Kelly Jordon is one of the most gregarious pros you'll meet. He'll talk for hours about the fish he's catching and will show you photos from his iPhone to prove it.
But when he's onto something hot and wants to keep it secret, as he tried to do at the Kentucky Lake Elite Series tournament in June 2006, he's cloaked in silence.
On the first competition day in Kentucky, Jordon caught 18 pounds on six casts, locked up his rods rigged with a special lure, and went to the weigh-in three hours early.
"I knew I was onto something big," grins the affable Texan.
However, so did Arizona pro John Murray, who saw him catch the big limit and leave his spot immediately. When they crossed paths at the weigh-in, Murray asked about the lure and hot technique.
"I wouldn't show him," says Jordon. "It was too good to let the cat out of the bag."
His pattern slowed and he finished 11th in that event, but Jordon knew he had found a unique tournament tactic for catching big bass in deep water.
And now, so does everyone else.
His lure was a Big Joe Spoon, a large fluttering spoon similar to those used for salmon trolling in the Great Lakes. But as Jordon and others have discovered, it can be deadly when cast and fluttered into schools of large bass on offshore structure.
The original lure and technique were developed by Joe Spaits, a reputable angler and lure designer at Lake Fork, Texas, who was looking for a way to catch deep fish in the late fall and winter.
"When Joe created this and began crushing big bass on Fork, he didn't tell anyone for about three years," says Jordon. "He finally shared it with a few of us, and we began hammering the big Fork bass with it, too."
But when Jordon revealed the lure during a cable TV fishing contest, the secret was out and spread quickly through the pro ranks.
Strike King has since come out with its version, the Sexy Spoon, unveiled at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.
"It's not always the deal, but when it's on, it's incredible," says Jordon. "I swear, it will out-fish live bait."
He gets no argument from Strike King pros, who began to employ the unique presentation on deep structure last year.
"I caught my biggest bass on the Sexy Spoon in both the Kentucky Lake and Wheeler tournaments," offers Kevin VanDam. "The three I caught on it at Wheeler were over 5 pounds. Believe me, other pros were using it because they were borrowing them from me."
Spoon fishing offshore structure for deep bass isn't new, but more traditional techniques call for a vertical presentation. Most jigging spoons are compact and fall rapidly.
The Big Joe and Sexy Spoon have inherent characteristics that give bass anglers more flexibility with their presentations, not to mention an appeal to larger bass because of their size.
The oblong spoons have a bigger profile, offered in 4 and 5 1/2 inches, and weigh from 3/4 ounce to 1 1/4 ounce. They have a cupped backside that gives the bait its fluttering action, resembling a dying baitfish.
"It looks like a large, injured shad, and that's what big bass are looking for," insists VanDam.
Given its weight, it can be cast long distances so that it falls over structure without the angler having to disturb the fish with his boat or other unnatural activity.
"This allows you to stay off the fish, and even though the bait is large, it has a slower, more seductive fall than a jigging spoon," explains Jordon. "You can control the fall and even trigger schooling or suspended fish to bite it."
WHEN AND WHERE
The spoon shines anytime bass are deep and feeding on large baitfish. The prime time is during late summer and into fall or winter.
"It will work on shallow bars, but it's best in more open water," says Jordon. "It doesn't have to be on the main lake; you can use it when the bass have pushed the shad into the backs of creeks."
Because of the large treble hook on the back of the bait, it isn't very weedless. Both Jordon and VanDam like the spoon for fishing clean ledges, shell beds, roadbeds, humps and deep channel swings.
"If there's a lot of stumps or brush, you're gonna get snagged," says VanDam. "But because of the weight of the spoon, you can usually get over the top of the cover and shake it free."
VanDam says if he's been catching bass on shallower presentations and they quit biting, he'll opt for the Sexy Spoon and probe a nearby deeper area.
"In shallower water, I'll use a crankbait, Carolina rig or jig because the strike-to-land ratio is higher than what it is on the spoon," he explains. "But the spoon is a bait I always have tied on when fishing around deep water."
The lure's value lies in its unique presentation and big bass appeal, he adds, making it an excellent backup for combing an area from which he's caught fish.
"It's going to catch fish that won't hit the traditional presentations, especially those fish that are holding adjacent to and slightly deeper than where you were catching them," he explains.
HOW TO SPOON-FEED
Both pros stay off the key structure and make long casts to the sweet spot.
"The strikes come as the lure is falling," offers Jordon. "You can tight-line the bait to slow the fall, or release the line and allow it to fall faster and more erratically. Experiment to see which way they want it."
Once the bait hits bottom, you can "stroke it" by making sweeps with the rod for suspended fish or simply make short hops if you believe the fish are holding close to the bottom.
"I've even caught them by burning the reel and killing the bait so it can flutter," says Jordon. "But I prefer to hop it like a worm, but in a faster, more up-tempo fashion."
Current is a key factor to its success, adds VanDam. Moving water positions the fish on the structure, and that should be factored into your presentation.
"You want to make sure you're pulling that bait with the current, whether you are hopping it or fluttering it naturally," he describes.
Both pros fish it on a medium-heavy rod and 17- to 20-pound fluorocarbon line, which sinks faster and allows for better hook sets on long casts.
And because strikes occur as the lure falls, you will feel them once you lift the spoon.
"You'll feel it ... your line will jump and they sometimes will knock the rod out of your hands," says VanDam.
The key is to keep pressure on hooked fish, adds Jordon, and don't give them time to jump or shake their heads.
"It's a lot like a lipless crankbait in that, if you fight them slow, that big hook and heavy weight can shake free," he described. "So pour the coals to them and keep the line tight."
TWEAKIN' THE SPOON
Kelly Jordon and Kevin VanDam often upgrade the hooks on their flutter spoons, changing to a 2/0 or 4/0 round bend treble.
"The bait is so big and has such a wide wobble that the fish sometimes miss when they strike," explains VanDam. "I prefer a wider gap hook for that reason."
While some of the Big Joe Spoons come dressed with a feather on the treble, the Sexy Spoon doesn't, and VanDam will sometimes add feathers for a little breathing action.
The lure also comes with a split ring on the nose, yet VanDam will add a swivel to the front to enhance the wobble and reduce line twist, which can be a problem with spoons.
Jordon says colors don't seem to matter as long as they resemble the baitfish. Chrome is always a good choice, he adds.
Big Joe Spoon
• Sizes: Offered in 1 ounce (4 inch) and 1 1/2 ounces (5 1/2 inches).
• Details: All are made of brass and in silver or gold plating. They have Mylar tail feathers and scale patterns on the back in pearl, gold, blue, chartreuse or red.
• Prices: The 1 ounce is $7 (silver) and $8 (gold). The larger version is $8 and $9, respectively.
• Source: www.lakeforkmarina.com; 903-765-2764.
• Sizes: Offered in 3/4 ounce (4 inches) and 1 1/2 ounces (5 1/2 inches).
• Details: Made of stainless steel and painted in five colors: gold/black back, green gizzard shad, neon shad, Sexy Shad and chartreuse shad.
• Prices: $7 to $8, depending upon retailer and lure size.
• Source: www.strikeking.com; 901-853-1455. Available through local retailers and most major catalog outlets.