Hot Metal Action for Cool-Water Smallies
by Ted Lund
Most bass fisherman might think that action cools as fish move into the Fall months, but nothing could be further from the truth for smallmouth bass. And one of the best ways to take advantage of them is an unconventional cool-water tactic — throwing spoons.
Yamaha pro and Hall-of-Fame angler Doug Stange prefers pitching metal as the temperatures fall as a surefire way to prospect for smallies.
“As dissolved oxygen and water temperatures become more evenly distributed in water bodies in late fall, smallmouth bass can hold just about anywhere,” says Stange. Finding them is the key, which means presentations that cover water fast are best … and nothing covers water better than spoons.”
Stange asserts that the notion of casting metal to Fall smallmouth may seem strange at first, even for those who vertically jig winter-chilled largemouth. But as late-season smallmouth move toward wintering areas they feed heavily on baitfish. And nothing reaches deep water as fast or mimics forage fish better than a spoon.
Some of Stange’s favorite target areas during Fall months include isolated rock piles, gravel flats, points and secondary points — particularly those with plenty of deepwater access.
Mix It Up
But as Stange likes to point out, not all spoons are created equal.
“I divide them into three main categories,” says Stange. “Slab spoons, horizontal spoons and “big butt” spoons, which are heavily-cupped and bottom heavy, like Johnson’s(TM) popular Sprite(R).”
In the slab category, Stange prefers typically short, thick, heavier spoons that drop quickly. While some offer little action on the drop, others flutter significantly.
Stange considers horizontal spoons to be longer, with a narrow profile and thin cross-section. They generally tend to flutter relatively slowly on the drop. A good example is the Johnson ™Thinfish.
Stange’s so-called “big butt” spoons are typically fished on a straight retrieve, but can be counted down to deeper structure and fished with aggressive jig strokes. Such spoons fished in this mannter offer a pronounced, zigzag wobble.
Regardless of which category you go with, Stange says the most critical thing to remember is to select baits that most effectively mimic the smallmouth’s prey. He says its also critical to select spoons that will effectively target the smalls at the depth that they are holding at. Another consideration is to select spoons that will let you fish at speeds allowing you to cover the most water while eliciting strikes.
“Fishing spoons is about depth, fall rate and jig stroke,” says Stange. “Get these things right and everything else will follow. Sticking with a small selection of colors will shorten your search as these other considerations are more important.”
Stange has his own personal favorites.
“I am a fan of the Johnson™ Splinter Spoon, a slab spoon that casts easily, falls fast, and offers an erratic darting action on the retrieve thanks to its asymmetric, flat profile,” says Stange. “The slender Slimfish offers a tight, erratic action on a straight retrieve thanks to built-in fins. When jigged or allowed to fall on slack line, the lighter spoons flutter slowly and horizontally.”
Generally, Stange prefers the Slimfish when targeting smallies in 3- to 10-foot depths. When he has to prospect in deeper water, Stange prefers opting for the Splinter Spoon in both 1/4- and 1/2-ounce sizes, the latter being a go-to when fishing depths in excess of 15 feet.
Feed ‘Em What They Eat
Stange’s tips for color: As in so many other types of fishing, match the hatch. Try to select colors that will mimic the prevalent baitfish. It’s tough to beat FireTiger or Gold in dirty water, and Chrome or Perch colors get the nod in clear natural lakes.
“Fish a spoon in the same manner that you would a standard lead head jig,” says Stange. “After the cast, allow the spoon to
sink to the bottom on a slack line before starting with a standard rip-drop retrieve. A short fluorocarbon leader added to the end of your superfine of choice will help discourage tangles and casting knots, and an Invisaswivel tied between the leader and main line will absorb line twist, another important consideration when fishing spoons.
Experiment with both the speed and length of the lift. There are times when smallmouth respond well to aggressive jig strokes. Most strikes come on the drop. You feel the typical “tick” or simply the weight on the jig stroke.
“Last fall on the Great Lakes, we caught several smallmouth over 6 pounds on Splinter Spoons by working rocks in 15-30 feet,” says Stange. “We also caught walleye, whitefish and lake suckers (yes, caught in the mouth). The experience reiterated the triggering power of spoons when fished this way.”
Stange prefers spinning gear, allowing him to make longer, probing casts through fishy territory. One of his favorits is a medium-heavy, 7-foot, 3-inch to 7-foot, 6-inch Abu Garcia® Veritas. The rods fast action and soft tip allow the angler to impart more action while fishing spoons. He prefers to pair the rod with a larger spinning reel like Abu’s® Revo® SX 30. The reels massive 33-inch per turn retrieve rate lets anglers recover quickly and also gives them the edge when battling giant smallmouth.
Stange prefers modern superlines, providing the feel and letting the metal sink deeper. It also allows for longer casts. Stange’s favorite is Berkley’s® Fireline®, although when using baitcasters, he does prefer flourocarbon.
The Halll-of-Famer’s advice?
“Spoons are a class of baits that are hard to fish if you’ve never fished them before,” says Stange. “My advice? Take a selection of them in different weights and colors out on the water and fish nothing else that day. Spend enough time with them and you’ll discover there’s really no mystery to these old-school baits. They are very much an overlooked producer of both quality and quantities of late-season smallmouth.”
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Original Source: Sportsmans Lifestyle.com