Sad but true: Along with the typewriter, the desk phone and the morning newspaper, the true pork rind is dead. Uncle Josh, venerable supplier of the best rinds there ever were for nearly 100 years, has posted an “Officially Sold Out” on their website. (The company continues to offer other fish attractors, however.)
But that does not mean that the ability of the pork strip design to catch mega-bass has ended; in fact, at the right time of year—February through April—and in the right places—lily pad fields and bulrush flats among others, there’s not much short of a live shiner that gives you a better shot at putting a trophy-class Florida largemouth in the boat than hanging one of these big, squirmy trailers on a weedless spoon. And fortunately, there are a few sources of plastic rinds that are turning out trailers very close to being as functional as the original pork. They’re made in a wide variety of colors and shapes.
There are several advantages to the spoon-n-rind over most lures. First, it’s a big mouthful, and big bass like big mouthfuls. Add a 4-inch rind to a 3-inch spoon and you’ve got what appears to be a half-pound shiner or shad flashing through the water, but one that you can still cast easily on standard bass tackle.
Secondly, you can pull these rigs through practically anything, even lily pads, without sticking. In fact, they work best in the thick stuff, weeds where you’d normally be confined to flippin’ a heavy jig. Anywhere there’s any open water at all over heavy weeds, it’s worth trying the spoon-n-rind.
Standard retrieve with this setup is simply to heave it out there on fairly heavy gear—25-pound-test mono or there-abouts, or braid heavy enough to work well on your baitcaster—and crank it back at the speed that makes the spoon wobble and flash, hook up, without sinking. The wobble of the spoon puts a snake-like flutter into the tail.
Tips and Tricks
The better weedless spoons will usually land hook up if you thumb them to a stop over a target, rather than just flinging them as far as you can.
The larger spoons generally work best for big bass when dressed with a rind—1/2 to 3/4-ounce sizes, rather than the typical 1/4-ounce models. The Johnson Silver Minnow, H&H Redfish Spoon, Gator Weedless Spoon and XPS Laser Eye, among others, are effective.
There are subtle paths and holes in most weedbeds, and learning to see these and guide the spoon over them is part of having success with this tactic. Scattered maidencane, bulrush, duckweed and lily pad fields are all prime, though you have to learn to steer your line away from pad “crotches,” because even a spoon-n-rind will stick occasionally in these.
Holding the rodtip high will cause the lure to skitter over stuff that might stick it, like thick hydrilla or coontail. Dropping the tip and slowing the retrieve will allow it to flutter down into the occasional pothole. The idea is to constantly stay focused on what the lure is doing and stitch it in and out of the cover throughout the retrieve.
Setting the hook can be a bit of a test with a weedless spoon. The strike is usually at the surface and often spectacular, which means your tendency is to take the lure away from the fish. Wait until you feel the strike and you’ll rarely miss one.
Tuning the Spoon
The standard weedguard on a Johnson Silver Minnow and most similars is straight, it runs from the hook eye to just above the point of the hook, and in fact this is a good position for it if your main concern is getting through the thick stuff. But, this position on a stiff wire weedguard seems to prevent solid hookups in some cases, and when you’re fishing for that one giant bite, you don’t want to miss any fish. One good way to improve on the guard is to put a bend in it about an inch in front of the point of the hook, leveling it off on the same plane as the point. When a fish chomps down on this, the guard will for sure deflect downward and expose the point giving you a very good shot at a hookup. Keep the hook point dead sharp, of course.
It’s also essential to add a split ring and swivel, or a snap swivel, to prevent the spoon from twisting your line, and also to allow it to swing freely for best action.
Modern Pork Rind Replacements
Though “real” rind is gone, some of the replacements offer the same action with a lot fewer issues. One of the best is the Otter Tail from Captain Bruce Millar, a New England striper guide who developed them as a replacement for the hard-to-get Uncle Josh rinds. They come in a jar and are soaked with a fish-based scent. The lures have a fabric laminate attached to the soft flexible plastic shapes, which Millar says makes them outlast dozens of straight soft plastic baits. The 6.5-inch and 3.5-inch sizes in curly-tail are likely to be the winners for the bass market, he says; www.otter-lures.com.
Zoom’s Swimming Chunk is a 3-inch twin tail that can also function as an effective spoon trailer, as is the Strike King Rage Tail Chunk and the Twin Tail Menace. FS