Spooning Stone Mountain Lake For Winter Largemouths

When the bass bunch up in the winter, Joffer goes after them

Brad Bailey | February 1, 2008

With Stone Mountain visible behind him, Joffer unhooks a 2-lb. largemouth that hit a Flex-it jigging spoon in 34 feet of water.

“Look at that,” said Joffer, motioning toward the screen of his graph. “That’s what I like to see — it looks like spaghetti.”

His Lowrance color graph showed a jumble of string-like arches just off the bottom in 38 feet of water.

“There,” he said, “That’s my spoon,” he said, indicating a descending blip on the screen as he released the spool on his baitcaster and a 1-oz. Flex-it jigging spoon dropped to the same depth as the “spaghetti” — a tangle of arches indicating a school of largemouths.

“I’ll catch one of those fish,” said Joffer as he began to lift and drop his spoon through the arches. The second time he raised his rod tip, the line tightened up and he set the hook. His rod bent toward the water as he played a pound-and-a-half largemouth to the boat.

We had been fishing about 30 seconds and had already landed our first bass.

During February, spoon fishing can be that good. When the water temperatures drop in the the 40s and the bass bunch up in deep water, you can sometimes hook fish about as quickly as you can drop a spoon on them.

On Jan. 8, I was on Stone Mountain Lake with Dzafer Ljubuncic of Lawrenceville. He goes by Joffer, and no one enjoys fishing any more than Joffer. He and his partner David Jefferies fish many of the jonboat tournament trails on small reservoirs around Atlanta from Joffer’s G-3, which is rigged out for fishing small lakes.

For wintertime fishing, a jigging spoon is Joffer’s signature bait. Most bass fishermen like beating the banks even in the winter, but Joffer likes pulling bunched-up bass out of deeper water.

“A jigging spoon is a simple bait, but it is deadly,” he said.

Joffer, 34, is a transplant from Bosnia who began bass fishing at Stone Mountain Lake. The clear-water lake remains one of his favorites places to drop a spoon on fat largemouths.

Spooning for largemouths is a bit different than spooning for highly aggressive spots or hybrids. You have to present the spoon the right way, as I learned.
“You are doing that too fast,” said Joffer watching my jigging technique. “You don’t want to overdo it. These are largemouths, they like a slower presentation than spotted bass.”

Typically, Joffer raises his rod to pick up the spoon about 2 feet, then drops the rod tip to let the spoon flutter downward like a dying or injured shad. Then he usually pauses, just letting the spoon hang and spin before repeating with another pull.

Joffer often uses a white 1-oz. Flex-it spoon with silver tape, and shown with a shad one of the bass spit up, you can see why .. the spoon is about the right size, shape and color of shad in the lake.

Good electronics are a critical piece of equipment to jig vertically. Joffer’s boat is rigged with a Lowrance LMB 520 color graph, and he keeps an eye on it watching for both spaghetti lines and clouds of shad with arches nearby. When he finds a school of shad, he drops his spoon to the depth just below the school of baitfish and begins to lift and drop the spoon.

“It is like playing video games,” he says of watching the spooning action on the screen. It is not uncommon to watch fish come up to meet the spoon.

“Bait has everything to do with fishing a jigging spoon,” he said. “It is more about finding bait than finding structure, and I like to see bass close to the balls of shad.”

The schools of shad might be anywhere in the water column.

“I am not a bottom beater,” he said. “Although later in February the fish will be closer to the bottom.”

If a school of shad shows at 20 feet over a 35-foot bottom, he drops the spoon to 20 feet.

A spoon isn’t just for jigging, says Joffer, who usually has good success by fan-casting a spoon.

“I cast it out and let it fall,” he said. “You have to be ready, because they always hit it on the fall.”

Once the bait hits the bottom, he rips it up, then lets it fall back to the bottom, imitating a fluttering shad.

Stone Mountain Lake is ideal for fan casting because there is little wood clutter on the bottom.

“Fan casting covers a lot of water rather than just what is under the boat,” said Joffer. “When the spoon stops, you know what that is. Sometimes they slam it, and sometimes it just feels like weight on the line.”

Joffer prefers Flex-it spoons.

“I have tried Hopkins spoons and Kastmaster, all of them, and I always go back to Flex-it,” he said.

The size of the spoon depends on the wind and the depth. He often uses a 6/10-oz. spoon, but on windy days or in deeper water he opts for a 1-oz. spoon. The bigger spoon drops faster, and he is also able to maintain his feel of the spoon.

He also improves the spoon’s fish-catching capability by changing the hooks. He removes the treble hook that comes with the spoon and replaces it with a Owner Stinger treble one size bigger than the hook that comes on the spoon. On a 1-oz. spoon he attaches a No. 2 Owner hook. The bigger, sharper hook increases the number of hookups, he says.

Flex-it spoons come with a variety of colors of reflective tape, but 90 percent of the time Joffer sticks to one color: white with a silver reflective tape.

“That’s what shad look like,” he said.

Joffer says that a jigging spoon will catch plenty of average-size fish but isn’t usually considered the No. 1 bait for catching the biggest bass in the lake.

“A jig, a buzzbait or a big crankbait may catch bigger fish, but a spoon is good for numbers,” he said.

At Lake Varner, however, Joffer’s biggest bass, a 10-pounder, hit a spoon, and there is an island in Stone Mountain Lake just off the old swimming beach where he caught two 5-pounders in one day.

Joffer’s baitcasters are spooled with 12- or 15-lb. P-line CXX. He likes the line because it is strong, and it doesn’t stretch like mono. He fishes spoons on a 6 1/2-foot spinnerbait rod. That combination also makes a long-distance-spoon-delivery system if bass begin to school on top anywhere around the boat — he can cast a 1-oz. spoon nearly out of sight.

Diversity in what might bite is one of the attributes of fishing a spoon. The small slab of lead will catch anything in lake. Depending on where you fish, bream, catfish, yellow perch, stripers, hybrids — even trout in the mountain lakes will hit a spoon.

Sometimes catching a fish in the first 30 seconds of the day can be the kiss of death, and after our initial success fishing was slow despite marking both bait and bass. In three hours we caught three more keeper-sized largemouths and three crappie. The day we fished began overcast. Joffer prefers a bright sunny day.

“On an overcast day, the fish are more spread out,” said Joffer. “On a sunny day they will be more concentrated, and the spoon will flash more.”

I like to see lines like spaghetti on the graph, said Joffer, refering to the piles of arches indicating bass near the bottom. You can often anticipate the strike by watching your spoon work into the lines of largemouth “spaghetti.”

At about 1 p.m. fishing changed suddenly for the better. We had moved about a half mile up the lake from the dam to fish a spot about 35 feet deep. At the same time, the clouds broke and sunlight hit the water. The bottom where we fished was flat with no remarkable structure at all, but there were bass bunched up there.

I watched my 3/4-oz. white Flex-it on the depthfinder screen as the graph marked black slashes representing the jig jumping and fluttering in a spaghetti-looking bunch of fish arches. Twice something bumped the spoon without hooking up, but a moment later when I raised my rod tip the line loaded up with a chunky 2 1/2-lb. largemouth. Within two minutes, Joffer was grinning as he lipped another largemouth in the 2-lb. range. After a quick photo, we were back to fishing, and within five minutes had boated two more bass in the 2-lb. range. When you get on a school of biting bass, the fishing is fast.

For the day, we caught 10 bass and three crappie on spoons. The fishing will improve as the water cools, said Joffer. The day we fished, the water temperature was just under 50 degrees, the temperature where Joffer says the jigging-spoon bite begins to light up.

“It will get better as the water gets colder,” he said. “The entire month of February will be great.”

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