Walked down to the boat ramp in the cool early morning March dampness and looked out over the lake. The weatherman said fifty percent chance of rain and thunderstorms. This was the last day of my Florida fishing trip and wanted to get at least one more day on the water. The sky was covered with gray billowing clouds; the wind was putting a light chop on the water making conditions just about perfect for a last shot at a big fish before heading home.
Launched the PolarKraft fishing boat and fired up the Mercury outboard motor knowing it would be a while before I would be able to get back on the water. Back in New York the lakes are still frozen and ice out usually does not come until April. The short ride down the lake brings me to a small isolated hydrilla bed that has been producing some nice bass over the past couple of weeks. Several three and four pound fish had jumped all over Rattletraps and Redeye Shad lipless crank baits that were ripped though the grass. Today the bass were not interested no matter how I present these lipless rattle baits. Tried a Zara Super Spook and not even a Pickerel would take a look at the “walking-the-dog” presentation that was cutting V’s in the surface of the lake.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot a big shiner go air borne and the water erupt as a big bass gulped the shiner down. The bass was way back in a small opening in the Kissimmee grass. It was too far to pitch a worm or creature and the grass was too thick to get through with the electric motor. Picked up my frog rod and threw a Horny Toad buzzing frog that was rigged and ready to go. Watched closely the pitter-pat of the little frog as it kicked and sputtered through the open water pocket of the grass bed, holding my breath in anticipation of a big bass exploding on it. After several casts without so much as a rise or swirl in the water I switch over to a floating Snagproof frog with no better results. Even the new popping SPRO frog could not draw a strike from the small open water area in the weeds.
Having faced this situation of fishing open pockets in thick milfoil, hydrilla and water chestnuts many times before I remembered about fishing with an old friend. Some might even know my old friend, the Strike King Timber King spoon. It is wide and slightly curved on the bottom; tapers on the upper end with a big stainless split ring. This spoon is made of brass and uses a single hook. The originals came with rubber skirts, and weighted about one half an ounce. Normally a three or four inch Mr. Twister curly tail grub was attached to the hook as an additional attractor. While these spoons came in many painted colors, the gold or polished brass with a yellow skirt and a yellow Mr. Twister curly tail grub seemed to work the best. Why Strike King decided not to manufacture these amazing spoons any longer is beyond me. Personally I have won several tournaments and have a few big bass and lunker awards from using these spoons. They worked in the slop and thick floating mats long before frog and rat fishing became popular.
The unique features of this spoon allow it to work in many situations. By raising the rod tip to about one o’clock it is easy keep the spoon on top of slop, lily pads, hydrilla, milfoil and water chestnuts. In open water, the wide bottom of the Timber King spoon gives it a wide side-to-side motion that with the rubber skirt and plastic trailer seems to make it come alive with a slow retrieve. The most unique feature is when you stop the retrieve or pull it off the edge of a lily pad or a thick mat. This spoon has the most seductive side-to-side wobble as it falls, sort of like a lazy hula dancer as it drops toward the bottom.
Over the years I tried many different retrieves and found that casting as far back into the slop or cover as you can, then slowly working the spoon over the top of the cover seemed to work the best. Bass, Northern Pike, and Pickerel would blast through the thickest of mats to get to this spoon. On days when Bass were fussy, dragging the spoon to the edge of the cover and then hesitating for a moment would work. If they did not blast the spoon while it was sitting there, gently shaking the spoon until it fell off the edge and allowing it to fall on a controlled slack line usually did the trick. You could see the flash when a bass came out from under the cover to grab the spoon and swim back with it.
Having lost a great deal of these Timber King spoons to toothy critters over the years finally got to the point where I almost stopped using them. Tried Johnson’s Silver Minnow, Nemire’s Red Ripper spoon and many others without finding anything even close to the same action. Just recently I stumbled upon a spoon made by Northland called the Jawbreaker and while not quite the same as the Timber King it is as close as I have been able to find. These Jawbreakers have produced a number of good fish, but do not allow much tweaking or changing of the hardware. They do come in a lot of colors and skirt combinations to satisfy most anglers. They work well right out of the box, but if you want to use a trailer on this lure you must thin the skirt to get the correct action out of the spoon. Go easy when doing this, it will require you to drill the rivet out of the hook eye to change the skirt and then putting another rivet in to hold the hook and skirt to the spoon.
Northland’s Jawbreaker Spoon
As luck would have it while poking around at a flea market several years ago I found about a dozen old Timber King spoons in the worst shape you could imagine. The paint on them was melted and had been eaten away by the balled up old rubber skirts and plastic trailers, the hooks were rusted and broken, but the bodies of the spoons were still in good shape.
It became a personal project to try and put these spoons back in working shape. The hook and the rubber skirt are held to the brass spoon with a small screw thru the hook eye. After taking these apart I stripped everything from the brass body and removed the paint. Using a brass cleaner and polish the bright golden color came back. However I found the brass tarnished very quickly. Solved this problem by polishing the brass and then coating the lure with clear nail polish. Replacing the hooks was easier then I thought. After quick look into my Salmon fishing box I found some of the single round bend 4/0 hooks I use on Salmon lures. They were a perfect fit and actually had a slightly wider gap then the originals. Weed guards are not a big requirement as these spoons usually land with the hook up. Made some out of stainless steel wire and had several of the original plastic weed guards that have worked well too. The skirts took a lot of trial and error, as the old style rubber skirts were a pain to keep from sticking together, living rubber skirts were too thick and heavy and ruined the action. So I decided to make my own silicon skirts. Through trial and error found just the right amount of strands it took to get the action exactly correct. All that was left was to add a large stainless split ring to tie the line directly to and super glue a three or four-inch twister tail grub to the hook and they were ready.
I fished these very special Timber King spoons sparingly adding a wire leader rarely as it changed the action. Then came along the buzzing frogs and these spoons started sitting in the back corner of my tackle box more and more often.
Today my intuitions were telling me was the day to get these spoons out and I have learned to trust my instincts after years on the water. For these spoons I use a heavy frog rod, a St. Croix Legend seven foot three inch medium heavy that has a heavier action then most flipping sticks. The reel is an Abu Garcia Revo S spooled with sixty-five pound Power Pro braided line. With this rig I can easily cast further then the openings in the Kissimmee grass in front of me and still have enough power to get a fish out if I can get hooked up.
Actual Timber King Spoon I used.
Moving the boat into position at the edge of the huge grass bed I make a cast well beyond the opening in the grass that the bass chased the shiner out of. Using a slow retrieve over the matted grass brings no response. At the edge of the mat the rod tip gently eases the spoon into the open water. Using the same slow retrieve the spoon is moving in a side-to-side wobble with the skirt flowing in the open water. The plastic trailer looks like a little tail wagging and wiggling away. The spoon is just about to crawl back up on the matted grass when the water explodes and a bass grabs it. I feel the weight of a good fish on the line and rear back on the rod setting the hook. There is no way to get the boat to the bass in the thick cover so I try get the bass to the surface and bring it over the top of the cover. One thing I love about Florida bass is they love to jump and when this one comes to the surface I try to move it over the top of the thick grass. After a few tense moments I reach down to lip a nice three-pound plus bass. This sets the pattern for the rest of the day. The key spots were openings that were next to impossible to get into with the electric motor and using the big motor to churn through the heavy cover would probably have spooked them. Very long casts were needed and most of the hits came as the spoon entered the openings or as it fell off the edges of the cover.
The last spot of the day looks perfect but the sky is getting blacker. I am hoping the rumbling sound in the far distance is just the jet planes heading into or leaving the Orlando International Airport. Probably wishful thinking, but I have to give this spot a try. There is a boat trail going back through the thick grass toward the shoreline that allows me to get almost within casting distance of the open area. Shiners are jumping out of the water and there are big swirls where the bass are moving. Running the electric motor hard into the thick grass I hope to get just a little closer to make a cast. The boat and electric motor lock up in the thick grass stems but with the help of the wind I am able to get a long cast back into the open water. The spoon barely hits the surface when small bass nails it. Quickly bringing the small bass over the grass I release it and make another cast. This time a much better fish hits and knocks the spoon several feet into the air. Reeled in quickly and made another cast with the spoon landing on the far edge of the opening. Paused it there for a moment, then with a gentle flick of the rod tip pulled it into the open water. The spoon had not fallen more then a few inches when I felt the line tighten. After setting the hooks another battle is on and shortly the last fish of the trip is landed. A solid four pound Florida Largemouth Bass that is briefly admired and released. The sky is now very black and the wind is picking up. Looking north I see the shards of lightning cutting across the sky and thoughts of fishing quickly disappear. Fishing out of a “tin” boat made of aluminum in a thunder and lightning storm is not my idea of fun. Firing up the Mercury outboard just as the rain starts I make a very quick run to the boat ramp. As luck would have it, had the boat on the trailer and the cover on the boat by the time the storm finally arrives.
Back at the motel room I stand and look out the open door at the tropical downpour and feel the delicious coolness in the air. The rain has formed small rivers on the asphalt and the fallen oak leaves look like little boats racing down the parking lot. It gives me a quiet moment to go back over the day. While I did try other lures, the only one that produced was the Timber King spoon and it produced over a dozen fish today. Started using these Timber King spoons back in the 1980’s and they have produced good fish in every state as well as the Canadian lakes I have visited and still produce quality bass today.
Staring back out the door at the steady rainfall a smile comes to my face as I think about the good times of fishing with an old friend.
By Dave DeRemer