Catch More Fish with Fishing Spoons

Fishing Spoon
Spoons are a popular lure for catching fish because they work. Being able to choose the right fishing spoon to catch fish almost every time helps make it even more fun. All it takes is knowing a few basics about colors, weather condition and retrieves and you’ll be catching more fish with spoons.  It’s easy to learn how to limit out while everyone else wonders what your secret lure is!

How do fishing spoons catch fish?

Fishing spoons work in two ways, by creating vibrations and by visual stimulation. Fish have a vibration sensor that runs along the side (called the lateral line) that allows it to feel the vibrations of something moving nearby. When a spoon wobbles left and right within the water it produces vibrations that calls attention to itself.

But the most important way a spoon catches fish is by the visual bite trigger.  This usually is in the form of a side to side wobble that imitates the frantic movement of a desperate fish trying to get away from being eaten. This frantic movement incites the predator instinct of a fish and causes it to react by trying to chase it down and eat it before a competitor does. So the spoon can work by exciting a fish’s competitive predator instinct to steal food away from another fish. The fish are stimulated into instinctively giving chase to prey and this is called a reaction strike. Those are the two common explanations of how a fishing spoon catches a fish.

How a fishing spoon works: the power of attraction

In fishing there are two theories of lure design. One method relies on designing lures that imitate specific prey such as insects, frogs or fish. The other method is to design lures that generally behave like  food but don’t resemble a specific kind of food. That last kind of patterns are called Attractor Patterns. A fishing spoon generally operates on the Attractor Pattern principle. It attracts fish by giving off signals of a fish in distress.

  1. Bait ball attraction: the easy meal
    An important attraction of a spoon is its flash. The shiny flash is said to represent a school of bait fish that is bunched up into a ball, with scales reflecting in all directions. This is called a bait ball, something that can be lunged at for an easy meal.
  2. Falling scales: the sign of an injured bait fish
    There is another theory that posits that the flash of a spoon represents scales falling off of an injured fish. An injured and dying fish will often drop scales. It is a fact that fish in a school that are injured and slow are often dropping scales and these are the ones predators key in on to chase and eat. Falling scales represents an easy meal.
  3. Predators always go for the easy meal
    This is an important concept to understand: Predator fish prefer to use the least amount of energy to catch the most amount of food. A slow moving injured fish that’s dropping scales represents an easy meal and that’s another of the reasons why spoons work so well to catch fish.

Three kinds of fishing spoons

Fishing spoons can be divided into three kinds of spoons:

  1. Casting spoons
  2. Trolling spoons
  3. Jigging spoons

Some say there is a fourth kind of spoon called a topwater spoon but that’s confusing the technique of fishing a spoon with the spoon itself. If I drag a spoon at the bottom of a pond does that change it from a casting spoon to a bottom spoon? Of course not.  There are only three kinds of spoons, why complicate the matter?  This article discusses everything you need to know about how to select the best casting spoon in the right color for the conditions you are fishing in. Jigging and trolling spoons will be covered in their own articles.

Super Duper brand trout fishing spoon

Casting spoons

Casting spoons are ideal for fishing from shore. You can cast them from a kayak or a boat of course, but for the shore bound angler, casting spoons are a standard lure to use. For freshwater, casting spoons generally come as small as 1/12th of an ounce to about a half ounce. Using spoons that are any heavier than a half ounce for casting from the shore is impractical because in general the water is going to be too shallow to use anything heavier. Using spoons that are lighter than 1/12th of an ounce will also be impractical because the spoons will tend to drift about with the current instead of behaving like an injured baitfish that’s dying, in addition to being difficult to cast.

The heavier the spoon the faster you have to retrieve it to keep it from dragging on the bottom and getting snagged on submerged branches.  Fish prefer an easy meal so a spoon moving at a slow to medium speed is generally ideal. The only time you’d want to move up to a half ounce spoon is if you’re facing strong winds or strong waves and are having trouble casting into the wind or keeping the spoon down in turbulent water. Spoons that weigh about 1/6, 1/8, and 1/4 ounce are the norm for casting in a pond or river. For a small brook you may wish to drop down to about 1/12 ounce.

Trout Spoon

The ideal weight for saltwater applications is from between a quarter ounce to as high as two or three ounces. The only time  you’d go up to two or three ounces is if you needed the weight to cut through the heavy winds or strong currents typical of the surf. Saltwater spoons (both casting and jigging style) are great for catching a wide variety of saltwater fish like flounder, weakfish, stripers, bluefish and during certain times of  the year you can even catch false albacore and bonito with long casting slender spoons. When fishing in saltwater you have to remember to wash them down after use otherwise they’ll start to rust on you. You have to do this with most everything you use when saltwater fishing but it’s especially important when fishing spoons in the salt.

Best way to fish with a casting spoon

Different species prefer different kinds of action. Things like the temperature of the water or the changing of the season can affect what will make the fish bite. But in general it is safe to say that a slow to medium retrieve will catch the most fish, with a faster retrieve also working, but not always as good as a slow to medium retrieve.

Five Ways to Catch Fish with a Spoon:

  1. Slow retrieve
  2. Medium retrieve
  3. Fast retrieve
  4. Reel and pause retrieve
  5. Jigging retrieve

The best all-around way to use a fishing spoon is with a slow retrieve. If that doesn’t work then speed it up to a medium speed. The reason why a slow to medium retrieve is best is because fish almost always are looking for an easy meal in order to conserve their energy and not starve. So a slow retrieve is usually the most attractive to fish. Fast speeds work some of the times but most of the time you’ll catch more fish with a slow to medium retrieve. So if you want to catch fish most of the time, use a slow to medium retrieve. If you only want to catch fish some of the time then use a fast retrieve.

Five reasons why a slow retrieve is the best way to use fishing spoons:

  1. A slow retrieve represents an easy meal, which is the most attractive kind of prey
  2. When using a fishing spoon that’s heavy enough, a slow retrieve will keep the spoon closer to the bottom, which is where the fish are most of the time, between eight to eighteen inches from the bottom.
  3. When using a casting spoon that’s light enough, you’ll be able to slowly retrieve the spoon between six inches to eighteen inches below the top of the water.
  4. A slow retrieve keeps your fishing lure in the strike zone the longest
  5. A slow retrieve has a higher chance of being seen. Getting fish to notice your lure is the first step of catching fish.

Reel and pause retrieve

The reel and pause retrieve is a way to make the spoon swim for several turns of the reel and then flutter down on the pause. This kind of retrieve works well on fish that are following but not committing. The flutter will often trigger their bite instinct because the flutter resembles an injured or dying bait fish.   The reel and pause retrieve can be a powerful way to trigger a following fish (in freshwater or saltwater) to commit.

Jigging retrieve

The jigging retrieve is similar to the reel and pause retrieve. The method is to cast out then let the spoon fall to the bottom, with the pole pointed at the water. Then jerk the pole up, causing the spoon to jump up in the water column and slowly flutter down. As the spoon is fluttering down you very slowly give the reel a turn or two to take the slack out of the line. When the spoon as settled down give the pole another jerk and give the reel another very slow turn or two.

This is a technique borrowed from jig fishing but it works well with spoons, too. This retrieve works on the same principle as the injured or dying baitfish illusion as fish will key in on the spoons descent as it flutters down. There are times also when trout are focused on the down to up movement of aquatic bait such as tadpoles or nymphs that are moving from the bottom of the river, lake or pond to the top.  This movement from the bottom to the top can often trigger a bite.

Best Fishing Spoons for Catching Trout

There are several different kinds of fishing spoons that are meant for different situations for catching trout. But they all do the same thing, which is produce a flash and create a fish attracting water disturbance with their motion, usually a left to right swimming motion, sometimes called a searching motion. There is no best trout spoon. There are however several very good ones.

Top Fishing Spoons for Trout:

  1. Kastmaster
  2. Johnson Splinter Spoon
  3. Luhr-Jensen Cast Champ
  4. Thomas Buoyant
  5. Acme Little Cleo
  6. Eppinger Dardevle spoon
  7. Mepps Little Wolf
  8. Luhr-Jensen Super Duper

Far Casting Fishing Spoons

Long casting fishing spoons

The Acme Kastmaster, Johnson Splinter Spoon and the Luhr-Jensen Cast Champ are long casting spoons. They are capable of casting very far. If you want to cast across the water to the other side of the lake, hit a tree and watch the spoon roll down the bank and into the water, these are the spoons to choose.

It’s great to be able to cast for distance because it allows you to cover more water. This is important when fishing from a boat or kayak. It’s somewhat less important when you’re fishing from a bank because often time most trout and other species of fish are not far from shore. Yet it’s great to have the option to target fish that are far away, so it’s a good idea to always carry a long casting spoon, especially when fishing a lake.

Long casting spoons are great in the wind

Another reason you long casting spoons belong in your tackle box is because their aerodynamic structure makes them fantastic for casting into the wind! These kinds of spoons cut through the wind to reach their target.  This is when a size that’s greater than a 1/4 ounce comes in handy. A spoon that weighs 3/8 oz to 1/2 ounce will cast exceptionally well in the wind. Just make sure you are using at least a 6lb test fishing line in order to avoid line breakage or wind tangles.

The aerodynamic nature of long casting spoons affects how they cut through the water, too.  A slow to medium retrieve works well. Long casting spoons are reliable fish catchers and every angler should have at least one or two in their tackle box.

Long casting spoon metal finishes

The Luhr-Jensen Cast Champ is notable because it uses 24k gold plating on the gold colored spoon. Gold (and silver plating) are highly reflective and if you’re going to buy a gold spoon then you can’t go wrong with a genuine gold plated spoon.  Polished brass is a very close second to gold plated so don’t feel as if you need gold plated spoons because you don’t. As for silver however, it is the brightest and most reflective metal you can throw into the water (more on reflectivity below). Chrome nickel plated spoons do not reflect anywhere near as well as silver. In fact, they are less reflective than copper and brass. Otherwise all of the long casting style spoons are interchangeable.

Are Kastmasters worth the extra cost?

Kastmasters are made from solid brass and are a high quality product, except for the hooks. For some reason myself and many others have had trouble keeping fish on Kastmaster hooks so I always swap them out for better hooks (read a great article about fishing hooks here). Other than the hooks, the build quality is consistent, they are reliable spoons for casting ridiculously far and have a great movement. It’s a brand you can trust.

Kastmasters are usually more expensive than Splinter Spoons and Cast Champs so if you only need the basic colors then a gold plated Cast Champ spoon and a Luhr-Jensen Firetiger spoon are great alternatives to Kastmasters if you’re on a budget. I’ve caught many trout on Splinter Spoons and many saltwater species with the Cast Champ. A plus for Splinters and Cast Champs is that they come with great hooks right out of the box. You can’t go wrong with Splinter spoons or Cast Champs.

But if you want to get an edge on your fishing then the Kastmaster is the best choice. The reason Kastmasters can give you an edge is the large amount of colors they come in and this is why: Fish learn to avoid certain colors and patterns after seeing them. They become wary. The benefit of using a unique color or pattern is that the fish aren’t scared of it yet and it incites their curiosity because fish like to try sample new food sources. Kastmasters are manufactured in a huge variety of colors and paint jobs. So if you want to match the color scheme of a frog, a baitfish or pop out with fluorescent orange in order to show the fish something they haven’t seen before then Kastmaster has a paint job for that.

So to answer the question of whether Kastmasters are worth the extra expense, I would answer yes, if you need an edge with colors, you want maximum casting distance and if it gives you confidence to know you are using the original classic fish catching spoon. The hook isn’t bad, but I prefer to upgrade it.

Kastmaster Spoons

Do Kastmasters catch trout?

Yes, I have caught countless trout on Kastmasters and so have every angler friend I know. Kastmasters are a favorite spoon to use because they’re reliable trout catchers. The reason Kastmasters work so well is their left/right wiggling action on the retrieve that strongly resembles a frantic baitfish trying to get away from another fish. Another reason Kastmasters catch trout is their ability to be cast for epic distances, making Acme Kastmasters a top choice for fishing on a lake or in windy conditions typical of a lake. For smaller bodies of water you barely need to cast it at all to get it to cast a reasonable distance. This makes Kastmasters a great lure for beginners because they practically cast themselves, they’re that easy to use. But they’re not just for beginners!

Best Kastmaster colors for catching trout

There are certain colors that many anglers swear by when using Kastmasters. Personally, I limit myself to gold, chrome/blue, and firetiger. But my friends and fishing buddies have other “lucky” colors and I have seen them work, sometimes better than what I was using. That’s how I discovered the fish catching magic of chrome and blue; every time I went fishing there was always someone walking out with a stringer full of trout he caught with that color. But I buy way too many lures and so I have settled on my favorites. In my opinion, it’s more about matching the water clarity and sun conditions to the lure more than the color itself (read about color selection below).

A list of the best Kastmaster colors for catching trout:

  • Gold
  • Chrome/blue
  • Firetiger
  • Perch
  • Rainbow trout
  • Chrome

Medium casting spoons

Thomas Buoyant, Acme Little Cleo, Daredevle, and the Mepps Little Wolf are more medium casting spoons. That’s ok because most times the fish are relatively close to shore. The great thing about these kinds of spoons is that they can be fished slower than the longer casting spoons. Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops sell their own versions of these kinds of spoons and they work just find, although I find the quality of the hooks need to be upgraded, which I think is why they’re so inexpensive.

Super Duper Spoon

Luhr-Jensen Super Duper

This is odd little spoon is literally in a class of it’s own. It’s a medium casting spoon that has a fantastic wiggle to it. I’ve caught a lot of trout with this spoon, particularly in small lakes where casting distance is not an issue. It doesn’t cast very far but it has a very good action. This is a good one to have. I especially like the Super Dupers that have a single color on the end because this is a feature that professional fly anglers call a hot spot. Many world fishing championships have been won with flies that featured hot spots and this  particular model of Super Duper has caught countless trout for me!

The above is not a complete list of all the best fishing spoons. It’s a short list of what I consider the best fishing spoons for catching trout. There is no need to buy every color of spoon. As long as you know why and when to use a certain kind of spoon and in which color, you can limit the amount of money you spend on fishing and spend more time actually fishing. I’ve used a wide range of fishing spoons and I’m confident that I’ve tried just about every kind of fishing spoon there is. Understanding that I don’t need every color and kind of spoon is a valuable lesson I wish to pass along. The above listed fishing spoons represent the best of the casting spoons that have caught a lot of fish for me.

Best fishing spoon color

There is one reason why spoon color is not important and three reasons why spoon colors are important. Spoon color is generally less important than the movement and speed of the lure. Color plays a secondary role of helping the lure be noticed. While matching the color to something a fish likes to eat can help fool a trout (called matching the hatch), I’ve caught more fish with unnatural colors that have nothing to do with nature to know that the function of a fishing spoon color is to get it noticed without spooking the fish.

Most times the reason a fish chases a fishing lure is because it moves like something edible and easy to catch. Movement is the most important bite trigger.  It’s the shake and the wiggle of a lure that cause a fish to chase it down.  This is important to understand!

What makes color important is its ability to get the fish’s attention. Thus, colors that are bright and make it stand out from the environment will get noticed and catch fish for you. Colors that feature contrasts will also attract attention. And of course, spoons that are shiny will trigger a fish’s predator instinct to feed on an easy meal.

One reason color is not important:
Movement is the number one trigger that causes a fish to chase and bite.

Three reasons why color is important:

  1. Attracts attention
  2. Color helps a lure stand out from the background
  3. Flash from a silver or gold lure imitates a ball of bait and attracts fish from long distances

Little Cleo Spoon

Spoons with scratched off paint catch fish

The paint and silver/gold plating tends to flake off with heavy use but that actually seems to help spoons catch more fish because irregularities in color tends to make lures look more natural to fish. Many fisherman have noticed that lures that are heavily scratched and worn down work better and it’s true. This is why fly fisherman use flies that have irregular colors in the feathers and also why bass fisherman use rubber lures that feature flakes in the colors. It simply looks more realistic to a fish as opposed to a lure that is smoothly colored.

Best lure colors for sunny days

Spoons work excellently for catching rainbow trout and almost all species of fish, particularly the gold colored spoons. If you are on a budget and could only buy one spoon, the gold colored spoon is a good one to have. The downside of a gold spoon is that it pretty much stops working during overcast conditions because gold spoons need sunlight to create the fish attracting flash. Cast a gold spoon into the water during overcast conditions and you’ll see that it tends to blend into the water and disappear. Thus, for sunny days a spoon that flashes is a good choice. Here is a list of spoon colors, listed by how reflective they are:

  1. Silver
  2. Gold
  3. Brass
  4. Copper
  5. Nickel (Chrome)

It needs to be pointed out that there is a big difference between a silver plated spoon and a silver colored spoon. Many people don’t know this but a silver colored spoon (actually chrome) is quite dull and is a poor reflector. It reflects very little light and even looks black. So if you buy a chrome or silver colored spoon, you have to understand that it won’t reflect light very far. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a chrome spoon. On the contrary, that dullness can help catch fish during clear water and sunny conditions because the dull reflecting ability won’t spook the fish.

Mepps Little Wolf Spoons

Silver plated fishing spoons

Silver is the most reflective spoon color and is extremely useful on sunny days for catching the attention of fish from longer distances. Spoons that are a mix of silver and another color are useful because they will call in fish from long distances but won’t spook them when they get close. I have a preference for mixed color spoons that are in silver plate and gold plate. If you want a fishing spoon that is silver plated, give the Mepps Little Wolf a try. It’s a great spoon that will call in fish from longer distances than most any other spoon.

Silver plated spoons available in the Mepps Little Wolf:

  • Silver
  • Silver/Blue
  • Silver/Chartreuse
  • Silver/Pink
  • Blue/Silver/Green
  • Rainbow Trout

Best spoon color for a sunny day

Sunlight flashing from a shiny spoon calls fish in from long distances. That’s the benefit of a reflective spoon. The downside of that flash is that when seen from up close it could actually scare a fish under certain conditions. Fish are skittish and spooky during periods of bright light, especially when the water is crystal clear. They scare more easily under the condition of clear water and bright light. So even though a nickel chrome colored spoon might not call fish in from long distances, it reflects enough light to be attractive from relatively close by. This may be why chrome spoons and chrome/blue spoons work so well. They reflect enough light to call attention to themselves but not enough light to scare an already cautious fish.

I like to have the best of both worlds and tend to fish with a gold plated spoon that has the color red painted on half the spoon, or else a half and half spoon that consists of gold plate on one half and copper on the other. Silver plated spoons that also have blue, chartreuse or other colors catch a lot of fish for me, too. My personal favorite spoon color is the gold/red color combination of a Little Cleo spoon during sunny days, as it catches everything from bass, trout, and pike.

Best spoon colors for overcast days

For overcast days, as well as days where the water is not crystal clear, the best colors tend to be fluorescent. Firetiger is the all-time classic color for catching any species of fish under low light conditions. It features bright colors like fluorescent yellow, orange and chartreuse plus the contrasting color of black stripes. Contrast is an important fish attractant. The firetiger pattern is like a stick of dynamite of colors and contrast. It’s one of the most top performing colors for overcast days or when water visibility is low. Firetiger cuts through the murk and gets noticed! And getting noticed is the name of the game, especially during overcast conditions.

Top lure colors for overcast days and low visibility water

  1. Firetiger
  2. White/red
  3. Yellow/red
  4. Fluorescent colors
  5. White
  6. Black

Firetiger Spoon

You might be surprised to see both black and white on that list. Both black and white work well under any light condition. Black throws a fantastic silhouette during bright day conditions but strangely enough it does the same thing during at night as well! This is well known to saltwater anglers who typically fish at night because that’s when the action is best. Black and “Blurple” (black and purple) are the number one colors for fishing at night in saltwater.

White and red colored spoons work well because they are visible and provide a contrast. Contrast is an important quality for attracting the attention of a fish. However, red isn’t totally visible underwater for long distances. Red turns to gray after about ten or so feet, depending upon the murkiness of the water. For that reason I tend to prefer Firetiger, white, and other colors that stand out.

I encourage you to find out for yourself, but if you want my opinion here it is. For overcast conditions I prefer using a firetiger (or a similar perch) color. Fluorescent colors work great under low light and overcast conditions and I will turn to those as well. But Firetiger is my first choice.

Now you know everything you need to know to become expert at catching a lot of fish using fishing spoons. That’s thirty years of knowledge! I’m not asking for money but I am asking that you tell your friends about this article! Please tell your friends about this article on Facebook, Twitter, by email and on your blogs!

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