Spoon-type lures have a long history in sea fishing. Commercially produced spoon lures were reportedly created by fisherman Julio Buel in the 1830s. According to the (possibly apocryphal) story he was fishing from a boat on Lake Bomoseen in Vermont when he accidentally dropped a teaspoon overboard. Seeing how the spoon fluttered and twisted as it fell through the water gave Buel the idea to develop a spoon-shaped fishing lure. His first spoon lures were made by sawing the handle off standard kitchen spoons and drilling a hole through either end of the bowl part of the spoon to attach the hooks and line. These lures were reportedly successfully used to catch trout, leading to a new purpose-built version being created. By the 1840s he had established his own company and was commercially producing spoon lures for sale across the USA. His name lives on with the American tackle company Eppinger continuing to produce spoon-shaped lures for trout fishing called Buel spinners to this day.
Today there are two types of spoon lures used by UK anglers. One of these is a spinner which is broadly spoon-shaped and is cast out and retrieved in the same way as a standard lure. These types of spoon spinners are effective for catching mackerel, pollock, coalfish, sea trout and indeed most of the predatory species found around the waters of the UK.
However, another type of spoon lure is known as the baited spoon or attractor spoon. This consists of a spoon-shaped lure located a short distance away from a baited hook. The spoon lure works to attract fish – particularly flatfish such as flounder and plaice, although other species will also be caught. The diagram below shows a baited spoon rig.
Spoons that are designed to be baited come in a number of different designs. They are typically around 4 – 8cm (1½ – 3 inches) in length and usually silver although other colours such as gold, red and black are also available. Spoons can have beads and sometimes sequins incorporated into their design as an additional attractant. The distance between the spoon and the hook can differ from just a few inches to several feet, and there is no consensus over the optimal distance between the two with most anglers experimenting until they find what works best for them, although 15cm (6 inches) is probably the most common. WSB Flounder Spoons are available from Sea Angling Shop for £1.49 by clicking here.
An alternative to full-sized baited spoons are spoon-shaped holographic attractor blades. These are small plastic blades, usually 2 – 3cm (around 1 inch) in length which can be added to the hooklengths of rigs used to catch flatfish. They will move and spin in the tide in a similar way to baited spoons, although as they are smaller they can be cast much easier and multiple attractor blades can be added to rigs. Cronus Holographic Attractor Blades are available from Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.
Fishing with baited spoons is generally associated with fishing over soft seabed surfaces such as mud and sand. Anglers usually cast out baited spoon rigs and then reel in slowly, with the spoon kicking up sand, silt and mud as it is retrieved and attracting the attention of inquisitive flatfish which will then notice and take the bait. There are no exact rules over how a baited spoon should be retrieved. Some anglers constantly twitch and move the rod tip to impart movement into the spoon, whereas others reel in a few turns every so often in order to slowly move the lure across the seabed.
Fishing with baited spoons is usually carried out in sheltered bays and estuaries. This is because it relies on the conditions being still and calm in order to allow the spoon to be worked across the seabed and attract the attention of flatfish. In rough seas or in areas with heavy weed cover, snaggy seabeds or places with strong tidal flow fishing with a baited spoon will not be possible.
Worm baits are favoured for this type of fishing due to the additional movement provided by such baits. Ragworm are the most commonly used with baited spoons, although maddies and lugworm can also be effective. Other baits can also be used and there is nothing stopping an angler from experimenting with a strip of mackerel, a lesser sandeel, shellfish baits or a cocktail bait.
Spoons are one of the oldest commercially produced type of lures and it is not fully understood why they are so effective. One theory is that flatfish are attracted to any type of movement and will come to investigate if the seabed be disturbed by the spoon. Another theory is that flatfish see the spoon and believe that it is another flatfish that has discovered a source of food and therefore come to the spoon to feed. Whatever the reason, it is clear that baited spoons have been an effective way to catch greater numbers of flatfish (and other species) for over a century and a half and continue to work for anglers today.