When it comes to fishing lures, one of the biggest crossover success stories has to be the Creek Chub Pikie Minnow. Released in 1920, this long wooden plug with a heavy metal rim and tempting side-to-side wobble was intended to hit large mouths of monsters, pike and muskies. What Indiana-based Creek Chub didn’t foresee was that it would catch fire on the East Coast among surfcasters looking for something better than metal lures of the era to trick big striped bass into the waves. Pikie was so powerful that it became the model for countless famous striper plugs that followed. Now, more than 100 years later, another freshwater lure is quickly proving its worth on the saltwater striper scene.
This lure is (drum roll, please)…a scoop. I know what you’re thinking, spoons have been around forever. They have, but it took innovation in the big deep water arena to put a new twist on an ancient classic. Magnum flutter spoons are all the rage, but to understand why—and how they made the leap from freshwater lure to staple—we have to go back a few years.
A fresh spin on saltwater lures
In June 2014, half of the top-10 anglers fishing an FLW tournament on Kentucky Lake were using Nichols Lures Magnum Flutter spoons. That same month, the lures also marked the victory of the Bethel University fishing team on Pickwick Lake in a College BASS Wildcard event. At a whopping 8 inches long, this spoon had an uncanny ability to elicit strikes from largemouths hanging over deep ledges in the summer. Bass pro Ben Parker is credited with discovering this technique, which is why Nichols spoons bear his name. The thing about these giant metal plaques is that they weren’t designed to put numbers as much as size. In the fall, they crash and fly wildly, and it turns out that if one crashes into the face of a hanging trophy, one can’t help but take the hit. These large spoons quickly became the next big thing in bass fishing, prompting companies like Jenko to release their Sticky Spoon and Castaic to release the Heavy Metal Spoon.
Nichols Lures Magnum Flutter Spoon
Part of the reason this spoon technique took off was because it combined so well with modern electronics. “Video game fishing,” as some people call it, involved anglers using their side scan, down scan, and forward look to mark a single suspended fish and then throw a lure straight at its head. Older technology didn’t allow anglers to hit suspended fish with the same pinpoint accuracy – not to mention large, solitary suspended bass used to be some of the most difficult to fool. But giant ripple spoons shine so brightly and move so erratically in the fall that it was unlikely a marked fish would miss one. What’s more, the action seemed to elicit a first-ask-questions-later reaction from the big, smart bass. Spoons stayed squarely in the largemouth lane until about two years ago, when East Coast anglers targeting high-pressure saltwater striped bass were looking for a new secret weapon.
Striper’s hottest new lure
Striped bass anglers have been throwing Krocodile Spoons, Kastmasters and countless others for decades. But none of the spoons that existed on the scene behaved quite like these new-school freshwater offerings. They are wider but less dense than many classic saltwater spoons. They fall continuously horizontally instead of straight down vertically. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Nichols and Jenko spoons first started being cast for stripers, I noticed that they first penetrated tackle boxes in Raritan Bay in the shadow of Manhattan. For some reason, this was the perfect testing ground.
The Raritan is relatively small, but in both spring and fall, it is loaded with stripers – big ones. However, it’s also one of the most pressured striper fisheries in the country, given that it’s smack dab in the middle of one of the highest population densities in the U.S. On any given weekend in the season, the Raritan is a zoo. Historically, it was common to find killer stocks with soft plastic or diamond jigs only until the traffic got really bad and the fish scattered. When this happens – and I’ve experienced it many times – it becomes very difficult to get small groups of marked fish to chew on anything but a trolled lure. Magnum spoons changed that so effectively that they have become the newest staples in local tool arsenals.
How to feed striped bass with a spoon
I only started flying spoons last season and immediately fell in love with the technique. Similar to how they perform on largemouth lakes, these spoons don’t catch many small stripers—if one does get hit, it’s usually by a 15-pound bass. While these spoons represent everything from sfumatura to freshwater trout, they are the perfect size to match saltwater menhaden—aka bunker—which is a prime forage of big stripers inshore in spring and autumn. Also, similar to the reactions they attract in lakes, striper anglers quickly realized that even bass that weren’t in kill mode or actively feeding on a school of live bunker could be triggered by one of these spoons passing by. his face. The first time I used one, I went 40 minutes without a bite, despite dropping the spoon on the hanging fish we were marking on the sound. Then I finally got it in front of my right face and the 30 pounder hit it so hard it almost knocked the rod out of my hands. It was a very addicting kind of bite.
Since then, I’ve been using the beater spoon, as have most of the local anglers I know. In fact, I’d rather catch a few big fish with a spoon than 20 schools on small rubber or umbrella trolling rigs. If you end up buying any heavy metal, just make sure you don’t throw it in a bar that is too stiff. I like a conventional rod with a slower tip and middle section, so I can really feel every swing and, more importantly, feel when that swing stops because a big bass just sucked the lure.
Braided line is also a must for increased sensitivity, and if you find yourself missing bites, don’t be afraid to add an auxiliary hook to the top split ring of the lures. It’s an insurance policy that no matter how a stripper grabs that piece of chrome, it’s getting the job done.