Lynn Burkhead — Flutter Spoon bass action sizzles in late summer
As I’ve noted in this space before, I used to shy away from fishing during the “dog days” of summertime. Put simply, I don’t like 100+ heat and I don’t like to sweat non-stop as the late summer sun bakes the landscape.
But that all changed when Flint, Texas resident Kelly Jordon finally convinced me to go out with him on a miserably hot Lone Star State afternoon a number of years ago.
Having met Kelly at the 2001 Bassmaster Classic that I covered for ESPNOutdoors.com in New Orleans, we began a friendship that has seen us share a deer blind and a bass boat on several outings since then.
That included the mid-summer fishing trip referenced above, one that convinced me that maybe I had this summertime fishing thing judged all wrong. But it took some convincing for yours truly to come to that conclusion, thanks in part to our long ago triple-digit bass fishing trip.
“I think KJ’s suffered from heatstroke,” I thought as I pulled into the Lake Fork boat ramp parking lot — a deserted one at that — on that particular July day where the thermometer topped out at 105 degrees.
But Jordon, the only professional angler to have wins on the Bassmaster Elite Series, the FLW Tour, and in Major League Fishing, assured me that heat or no heat, we were going to wear them out.
“Burkhead, the hotter it gets, the more I like it,” grinned KJ. “It gets these fish grouped up on offshore structure and when you catch one, you’re about to catch a bunch of them.”
More than 35 fish later — up to eight-pounds, no less — I was convinced that maybe I had something to learn about catching bass in hot weather.
On that particular day, deep diving crankbaits were the primary source of our summertime fish catching success.
But sometimes, it's a different deep water lure that wins the triple digit day, a big flutter spoon.
For a number of years, Jordon thought that flutter spoons were a type of lure that belonged in the domain of wintertime fishing.
Until he and a few buddies tried the baits in the heat of summertime and hammered the bass at Fork where Jordon used to be a top shelf guide.
Since then, the Major League Fishing champion and Bass Pro Tour veteran will never be caught without a Joe Spaits flutter spoon tied onto a rod lying on the front deck of his bass rig.
“When they’re on it, they’re on it,” said KJ, a nine-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. “When they’re not, they’re not. But if they are on it and you can catch them, it’s light’s out.”
For Jordon, the potential flutter spoon bite starts in late spring during the post-spawn phase as the first bass head away from the bank and swim out into the deep stuff.
“That’s when you can start trying to throw it,” he said. “Usually, when they really get set up offshore in the summertime, in (this part of the world), maybe mid-June or so, that’s when the spoon bite can start to get hot.”
But the technique really comes into its own during the summertime heat of July and August: “That’s when you can really hammer them,” said Jordon.
Jordon knows full well what he's talking about, letting his longtime Lake Fork flutter spoon trick out of the bag a number of years ago back in 2006 while fishing at Kentucky Lake against Boyd Duckett in Outdoor Channel's Ultimate Match Fishing show.
In that show, KJ needed a break, the kind of break that the flutter spoon might give him.
"Yeah, it was one of my deals back then and I didn't show it to anybody," said Jordon. "I didn't talk to anybody about it or give them a spoon to try. I thought I'll keep this quiet because at times, it rocked the world."
Is that a little bit of Texas bravado? Well, considering that KJ reportedly once caught 10 flutter spoon bass at Fork that weighed just more than 101-pounds - yes, you read that right - you be the judge.
"When I got on Ultimate Match Fishing with that, I got on this group of fish and that was the only way that I could catch them," lamented Jordon, who noted that this group of fish wouldn't bite a deep diving crankbait, a football jig, or a Carolina rig.
"They would only bite a spoon and they would bite a spoon every day," he said. "It was the craziest thing I've ever seen."
That left Jordon in a bit of a quandary as he tried to grab the win over Duckett, his good friend and his roommate on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour.
"I could catch some cranking on some other spots I had," said Jordon. "(And) I didn't want to let the cow out of the bag. But then when it came down to it in the finals (of Ultimate Match Fishing), I thought, you know, it's worth it if you win."
The only problem is that Jordon didn't win, getting nipped by Duckett — who is the 2007 Bassmaster Classic champ — after Jordon had a fish die and incurred a quarter-pound penalty as a result.
"I got beat by 0.06 of a pound," laughed Jordon, who ignited a firestorm of Internet chat room and fishing forum activity after he showed the world the power of the flutter spoon.
Today, many pros across the country have the flutter spoon in their deep water arsenal, including Jordon, who uses a Duckett Fishing Micro Magic White Ice series rod designed specifically for the bait.
“It’s a 7′6″ medium heavy rod,” said KJ, a four-time winner on the B.A.S.S. tournament trail. “The reason it’s 7′6″ is so that you can cast it farther, and if you really need to sweep it and pull up a lot of line up off the bottom, you can do that with the longer rod.”
When throwing a flutter spoon, Jordon uses fluorocarbon line, ”...at least 17-pound line, a lot of times 20 pounds.”
In general, KJ typically fishes the bait one of three ways: by using short hops up off the bottom; by ripping the flutter spoon up off the bottom and through a group of fish; or by swimming it along much like a swim jig.
“Generally, I don’t give them too big of a hop right off the bat especially if it’s a spot that I’m fishing that I know is not real big,” said Jordon, a one-time winner on the FLW Tour. “The bigger the hop you give it, the faster it’s coming off the spot (you’re fishing).
“And you may not need a big hop. If they’re sitting on the bottom on a spot the size of a boat, I can almost shake it on the bottom and leave it in there and one of them is going to come over and eat it.”
If the fish are suspended, he’ll often rip the bait up and away from the bottom: “If these fish are suspended and you need to trigger them, you can give a big sweep and rip it some 10 feet off the bottom,” said Jordon, who captured the Major League Fishing Challenge Cup on Lake Ray Roberts several years ago. “If they’re suspended and you come (up and through them), they’ll chase it.”
The key then is knowing when a fish will hit the bait.
“They almost always hit it when it’s fluttering back down,” said Jordon. “Sometimes, when you give it a big rip, they’ll hit it as soon as you stop. But most of the time, when you give it a big rip, it’s sinking back down and then there you go.”
If this sounds like the end-all method for the heat of summer, Jordon cautions that it is not.
“They’re either on it or they’re not,” reminded KJ. “If they’re not on it, you can’t get them to bite it at all. But if they are, look out.”
Look out for one of the best fishing trips of the year, even during the triple digit heat likely to bake the Red River Valley during the next few weeks as the red-hot dog days of summer run their course.
If you’re loading up on big bass, though, who cares about a little late summer sweat?