Throwing Metal Into The Wind

With a stiff breeze howling in your face and crisp rollers breaking around your waist, beach-bound anglers reach for one thing—spoons.

Capt. Chris Agardy January 19, 2010

With the latest and greatest advancements within the sport fishing community, one would think that a basic design like the simple metal spoon would be nothing more than a thing of the past. The truth of the matter is that even the most discerning professionals rely on this primitive lure to pull through in clutch times. In terms of functionality, it’s highly arguable that no other lure possesses as many beneficial characteristics as the tried-and-true metal spoon, or any of its many variations.

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The history of this lustrous lure dates back to the 1800s, when surf-casters in the Northeast fabricated handcrafted offerings out of whatever shiny metal objects they could find. These pioneers knew they were onto something, and soon the popularity of this lure made its way to Florida where savvy anglers found out its effectiveness on the mighty silver king. By the early 1900s, the metal spoon was a staple in every surf-caster’s tackle bag from Maine to Miami. Today the same holds true, however shore-bound anglers no longer have to fabricate their own metals, as there are literally hundreds of different types and styles available. Krocodile, Kastmaster, Gator and Hopkins are just a few of the reputable manufacturers with designs that have been catching fish off nearly every stretch of coastline for decades. These simple designs haven’t changed and will likely remain the same for generations to come for one simple reason—cast one out and you will catch fish!

In Florida, the blustery winds of fall and winter trigger massive migrations of game fish such as mackerel, bluefish, jack and redfish down our coastline.

For surf-casters the most important characteristic of the spoon is its weight and aerodynamic design. Kastmaster designed its original model with one aspect in mind, extremely long casts. Just looking at the Kastmaster spoon you will notice its unique design with varying angles cut into the steel for bullet-like aerodynamics. When you hold the spoon you will notice its sheer weight. In Florida, the blustery winds of fall and winter trigger massive migrations of game fish such as mackerel, bluefish, jack and redfish down our coastline. Seasoned surf-casters know that if you don’t fish during the windiest of conditions, you will probably miss the bulk of exciting action. Throwing a spoon is the only way you’re going to be able to cast past the breakers and penetrate a stiff 20-knot breeze.

When presented with these conditions it’s imperative you choose a spoon that matches the tackle you plan on fishing. There’s no sense in overloading your rod or casting arm with any extra weight, as these spoons are designed to cut through the wind no matter how much they weigh. Three quarter ounce to one and a half ounce are the most popular.

Another extremely important feature of the spoon is its lustrous finish. When you examine a typical baitfish found along the beaches of Florida, it isn’t hard to figure out why the chrome-like appearance triggers intense strikes from hungry predators. If you want to keep your spoons as effective as possible, it is important to maintain that luster and shine throughout the life of the lure. Sure, tarnished spoons still catch fish, but most old timers will tell you that it is of the utmost importance to keep your metals polished. In order to preserve the luster, rinse your spoons with freshwater after each use, making sure to store them in a dry, salt-free environment where there is little chance of oxidation.

The next x-factor that will determine your spoon’s effectiveness is the color of the finish. I have found the most effective colors to be chrome, blue, gold, and black. Each of these colors can be very effective depending on the water clarity, and adjusting to different situations by changing colors will usually keep you ahead of the pack when fishing the beach. Paying attention to time of day and prevalent weather conditions will also determine the right color to throw. A chrome finish is by far the most popular and is my go-to when fishing clear water under sunny skies. If the fish aren’t keen on silver I often go with a spoon that is half blue. Kastmaster makes a spoon in this color combination that is absolutely deadly, while blue prismatic tape can be cut and added to silver Krocodile or Hopkins spoons for the same effect. I don’t know what it is about the blue finish, but it works.

When the water takes on a tannic color, or when pogies are the prevalent forage, gold can be highly visible and a highly effective alternative to the silver and blue finishes. Combine the gold shine with the hammered finish of a Hopkins spoon, and you have yourself a highly visible lure that will be effective in even the murkiest waters.

Finally, a black chrome finish is a relatively new option, but has quickly caught on as a highly effective lure. The darker silhouette of the black spoon provides greater contrast during sunrise, sunset, and during low-light conditions. Finding spoons in this color can be tough, so it might be worth it to do a little research online to order them well in advance of your next fishing trip.

Of course, these lure’s fish-catching attributes are fine and dandy, but what good is a proven spoon without the proper retrieve? The action you partake can make the difference between fishing and catching when you’re chasing schooling game fish up and down the sandy shorelines. The first thing I look for when determining the right retrieve is whether or not the fish are feeding on the surface. If they are, I like to start out with a constant, speedy retrieve that keeps the metal directly in the strike zone. If this doesn’t work, I will start jigging my rod tip erratically while retrieving at the faster pace. This jigging action is often all it takes to trigger aggressive strikes. Sometimes I will even try making the spoon pop out of the water every few seconds, often resulting in a strike as soon as it re-enters the water. Bluefish are one species that are notorious for falling victim to this technique. Some species, such as Spanish mackerel and ladyfish, are a little less conspicuous as they feed below the surface. When targeting these sub-surface strikers you will want to let your spoon sink as it hits the water. Be ready for an immediate strike, as mackerel often inhale these offerings as they wobble uncontrollably towards the bottom. If the spoon doesn’t get picked up on the initial free-fall, give your rod tip an upward sweep while simultaneously cranking on the handle to bring the spoon back to the surface. Then let your rod tip back down and stop reeling, allowing the spoon to free-fall again. A great thing about the spoon is that it will do all the work for you as it flutters back towards the bottom. If this method isn’t working, my absolute favorite and most exciting action to impart is a very slow and steady retrieve along the bottom. This simple method can be achieved by letting the spoon sink to the bottom and cranking at a snail’s pace. I love this method because the strikes are extremely pronounced, producing an immediate adrenaline rush through even the most seasoned surf-caster’s veins! Remember to be flexible and change up your routine every couple of casts to see what method triggers the most strikes.

The final aspect of throwing metals into the wind that cannot be overlooked is the proper rigging techniques. When fishing any stretch of coastline in Florida, I know that most fish encountered will have teeth capable of gnawing through light monofilament. Knowing this, I always rig my spoons for beach fishing with a short trace of #4 wire. I prefer to attach six-inches of wire to my main line with a tiny SPRO swivel. The swivel prevents line twist that would otherwise accumulate as the spoon works its magic, wobbling and spinning through the water column. If you find that the fish are leader shy, try switching to 30lb. fluorocarbon. While the stealthier tackle will definitely trigger more strikes, you will undoubtedly loose some terminal tackle to toothy critters. Follow these techniques and I am sure that you will come to appreciate the effectiveness of the spoon and it will hold a well-deserved spot in your tackle bag forever.

Get In The Zone

Contrary to what you may think, game fish patrolling our shorelines are not always hundreds of yards off the beach, but often feet from shore swimming parallel to the coastline in the first and second trough where bait congregates in the surf. Fan casting from any position on the beach helps pinpoint action, as does keying in on distinct breaks and troughs and remember to work your lure all the way back to your feet. Bluefish are notorious for grabbing lures in only inches of water. Before launching your first cast, study the beach. Do you see any seabirds picking bait in the wash? Can you spot any surface activity? Are there any noticeable breaks in the waves that would indicate a cut or trough? These types of indicators are like neon signs flashing “FISH HERE…FISH HERE”

Rig it Right

To combat stiff breezes, 7.5′ to 8′ medium-action spinning rods are recommended. A number of pros throw 9′ sticks for added leverage. Couple the equipment with a quality 20lb. class spinning reel capable of holding a few hundred yards of ultra-thin braid, and you’ve got what it takes. The thinner diameter line provides greater castability and increased distance in the windy conditions. Experienced beachgoers get away with as light as 10lb. line, while novices may be better off sticking with 20lb. braid until their skill level increases. If you are more comfortable throwing casting tackle, you’re in the game.

Rigging it right means leader material is critical. Never tie wobbly spoons directly to your braid. A simple uni-to-uni or surgeons knot will suffice for adding three-feet of 30lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon. Finish off with a small ball-bearing snap-swivel and you’re ready. While you jeopardize losing terminal tackle to toothy critters fishing straight mono, the absence of a wire trace will trigger more strikes. It’s your call.

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