Flags snapping on their halyards greeted us when
we arrived in Montauk. Not surprisingly, a 20-knot northwest wind
kept us at the dock that day, but conditions improved overnight, and
we happily tossed the lines the next morning and idled out of
Montauk Harbor. As we left the inlet, the NicoleMarie fell in line
with the other charter boats as we motored toward famed Montauk
Sitting on the fishbox were two of George's
spoons. At 14 inches they looked like dinner platters, save for the
pair of welded 10/0 Mustad hooks hanging off the split rings. George
explained that with the typical Montauk wire-line lure, an Andrus
parachute jig tipped with a porkrind, he caught plenty of fish but
not the big stripers that he knew prowled the rips.
"You can't follow the pack if you want to catch
really big fish," George said. So in the winter of 2003 he set to
work in his garage, hammering out a spoon that was not only
oversized but had a seductive swimming motion.
George wanted his spoon to behave like the wing of
a plane, catching current instead of wind, and would provide lift
and action at a precise speed. As he knocked out version after
version, he would take them to a neighbor's pool, break the ice and
swim his spoons.
"People started to wonder, 'Who is this crazy guy
fishing in a swimming pool in the middle of winter,'" he said. "But
I didn't care. I knew I was onto something."
By adding up to five keel weights and perfecting
the angle of the spoon's entire edge, George found an action that he
had never seen in a lure.
When pulled at 2 1/2 to three knots, the spoon
wobbles naturally while swinging in a six- to 12-foot arc. Depending
on their size (there are three models: nine, 12 and 14 inches long)
and color, the spoons resemble anything from bunker to fluke.
The first time George dragged the spoons off
Montauk he caught a 44-pounder. The next fish weighed 46 pounds. He
had found his lure. But George is the first to admit that just
dragging the Secret Spoon around the ocean won't catch fish.
"This is a 50-percent lure," George says. "Fifty
percent of the success will come from the lure; the other 50 percent
from how you fish it."
SPOON BRIGADE: Secret Spoons range in size
from 14 inches, left, down to nine inches long.
Photo: Nathaniel Welch
We dropped our spoons in the water off Great
Eastern Rip, just as the tide approached what George considers the
witching hours. "These spoons work best during the first and last
hour and a half of the tide," he says.
At these times, George can work the current to
keep the push on his lures at roughly three knots.
The line of charter boats already working the rip
had little to report. Most chatter on the radio centered on the slow
pick of small fish, but George was unfazed. He fishes his spoons on
eight-foot St. Croix trolling rods. His Penn 4/0 and 6/0 reels are
spooled with 60-pound Malin wire and marked in 50-foot intervals up
to 300 feet. The wire is tied to 20 feet of 150-pound fluorocarbon
leader and connected to the spoon via a 200-pound Spro Power swivel.
Given the large sweep of water covered by the spoons, only two rods
can be fished. And to keep the two lures from fouling on each other,
George places the rods in outrodders. (For the record, the IGFA does
not recognize fish caught on wire line. The Secret Spoons can also
be trolled with braid.)
TO THE WIRE: George employs a two-rod trolling
spread aboard the NicoleMarie.
Illustration: Pete Sucheski
Our spoons found only big bluefish at Great
Eastern, and as we started losing the tide George picked up and
headed for Block Island to fish the Submarine Channel. As we
approached, George explained some of the finer points of dragging
the Secret Spoon. He likes to keep the spoons within five feet of
the bottom at all times and often pulls them into a quartering
current for best results.
"If you go downtide on a two-knot current, and the
boat is traveling at three knots over ground, then the spoons aren't
working properly," he says. George also makes sure to drag the
spoons by any knoll or bottom irregularity. "That's where the big
fish is, and she's not going to move far to eat."
Our lines weren't in the water long before the
port rod started bucking. Not long after, we had a 36-pound striper
in the boat.
"Now," he says, "let's find a big one."
George says the Secret Spoon has seen success up
and down the striper coast. Over the winter he had anglers calling
from Virginia. One guy called to tell George he was catching so many
fish that he extended his vacation by three days, and he needed more
spoons delivered by the next day. Another angler from Connecticut
called to stock up for spring, fearing he might not be able to get
his hands on the spoons come summer.
For sure, the spoons aren't cheap. The nine-inch
model sells for $38 (George does not yet sell the two larger
models). And it takes some practice and patience to learn how to
troll them properly, but no doubt, they will catch big fish.
"When I'm out by myself, I troll only the 14-inch
version," George says. "I might go a few hours without a bite, but
when I get one, it's a big fish. I know the world record is swimming
off Montauk. It's only a matter of time before we cross paths."
RIGHT ANGLES: Outrodders are used to keep the
spoons from fouling.
Photo: Gary Caputi
Saltwater Sportsman Magazine - May 2006