Spring Browns: Sticksbaits Or Spoons?

By Capt. Lou Borelli

When fishing for spring brown trout, there's a debate over which bait is better.

Photo of Capt. Lou Borelli

Every spring, Lake Ontario nearshore fishing can bring good numbers of brown trout. As the ice melts in the lake and the water starts to warm, schools of browns hug the shoreline looking for warmth and food. And as the fishing season starts, the main question that seems to come up year after year is: Do I fish with stick baits or spoons?

For me, the answer's easy. Spoons, spoons, spoons!

Both lure types come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Stickbaits are very versatile and can be used to catch many species of fish. From trout and salmon to bass, pike and walleye, the stickbait lure can be very effective.

Spoons Advantage Over Stick Baits

One can even argue that the stickbait's more appealing to the brown trout than a spoon. With the overabundance of the round goby, (invasive species that have taken over the lake bottom), brown trout have been feeding heavily on these fish. A stickbait with the right color, (brown/gold), can easily imitate the goby, making it an easy target for the trout.

Spoons, however, are actually even easier to use when targeting the spring browns. For starters, the spoon's typically lighter than the stick bait. It also doesn't have a lip, which means it won't dive as far when it's being pulled in the water. This is important when fishing in shallow water. It's not uncommon for fish to be in less than 4 feet of water. If you're running a stickbait this shallow, you run the risk of getting it hung up on the bottom.

Bait Speed

Spoons are also more speed tolerant. Generally a spoon's design is such that it'll have good action at various speeds. This is important if the fish are moody. A stickbait however, doesn't like to be run fast. If run too fast, the stickbait will lose its wobble action and will track straight. Remember: The purpose of the lure is to catch the fish. If the browns are in a finicky mood, they may not want to chase down a lure that doesn't reflect an injured or erratic bait fish.

Photo of three fishermen holding up their trout catch

Some anglers like to run both stickbaits and spoons together. They'll run one side of the boat with sticks and the other with spoons. The issue you may run into there is that if trolling at a faster clip, (2.8-3.1 mph), you may lose the action of the stickbaits.  This could decrease your chances of catching multiple fish and basically take half your lure spread out of the equation.

Spoon Size

When using spoons, select the size that will best simulate the bait. Typically in the spring, the browns are feeding on smelt, gobies or alewives. This early in the season the baitfish are not that large. Selecting a spoon in the 3"-4” length are going to be most effective.

This method of fishing can be an effective way of catching large and multiple brown trout. The key is to understand the conditions you're fishing in and use the appropriate methods to ensure multiple hook ups.

Capt. Lou Borrelli learned to fish with his grandfather and now owns and operates Get The Net Charters out of Rochester, N.Y. Capt. Lou runs trips along the south shore of Lake Ontario from Wilson to Fair Haven, N.Y. Visit GTNFishing.com or send him an email at captainlou@gtnfishing.com.