Spoonplugs and Spoonplugging
Lures that Track
Correctly for Cast & Retrieve from a Float Tube or Boat ...
A spoonplug is a diving plug, or diving crankbait which has a "U" shaped
metal body instead of the more usual round cross section body which are
more common. Essentially it is a plug which has been stamped out of
metal sheet in the way that spoon lures are usually manufactured.
Buck Perry designed the spoonplug in order to create the perfect trolling lure. He wanted a lure that would dive,
but refuse to dive significantly deeper if he speeded the boat up. He
also wanted a certain ability to strike the lake bottom with the diving
lip or vane, and hop off but not get hung up. A plastic vane might break off,
so the vane became metal.
This was before sonar units were available so Perry wanted to be able to walk the lure along shallow areas as he
trolled, without hanging up, and then without using a sonar unit, he
would know where the shallow areas were, and this would help locate
A bonus that came from the metal body was the ability of the lure to be
cast when the boat was stopped after a fish was caught on troll.
summarise a lot, the idea was to catch a fish on the troll, then throw a
marker. Next troll back over the area, catch another, throw a marker.
Stop the boat and begin casting between the markers, or along the
underwater dropoff that the markers now revealed. The spoonplug was
designed to first map the underwater contours, then catch the fish
trolling, then catch them casting.
We have sonar now, why bother with spoonplugs?
We don't need them for lakebed mapping nowadays, but they do something
else better than any of the latest and greatest lures.
One of the big problems boat anglers have is dealing with presentation
at depth while moving. Unless it is anchored a boat is always moving.
When trolling it moves fast. But even with the engine off it is drifting
due to wind, and surface current (even in a lake). This has implications to
what happens when you cast a lure and reel it back.
The reason trolling is so popular is it gives a vague depth control of
lure presentation. For example when an angler chooses a diving
plug, then begins trolling it, after about 10 - 15 metres trolling it dives down to it's
"working depth". This is the depth at which the force of water
on the diving vane causing it to try and dive further, is balanced by the
upwards pull of the line from
the moving boat. So a plug trolls along behind the boat at a
constant depth, and unless thinner line is used instead to allow it deeper it
will always track roughly at that depth while trolling. Letting out more
line, once a certain length is already out, will not result in a deeper
troll, since the drag of the line stops the plug going deeper. A deeper
troll can be got from a thinner lure, a heavier lure, adding lead up the
line, thinner line, or heavier wire line.
There is a variable. With a metal spoon, slowing the boat allows it to
go deeper, and speeding it up makes the spoon run shallower. Unlike
plugs, metal spoons have a designed running speed, and their action
alters when they run at a different speed. Therefore if the boat is
moved faster, then ideally the lure should be changed for a faster
action spoon (a thinner or heavier thickness metal) so the action
All those depth control adjustments can only be done between trolling
passes, not while actually trolling. So the troll tends to go at a
constant depth. This suits many anglers. But what if you could alter
depth during the retrieve? That would mean you can track bottom rises
and falls with no need for downriggers and heavy hardware.
When the boat is stopped and the angler casts the same plug what happens?
If it is a diving floating plug. It will land, then sit floating on the
surface of the lake. Only when the angler begins the retrieve does the
plug begin to dive down into the water. As much as a 1/4 of the retrieve
may be completed before the plug reaches the correct depth. Soon it gets closer to the angler and the upwards pull of the line increases
as the angle of the line gets steeper. Now the plug begins to rise back
towards the surface. So the amount of mileage the lure swims at it's
desired depth may be as little as 1/3rd of the total cast. It has a
"shallow U" shaped trajectory during the retrieve.
Say we switch the
floating diving plug for a sinking metal spoon and
compare. We cast the spoon. Then we pause a
while and it sinks. When we begin the retrieve the spoon is already at
the desired depth. That is an advantage over the previous lure. More
fish will be caught early in the retrieve as a result. Unfortunately,
the spoon does not have a diving vane, so it will begin to rise upwards
earlier in the retrieve than the previous lure. the spoon catches more
pike at the beginning 1/3rd of the retrieve. And the plug will catch more pike than the spoon in the middle to final 1/3rd of the
Look at a spoonplug. It
sinks like a spoon. It has a diving vane too. Spoonplugs have features
from both lure types. The spoonplug does what ordinary spoons and floater
diver plugs do together, but neither can do on their own. It is
basically a fast
sinking diving plug made from metal. Spoonplugs have part of the
characteristics of leadhead jigs when they sink when it lands after a cast, then comes back deep
during a retrieve. This suits the situation where the angler retrieving
it is positioned in a boat over medium to deep water. The angler
afloat wants the lure
to come in just above the bottom, not rising up to the top, at least not
until the last moment.
Can other sinking diving
plugs do the same? Some sinker divers come close, but generally they can't
do it so well. They have a retrieve trajectory that suits casting from
medium depth into shallow.
The spoonplug is in a class of it's own as soon as you begin casting while
the boat is over deep water. The others sink slower if they have a heavy
plastic body, and this means they can do the job when the boat is over
shallower or medium depth water while the cast is made. They also
involve a longer delay while the angler waits for them to sink to depth,
before beginning the retrieve. They are handier when trolling from a
moving boat. However the spoonplug can do that too.
One person described
spoonplugs as ugly lures, like a shoehorn that has been stood on.
I say in reply: the fish I catch don't
seem to care. And these lures catch every predator species in freshwater
lakes around here.
Occasionally an angler
describes how he caught pike in this or that place while trolling, but when he
stopped and fished it nothing bit the lure. Then he started trolling
again, and caught pike again from the place. He can't say why trolling was
they way they wanted it, it taught him trolling is the best way, he says.
Right clues, wrong conclusion.
You now know why that happens. And if you have some spoonplugs in your tackle box it won't happen to
Trolling - covering large
areas of water - float tube style
A boat trolls along
with the lures trailing behind and below, and in so doing it covers miles of water
If you fish from a float
tube, and your legs are the engine, trolling is only something that you
do for a short while or fatigue will soon kick in.
You are looking for an alternative to trolling which is just as effective, and
works in the same conditions.
Casting spoonplugs is your answer.
You simply fin along at walking
your tube, casting a spoonplug first to the left, sink to depth,
retrieve it. Then cast
to the right and retrieve it. Finning along in your tube move along and
continue making alternating casts towards each side. From above the lure
is drawing a herringbone pattern on the lake. In this way, you cover a shorter
linear distance than a trolling boat, but you have covered a wide band of water
two casts wide, eg 120 metres wide. In comparison a boat only covers an elongated thin
strip of fish striking distance either side of the lure, about 6 metres
wide, assuming clear water and good visibility of the lure. The stripe
of coverage will be narrower in tinted or coloured water due to fish
further away not seeing the trolled lure.
But your spoonplugging cast, if it misses a fish, 2 casts later will
traverse the bit of water beside the fish and give it another chance to
This technique cancels out "ability to troll" as an advantage of high powered boats over float tubes.
There is more
Every single cast you
make has a moment when the lure turns up from the bottom towards the
surface. This is a proven maximum interest moment for predators to take
the lure. Your lure will do this hundreds of times, whereas the boat
trolled lure does it only once at the end of a trolling pass.
Buck Perry wrote a book
called "Spoonplugging" . It is well worth reading
no matter what species you fish for because it will change your fishing
strategies for the better. The research in that book is very
illuminating. You can get it, and spoonplugs if you
want to try them at
www.buckperry.com and a
surprisingly few tackle stores.