigan.   The modern day trolling spoons we now use are the greatest thing since sliced bread for beginners ..why?  Because there is no wrong way to fish them. Fast, medium and slow speeds all work here and your results can be beyond belief.  When fishing with things like Dodgers, Cowbells or the Bechhold Fish Catcher Rotating Flasher, maintaining the correct speeds and dealing with the ever-changing currents present in the Great Lakes Watershed becomes an art form; too fast or slow and these attractors are useless. Spoons, on the other hand, are not as "speed sensitive". Leader distance from the ball on the spoon issue isn't that important either. If the fish are on the bite, anything from 3 to 100 feet back from the cannonball will work.

Since the Salmon were first released in Bear Creek and the Platte River in 1966, there has been a long evolution for the Salmon spoons by savvy manufacturers keeping pace with the changing technology of the fishery.  The earliest spoons that come to mind are Chargers, Flutter Spoons and the dreaded Manistee Wobblers.  These spoons were almost like Henry Fords Model T; you could get them in any color you wanted as long as it was black.  Well, not really, but the color selection in the beginning was very limited.  Chargers went by the claim of sonic vibration in what was a heavy slow speed fluted  construction.  Luhr Jensen and Sons had the Flutter Spoon in about, maybe, 8 different patterns.  This spoon was stamped out of light gauge spring-type metal and would still catch fish today if you put it in the water.  Come to think of it, the Flutter Spoon is shaped real close to Terry's modern day Michigan Stinger Spoon.  The Manistee Wobbler was a spoon that would mix well at the slow dodger speed and was, is and always will be deadly. The yellow one with the red dots, which was to become known as firedot, was my favorite. The L.G. Johnson, Williams Wobbler and the early Daredevil all saw duty as Salmon and Lake Trout spoons in the 60's.

The breakthrough came when Dennis Ende, who was somehow tied up with Yeck Company, mass marketed the Northport Nailer in the mid 70's.  Dennis was a genius at promotion!  He made every color and tape combination imaginable and the soaring sales of the Nailer was phenomenal.  Dennis's Spoon was copied by a lot of folks wanting in on his good thing.  Names like Southport Slammer and Westport Wobbler tried to cash in on the Nailers success.  Nailers are still being made and will catch fish, however they've fallen from their once lofty number 1 position.  I rate the Northport as a great medium to slow speed product that cannot be fished incorrectly unless you pull it too fast.  It comes in 3 sizes and more color combinations than you'll ever use.  This is a decent spoon, but an Adult King will trash the lure by bending it beyond repair. Factoid: this has happened to me many times.

Stepping into the latter part of the 70's the Daredevil Company had Chuck Cartwright research the correct size, shape and action of a bait called the Flutter Chuck.  This was some kind of a partnership that didn't work out when it was rumored they tried to cut Chuck out of the money end of the deal.  So, Chuck went out on his own, duplicated his design and renamed the product the Silver Streak.  Cartwright had the "in" here, being the popular and likeable Charter Captain of the "Tuna Boat" in Frankfort, Michigan.  He used his pull with the Charter Fleet, and the Flutter Chuck went the way of the Dodo bird in the history book of Michigan Salmon Tackle Manufacturers.  
    Most important to the evolution of the Streak was that Chuck (or Charlie, he'll answer to either) recognized the importance of silver plating, especially at the depths he was accustomed to fishing in.  The way silver plating reflects light is superior to chrome plating which can turn black underwater limiting it's visibility to the fish you're after.  Over the years the "Streak" has become my best producing spoon and has taken several 30 pound plus Kings for my guests to it's credit.  It comes in 3 sizes, holds it's shape with an Adult King and can be pulled at almost any speed up to 5 mph without spinning out except for the Magnum one. This spoon was initially designed for Lake Trout and was called the Mauler when it debuted in the late 80's.  With the Mag you'll have to go slow. You can increase the speed here if you run it back 40 to 50 feet, as I often do when in the quick search mode.  The Cartwright's have sold millions of "Streaks" as a testament to a top notch quality fishing product. They make more specialty colors than any other spoon made and I'm proud to say that my input has helped design some of their best color patterns in use today.

Along about the early to mid 80's is the first time I saw the "Michigan Stinger" spoon at, I believe, the Outdoorama in Detroit when it was still held at the "garden spot of southeastern Michigan", 8 mile road and Woodward.  George Richey had a rack of these at his Michigan Squid booth (his product line).  My product loyalty to the "Streak" prevented me from using Terry Weeber's spoon.  In 1992, when I moved my boat to Manistee from Frankfort, Capt. Paul Schafley turned me on to his favorite fish catching "Stingers". Being new to the area, I bought some.  Much to my surprise I found out that this smaller, slimmed down version of the "Streak" caught fish!  
    The "Stinger" comes into it's own when chasing the June surface Steelhead on Lake Michigan.  The speed tolerance of this bait (regular size) is vast.  From  a crawl to a clip of 4 mph, this lure will produce when fished behind the birds.  It works well on riggers, sliders and diver baits also.  
    The Mag sized Christmas tree with the green glo ladder is a phenomenal choice if Adult Kings are on your menu.  This Mag has outstanding visibility, fished either shallow or deep.  A couple of years ago I gave one to Capt. Doug Strazinski of "Pole Cat Charters" fame in Ludington and he said it was his best lead core bait during Salmon time.  Take it from me, the Christmas Tree Mag works.

The last spoon I've come to personally know is the "Dreamweaver" (or DW) in the mid to late 90's.  This spoon first made its appearance on boat courtesy of the 'Pole Cat' himself, Capt. Doug Strazinski.  In preparation for an August big money tournament in about 1997 at Manistee, Capt. Doug gave me a few freebees in the new Dolphin pattern (the yellow and green edged hammered DW with glo tape).  Doug said if I used this spoon I'd be in contention to win.  Well, I used the DW with great success and lost the tournament anyway. We had enough fish on to win but just couldn't put 'em in the net. 
     Since my early introduction to this lure I've come to know Roger Bogner, team member of the 'Little Devil' tournament fishing team.  Roger has been more than fair to me and has a super quality trolling spoon that catches fish.  Also, Roger was the first spoon manufacturer to conquer the paint peeling problem with the colors coming off the lure.  The DW (regular size) resembles a NK, but the hook end of the bait has been trimmed down to allow for a slightly faster trolling pace. They come in a variety of outstanding fish-catching colors.  You can trust the quality and the amount of research that went into the colors that this spoon is offered in.  

Below is meant to be a tease to get you to sign up for my E-mail list. If you do sign up you'll have the address to the exact private page where I have 6 different spoon manufactures and the selections that have put my guests into over 600 spoon fed fish in 2000 so far. I'm only showing you the Streaks.  There's my favorite DW's, NK's, Yecks, Stingers and Pro Kings listed also.  

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By Captain John King  9/15/00 Copyrightę2000

The first photo displays the Silver Streaks that are my bread and butter producers form Wolverine Tackle and the Cartwright Family.  This is a reel class trolling product that has more Master Angler Awards to its credit than any other on the market today.  The legend of the Streak speaks for itself.  From top to bottom and left to right I try to explain how and why I use them and under what circumstances.  

(1.)  The yellow-green dolphin is excellent all round choice when the fish are in the top 50 feet in July and August, great on the dipsys and lead core during the summer Salmon run.  

(2.)  Red and Pink edged with red and glo glitter tape was designed by the Fishin' Machine Dave Keene from the Flint Steelheaders, its great on June Steelhead, a good slider choice, excellent on the divers and core also.  This bait has taken 30 pounders in August too!  

(3.)  Double orange crush over a smooth gold blade is outstanding on the divers, birds and riggers from May thru October.  You'll have to make this one though, I copied the double orange pattern from the Dreamweaver boys.  A must have for any serious Great Lakes Fisherman. 

(4.)  Mag hammered yellow tail glo, a must have when Adult Salmon are your target.  Charge this one with a flash before daylight, ship it down to 44 to 50 degree water and fish onnnnn!  This is probably the number one killer of Adult Salmon on my boat especially when the Kings are below the 50 foot range.  A slayer a many lunker 30 King Salmon for me during August......a must have!!!

(5.)  Mag yellow green dolphin with green glo tape.  Super choice for the deeper fish if they're hitting the dolphin pattern.  Use anytime during July and August, mixes well with dodgers and flashers.  Good on the dipsys.  Be sure not to troll fast with the Mags, they'll spin out just below 3 mph.  

(6.)  The Sister Sledge pattern is a good all around pattern anytime.  the Mag works well behind the dipsys in the harbor for Kings in off colored or stained water.  Good for Browns in the spring in the mini size off the boards.  

(7.)  This mini in the pink yellow watermelon was firecracker red hot from late April thru Mid-July as a fixed or free slider spoon.  Tip: on the mini, change the hooks from the stock number 4's to 2's.

(8.)  Regular size hammered yellow tail glo is the way to go if the fish are spooky from heavy boat traffic and won't take the Mag.  You can troll this spoon fast, at speeds exceeding 4 mph.  Don't leave home without a good supply of this fish fooler.  Sliders, mainline, leadcore and dipsys.  

(9.)  Mini double orange crush is super on the birds in May and June.  This small spoon is effective throughout the entire season.  A great slider or diver selection, we almost won the Big Boys Salmon Slam with this little guy.  Works on every specie, big tunas love it, use on dipsys if the fish are high.

(10.)  Hammered silver blade with green glo cross tape is and has been the fleet's preference for a long time.  This pick will put fish in the boat under most circumstances.  A multipurpose spoon that has high fish visibly and catch-ability.  Use anytime when in doubt, works well on everything.