Two goals were foremost in Robert Hopkins' mind when he set out to build a new fishing spoon in the early 1940s. He wanted a lure that would cast for long distances to reach far-away gamefish. And he wanted a lure that would fool a wide variety of saltwater species.
Both goals would help in fishing the fertile waters of Chesapeake Bay near his Virginia home. But also he hoped they would be broadly applicable to other saltwater situations as well. Who knows, perhaps the lures would even catch on for freshwater fishing as well.
The offering Hopkins' created, the No=EQL, and later the Shorty spoon, developed for his company by Robbie Roberts, met both aims. Both Hopkins spoon models caught almost every fish they could try them on in saltwater and they cast extremely well, even in the teeth of a strong wind -- an all-too common occurrence on the Chesapeake Bay.
But even though it was a secondary goal, it was in fresh water that the Hopkins spoon really caught fire and became nationally famous. And in that setting, ironically, it wasn't for its ability to cast long distances that the spoon shone. Instead, the Hopkins spoon soon became the go-to lure for vertically jigging. With this technique you don't cast at all, but instead fish right under the boat.
Bass tournament fishermen latched onto the lure for its effectiveness when using that method. But soon anglers found that walleyes, freshwater stripers, white bass, trout and pike would also grab these thin, slender spoons with abandon in sweet-water settings.
Today, over half a century later, anglers still turn to the Hopkins spoon when fish are holding deep over structure and a vertical jigging lure is required. It has a marvelous wounded-shad action and a lifelike appearance as it flutters through the water. The lure's rugged construction is also appealing. It's almost indestructible.
Hopkins' original lures were made from stainless steel knife handles that he ground down and pounded with a hammer. Today the spoons are not cast or stamped out, but are forged from solid stainless steel to ensure the highest quality. The lures are then copper-plated, nickel-plated, and finally chrome-plated to obtain the most durable finish possible.
Tactics: These lures will catch virtually all gamefish in fresh or saltwater. They can be cast and steadily retrieved, worked erratically with a pumping motion, trolled or dragged behind a drifting boat over likely fish-holding areas. The top method of all for presenting the lures, however, is to vertically jig them.
Find fish, structure, or baitfish on a depth finder, or better still all three components. Then lower the lure down to the level of the fish or a foot or two above them. Then pump the Hopkins up and down in a rhythmic motion, between 12 and 36 inches. Watch for strikes as the lure flutters down on the "drop." The line might twitch sideways or you might feel a subtle tap.
Set the hook hard in either case. And hold on tight. The Hopkins is famous for catching BIG fish.
As you head out to deer hunt this year, you'll do well to concentrate on areas other than oak flats and ridges. After last year's amazing crop of acorns, there seem to be very few this fall. I have rarely seen the woods so barren of nuts in many decades. Local logger Gary Clem told me the same thing. He's seeing virtually no acorns where he's working in Shenandoah County.
In some ways this should make the hunting more productive because the deer will have to move more to find scarce foods. Those who hunt cover near food plots or agricultural crops such as corn, alfalfa and soybeans will likely see good deer activity.
And if you do luck out and find an area with a lot of acorns, that spot should be a great place to hang a stand for the muzzleloader season opener on Nov. 2 or rifle season on Nov. 16.
Good luck, and keep safety foremost in mind during the firearms deer seasons.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.