Classic spoons, like the Needlefish, Krocodile, Super Duper and Dick Nite, have been standard fare for western trout for decades. Even the basic colors of these spoons have been the undoing of many a western trout.
It’s no secret that western salmonids, especially rainbow and cutthroats, love bold, outrageous colors. For some reason, spoons that feature pink, orange, red, scarlet and other psychedelic hues trip a trout’s trigger. There’s no reason for it because these radiant colors don’t resemble anything that rainbows and cutts eat on a regular basis. They might just trigger a reaction like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Often, it seems the more outrageous a spoon color is, the more the trout like it. For that reason, walleye spoons invented to catch Great Lakes walleyes are killer on western trout.
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Walleye spoons got their start on Lake Erie. Today, spoons have usurped crank baits and crawler harnesses as the main tools for catching walleye on places like Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay. Great Lakes ‘eyes love shocking, bizarre colors like Greasy Chicken, Naked Mixed Veggies and Jack Me Up Elite. These same colors drive western trout crazy.
The myriad of colors that walleye spoons are available in mind-boggling. They’re colors western trout have never seen. Manufacturers like Silver Streak (http://www.wolverinetackle.com), Warrior Lure (www.warriorlures.com), Yeck Lures (www.fishyecklures.com), Dreamweaver Lures (www.dreamweaverlures.com) and others make mini-spoons in a variety of shapes and colors. Some are super-thin; others are tear-dropped shaped and very speed forgiving. They come with a myriad of colors and the backs of the lures can be gold, copper or silver, offering alluring contrasts. These different colored backs aren’t offered in the traditional western spoons. There’s no doubt that classic western spoons catch trout, but they lack the incredible array of colors, shapes and actions that Great Lakes walleye spoons offer.
Many of the West’s best trout waters are shallow, fertile bodies of water. These light, thin spoons excel in shallow water less than 20 feet, which lends itself to presentations using in-line boards, in-line sinkers, short cores and disk divers. Walleyes spoons are light, thin and not meant to be cast. They are strictly a trolling lure.
Disk divers are one of my favorite ways to fish walleye spoons for western trout. The mini-divers can be set to take the spoon out away from the boat to prevent spooking fish and to cover more water. The mini-divers don’t trip like a conventional Dipsey Diver, but simply pull straight when a fish hits and offer little resistance when fighting a fish. Usually, there are weeds to deal with on shallow lakes so start shallow with the diver and gradually let them out until you make contact with fish or the weeds. A line-counter reel helps you repeat productive trolls. Generally, letting a mini-diver out 40 feet puts the diver down 15 feet or so. It’s a good idea to run 14-pound mono on the reel and a 10- or 12-pound leader of fluorocarbon. You can use braid or super-line for a mainline if you like. The leader can be 4 or 5 feet or up to the length of the rod you’re using. I use 8- to 8-1/2-foot downrigger rods for running mini-divers instead of heavier, traditional diver rods. The mini-divers don’t pull very hard, so stout diver rods aren’t necessary.
When I’m limited as to the number of rods I can run, I’ll often run two spoons on one line by running one spoon behind the diver and a second above the mini- diver using a devise called an Elberta Clip’r made by Dreamweaver. Two trout at one time on one rod is not uncommon when using this rig. I once caught a 2-pound rainbow and a 15-pound carp on the same rod. The carp had the little spoon firmly notched in its rubbery lips. I thought I had the mother of all cutthroats!
When trout are deeper or on larger reservoirs, Slide Divers (http://www.slidediver.com/) are a great way to present light, thin spoons to spooky trout. The advantage of the Slide Diver is that you can let a long lead out behind the diver for the ultimate stealth presentation. The Slide Diver also comes in a clear version that is perfect in clear western lakes and reservoirs. Generally, the smaller Slide Diver is perfect for most situations.
In-line planer boards are another option for presenting mini-spoons. Like mini-divers, in-line boards allow you to get lures away from the boat in front of spooky trout and cover more water. The two work well together with the mini-divers covering the water closer to the boat and the boards farther out.
Spoons behind in-line boards can cover water from the surface to 15 feet or more. Walleye spoons with a light in-line, egg or rubber-core sinker will only go down a foot or two allowing you to target trout in the skinny water that fly fishermen would usually target. When trout go deeper, you can add increasing amounts of weight or use lead core.
Whether using added weight or lead core, the best in-line board for fishing walleye spoons for western trout is the Yeck Planer Board made by Yeck Lures (http://www.fishyecklures.com.) The Yeck Planer is lightweight, highly visible, reversible and features a jettison release. The jettison release allows the board to trip at the strike and slide down to a 4 mm bead or the weight that you put on your line above a barrel swivel. You can then fight the fish without the board pulling out to the side and you don’t have to take the board off once you get the fish to the boat. The Yeck Planer will pull up to 5 colors of lead core and the boards will track in 4- or 5-foot seas without diving under.
The walleye spoons work great behind cowbells or pop cans, too for both trout and Kokanees. The little spoons are perfect for stacking on downriggers. Use the Elberta Clip’r to hold the spoon in place and promote positive hook ups. Stack the spoon five foot above you lure being run off the downrigger ball.
Jim and Emilee Balzer decided to visit last summer as part of a western vacation. Prospects for fishing were not good. Fishing was characterized as “slow” according to the fishing report posted at the local Sportsman’s Warehouse store. Jim and Emily showed up in early afternoon and after a quick lunch we hit the water. The wind was blowing pretty hard. Not knowing Emily’s cast abilities, we decided to troll. Yeck Lure’s (http://fishyecklures.com) 2-1/2-inch Y11 walleye spoon and Warrior Lures (http://warriorlures.com) 2-1/4-inch Little Warrior flutter spoon are two of my favorite spoons. Western rainbows and cutthroats have an affinity for hot colors, many of the same gaudy colors that tempt walleyes on Lake Erie.
Jim ran the trolling motor while I set some rods. I ran a small, clear disc diver off each side. They are perfect for targeting spooky trout in shallow lakes. Letting the line out 40 feet on the line counter put the spoon down about 12 or 15 feet. I added one rod with two colors of lead core line off an in-line board.
I hadn’t even gotten the lead core all the way out then one of the divers started jumping. I quickly handed the rod to Emilee and she deftly reeled in the spunky trout all the while grinning from ear to ear. About every 15 minutes one of the divers would start jumping or the in-line board would start skiing backward under the resistance of a trout attached to the spoon. We’d caught more than a dozen trout before the wind picked up even more and we decided to head in for dinner.
The next morning was perfect. Cool, calm with no wind. We marveled at the beautiful sunrise while watching our lures break the calm of the mirrored surface. Casting and fishing a jig requires a little more expertise than trolling, but it’s a fun way to fish if the trout are cooperating, After a couple of hours, we’d caught several trout casting jigs and broke off a good-sized trout. I saw Emilee whispering to her Dad.
“What’s up?” I queried.
“Emilee wants to try trolling again,” said Jim.
“No problem,” I replied.
We stowed the casting rods and pulled out the trolling gear. I set the same two divers and a lead core line. My intentions were to set another lead core line on the other side of the boat, but we hadn’t gone more than 100 yards when one of the divers started jumping, then the other. A third trout was taking the in-line board with the lead core for a ride. Emile was giggling while reeling in trout after trout. Several times she insisted that her Dad reel in the trout so she could try her hand at netting. Three hours went by very quickly. We kept our limit of trout for dinner and to give to my friends that are fish lovers. We released more than a dozen trout.
Monday morning, my friend, Joan Manasse, asked how the fishing was.
“Oh, not to bad,” I replied nonchalantly. “We probably caught about 40 or so.”
“40?” she exclaimed. “The fishing report at Sportsman’s Warehouse said that fishing was slow!”
“They weren’t using our secret walleye spoons,” I grinned.