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Soup Spoons Catch More Fish

That’s the secret to success of John Whitman’s deadly CJ’s Spoon

When the quality of classic spoon lures fell, John Whitman decided it was time to make his own. Now, CJ’s Spoon is a hot item in Bay anglers’ tackle boxes.

John Whitman had had enough.    
    The quality of his favorite fishing lures for rockfish and blues, variations of the classic spoon, had gone downhill now that they were all made outside the U.S.
    “They used thinner, cheaper metal, poor quality feathers, badly made hooks. You couldn’t depend on them any longer,” he said. “They didn’t swim properly, they didn’t last long and big fish could sometimes break the hooks.”
    Infuriation inspired the charter boat skipper of 25 years.
    He decided to make his own.


  The yellow perch run continues in unpredictable fits and starts. Good catches reported at the Tuckahoe at Hillsboro, the Magothy at Beachwood Park, around Round Bay up in the Severn, up in the Sassafras and in the Chester.
  White perch are beginning to also show up in the mix.
  Pickerel continue to please light-tackle buffs. Crappie anglers are catching, especially on the Pocomoke and the Potomac. Catch-and-release for rockfish is open on the Susquehanna Flats (March 1 thru May 3). The water is still too cold and too dirty, but it should be more fishable soon.

Hunting Season

Light geese, conservation season: thru April

    His other life — as chef-owner of Whitman’s Catering and South County Café in Deale — put to hand the proper ingredients, real spoons. Cutting off the handles of ordinary utensils, he fitted the dish end with good hooks, dressed them with feathers and, he figured, had world-beaters on his hands. Until he put them to use.
    “They had too much resistance in the water,” he said. “The rods would be bent hard over just pulling the lure. If you tried to speed up, the spoons would spin, fouling lines. When they did hook a fish, they were easily thrown. They just didn’t work.”
    Disappointed but not discouraged, he searched for a solution.
    “When I began the project I cut the handles off various sizes of spoons, four or five at a time. I had buckets of spoon handles lying around the workshop,” he recounts. “There were lots of failures.”
    Persistence paid off.
    “One day I picked up one of the scrap handles from a soup spoon, gave it a little bit of a bend, fixed it up with a dressed hook and drilled an offset hole in the front for the leader attachment,” he said. “It didn’t look like a traditional spoon, but I thought it just might work. I gave a handful to Bobby Marshall to try, one of the top charter boat skippers out of Tilghman Island.”
    Whitman was waiting at the dock when Marshall pulled in from his first trip.
    “He had a smirk on his face and his hand out,” Whitman remembers. Give me some more of those things, Marshall said. The rock just won’t leave them alone!
    Whitman’s inspiration, named CJ’s Spoon (for Captain John), proved superior and more adaptable.
    “The new design refused to spin in the water, even if fouled with debris. That cured one of the biggest problems spoons have always had,” Whitman reports.
    At rockfish trolling speeds, these lures swam in a nice loose flashing wobble. When you went faster for bluefish, the wobble just tightened up into a fast swimming motion. When you went even faster for Spanish mackerel, it would go into a rapid shimmy.
    With little resistance in the water, several of them could be used hookless in umbrella rigs. “They look amazingly like a flashing school of baitfish,” Whitman said.
    What’s more, they caught fish.
    “Trolling with planer boards, we had nine rods in the water, each rigged with two of the new spoons. We crossed a school of big bluefish and when I looked back we had 18 fish on at one time, half of them jumping. It was pandemonium,” Whitman reported.
    In the three years since his inspiration, Whitman’s spoons have caught not only rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel, but also flounder, red drum (redfish) and weakfish.
    Whitman introduced his invention at a couple of dozen Maryland Saltwater Sportsmen Association meetings. From there, word of mouth took over. Demand is so high that he can just keep up with orders. Plans for online sales are on hold.
    Whitman has, over the last two years, refined his design, adding a large eye and colored prism accents for additional fish attraction. He also changed out fragile real feathers to a synthetic variation for a hook dressing that could withstand multiple catches as well as the teeth of bluefish and mackerel. Outfitted with best quality stainless steel hooks as standard, CJ’s Spoons last for many seasons.
    If you want to acquire some of these deadly fish seducers, you’ll have to hurry to one of the area sport stores that offer them before they sell out for Trophy Rockfish season. Buy CJ’s Spoon at Tyler’s Tackle Shop in Chesapeake Beach, Tri-State Marine in Deale and Angler’s Sport Center in Annapolis. Or buy direct at South County Café in Deale. To fish the new spoons with the man who invented them, try chartering on Patent Pending, his new Markley 46 fishing boat: 410-867-1992.