The Ultimate Guide To Choosing, Rigging & Catching Fish With Weedless Spoons [With Wader Dave]
I don’t recall reading any list of all-time favorites, most popular, best-selling or most effective artificial lures that doesn’t include the weedless spoon (like this post called “The 7 Saltwater Lures That Can Catch Fish Pretty Much Anywhere In The World”)
It’s on those lists for good reason and certainly near the top of my list of “go to” baits. Weedless spoons are a “must have” in every inshore fisherman’s arsenal.
My favorite versions offer an enticing wobble and flash, cast like a bullet, are durable and don’t need a trailer or skirt.
They allow me to work shallow waters with fish-holding structure like grass, rocks, fallen trees, mangrove roots and oyster beds without hanging up. Most importantly, they are very effective and attract any species that I’m likely to be targeting inshore.
The hardest part of fishing these spoons is deciding which of the hundreds of versions available to use.
To begin with, there are several styles of weedless spoons to choose from and among the different styles, a multitude of surface, color, size and weight options to contemplate.
To make it even tougher, once a spoon has been selected, the decision to add a trailer or skirt, of which there are countless versions to choose from, must be made.
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Choosing The Right Spoon
The first step in narrowing down the options is to decide which style of spoon is likely to be most effective under the expected conditions when fishing. Most weedless spoons fit into one of three style categories.
1. “Johnson Style” Spoon
Heavy for their size and aerodynamic, which allows them to be cast a long way. They are effective when fishing into the wind.
Their density also makes it easy to keep them near the bottom on a steady retrieve and the stiff weed guard keeps them from getting hung up in the thickest of cover or bottom structure.
An example of this lure type and by far the most popular weedless spoon is the Johnson Silver Minnow, which is offered in 17 colors and weights ranging from 1/16 oz to 1 1/8 oz. Popular spoons of this style are also produced by Bagley, Tsunami, H&M and Cajun Thunder.
This spoon style should be a top choice when targeting redfish and flounder in water depths of less than three feet, especially when casting into or near heavy cover, oyster beds, rocks or mangroves.
These spoons are also very effective when fishing for snook along the beach on lower tides and/or when bottom-structure is likely to snag jigs or plugs. While trout are often caught using “Johnson Style” spoons, there may be better choices if they are your primary target.
2. “Aqua Dream Style” Spoon
Flat or slightly concave, slow sinking, willow leaf shaped spoons with a light screwed on hook, flexible wire weed guards and cut outline tie.
They offer an erratic wobbling and/or spinning action on a straight retrieve as well as an enticing fluttering action when allowed to drop during the retrieve.
Most of these spoons are light and most effective under calm conditions or when casting downwind. Their lightweight and large surface area provide for a relatively slow sink rate and the ability to work them higher in the water column with a slow retrieve, which keeps them from snagging on bottom structure.
Capt. Mike’s Aqua Dream Living Weedless Spoons are a popular choice among spoons of this style and can be effective when targeting just about any inshore species.
Trout love to hit these spoons on the initial fall and as they flutter toward the bottom after raising the rod tip during the retrieve.
Spoons designed to offer the characteristics of both Johnson and Aqua Dream style spoons and/or even other lure types like plugs and spinner baits.
Popular examples of these Hybrids include Nemire’s Red Ripper, Gator Weedless Spoons, Capt. Jim Huddleston’s Huddle Spoon, the Hopkins Weedless Spoon, Mepps Timber Doodle and Bomber’s Who Dat Weedless Rattling Spoons.
Many of these spoons can be effective on most inshore species and a good alternative to other spoon styles when they aren’t producing.
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Factors To Consider When Choosing A Spoon
Regardless of the style of weedless spoon or targeted species, the weight, size and color choice will vary according to water depth, type and abundance of cover and bottom structure, water clarity and weather conditions. Consider this when choosing a spoon:
Heavier spoons sink faster and can be fished along or near the bottom at quicker retrieve rates than lighter spoons. They are a good choice when targeting fish that are holding or feeding along the bottom of the water column.
Lighter spoons sink more slowly and are effective when targeting fish that are holding in or feeding on bait in the middle or high end of the water column.
When casting into a strong wind, heavier and more aerodynamic spoons are a better choice than smaller and lighter spoons which are more effective under calm conditions or when fishing downwind.
Try to match the hatch by selecting spoons that are as close to the same size and color as the bait that fish are feeding on in the area.
There are a wide variety of colors and patterns available within each spoon style. The most popular colors for targeting inshore species are gold, silver, copper and black.
Silver is a good choice when fishing clear water under blue skies and when small baitfish are flashing in the area.
In stained, muddy or less than clear water, gold and copper spoons are a good color to start with, especially when the baitfish have taken on the darker color of the water or when small crabs are likely to be present.
In dark water, under low light conditions and when other colors aren’t working, a black spoon can be very effective.
These colors are especially effective when using “Johnson Style” spoons or similar hybrids. In addition to these basic colors, “Aqua Dream” style spoons and many “Hybrids” are offered in a variety of fluorescent colors and natural bait patterns.
These colors and patterns combined with the unique action of these spoons often produce fish when other spoon styles and colors won’t.
Generally, the fluorescents are a good choice for darker water and the naturals and lighter colored spoons a good choice for clearer water. However, there are days when the “rules” don’t apply and you have to work your way through a variety of colors to find one that works.
3. Water Depth
“Johnson Style” spoons are a good choice when fishing water less than three feet and when fish are holding or feeding along the bottom.
Smaller/lighter spoons of this type can be worked higher in the water column with a faster retrieve but the less dense “Aqua Dream” type spoons can be worked higher in the water column with a slower retrieve and therefore may be more effective than other spoon styles.
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Rigging Weedless Spoons
In this section, I go over four tips to make sure you have the best rig possible for your weedless spoons.
Make sure hooks are sharp out of the box or package and after each outing, especially thicker welded hooks on “Johnson Style’ spoons.
“Aqua Dream” and many “Hybrid” style spoons feature wire hooks produced by recognized hook manufacturers and are usually extremely sharp out of the box.
2. Weed Guards
Modify and/or position weed guards to make sure they are positioned to protect the hook point from snagging on cover or structure. Bend the welded, stiff weed guards found on most “Johnson Style” spoons so that a ½ inch portion is lined up in a straight line with the hook point.
Dual wire weed guards like those found on most “Aqua Dream” style spoons should be positioned so that their tips end slightly above the hook point and the point is centered between them.
Be sure to inspect your spoon after a hit or several retrieves through heavy cover or structure to make sure the weed guard is properly positioned and that your line or leader hasn’t been nicked or abraded.
3. Split Rings And Swivels
Many fishermen insist it’s necessary to use a swivel for weedless spoons to eliminate line twists. That isn’t necessarily the case as most weedless spoons don’t spin when rigged and retrieved properly but instead wobble from side to side.
Rarely if ever is it necessary to add a swivel between the mainline and leader.
Adding a swivel, which also requires a split ring if attached at the head of the lure, creates two snag points that make it more likely that the spoon will pick up grass or get hung up on bottom structure.
However, “Aqua Dream” or “Hybrid” spoons that have a hole cut or punched out of the head of the lure are more effective when a split ring and swivel are added.
Most of these lures are not as aerodynamic as “Johnson” style spoons and tend to spin on the cast, especially if into a headwind.
Also, the edges of the hole may be sharp or become worn with use and can cut or weaken a line or leader tied directly to the lure.
The smallest split ring and swivel that are strong enough to handle the targeted species should be used. The swivel should also be large enough so that the entire split ring will easily slide through the eye.
Both pieces should be made of high-quality materials that will resist rusting or binding after multiple uses. Being made entirely of metal, spoons, split rings and swivels are very susceptible to rusting and should be thoroughly rinsed with fresh water after every use.
4. Trailers And Skirts For Spoons
The characteristics of a weedless spoon can be altered by threading a plastic curly or shad tail trailer or skirt onto the hook shank or point.
The addition of a trailer or skirt adds buoyancy and resistance that will slow the initial fall of the spoon and allow it to remain higher in the water column at a slower retrieve rate. This may allow a larger or heavier spoon to be effective in shallower water than would be possible without a trailer or skirt.
Color, flash or contrast can also be added to enhance a spoon’s effectiveness with the addition of a trailer or skirt. However, while the intention is to attract more strikes, there are often unintended changes to a spoons characteristic wobble and flash that may have the opposite effect.
The size, shape or weight of a trailer or skirt or the way it’s attached to the spoon may mute the action and flash or cause it to spin unnaturally.
Therefore, it’s important to watch a spoon as it’s retrieved to make sure that any modification has the desired effect.
While choosing to use a trailer or skirt adds another dimension to fishing with weedless spoons and an opportunity to improve upon their effectiveness, most are designed to display their characteristic wobble and flash without modifications.
Among the exceptions are Gator Weedless spoons, which are designed specifically to be fished with trailers or skirts and are a good choice when doing so.
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Using Weedless Spoons
Once a weedless spoon has been selected and the decision to use a trailer or skirt has been made, learning the most effective way to use it is relatively simple. My top tips for using weedless spoons are:
- Rod: Choose a rod with the right characteristics to maximize casting distance and provide enough backbone for a strong hook set that’s often necessary when fishing with weedless spoons.
- Reel: The reel should be compatible with the selected rod, provide enough line capacity to land the targeted species and offer a smooth drag that can handle the sudden and strong strike of a fish chasing down a lure and taking off in the opposite direction. The drag should be set toward the heavy end so that it doesn’t slip when a fish strikes and/or a firm hook set is applied.
- Fishing Line: Braided line is preferable when fishing with spoons as there is no stretch, which will help the fish hook themselves as they chase it down.
- Cast And Work: Cast the spoon directly toward the target, flip the bail manually just before it hits the water to eliminate slack, point the rod tip down toward the water and directly at the spoon so that the lure, line and rod are all in a straight line.
- Slack: Reel in any additional slack line as the spoon flutters to the bottom or desired depth and pay attention. Often a strike occurs on the initial drop.
- Steady Retrieve: Most spoons are designed to create their characteristic wobble and flash using a straight and steady retrieve, which is usually the most effective way to use them.
- Water Column: The rate of retrieve should be just fast enough to keep the spoon within the desired level of the water column.
- Rod Tip: Keeping the rod tip low and pointed directly at the lure will help keep the spoon lower in the water column during the retrieve while raising the rod tip during the retrieve will keep the spoon higher in the water column using the same retrieve rate.
- Change It Up: If fish aren’t striking the spoon using a steady retrieve rate, consider either speeding up or slowing down the speed. Also, consider varying the speed or adding an occasional twitch or jerk to create an erratic action during the retrieve.
- Set The Hook: Most strikes will be hard as fish chase the spoon down. They will often hook themselves, but a couple of sharp, firm hooksets should be added to make sure. Most fish will be hooked in either the upper lip or corner of the mouth making for an easy release with little damage to the fish.
- Up And Down: There are times, especially when targeting trout, when the steady retrieve should be abandoned and instead a rising and falling/fluttering action should be employed. This action can be created by raising the rod tip, causing the spoon to quickly rise in the water column, then allowing it to slowly flutter to the bottom as the rod tip is lowered and slack line is reeled in. Most often, strikes will occur on the fall and should be met with a firm hook set.
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Choosing, rigging and using a weedless spoon can be as simple or complex as a fisherman wants to make it but regardless of the choice, it can be extremely effective under circumstances when other lures fail.
Once you start using them, you will likely move from simple to complex and back, but the options are endless and the choice is yours to make.
These lures are classic and every inshore fisherman should learn how to use them. You never know when they will trigger a bite when your other lures aren’t working.
If you have any questions or feedback about this article, let us know in the comments below.
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2. The Top 5 Fishing Lures Of All Time (Inshore Edition)
3. This Is The Only Time To Use A Swivel For Inshore Fishing
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Thank You Wader Dave. This really cleared up a lot of questions about spoons for me.
Do you ever troll with spoon.Can you troll in the river? Can you troll without using planer board?
Haven’t seen Uncle Josh around for awhile, but I started getting the fFishBite packs and just started cutting the strips to whatever length I wanted and just ran the hook through the end. Works great and adds a scent trail as it wobbles back. Just saying!!!
many years ago while fishing in Canada I had 1 Johnson silver minnow along.noone was catching anything I put the Johnson on with a uncle josh pork rind.slautered the pike.don’t see josh pork anywhere now days
I’m with you, Doug. I grew up using Johnson Spoons with the simple straight “Josh” rind. I wish I had known some of these tips, but I caught a lot of bass with it.????
I can’t find them in stores anymore (uncle josh)wonder if on line
Doug – I haven’t seen or used pork rinds for a long time. I think that plastic trailers have taken over, especially the top water frog baits which are a great substitute for a pork rind. The pork rind was added to add buoyancy to the spoon so it could be worked over lillynpads and through cattails and grass and imitate a frog. Wader Dave
I often fish in areas where I’m likely to catch trout, redfish and snook at any given time, and have wondered whether a gold or silver spoon would be the best choice. Gold spoons seem to be the first choice for reds, but what about trout and snook?
Gary – a gold Johnson Style Weedless Spoon is one of my favorite snook baits on the beach, bays and flats. I catch a fair number of trout on weedless spoons , usually incidentally as I’m targeting r3ds or snook but it isn’t my first choice If I’m targeting trout. I prefer to use a silver Johnson Sprite spoon versus weedless. Wader Dave
A gold spoon is such a reliable redfish lure that fly fisherman have developed a “fly” that imitates a gold spoon for chasing reds … and it works!
Mark – I agree. I fly fish as well and love the weedless spoon flies that imitate little crabs. Wader Dave
Any comments about Kastmaster style spoons? I tend to like them in the surf because they cast a mile. Not weedless, but in the surf that’s usually not a problem.
I use them out at the oil rigs some…. you need a little wire leader or the Spanish Mackerel will cut you off…
David – I use Kastmaster style spoons when I’m fishing the beaches in the east coast of Florida and Cape Cod. Have had great days on these, catching blues, jacks , maker already and strippers (Cape Cod). Just need to make sure there isn’t a lot of floating grass or mong in the water. Wader Dave
Excellent tips – really great information