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Casting Spoons And Spinners In Lakes And Streams

By Luhr Jensen, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


Casting weighted spinners and spoons for trout, bass, salmon, pike and other gamefish is an art practiced by hundreds of thousands of anglers throughout the country. It is a challenging, exciting and productive fishing technique that can easily be learned. Whether a beginner or a more experienced angler, this article can help you become even more successful using this technique.

The greatest joy that comes from "hardware" casting is being able to use super-light tackle. This both magnifies strikes and allows a more direct confrontation between you and the fish.

Spinners and spoons, however, are fished differently in lakes from in rivers and there also are differences in how each type of lure is most effectively used. The following information is designed to help you understand these differences and provide you with many of the proven tips and techniques utilized by successful hardware anglers.

In learning and mastering hardware casting, the most important aspect is to become completely familiar with the feel and action of individual lures under a variety of water conditions. A clear water lake or pond, or a quiet, deep hole in a river are excellent spots to study the action of a particular lure. This will help you get the feel of a lure under different retrieve speeds, as well as allow you to observe what it does underwater.

A hardware angler who knows a lure's vibrating or wobbling action by heart can, by watching the rod tip, determine the necessary retrieval speed and whether or not the lure is working properly. Many anglers have come upon these discoveries by trial and error over a number of fishing trips. The simplest way, and one much less time consuming, is to pick out a spot where you can unhurriedly observe the lure and its action.

Start by making a short cast and then begin a slow, steady retrieve, constantly keeping your eyes on your rod tip. A vibrating tip means the spoon or spinner is working. As the lure approaches you, note what it is doing underwater and couple that with the rod tip vibrations and the "feel" you are getting.

A spoon should swim and wobble from side-to-side while a spinner should have a constantly-revolving blade. If your spoon is spinning, you are reeling too fast. If the blade on your spinner is not constantly revolving, you are reeling too slowly.

Three basic spoon shapes have evolved over the years. These are oblong (Needlefish ®, Krocodile ®), tear drop (Metric Pro Spinner) and oval (Hot Shot ® Wobbler). In addition, there are specialty shapes such as long and flat (Hus-Lure), slab-sided with beveled ends (Mr. Champ ®) and even U-shaped (Super Duper ®).

There are three basic components of a spoon: blade, split ring and hook. A fourth component, depending upon the particular spoon, is the device for attaching it to your line. This can be a swivel/split ring, welded ring, Luxon ® Duo-Lock snap, or snap and swivel. When an attachment device comes with the spoon from the manufacturer, it should be used because it has been installed to allow the spoon to produce optimum action in the water.

All attachment devices for spoons, including those you may attach yourself, should have a rounded end which makes contact with the eye of the spoon so the lure can swing freely from side to side. Sharp pointed or V-shaped snaps or snap swivels destroy the action of most spoons.

Weighted casting spinners, such as the Metric Pro Spinner, Bang-Tail ® and Shyster ® produce a completely different pattern of underwater vibrations than spoons because the blade of these lures revolves around a fixed shaft. A spinner's basic components include a shaft on which is placed a weight, a hook (either fixed directly to the shaft or by using a split ring), the blade, a clevis to allow the blade to spin freely and one or more small beads which act as tiny ball bearings for the clevis and blade.

If a line attachment device such as a barrel swivel is not all ready on the spinner, you will need to attach a snap swivel to the eye of the spinner. Spinners, because of their action, should be used with a snap swivel, the ball-bearing type being the absolute best. One spinner, the Shyster ® does not require an additional swivel as it features a keel-type wire shaft which helps prevent the lure from revolving or twisting. Your line may be tied directly to its eyelet if you choose.

There are many variations in spinner construction and patterns including the Tiger Tail ®, which has a vibrating blade that revolves directly on the shaft (and is called an in-line spinner); Shyster ®, which features the anti-line twist keep shaft; Metric Pro Spinner, with an oval, French-type blade and Sneak, with a special oval-rippled blade.

All spinners produce sonic vibrations under water. Some produce more than others, depending on the shape of the blade and how it is attached to the shaft. Because the blade revolves directly on the shaft, the in-line Tiger Tail ® produces maximum frequency sonic vibrations, thereby resulting in an extremely effective lure. In addition to its sonic appeal, this spinner also is easier to cast because the blade lies tight to the shaft.

In lake fishing with either spoons or spinners, it is important to recognize that fish will be at different levels, depending on the location of food sources, the time of day, degree of sunlight penetration in the water and the level of the thermocline. River fish, on the other hand, generally tend to be found close to the bottom unless a major insect hatch draws them to the surface.

If casting a spoon or a spinner into a lake, you should try to vary the depth of each retrieve until the fish-holding level is found. Then mentally mark that depth so you can go right back to it on the next cast. A standard quarter-ounce spoon or spinner on a tight line (they sink faster on a slack line) will sink about a foot-per-second. You can count the number of seconds it takes to reach bottom (the line goes slack) and then make your first retrieve slow and close to the bottom. On each successive cast, subtract two seconds of sinking time until you have covered every foot of depth in a particular area.

If fish appear finicky and hard to catch they follow the lure but won't strike it the probability is that your line is too visible. Remember that clear line is the most invisible. By switching to a smaller diameter line which fish can't see as easily in the clear, still waters of a lake, your success rate should rise. For trout and other fish up to five pounds, a four- or six-lb. test line is recommended.

For larger fish, try 8- to 10-lb. test line. However, remember the heavier your line, the easier it will be seen by fish and the harder it will be to cast. Heavier line also will create friction in the water and your lure won't run as deep as it will with lighter test lines. Regardless of the line test you settle on, choose one of premium quality such as Trilene XL or Tri Max. These have superior knot strength and small diameter in relation to the pound-test rating.

On dark days, or at times when there's not much light on the water, such as early morning or late afternoon, a Brass or Copper finish will work well. On bright days, or in clear water, most successful anglers choose Nickel finishes. Brass or Copper also work well when water is brackish, murky (tea-colored) or deep.

Color finishes should be matched as closely a possible to the natural food available in a lake. Minnows can be represented by metallic finishes, particularly those with red heads. Frogs can be represented by a green/black-and-yellow spotted finish. Natural color rainbow trout and brown trout finishes work well for predatory species such as pike, bass and lake trout.

Do EVERYTHING you can to prevent a lure from running at a constant speed and in a straight line. Twitch the rod tip every few seconds, speed up and then slow down the retrieve, stop the lure dead in the water and then start it up again, reel extremely fast for a few seconds, and so on. The more variety in speed and action you impart to the lure, the better your chances are of enticing a strike.


Rivers, unlike lakes, have built-in currents which make it more difficult to present a spinner or spoon properly. There are three basic kinds of casts used to fish rivers with hardware and these are illustrated above. When fishing spoons, the most common cast will be across the stream from your position or just slightly upstream, allowing the spoon to sink a moment or two before beginning a retrieve. As the spoon works downstream and gets caught in the current, you should slow your retrieve. As it works across the stream, back toward your position, stop reeling altogether. Once the lure has reached quiet, soft water and has begun settling toward the bottom (vibrations at the rod tip will fade), then it's time to reel the lure slowly in and make another cast.

Taiout areas are favorites for feeding, resting and holding fish. These areas are at the tail end of a hole or drift where the water gets shallow and begins picking up speed. Because of their shallowness, tailouts are hard to fish with cross-stream casts and are best worked with downstream casts.Position yourself above the tailout you wish to work and then cast across and downstream, into the edge of the tailout. When the spoon or spinner hits the water, take a few turns of your reel handle and then let the current do the work for the rest of the way, pushing and activating the lure as it crosses the river back to your bank.

Extremely deep holes or fast water require yet another kind of casting technique called "upstreaming". The lure is cast upstream and then allowed to settle toward the bottom as you reel in a line very slowly. By the time it has reached a position across from you, it should be near the bottom and then can be slowly reeled in until the current catches it. Then the cross-stream technique is used. With spoons, the upstream cast provides the "extra weight" to get your lure down in deep water.

NOTE: Hardware should not be bounced along the bottom like drift tackle. Although some anglers catch fish by accident this way, it does not allow the lure to obtain the fish-enticing action needed, besides the fact it will often result in snagging up and losing the lure. However, spoons should be fished NEAR the bottom. If you feel a tap now and then from rocks or the bottom, you are fishing the correct depth and reeling at the correct speed. If you feel a series of taps, speed up your retrieve. No taps — slow down the retrieve. A hard tap (strike) . . . set the hook.

Spinners can effectively be used in rivers with all three casting methods previously described upstream, cross-stream and downstream. With wide-blade shapes like the Metric Pro Spinner and Bolo ® (French-type spinners), the upstream technique can be particularly deadly and is best accomplished with a high-speed spinning reel. Cast the spinner out and as soon as it hits the water, begin reeling to start the blade in motion. As soon as the blade begins turning, you will feel vibrations and your rod tip will throb. If you feel steady ticks from the spinner blade, the lure is too close to the bottom and you should reel faster. If you don't feel a tap once in a while, slow down as the lure isn't working close enough to the bottom. You should use a retrieve speed that causes the spinner blade to nick a rock or touch bottom every few seconds.

Most anglers try to fish spinners too fast, even though the most effective method has proved to be a slow-moving lure, fished near the bottom an easy meal for a nearby fish.

Colors and patterns of spinners closely resemble those recommended earlier for lake fishing. You will also find contrasting color combinations best, such as a Nickel Blade/Black Body, Brass Blade/Red Body with black spots, etc. Spinners may be purchased with feathered hooks as an option. These add extra color and action to the lure. Single hooks are also available for situations where they are required by law or where weeds or moss are a problem.

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