Tricked Out Spoons by Tom Schultz

Tricked Out Spoons by Tom Schultz

As we are reading this article and all enjoying Great Lakes Angler magazine, chances are pretty good we might all have a little problem in common. 


Well, this may be hard to swallow, but we “just maybe” have too many salmon spoons?  (And maybe more than fits in our boats!) LOL—this is me for sure!

(Read Companion Article "Tricked Out Trolling Flies")

We can all agree there are some awesome tackle companies out there, that have earned our brand loyalty and all offer awesome new spoons each season, new colors, patterns, catchy names...  Some are our “Go-To” spoons, better at catching fish and earn the prime king-catching spots back on our boards with 10-color lead-cores and 300’ coppers—fish on, screamer!  But each season, our “too many spoons” collection tends to grow and the older spoons may see less water time and eventually will not even earn a spot in the boat? 

als goldfish

This article is here to help! 


We would like to share some of the best-kept secrets and tips we’ve come across for refurbishing, cleaning up, customizing and “Tricking Out” our salmon spoons.  These old beat up spoons deserve some water time!  Let’s breathe some life back into them and start catching “monster kings” with them! 

We can start with our “old collection” or start with new spoon blanks and components from suppliers such as Jann’s Netcraft, Barlow’s Tackle or LurePartsOnline to mention a few.  From our “Customer Field Testing” feedback, these tips have proven to increase hookup rates and have turned following kings into strikers!

Figure 1 – Tricked Out Spoons, Basic Component Layout prior to Assembly

trolling spoons great lakes kings gl tackle

1. Clean up the spoon blanks. 

For refurbishing the old spoon collection, let’s remove the hooks, cut the welded rings off, remove split rings and strip clean any loose paint or tape.  Then we can use some Brasso Metal Polish or Silver Polish to shine ‘em up.  Final preparation step, let’s wipe both sides clean with rubbing alcohol.  This will remove any oil or residue and prep the spoon surface for the next step—tape application.


Figure 2 – Classic “Red Eye Lures” Silver Spoon cleaned up, Tricked Out, Ready to Fish!  Maybe should have added a “Red Eye”

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho

2. Lure Tape Application. 

Check out this website:  Lure tape comes in literally hundreds of colors, holographic patterns, pre-cut shapes, ladderbacks, spoon die-cuts, UV Reactive and Glows.  For a tackle designer, this is a good place!  Here are some of our favorites:

    1. a. Hot Green Std. Scale WTP #36
    2. b. Hot Yellow Std. Scale WTP #37
    3. c. Hot Pink Std. Scale WTP #38
    4. d. Crush Glow WTP #830
    5. e. Transparent Super Pearl WTP #948
    6. f. Transparent Super Crush Pearl WTP #948C
    7. g. Orange Crush WTP #539

Example patterns available—Standard Scale, Mini Scale, Mini Streak, Prism and Rainbow Glitter, Mini Bubble, Ice Chip, Aurora, Light Wave, Tiger Stripe, Crushed Pearl…

If you decide to purchase the tape in sheets vs. pre-cut shapes, you can easily cut out your own patterns using a sharp utility knife or scissors. 

Experiment here, for example sometimes we like to cut a spoon die-cut in half the long way, and apply one half to either the front or backside of the spoon.  Alternately, if you want to go hi-tech, and make a small investment, shapes can be custom programmed and cut out in batches using a Cricut vinyl cutter.  These are available at WalMart, JoAnn Fabrics, or online… for under $200.


Figure 3 - “Tricked Out” Glow Spoons w/ UV Tape & Ladderbacks.  Turns Glow Spoons into “All-Day” spoons!

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho

As a rule of thumb, we like to use pre-cut shapes for the front side of the spoon (ladderbacks, arrowheads, lightning bolts or custom-cut shapes…) and add a full spoon die-cut on the backside.      

The idea here is to get creative, add some contrast and splash of color that will get the King’s attention!  It is very rewarding to develop your own custom patterns, color combinations and then field-testing your new “tricked out” creations.


Figure 4 – Our friend Craig Nelson fishing near Washington Island, Door County, WI.  Craig has been helping us with field testing and ideas for new spoon patterns.  Nice King on a “Tricked Out” spoon – Thanks Craig!

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho

As you are getting ready to deploy the new “tricked out” spoons, be sure to check out the incredible flash alongside the boat, especially on bright sunny days.  For pre-dawn fishing, cloudy days and trolling deep, the tapes with Glow and UV properties will also make a huge difference in your hookup rates.  These effects can be tested ahead of time using a small Blacklight flashlight in a dark room to simulate what the fish sees down deep.  You might be surprised! 

From “Customer Field Testing” feedback, we believe the glow and holographic lure tapes trigger strikes more so than a painted spoon pattern alone.  Thank you for sharing your success, sending the pics in, feedback & setup tips—much appreciated!  This program is helping us get the word out and helping other fishermen for sure!


Figure 5 - “Sexy Shad” Tricked Out, Ready to Fish!  I would bite that!

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho sexy shad

Figure 6 – Nice Kings on Tricked Out spoons! 

Field Testing Pics from Nick Hutchinson, fishes out of Racine, WI and runs Ain’t No Joke Video Productions.  Nick also got us on the importance of UV tapes.  Thanks for sharing the awesome pics Nick!

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho

3. Apply Eyes. 

The addition of stick-on Lure Eyes to your spoons plays into the “predator-prey” hunting instincts of the mature king salmon.  From customer field testing, we’ve found adding eyes to the spoons has increased hookup rates for sure.  Hundreds of color combinations are available from WTP Inc., different diameters, Flat-Stick on Eyes, Soft Molded 3-D Eyes and even 3-D eyes with Oblong Pupils! 

We like to go with oversized Glow eyes, ½” diameter, WTP #EY8-810.  (Gives our spoons their signature look—thank you WTP Inc.!)  Eyes can be placed towards the nose or tail end of the spoons, front and backside too for different king-catching effects!  If you use the 3-D eyes, we recommend J-B Super Weld with the Brush On Cap to glue down and seal the edges.


Figure 7 – Hungry King swallows this Tricked Out spoon!  Thanks for sharing - Dave (Sarge) Bahde!

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho

4. Add Hardware.  

We like to use qty. (2) #6 Heavy Wire Nickeled-Steel Split rings, on the nose and tail ends of the spoon.  A good split ring pliers will help here.  Stainless steel split rings are good too, but not quite as good for memory (meaning they are more likely to spread out).  Both are excellent for corrosion resistance.  At the front split ring, we then add a #1 Barrel or Crane Swivel. 

The idea is to eliminate line twist and improve the spoon’s action for various trolling speeds and underwater currents. 

You might prefer to attach a quality ball bearing snap swivel, either is fine here.  The lead swivel feature was standard with the old-timer’s NW Pacific Commercial Salmon trolling spoons.  At the rear split ring, add a quality hook.  This might be the most important part (Simple truth—Sharp hooks put more kings in the box!)  For trebles, we like Owner ST-36’s, 1/0 for standard size spoons and 2/0’s for magnums.  For single hooks, we like Mustad UltraPoint, 5/0 Open-Eye Offset Siwash hooks.  Both hooks are sticky sharp and will dig into the back of your thumbnail.  Also, both will pierce a king salmon’s tough jawbone with “net” result more fish in the box! 

Also, at the tail-end split ring attach a Size #1 Colorado or Indiana Spinner Blade.  We call this our “Tail Kick” spinner, acts like a dinner bell for mature kings, creating flash and noise as it bangs on the shank of the hook.  Credit for these tips goes to Cal Luchuck fishing out of Alberta, Canada.  Cal is the author of the E-Book, “Big Rainbows Guaranteed.  Special thank you Cal!  The E-Book tips work great for Great Lakes trout and salmon! 


Figure 8 – Captain Guy Nuechterlein, Charters: “4-man limit today! 

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho limit

Congratulations on using those Sticky Sharp hooks!  Also, I think the Little Spinners had something to do with our success today!”  Thanks Captain Guy, Awesome Catch!

5. Extra Add-Ons. 

For different effects, an 8mm bead can be added to your leader in front of the swivel.  We like Chartreuse, Fluorescent Red, and Glow beads.  The idea is borrowed from the trout fly-tying community. 

From Google Images, search for “Egg Sucking Leech”.  You might imagine why this little detail can add strikes to your spoon presentation!  Another extra, sometimes we like to add 7/32” Kent Latex Dipped Tubing on the hook shank.  Fluorescent Red, Green and Hot Pink are available from the RiverGuideSupply’s EBay store. 

Apply a shot of WD-40 inside the tubing for easy slide over on to the hook shank.  Again, this little addition has field-tested well.  We’re thinking it gives a little visual for the charging king salmon, in just the right spot on the hook!



Figure 9 - Completed assembly, Tricked Out, Ready to Fish!  Needs a catchy name now, how about “Zombie Perch” Super-Spoon?  One of our friends and “Customer Field Tester” from St. Joseph, MI tagged this the “Zombie Slayer” and requested “How about making this same spoon in Magnum size w/ Purple Tape?”  Good Idea - Thank you Bo Fricke – REEL LUCKY Fishing Team!

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho

6. One Last Trick!  Remember that little Tail-Kick Spinner?  This is a great spot to add some “gel scent”! 

Why?  From trolling camera data, we learn that many salmon are curious but will simply follow the baits, sometimes for a long time!  Adding a scent trail, something that smells good to kings will turn followers into strikers!  Try Pro-Cure, Atlas-Mike's or make your own secret recipe!  To get started, check out YouTube “Robb's Homemade Life DIY Fish Bait Butter.  Robb’s recipe includes heating up Crisco Vegetable Oil for a base and adding raw shrimp for the scent.  Thanks for sharing this tip, Robb!  Of course, we like to customize a bit by adding garlic & tuna with the shrimp!  Mmmm!  As this is oil-based, it sticks well to our baits, which continually disperses the scent.  Field testing confirms, adding gel scents to our baits increases hookup rates!


Figure 10 - Back side of spoons w/ UV tape die-cuts and Over-sized Eyes.

trolling spoons salmon great lakes fishing gl tackle chinook coho uv

Hoping your salmon trolling season is going well.

Would love to hear your feedback if these “Tricked Out” Salmon Spoon tips help you put more kings in the box! 

Oh, and these ideas work for kings, cohos, steelhead, lakers & browns too! Reach me at: 

Thanks again, FishKnocker out!

Visit the GL-Tackle Website 

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What can you recommend to use to clean up either rust or just plain old stubborn dirt from my spoons. The silver polish my wife uses, did nothing.

David Schoeneman

I find that use of a hair dryer on taped spoons improves adherence. I wear cotton work gloves to handle the spoons while hot and rub the tape.

I carry Super Glue in the gel form because it will tack down tape that comes loose. I put the glue on and hold the tape in place using another spoon and it only takes a couple of minutes to adhere.

Michael Collins aka Grey Beard

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