In a lot of ways, we can easily make walleye fishing too complicated, focusing our efforts on the hottest and most-publicized walleye techniques and tactics only to forget about walleye history. The problem is everybody’s doing the same thing. The sad reality is walleyes have become conditioned thanks to countless anglers bombarding pods of fish with traditional presentations.
So, what’s the solution? Sure, you can bottom-bounce, but let’s face it, dragging lead isn’t all that much fun. In today’s age of high-powered CHIRP sonar, Side Imaging, and forward-facing sonar, most of us would rather pitch to the fish. Cut-to-the-chase: it’s time to bring the time-proven spoon back into the walleye fold.
“I can remember fishing a Johnson Silver Minnow spoon with a hunk of nightcrawler on it for walleyes as a teenager,” says veteran guide and Northland Fishing Tackle Pro Brian “Bro” Brosdahl. “It slipped through the cabbage nice and always put a couple walleyes on my stringer. The thing is nobody told me it wasn’t a walleye bait. To me, it just looked good—and it worked.”
While that’s an old-school tactic, Bro says spoons in general are a great way to catch walleyes, even though the technique maybe isn’t hip. Still, how many of us can remember trolling spoons for northern pike along weed edges or right over the tops of cabbage and catching walleyes? Probably more than would be willing to admit!
Fast forward to 2022, and there are many options for spoon-feeding walleyes, including a couple methods Bro frequently employs to help his clients put more fish in the boat—as well as tactics that he’s used in tournaments.
“When the water gets warm, it’s tough getting quality minnows—the fatheads are small—and people are dragging bottom bouncers. The sandgrass and other hard-bottom vegetation have filled in and jigging minnow baits can get snarled up. With spoons, they just kind of loft over this vegetation. About 10 years ago I started experimenting using spoons—specifically, the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon I threw fishing saltwater in Florida. It didn’t take long to realize they can be open-water walleye magnets, too.”
Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon (Sneeze)
Spoonin’ On Tour
Some years back while on the FLW Walleye Tour, Bro discovered the perfect application for spoons on Lake Oahe. “I tied on a spoon, and it would just tickle the willow tops without snagging. On a slow forward troll, I pitched the Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon in front of the boat and slowly jigged it back to position. The bait caught numerous critical fish for me during that tournament, and I’ve been a convert ever since,” recalls Bro.
Not just in willow brush, Bro has also fished the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon vertically in deep, submerged trees, working the bait to barely touch the branches. The result? More ‘eyes.
Adding Scent to the Buck-Shot
In all these instances, Bro fished the spoon sans live bait—but he is a believer in the power of scent. “My experience has proven that walleyes just hold on to the bait longer with some added scent,” says Bro. “I dab the metal body with a little bit of Pro-Cure scent. Years ago, scent helped me in one NWT Championship. I remember there were a dozen or so tournament boats with me in a bridge channel, and I only saw two other fish caught while my partner and I had a monster bag. Nobody could see what we were doing. I had Pro-Cure scent in two containers on both sides of the boat—I was fishing with two rods on the bow—and I’d reel in my spoons, look around, and set the Buck-Shot Rattle spoons in the containers filled with scent to constantly recharge them,” recalls Bro.
Besides scent, jigging cadence was key on this day. “If you jigged too hard you caught pike, a real nuisance when you’re fishing two rods, running a trolling motor, and are surrounded by boats.”
Color can make a big difference, too, depending on your body of water and preferred walleye forage. For Bro, it’s typically Super-Glo Redfish and Super-Glo Perch in ¼-ounce, but he confesses he keeps as many as 8 or 10 different-colored spoons on pre-rigged fluoro leaders with quick-clips to dial in bites when the heat is on.
In terms of rods for spoonin’, Bro opts for a 6’8” medium-power, extra-fast action St. Croix Legend Tournament Walleye Snap Jig model. “The length is perfect. It allows me to raise the rod up as high as I can go, lift the spoon off the bottom, drop it back down, sweep another three feet, and keep the bait consistently two-feet off the bottom,” instructs Bro.
Buck-Shot Coffin Spoon (top to bottom: Bubblegum Tiger, Wonderbread, and Super-Glo Redfish
New School Spoon
“When the Buck-Shot Coffin Spoon came out I knew it was going to be a fish-catcher,” says Bro. “It has that wide top which flips right away in the water and an added flicker tail that moves like a live minnow,” notes Bro. Throw a Coffin Spoon into a pod of walleyes and he says they “absolutely lunch it.” “Literally, my first six casts on one specific guide trip all produced fish—six walleyes between 17- and 20-inches, perfect eaters. And almost all the fish ate the Coffin Spoon to the very back of their throat.
Coffin Spoon Tweaks
Although the Buck-Shot Coffin Spoon works as-is, right-out-of-the-box, Bro wanted a hack.
“I ended up adding a small, size #8 Gamakatsu treble hook and split ring to the top of the bait and downsizing the bottom treble to a size #7. Then I’d attach a quick-clip to the added split-ring on top. In twenty casts, I might only get tangled once. The time you do get tangled is if one of your treble picks up a algae, but typically you can shake off the little weeds it picks up on the next pitch,” says Bro.
In terms of colors, Super-Glo Redfish is Bro’s favorite with Wonderbread not far behind. Silver Shiner, too, is a walleye favorite and Gold Shiner works great on some waters. “There are some days, though, when Electric Perch or Sneeze just slaughters the ‘eyes, but they also attract a lot of jumbo perch,” says Bro.
Bro notes that besides jigging the Coffin Spoon you can cast it out, let it hit bottom, and slowly reel it back to the boat—much like you’d fish spoons for pike. Still, Bro’s typical routine is to pitch the Coffin Spoon out, let it fall to the bottom, hop it vertically, let it tumble back to the bottom again, hop it, and repeat as necessary until a fish strikes.
“I’ll even add side sweeps,” says Bro. “And if it’s anywhere near fish, they’ll eat it. Over a clean bottom you can let it hit the floor, bounce it up, then let it hit the bottom again, and walleyes tend to suck it in on the drop. Especially in sand, gravel, and rocks, they’ll just eat it. And if there’s a little bit of sandgrass, I still let it hit the bottom, but rip it every once in awhile. But here’s the thing: you’ve got to keep your line tight and not set the hook too hard. Setting the hook too hard leads to lost fish.”
Coffin Spoon Setup
Bro’s set-up for fishing the Coffin Spoon is slightly different from his Buck-Shot rig. “With a ¼-ounce Coffin Spoon, you need a bit of beef behind the bait. So, I use the slightly-longer 6’10” to 7’ St. Croix Legend X in medium-power with an extra-fast tip,” offers Bro.
Bro warns anglers not to set their drag too tight because walleyes inhale spoons and it’s easy to rip the fish flesh. “If I give clients too stiff of a rod or set the drag too tight, they’ll rip the bait right out of the fish’s face. All you need to do is pull the rod a little bit and you’ve got the fish on. If you keep losing fish, try using either 10-pound monofilament or more of a medium-light, fast-action rod, something that absorbs a little shock.”
Bro laughs when he says that word travels fast when he’s catching fish. “People watch and people talk,” says Bro. “Now some other anglers have started throwing the Coffin Spoon in place of a jigging minnow and are doing well. For any walleye angler, It all comes down to confidence.
Once you catch fish on a spoon, you’ll throw it again. For years, the Hopkins Spoon produced walleyes, yet people have forgotten all about it. And Fergies still rule on the Missouri River, Oahe, and many other places. But a lot of people will only throw a new bait five, six, or seven casts, and if they don’t catch anything, switch the bait out. Anglers are all about the comfort zone; they want to throw what they’ve seen on TV or social media. They’ll throw the trendy bait a hundred times but something new they won’t throw but a handful of times. Me, I’ll throw a spoon over and over because I know I’m going to catch fish on it. Honestly, I think sometimes we over-think walleye fishing. My recommendation? Give spoons a shot!”