Spooky Fishing: When to Use a Spook (Lure), And How to Avoid Spooking Fish

Since it’s the scariest time of the year, we're going to tackle some spooky topics within fishing. But don’t fear, these tricks are all about attracting fish instead of scaring them away!

Depending on the fish you’re targeting and your method of fishing, the “spook” could be (1) a lure in your tacklebox, or it could refer to (2) what you want to avoid (spooking the fish) by being stealthy instead.

Let’s dive into the details on the Heddon line of Spooks, a lure design that’s a favorite for fishing topwater, and then tips on how to not spook a fish.

A Good Spook

The Spook lure is typically used to target bass, trout, redfish, or pike. If you go for any of these fish with conventional tackle, the spook should be a staple of your fishing arsenal. Spook lures are produced by an American fishing company, Heddon, which introduced their first model, the Zara Spook (pictured), in 1939. The technique to fish with spooks is known as ‘walking the dog’ (also pictured, credit On The Water) and, from Heddon, it's described as a “rhythmic, slack-line retrieve that makes the Spook walk from left to right, back and forth. The Zara Spook’s plump profile is a tantalizing target for bass and pike". Retrieving your line in this unconventional way is done because the movement and lure is supposed to mimic an injured fish (in other words, an easy target). Spooks come in a variety of colors and designs, though a minnow imitation is most popular. You can see more from Heddon’s line of products, though many other brands also make similar lures.

Since attracting fish with a Spook requires active manipulation of the lure, it’s definitely a fun and engaging method of fishing. YouTuber lojo.fishing demonstrates and gives a breakdown of the ‘walk-the-dog’ technique for fishing with a spook here: How To Fish a Spook (Bass Fishing Tips and Techniques).

... And When Spooking is Bad

Now that you know how to use a spook to catch fish, let’s talk about how to avoid spooking fish. In other words, don’t alert fish to your presence so that they swim away before you even get the chance to cast at them, and when you do cast, make sure your presentation is natural enough that it doesn’t lead the fish to realizing something is awry.

Casting

When fishing shallow water with lures or with heavy flies (such as streamers) or extra weight on your line, you want to nail the entry since fish are likely to be closer to the surface. Flipping and Pitching are useful techniques with a spinning or baitcasting reel for casting your line (1) with accuracy and (2) while keeping the line close to the surface so that it doesn’t plop in too heavily like a cannonball. Major League Fishing co-founder and Bass Fishing Hall of Famer Gary Klein demonstrates both techniques in this bass fishing flipping and pitching tutorial video.

When fly fishing, one casting technique to consider using is the Roll Cast. This technique involves casting your fly from a starting position when it’s already in the water and casting it from there to your target. The beginning surface tension of the water minimizes the force that your line is moving with and thus can result in a softer landing of your fly. Here’s another brief article and video to learn more on roll casting for beginners.

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Easily I Approach

Above: Cancun Light Tackle & Fly Fishing

Your approach becomes ever more important the more shallow or clearer the water gets. 

It’s not just how you cast your line to fish. Boaters or waders should take care in how they arrive to a fishing spot. Experienced captains consider ways to coast smoothly into a fishing position, for instance, lowering their motor early or poling slowly and carefully (additional tips for boaters from Boating World). Waders should be careful where they’re walking and avoid disturbing the environment by kicking up dirt or rocks with their steps.

Quiet On The Set

Whether you’re using live bait, conventional tackle or flies, a fisher is essentially a puppeteer controlling their line and whatever is attached to try to mimic the type of food that a fish would eat. In order to make the setting realistic, you wouldn’t want to disturb it with any unnatural sound to alert fish. Even if a noise doesn’t cause fish to scatter, they might be more wary to take what you’re throwing with their senses engaged by loud conversation, a running motor, jarring music, etc. 

Though we’re focused here on avoiding unnatural sound, it is worth mentioning that sometimes you may be able to attract certain species like bass that can act curiously upon hearing noise. If you’re going to experiment with noise to attract fish, use it carefully.

What Are You Looking At, Fish Eyes?

Again, depending on the fish species and the environment, visibility as well as a fish’s ability to spot you or your accessories may factor into spooking fish. Some fishers will say from anecdotal tests (see the last section in this article from Outdoor Life) that they fish better in camouflage. You don't need to go full camo, though. Simply wear dull colors that blend well enough into your environment, and try not to make your presence as an apex predator too obvious (the short arms below don't help, either...).

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Besides clothing, a shiny piece of jewelry or accessory can be another fish-spooker that’s easy to forget about. Try not to wear rings, watches, etc. which might reflect light across the water and a fish’s line of vision. Even shiny scissors or other metal tools that you bring along might give away your position to an unassuming lunker.

Distance is another factor to consider when you’re fishing shallow water. When possible, stay farther away from the area you’re casting to in order to avoid being seen. Even a shadow on the water may signal to fish that something is up. Remember, birds eat fish so shadows are an indicator that a predator could be very near. In addition to being more active feeding times, their impact on shadows is another reason that fishing at dusk or dawn can be an advantage.

In rivers and streams, consider the direction of the water flow and the way fish are facing before you cast. For instance, trout feed facing upstream into the current. Thus, if you cast from a position downstream and from the side of a fish you’re targeting, you can cast above where the fish is holding its position and let your fly or lure drift down towards the fish. Casting upstream and from the side will help prevent the fish from seeing your line before it sees your fly or lure (or you!).

Don't be Scared, Get Out There!

Again, all of these tips on avoiding spooking fish apply based on the fish you’re targeting, what type of tackle, bait, or fly you’re casting at them, and the environment. There are cases when you may want to attract the attention of a fish with an aggressive landing, a certain noise, and of course, there are movements to simulate to trick fish into biting what they think is a treat. 

The best way to effectively learn and practice is with an expert, and you can search from Fisher Guiding for guides, charters, and instructors in your area or a location you’re traveling to.

Now that you know how to fish with a spook but avoid spooking fish, use these lures and techniques to catch more fish!

Fisher Guiding is the modern way to book fishing trips with guides, charters, lodges, and outfitters. Search for trips around the world and start planning your next trip today.

Above: Okeechobee Just 4 Bass Guide Service