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Spooning For Stripers

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There’s a reason why the basics are the basics: because they work. As anglers, we’re always trying to get an edge over the next guy. I think it’s the eternal quest for an edge that drives us to continually try new lures and techniques. Sometimes, though, the best ways to catch fish don’t come from the latest and greatest. Often, the best “new” ideas for you come from asking and/or observing the older anglers.

The striped bass fishery in the northeastern U.S. is a good example. A tried-and-true technique that some folks may have forgotten about is the use of spoons in the Spring to target this tasty fish.

striper_gofishnThe year was 1991, and the striped bass population was near its all-time low. I was trolling off New Jersey’s Island Beach State Park, a spread of two bunker spoons on wire-line outfits trailing 300 feet behind my center console, when the clicker on the portside reel screamed. Backing dwindled away at an alarming rate, and the rod bent so deeply, it seemed ready to explode. A big bass was doing its best to empty the reel in one powerful run.

The fish slowed with a few yards of line left on the spool, and the tide began to shift. Fifteen minutes later, the cow was rolling alongside the boat. We went back on the troll, and the scenario repeated itself — not once but numerous times in a two-hour period. We caught 11 bass, most in the mid- to high 30s, with three greater than 40 pounds. We released all of these fish minus the biggest, which tipped the scales at 46.6 pounds. At a time when bass were considered scarce as hen’s teeth, we were instant celebrities, and every fish fell for one of the oldest trolling lures in the book: the venerable bunker spoon.

Photos: Salt Water Sportsman (top); Go Fishn (above)