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Written By: Cal Kellogg, July 20, 2014
Take a look at the tackle assortment of a trout and landlocked king salmon troller and you’ll see a lot of spoons, such as Sep’s Pro Secrets, Vance’s Sockeye Slammers, Hum Dingers, No. 1 Needlefish and 1/8 ounce Phoebes…
What do these spoons have in common? Well they have a lot of things in common, but the answer I’m looking for is that all of them are small. When you consider the fact that the average fish hooked by trout and salmon trollers is probably about 12 inches long it makes sense that we live and die pulling small spoons. After all these small offerings match both the size of the fish we catch and the forage they feed on…
For the better part of two decades I rode the small spoon bandwagon and you can still find me pulling small spoons from time to time, but more often than not when I rig up with a spoon these days it’s a medium to large size spoon that I snap onto the leader. Let’s look at how these “heavy metal” offerings can help you catch more and larger fish!
At this point I think that medium to large size spoons offer several advantages over their smaller brothers. First and foremost larger lures tend to produce larger fish. Start pulling larger spoons and you’ll start hooking larger fish. Small trout and salmon target small baitfish, while larger fish will often go for larger prey when it’s available.
Trinity Lake is a great example of this. Trinity has a well-earned reputation for booting out huge landlocked kings, but these fish don’t feed on the traditional diet of pond smelt or shad. Instead they gobble young kokanee. Those big kings want a big meal and immature kokanee fill the bill nicely!
Beyond representing a large meal, big spoons can be trolled faster then small spoons. When it comes time to fool large experienced trout and salmon a lure moving at 2.5 to 4 mph is much more likely to draw a strike as a opposed to a slow moving offering. The longer the fish have to scrutinize the bait, the less likely they will be to hit it as a general rule. When a big fast moving spoon storms onto the scene the gamefish has to decide to strike or pass…Large fast moving spoons, generate reaction strikes from both average and large size predators.
Back in the old days when I first started speed trolling big Rapalas for brown trout I was shocked to learn how often trout as small as 12 inches would smack a massive 7 inch No. 18 Rapala. There is no way a foot long trout can gobble down a 7 inch bait, but because of the fast trolling speed they would still hit the plug…A classic reaction strike. Large fast moving spoons create the same effect.
Another advantage large spoons offer is increased vibration and flash. Large spoons moving through the water create more disturbance than smaller spoons and as a result pull fish in from long distances. The increased surface area of a large spoon generates more flash then a small spoon and once again this can pull fish in from longer distances.
Finally while trout and kings are accustomed to seeing small spoons, hoochies and Rapalas, large spoons aren’t something they are often confronted with. They say curiosity killed the cat, well in fishing circles it’s often curiosity that creates strikes!
Early on Speedy Shiners, Sparklefish and large ½ ounce Hum Dingers were the only big spoons I used. They worked great then and they continue to produce fish for me know, but my large spoon selection has continued to grow and evolve.
After digging around in my tackle bag a bit, I’ve determined that my large spoon selection features 1/6 and ¼ ounce Speedy Shiners, Silver Horde Kingfisher Lite Spoons (KFL) in the 2 5/8 and 3 inch sizes, ½ ounce Luhr Jensen Krocodiles, 3/8 and ½ ounce Acme Tackle Kastmasters, 3 inch Johnson Slimfish and No. 3 Luhr Jensen Needlefish.
For trolling my go to spoons are Speedy Shiners, KFLs and the large Needlefish. I’m still playing around with the Slimfish but so far the results have been good.
While I do troll Krocodiles and Kastmasters from time to time, I mainly use these spoons when casting from the bank for both lake and stream trout.
When it comes to the Slimfish and KFLs I swap out the factory included J hooks for trebles. I just don’t like the looks of the hooks that come on the Slimfish. The KFL is actually intended for silver salmon trolling in the ocean, so it’s hook is a bit large for reservoir trolling. The KFL’s hooks are rigged on a welded ring, so to swap out the hook you’ve got to cut the ring and replace it with a standard split ring.
I’ve been playing with standard black nickel trebles as well as red trebles just to see if the red hook offers an advantage. Some days I’m convinced that red hook spoons out fish dark hook spoons, but other days it doesn’t seem to make a lick of difference…
Spoon color is always an issue. I generally start out with pearl, baitfish or watermelon color offerings, but I have an in depth selection of bright colors as well. Some days matching the hatch works, other days the brightest most unnaturally looking offering draw all the strikes.
During a recent visit to Folsom when trout and kings were feeding heavily on chrome bright pond smelt I couldn’t get a touch on a baitfish colored Speedy Shiner. Instead the fish wanted copper and frog pattern spoons that looked nothing like the forage….Fishing Will Make You Crazy!
If the trout and salmon you are targeting are holding over 30 feet deep you’ll need to employ downriggers to get down. If the fish are shallower then 30 feet you’ll be able to target them using hybrid leadcore rigs with out having to fuss with downrigger weights or release clips, simply spool out your line, wait for the strike, fight the fish and repeat!
Here’s how one of my hybrid leadcore outfits looks. For a rod I employ 7’5” Vance’s Tackle spiral wrapped E Glass trolling rod. My rig makes use of braid, fluorocarbon and of course leadcore. All of these materials are low stretch and that’s why I choose an E Glass rod over a graphite rod.
Vance’s rods are highly parabolic and the action is slow. This cushions the strike and headshakes of the fish.
The rod is matched with an Abu Garcia 5500 Line Counter reel. The reel is spooled with 250 yards of 20 pound braid, which is about the diameter of 4 pound mono. To the end of the braid I splice on 3 colors of leadcore. To the end of the leadcore I splice on 20 feet of 15 or 17 pound fluorocarbon tipped with a swivel. To the swivel I attach a 3 to 4 foot 8 or 10 pound fluorocarbon leader.
I played with several different knots for linking the braid and fluorocarbon to the leadcore, but the method I’m about to describe was not only the simplest, but also formed an extremely smooth connection that travels through the eyes of the rod without a hitch.
To make the connection, worm the woven sheath of the leadcore back and expose the lead wire inside. When you’ve got about 3 inches of the lead exposed, clip it off and then straighten out the now hollow sheath. Tie an overhand (granny) knot in the hollow sheath near the end of the lead wire, but don’t draw the knot down tight.
Next slide the braid or fluorocarbon you want to connect the leadcore to into the hollow sheath and work it all the way up to overhand knot. Holding the braid or fluorocarbon in place inside the hollow sheath work the overhand knot down nearly to the end of the sheath. When the overhand knot is positioned about a quarter inch from the end of the sheath draw the knot down tight. That’s it, you’re done and you’ve formed a super smooth super secure connection.
With this rig I put on a lure or bait and run out all the leadcore. Then I spool the braid backing off and keep track of how much line I’m putting out using the line counter. Depending on how much backing I have out and the speed of the troll, I can reach down to depths of 25 feet or perhaps a bit more.
When using this rig not only can I adjust my depth quickly by simply letting out or retrieving line, I can also work the rod at critical times and give the rig some extra life and action. This comes into play when working shoreline structure while fast trolling.
I like to back the drag on the reel off and put on the clicker. When a fish strikes and that clicker screams it really gets my heart pumping!
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