Magnum Spoons for Striped Bass
The spoon is not new; it's a lure that has been used for decades. The simple hunk of metal has been fooling predator fish into thinking it's their next meal for generations and still works well today. Over the years, spoons have become slightly more sophisticated with better components and finishes, but not by much, as they're still a piece of metal.
Jigging and casting them will catch many species in fresh and saltwater. One of the best new ways that anglers are using to catch big saltwater stripers is with a flutter spoon and it's taken the Northeast striper fishery by storm in recent years.
The flutter spoon rage
Initially popularized for freshwater bass anglers fishing offshore river ledges, the 8 to 9-inch flutter spoon is an excellent tool for imitating large baitfish with a slow, fluttering fall that they can't resist. But, they work just as well in the salt, and over the past two years, striper anglers in New Jersey and beyond have realized just how effective they can be.
Captain Greg DeMello of Andrea's Toy Charters out of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, has seen the explosion in popularity of these spoons for their prized striped bass, specifically the Raritan Bay fishery.
Captain Greg DeMello, Andrea's Toy Charters (right) with happy customer
"It really started gaining popularity in the last two years and now they're everywhere you look," he said. "Before, guys were trolling bunker spoons or dropping 7 to 9-ounce Crocodile spoons, but the flutter spoon is a more effective way to fish and it's a lot of fun. Its large profile perfectly imitates large baitfish like a bunker, and you can keep it in the zone longer because it falls much slower than other spoons and it's more fun than trolling for many anglers."
Several spoons fit this category, but DeMello likes the 8-inch Nichols Ben Parker Magnum Spoon in chartreuse. It's a big, wide spoon weighing 3 1/2 ounces that perfectly imitates a bunker.
"Chartreuse is great for the water clarity we have here, especially after we get storms and the water gets dirtier," he said. "Also, the bunker have that light yellow look and the 8-inch size is perfect, giving it a swooping motion that, in my opinion, falls better than the smaller or larger versions I've used."
The team at Nichols was pleasantly surprised when orders started popping up in New Jersey. Company owner Brooks Woodward said it all started in the fall of 2021.
"We've had these spoons on the market since 2014 and they were a big hit for guys fishing Kentucky Lake for largemouth for years," said Woodward. "Anglers were catching big freshwater stripers on Lake Lanier and Lake Murray in Georgia and South Carolina, but they've now caught fire in saltwater."
Woodward said the explosion in sales in the Northeast only rivaled the original rush when the spoon was first released.
"It started with a few orders here and there to stores ordering 150 of every color we make," he said. "It's been insane how popular it has become and how well they are catching fish with them. New Jersey is the epicenter for the guys who fish Raritan Bay, but we now see it spread to New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts."
Flutter spooning gear
Fishing a big spoon effectively and landing hard-fighting striped bass takes the right gear. A rod with a solid backbone is needed for big fish, but it still needs a soft tip to work the bait.
DeMello prefers a Shimano Tallus TLXC70MH, a 7-foot medium-heavy conventional saltwater rod. He pairs it with a Shimano Torium 16HGA reel spooled with a 30-pound braided line. DeMello prefers 50-pound Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon for the fluorocarbon leader.
"I really like Blue Label because of how great it holds up," said DeMello. "The abrasion resistance is also key with big fish and fishing with my guide clients. Some of them don't fish very often and let the line rub on the side of the hull when fighting a fish or knick a trim tab moving around the boat. Blue Label always stands up to the abuse and we still land those fish."
A fluttering primer
As DeMello takes clients aboard, the flutter spoon is a staple for catching stripers because it's fun and highly effective. It's a vertical jigging technique and one of the most important things, according to DeMello, is rod positioning and detecting the bite.
"The first thing is to drop the bait to the bottom, then reel it up half of a crank," he said. "You are fishing vertically, so I'll have my clients point the rod at the water with the butt of the rod up near their shoulder. In one motion, push the rod butt down so the rod is up at a 45-degree angle towards the sky. That motion will raise the spoon roughly six feet from the bottom."
DeMello says the next step is critical to get the right fluttering action as the bait falls back toward the bottom. "Line control is key here and you can't have too much slack, or the bait won't flutter as much," said DeMello. "You want to follow the line back down with your rod to get the best sweeping action as the spoon falls."
Aside from fishing it correctly, detecting the bite is another critical component. "Almost all of them will hit as the spoon falls and you need to pay attention to get the best hookset," he shared. "As soon as you feel that bite, you have to lift and set quickly. It's all about line control and being in a position to get a solid hookset immediately."
When and where to do it
Fishing a flutter spoon works much of the season for DeMello and his clients. "Our season generally runs March through December and the flutter spoon will be part of the bite nearly the whole year," he said. "The bite starts when the water first hits around 50 degrees and we've caught them on it almost to Christmas. It's anytime the bunker are around, but the bite will slow down a little if they start eating sand eels more during the season."
One of the keys to finding the right place to fish the spoon is to be around bunkers, which is often done with the help of electronics.
"A lot of times, you'll see the schools of bunkers on your graph, but the stripers will sit right below them," he said. "They are waiting for an injured meal and the spoon is the perfect way to imitate a baitfish falling. They sit and wait and sometimes you'll mark stripers sitting on the bottom without bunkers around and the spoon will catch those fish, too."
DeMello also likes fishing them because you can do it in multiple depths. "You can fish in 15 to 20 feet of water if you have to and the bait stays in the zone, unlike baits that fall faster," he said. "If it's a slow current drift, you can fish it as deep as 50 or 60 feet. My clients love fishing them because you constantly do something while working the bait."
Fishing a flutter spoon for stripers is a relatively new trend, but it's caught on quickly and continues to put fish in the boat in the Northeast. It's a fun and interactive way to trigger ferocious strikes from one of the favorite fish species on the East Coast.