Start prepping now for the fall trolling season on big “catch and release” stripers.
Trolling bunker spoons to catch big bass is not just a spring thing as it will work equally as well by the time November rolls around.
We have two things that will work in our favor in the weeks ahead; for one, water temperatures should be dropping from the upper 50s to upper 40s from the start of November up into the final days of the month. This dropping water temperature puts the bass on the feed as they fuel up for their migratory push to their wintering grounds off the Carolinas.
Second, by this time of the season the fall inshore bunker run is thinning out. Most of the adult bunker that big bass love to feast on are gone. This is when trolling spoons works best as the bass don’t have a lot of bait to pick from. They are on the move and searching for food. So as you prospect with your spread you will intercept the bass.
I am a Tony Maja pro staffer and love his spoons but there are plenty of other spoons available that will work just as well if you have them tracking correctly. As you prepare to take advantage of this late fall bite, whether you troll spoons with wire, Monel, braid with drails, or leadcore, remember that there is no magic speed at which to set your throttle. Rather it is important to adjust your speed so your spoon rods are rhythmically pumping along.
Back in the early 80s the late Joe Nunziato taught me how to troll spoons and told me “When the desired speed is reached your rods will be pumping at least 100 times every minute.” Now I don’t count rod pumps, but I know what this looks like, which is one pump in just under a second. This action will usually be accomplished when trolling between 3 and 4 knots. Spoons that are running correctly will track from side to side and have about a 6-foot sweep producing vibration and sound that imitate an injured bunker struggling to survive.
Keep in mind that going too fast will cause the spoons to spin, and too slow they will not sweep enough. When trolling deep in relatively clear water the orb of light around the spoon will be approximately 10 feet in all directions.
I have switched over to trolling lead core line exclusively with my spoons because, in my opinion, it out fishes anything else. My catches doubled when I started using it. The leadcore allows the spoons to make a more complete sweep, giving them a more realistic sway in the water. I use two Shimano Tekota 800 levelwind reels spooled with 400-feet and 350-feet of leadcore with a 25-foot of section of 60-pound mono leader. This system is very simple to use as you just let all the lead core out until it disappears into the water and you’re done. This gets my spoons down to 40 and 35 feet. I fish these spoons on Tony Maja’s custom 8-foot bunker spoon rods.
With current regulations, we know that any big bass hooked has to be released, so keep this in mind when fighting and landing the fish. Releasing the bass boatside is best but I understand that a photo of your big bass is something you will always have as a memory to cherish. Use a coated net to land and protect the bass and cradle the bass horizontally when taking the photo.
If you want to see how much it weighs using the length x girth x girth/800 formula will put you within 5% of its true weight. This is much better than hanging if from a Boga. After the photo is taken place the bass in the water in an upright, horizontal position. Do not move it back and forth. Instead to get water through its gills make sure its mouth is completely submerged. Hold it with one hand under the belly and one hand on the tail. If it is not exhausted, it should swim away quickly.