Spoons and 'heavy metal' panfish
I am tickled silly over this perfectly dynamic hybrid sunfish at an amazing 13 1/4 inches and 2 pounds 1 ounce ... another spoon victim and personal best. A replica mount is in the works. (Jim Gronaw photo)

When ever people read articles in the big mags about panfishing and especially summertime fishing the topic is usually about live bait, fly fishing or perhaps some type of jig with a piece of bait.

Indeed, these three options have been slaying quality crappies, bluegills and perch for many decades. Often, change is not needed for continued success. However, every once in a while we get stumped, the fish aren't biting and we have to think "outside the box" for the catching. One of the true, non-traditional panfish tactics is fishing with small, or large, spoons. Yup, heavy metal, as I like to put it, can put numbers and size in your favor when almost nothing else works.


I've had the spoon gig tactic in my hip pocket for almost ten years now. Originally brought to light by Bill Modica's efforts in the In Fisherman magazine and on many internet venues, spoon fishing for deep and shallow panfish is gaining in popularity and is often a "first call" for many midwestern panfishers nowadays. Although the concept may initially appear to offer a lure that appears "too large" for most panfish species, it is the flash and rattle that can make biters out of nibblers and turn neutral fish into aggressive ones.

Certain species are just a natural for spoons. Larger crappies and yellow perch have always been spoon victims, especially during the cold water periods and through the ice. Classic options are Swedish Pimples, Kastmasters and Blue Fox Rattle Flash and Flash Spoons that run from 1/12th too as large as ¼ ounce.

Modica always tipped his spoons with something, either plastic or alive, to sweeten the pie for picky deepwater bluegills and crappies. Often, plastic baits like the Bobby Garland Itty Bit, Stank X Poly Wogz or Berkley Gulp! Minnows worked just as well, or better, than the real McCoy, thus eliminating the need to purchase and keep live bait.

Yet at other times, live offerings would get the call on a super tough bite.

The mentality of the spoon is simple. If you are casting, your retrieve is slow and punctuated with slight "lifts" or "pops" of the rod tip. Keeping a tight line after the pop, fish often hit the spoon as it falls from that action. Strikes can be slight or sledgehammer, depending on the mood and aggression of the fish. The wobbling action of today's trout and panfish spoons attracts larger gamefish as well and larger bass, trout or even toothy critters like pike, pickerel or walleye are likely to strike. If jigging over deep water from a boat, then periodic lifts and pops are mixed with slow, slight twitches. Again, strikes can be heavy or slight. When fishing such diminutive hardware always use 2- to 6-pound test line.

My most recent success with the Rattle Flash spoon was at a local pond where I had done well on the metal in previous trips. Large and aggressive hybrid sunfish will smash a tempting spoon and were my exact target at this 2-acre gem. Using 2-pound mono to achieve a longer cast, I worked the ¼ ounce spoon after a countdown to about seven feet. A slow, methodical swim back, punctuated with the lifts, got me a pounding strike at almost the full extent of the cast. Immediately I knew this was an exceptional fish as my 7-foot Ultra-light rod bent double. Keeping pressure on the fish and back-reeling as needed, I was able to keep the fish away from emergent weeds and closer to the surface where I could play it out. After several minutes the fish finally came into view and I knew I'd better not be sloppy when I went to reach for this fish. Easing the fish up in the shallows, I nervously scooped up the largest sunfish, of any species, I had ever hooked.

It was a huge, rotund hybrid sunfish (bluegill X green sunfish cross) and did not have a single scale missing nor even one fin torn. Thick and heavy, there was no way I could possibly get my hand around this fish. Shaking like a leaf, I put her in a cooler of pond water, ran for the scale and took the stats and photos to document this lifetime catch. After that ten minute gig, I got the Go Pro out and released her to fight again, taking some underwater shots with my new "toy" as she swam away. At 13 ¼ inches long and 2 pounds 1 ounce, it became my new "personal best" …larger than those I had taken at world-famous Richmond Mill Lake in North Carolina. Home grown and huge, I know now why I use spoons when nothing else will work.

Spoons work. They cast like a bullet and flutter back with irresistible action. They catch all species, from bass to trout to catfish to huge panfish. Buy some and try them at your favorite lake. You just might get the fish of a lifetime!