TECH IT OUT
TECH IT OUT
By Gary Caputi
TONY MAJA’S CUSTOM BUNKER SPOONS
Tony Arcabascio has honed to perfection the technique of trolling bunker spoons; if you ask him about the old spoons, he can rattle off the history immediately. He probably knew the guys who made them all - he’s fished every one over the years and knows each spoon design’s strong and weak points. After selling his popular Great Kills, NY waterfront restaurant a few years ago, Tony set out to design the ultimate bunker spoon; a lure with just the action he had found to be most productive, which was easy to use, not too speed sensitive and one that could hold up to the day in and day out fishing that would bend many other spoons. Tony thought long and hard about the design, which actually turned out to be four designs to match the hatch during different times of the season. He carefully considered the problem many spoons have with fixed hooks, small hooks or overly large bodies, which often result in a poor hook-up ratio where anglers miss upwards of 50 percent of the fish that hit some spoons, losing another 25% of the ones that are hooked.
Last fall, Tony sent a few lucky anglers prototypes to try out. The first thing I noticed was the body was considerably thicker and heavier than any other spoon I had fished to date and I’ve been fishing spoons on wire for 25 years. They were somewhat smaller than many of my personal favorites, and the thing that really got my attention was the massive split rings and enormous hooks.
even the smallest of his four models, the #1 Peanut Bunker, was armed with a stainless steel 9/0 3X Siwash hook that looked strong enough to use as a tow hook, but was needle sharp. A hook that large with such a wide gap is just what the doctor ordered for hooking more of the stripers that take a swing, with the hook neatly dressed with real bucktail, something that I’d been doing to swinging hooks for years. This was a serious spoon, but how did it run?
Getting my samples in the water I was initially concerned that they were not swimming correctly. They appeared to have a more subdued action than the typical erratic, side-to-side gyrations of other spoons. My 8-1/2-foot spoon rods weren’t working hard enough, or so I thought, but a call to Tony reassured me that they were working as intended. He said the rod will be working more softly without the deep dipping movements by design. “Just give them a workout and let the results speak for themselves.”
speak they did! First, the spoons got hit more than any of my favorites. In fact, I only had one of the #4 models and it was getting whacked with such regularity that when I lost it in a snag, I begged Tony for another one. The Maja spoon got more strikes, hands down, and the lazier action seemed to make it an easier target. Combined with the bigger hook and quality hardware, my hook up ratio soared and I rarely lost a fish. Losing that first spoon over bottom I’ve fi shed a thousand times got me thinking. I never snag bottom in that area with my other spoons, even the largest ones, and the reason was Tony’s spoons are heavier and run a little deeper than the others with the same amount of wire in the water.
Rest assured, Tony’s production model spoons swim just as well as his handmade prototypes and the action I’ve found is consistent from one spoon to another. Stripers preferred the #3 Herring/Bunker model early in the season when alewives or bluebacks were present and the #4 Adult Bunker model when big menhaden are around. In the fall the #1 Peanut and #2 Lollipop/Butterfish models mimic the smaller bunker that pour out of bays and rivers in September and October. Whatever the bait, Tony has got you covered. Tony Maja’s Custom Bunker Spoons are in stores now and come in white, chartreuse, and chartreuse and green (my favorite, but they all work). If you don’t have 8- or 9- foot spoon rods, these spoons run extremely well on shorter trolling rods as long as they are relatively soft in the tip.