Under the right conditions, jigging spoons can be a real effective method for both stripers and hybrids. When used in this manner, the spoon imitates a dying shad-an easy meal for a hungry fish. This method is relatively simple to learn, but very effective. The majority of our experience with jigging spoons has been for hybrids, so we will concentrate on methods for hybrids. Similar methods could also be used for stripers.
The Best Time for Vertical Jigging
The best time for vertical jigging is when you are marking a school of hybrids. Using your trolling motor, hover over the school while you work the spoon. The spoon is lowered to slightly below the depth that the school is holding. For example, if you mark a school at 20 feet, the spoon is lowered to 24-25 feet with the rod tip at water level. Raise the rod tip in a slow, sweeping motion to the 11 o’clock position, and then let it drop. The way the spoon falls is important. While the spoon is falling, you should follow the spoon down with the rod tip on a slightly loose line. By letting the spoon fall on a loose line rather than a tight line, the spoon will flutter as it falls like a dying shad. By a loose line, we mean that there are short curls in the line, but not so loose that line is lying on the water. As the spoon falls, watch your line for any sign of movement. Over 95% of your hits will come as the spoon falls. In some cases, you will feel a slight tap as the hybrid inhales the spoon. In other cases, you will see your line twitch to one side slightly. In either case, set the hook, hard.
When jigging with spoons, you never know what will be on the other end of the line. It could be a 3-pound hybrid, or a 12 pound hybrid. For this reason, setting your drag a little looser than normal is a good idea. You can apply pressure to the line with your thumb when you set the hook if needed. When you set the hook on a good sized hybrid while vertical jigging, the first thing it will do is test your drag setting for you as it tears off 20-30 yards or more of line on its first run.
Jigging spoons can also be useful while using live bait. If you have several downrods over a school of hybrids, but they are not hitting, try using a jigging spoon to get them in the feeding mood. Some times, the hybrids will hit the spoon. Other times they’ll suddenly show an interest in the live bait.
The action of lead spoons, like our Jigging Spoons and Colonel Duncan Spoons, can be altered some by bending the spoon slightly. Start with adding a very slight bend in the spoon and increasing the depth of the bend to achieve the desired action. In addition, if the hook on the spoon is dressed (such as the inclusion of bucktail or feathers), the action of the spoon will also be altered. Most often, the spoon will not flutter as well as the spoon without the dressing. Apparently, the added dressing catches more fishermen and less fish. This is the main reason we do not add dressing to our spoons, it would increase the price, but make them less effective.
Spoons can also be cast out from the boat and worked in a similar manner as described above. This can be a real effective method if the hybrids are in the jumps. Many times, the larger fish will be holding below the mayhem picking off the wounded bait as it falls on by. Simply cast the spoon into the area of the jump and let it fall a few feet. Reel the spoon in several turns of the reel and let it fall again.
If the fish are holding on, or close to, the bottom, drop the spoon to the bottom and work it from there. You can also jiggle the spoon slightly while it rests on the bottom to imitate a wounded shad. Another thing to try is modifying the jigging action slightly. When the spoon has completed its fall, raise the rod a foot or two and let it drop again. Likewise, right before you let the spoon fall the whole way let it drop a foot or two, and bring it up again.
With a little practice, jigging spoons can be a real effective method for hybrids and stripers. It may not be the most exciting way to hook a fish, but once the fish is on, it is every bit as exciting as any other method.
Adding a Split Ring
It’s always a very good idea to add a split ring to the head of the spoon instead of tying your line directly to the lure. Use the same size split ring that is used for the hook. This does two things: (a) it will allow the spoon more action on the fall; and, (b) it will prevent excessive line rub, and line weakening you get by tying directly to the lure. This can prevent lost fish from weak line. We concur with this. In fact, our spoons come pre-rigged with the extra split ring for these reasons.
Avoiding Wobbling & Spinning
Because of their design, the jigging spoon does a lot of tumbling, wobbling and spinning while on the drop. This can cause a lot of line twist, which in fact can get so bad that it will cause the line at the rod tip to twist back and loop around the rod tip, when the line is slack on the drop. This can be a real pain if a fish hits right when this happens, and you can not reel it in. Ever had a 20 lb. striper on, and your line wrapped tight around the rod tip?? Gets kind of exciting, for sure. Here is the solution. Add a small barrel swivel to the split ring also, and tie the line to the barrel swivel. This will prevent the inevitable line twist. The barrel swivel will not interfere with the spoon’s action, and the fish won’t pay any attention to it either. This is similar to how a spoon is set up for trolling. The main difference is that when trolling, we will also add a short (2-3 foot) leader to the swivel, then add another swivel which is tied to the main line. The two swivels are needed to prevent line twist when trolling.