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Spoon and Spinner Fishing

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

I have been trying to settle in my mind, which is better spinners or spoons? So far, my conclusions have lead me to the answer, "It depends on conditions."

In the past month, I have come to feel that spinners are easier to fish effectively, but are not as versatile as a spoon. Just by reeling in a spinner, you get the lure to provide the action that leads to a strike. With a spoon, getting the wobble right to imitate a small fish is more difficult and challenging. As I continue, I will make the following disclaimer, I am still new at this!

There is a spinner fisherman who often has 100 plus fish days. One of my goals when I was up in the mountains was to attempt to meet that goal. I did have a 110 fish day. All of the fish I caught were Brook Trout. The fish were from 4 to 17 inches. Since I was following the advice of refreshing my line after every 20 minutes of casting or every 3 fish, I switched between spinners and spoons several times. To reach my goal, I covered 2.5 miles of water on one stream and 1 mile on a smaller creek and about 3/4 of a mile on another creek as well as 9 fish from a dredge pond.

The advantage that I had is the area I was fishing had been closed since November and I was the first one to fish these streams since last fall. Besides, they often don't get fished even when it is open. In the 4 years I have fished up there, I have seen one other fisherman. In my two and a half days up there, I was the only one around. I had ideal conditions.

I began my day spinner fishing. To be totally candid, this is the first time I have spinner fished in a stream. I used all of the lessons learned over the years fly fishing for trout. I had a good idea where I should be placing the lure and where the trout ought to be. Eighty percent of this water I had fished before, so I knew where most of the good spots are too.

I was fishing with the Tenyru Spectra RZS51LL and Shimano Cardiff reel with 4 pound test line. By following the routine of refreshing the line, I didn't lose any lures. I had many bumps during the day on spinners and spoons. I only counted fish landed. Casting with the Spectra is a dream! I would say well over 70% of the fish were taken out of pocket water or undercuts. With a spinner, I simply cast above where I thought the trout was by 3-6 feet, let the spinner settle some, and then reel the spinner by the suspected lair, and more times than not, it was "Wham" fish on! I had about 20 follows. I did the figure 8 at my feet but only caught one fish doing it. So when it came to spinner fishing, getting a nice speed on the spinner casting upstream and retrieving downstream at a speed that made the spinner spin effectively, I had good action. Most fish were caught within the first 8 feet of the retrieve. Most casts were 15 to 25 feet.

I found spoons worked the same way the spinners as long as I had a good wobble with the spoon. However, when I finally got to some of the nicer pools, the spoons really began to outperform the spinner. Since the water was very clear, I could see what was going on many times. When I cast the spinner, often the fish would move toward it and follow but not strike.

With a spoon, I could manipulate the action easier. I tried letting the spinner settle several times to the bottom, and then begin the retrieve again. No reaction from the trout. With a spoon, I let it drop and jigged it several times. That jigging action resulted in several hook-ups. The Diawa 2.5 gram Crusader spoons have a lot of latitude in the retrieve speed, and that versatility was very helpful in catching a lot of fish. Fishing with a varied retrieve often brought violent strikes.

I had one trout follow the Crusader three times. Since the pool ended in a shallow riffle, he simply turned and went back to the middle back of the pool. On the fourth try, he followed again, but I had stepped to the left and was retrieving where I could move my rod about 80 degrees. I slowed the retrieve slightly, moved the rod and gave it two quick cranks like a fish trying to get away. He turned, and "Wham" fish on.

It is also nice to have a familiar place to go and test things. I fish an area close to home called Wilson Springs a lot. One of my favorite honey holes was available yesterday. The hole often holds three planter (stocked) rainbows, and that was the case yesterday. Again, the spoons were more effective. These are pressured fish. Using the constant wobble technique only resulted in follows. By employing a couple of jigs after the follow, and then an escape move, I got one of the fish to strike. I went over to a different area with a nice seam of flowing water next to a pool and caught two more fish using the "escape" technique.

I also think the different shapes of the spoons lend themselves to being very effective. I used a Smith Edge Diamond spoon in the faster water of the side streams I fished and found it to be even more effective than the spinners in the faster water. I believe with time and more experience, I can figure out which shape works best under what conditions.

I have also tried some American made spoons and they just don't perform like the JDM spoons that Chris sells. Sure the JDM are a bit more expensive, but the quality shows, and I think they are more balanced.

So as of right now, I believe spoons are more effective. What I have learned is you really have to pay attention to the feel of the wobble. You can do that with the high quality rods that are sold here. With a spinner, it can be retrieved at a steady speed regardless of the change of current speed in the stream. Not so with getting a nice steady wobble on a spoon. I found myself varying the retrieve to keep the wobble consistent with the spoons.

I also discovered that often a fish will hit a spoon more than once, but will not often hit a spinner more than once. Twice on my trip, I had a trout slam the spoon hard. Instead of jerking it to set the hook, I let it flutter down and the trout turned and grabbed "the wounded fish." That happened once at Wilson Creek, but I didn't see it.

So, I will end with this little tidbit, maybe instead of setting the hook when you feel the slam, try letting the spoon fall and allow the trout to get it!

I might be totally wrong, but right now I see spoon fishing as much more versatile because you can manipulate a spoon more effectively than a spinner. Both have been effective for me so far.

All I can say is this type of fishing sure beats sitting on a lawn chair and tossing out a bobber with a nightcrawler on a size 8 hook and hoping something comes by.

Comments for Spoon and Spinner Fishing

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Jul 19, 2018
Rocky Mountain testing.
by: JJ

Thanks for the detailed comparison. I have been told Idaho was a beautiful, under the radar gem, that gets overshadowed by its neighbors as a great fishing destination. I hope to make a western fishing road trip in the next few years, and Idaho is definitely on the list.
A couple of questions. First, do you tie direct to your lure,or use a snap/swivel? Second, Are these wild fish, or is there a stocking program? Also, just out of curiosity, what elevation are you fishing?
I am having similar observations here on the east coast. Not to mention the limited time I have spent fishing plugs. The experimentation adds another element to an already fun pursuit.

Jul 19, 2018
Answering JJ's questions
by: Les Albjerg

JJ - In the mountains, I was fishing at about 6,500 feet. All the fish in that drainage are wild fish. I was surprised I didn't catch any cutthroat. They often move up and down this major creek. Wilson Springs near my house is a huge freshwater spring that is between 50 and 60 degrees all year. It is at about 2500 feet. It is planted with rainbows almost every other week. There is a trophy pond, but I never seem to get over there. There are three major pools and it forms Wilson Creek.

As far as tying on, I started with a Cultiva Tairiki Snap, but after an hour just skipped it. One thing I learned is that casting spinners does damage the line. Checking often and retying wasn't that hard. Now that I am going back to casual fishing, I will be using a snap or swivel again. I really didn't experience much line twist.

Idaho is an awesome place to fish. It isn't so hidden anymore. We have our BIG nine streams, but I usually avoid them. The other problem is it is an awesome place to hunt as well. I didn't draw my moose tag, but I did get my elk tag. I have a Brittney who is an awesome pointer, and working over a covey of birds with him is a lot of fun! We also have a good warm water fishery near where I live that gets my attention as well.
Less the 40 miles from the house in Oregon the tail waters below the Owhyee Dam. The best brown trout water in Oregon. I do splurge and I buy an out of state license.

I have been fishing plugs some too, but that is a different story.

JJ - Let me know when you are headed this way.

Jul 20, 2018
Spoons v Spinners
by: Jerry in SC

With the Daiwa Lupin spoons I can retrieve very slow and still get that wobble; a spinner blade might not turn a that speed.

The Lupins will ride hook up and get a good wobble at slow retrieval speeds. Many spinners will not.

I was always a spinner fisherman, but these spoons have me convinced that there may be a better way. For sure they are easier to cast and will run deep.

Jul 20, 2018
Lupin Spoons!
by: Chris Stewart

The more I fish Lupins the better I like them - particularly for smaller streams which are home to smaller fish. They are just small enough that everything will take them, and just dense enough that they cast well and you can fish them as deep as you want (assuming the current is screaming).

Jul 20, 2018
Hope you can get more!
by: Les Albjerg

I guess the cat is out of the bag! My second favorite spoons are the Lupin spoons. The Diawa Crusaders are in first place because of their versatility and because I have fished them the most.

The fish just slammed the only Lupin spoon I have as I fish though the two beaver ponds my second day in the mountains. (My order for more should be here today, so I'm talking.) My first fish on the Lupin was a month ago and it was 3 pound largemouth bass. Two days after the bass, I cleaned up on a dozen crappies with it on a different pond. They work for other fish as well.

By the way, I bought some 2 gram spoons made in Tasmania Australia and paid way too much for them. They are very very similar to the Lupin, Virtually the same size and action, but not the quality of finish.

I agree with Chris, the Lupin seems to attract all sizes of fish.

Sep 05, 2018
Now Plug Fishing!
by: Les Albjerg

My last outing with my Spinning outfit showed me that spinners do cause line twist. Chris said, awhile back that, "maybe we are making too much of line twist" when it comes to spinners. I lost 20 yards of expensive JDM line! No more spinners without a swivel for me.

I have not caught a fish on the WooDream plugs yet. However, I have had the chance to practice with them and fish with them. I am convinced that they are well worth the extreme price. These sinking plugs don't sink like a stone. They sink just right for versatile manipulation. I would rather have one excellent plug than 3 or 4 above average plugs. I am sure they will catch fish. I had two follows last week, but the water was so clear, I stuck out like a sore thumb so I scared the fish. On that note, I do believe that fishing plugs was the wrong choice that day. If I had been fishing Tenkara, I am convinced I would have caught fish. I scared fish with the splash of the plug as well.

I switched to a .8 gram Diawa Vega Spoon. By casting the spoon into the riffles and then working the spoon into the seams, I caught two cutthroat trout. I didn't try a spinner in the clear water. So, what I have learned is you really have to think through the water conditions to pick the type of lure that will give the best chance to catch fish. I am also learning that spin fishing requires as much thinking as fishing with a fly,

Sep 14, 2018
Anyone speak this language?
by: Your Name

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Sep 15, 2018
Tenyru Spectra vs G.Loomis UL rods
by: Alton

Hello Les,
I am ready to purchase one of the two rods and I know from the blogs here and on Tenkarabum you have a lot of experience with rods and fishing in general. Anyways, how would you compare the sensitivity between the two rods or at least that of the Spectra

Sep 16, 2018
Save for a Spectra
by: Les Albjerg

Alton - Sensitivity is good for both rods. Loomis is now owned by Shimano, so think of them as American made Shimano rods. I have nothing but respect for what the Loomis is, but it isn't a Tenyru Spectra!

The Tenyru has way more backbone. It has much higher grade hardware and more eyes to take advantage of a much more technically advanced blank. The reel seat and the handle are of much higher quality. Furthermore, it has unsurpassed power. I fished with the Spectra on Friday in winds of 20-30 miles an hour with gusts to 50. I didn't catch any fish, but I could reasonably control the spoons and jigs that I fished for a couple of hours.

You won't find an Ultralight rod with this amount of sensitivity with backbone anywhere else. If you are going to do any fishing in moving water, you want a Spectra. I can't say too many good things about this rod.

By the way, the only pleasing thing on my "Blast and Cast" weekend was my Spectra. I should have gone to ONI school. No birds and no fish!

Sep 17, 2018
Thanks for information
by: Alton

I bought one yesterday and can't wait to use it. Again thanks for the response, I knew you would have probably have fished both, and I read some negative reviews about their warranty program since Shimano took over. Alton

Sep 18, 2018
You will be Amazed!
by: Les Albjerg

Alton - I still own a Loomis Ultra-light. It has become a closet queen. I had to have the tip replaced and the warranty was honored and the turn around was fast. It is a good rod, not a great rod. My first thought when I got my Spectra was, "Wow this is a light rod!" The largest fish I have caught so far is a 4 pound largemouth bass. I didn't max out the power of the Spectra. The largest fish in fast water has been a 19 inch brown trout. Again, the Spectra wasn't maxed out, but I could feel the power and backbone in the lower section. On the other end of the spectrum this rod has feel like no other. Subtle strikes are easily detected. Feeling gravel or grass is easy too. I hope you enjoy yours as much I enjoy mine.

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The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.