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.

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