The TNT 180; what a remarkable slab spoon! On a recent trip (31 July 2008) to Lake Monroe, Indiana I had the great good fortune to try one of these incredible lures made by Bryon Nolan of Trolling Nolan's Tackle Company, and I gotta say, this slab catches fish.
I wanted to field test the lure for several months now, but the weather in Indiana has been insanely wet this year, and even now, the lake still is not at summer pool, although it is getting close. So, I decided this might be a good time to try this lure out. I have been fishing slab spoons for many years now and have thrown just about every imaginable slab at the wipers in this lake. Some of my slabs have been pulled across the bottom so many times, I've had to repaint them a couple of times. I would estimate I wear out or hang up no fewer than ten slabs each year. They are my favorite lure, so I was was excited to try out a new version of this familiar old friend.
The day was mostly clear, the water was warm and there was no wind to speak of. Air temps were in the mid to upper eighties. The lake level is about a foot to a foot-and-a-half over summer pool, but the fish seem to be settling into their pre-2008 summer patterns. My partner, Mr. Piggy, and I launched at 2:30 P.M. at the Fairfax Ramp and raced off to our favorite spots.
The first thing I noticed about Trolling Nolan's 1 oz. TNT 180 was the high quality of the paints he uses. Not only does it appear to be good quality paint, but the color combinations and pattern seem to be a good mix of lights and darks, not too much of one or the other, and there was the added bonus of the eyes and shad spots. At a weight of 1 oz. you'd better have pretty heavy gear; no spinning outfits with this puppy. It casts a country mile and sinks like a stone, which is what I was looking for, since I was fishing off a point that dropped from five feet to twenty-five feet by the time the lure was back at the boat. I believe that the larger wipers are always near the bottom. They'll come up to feed and chase shad, but they go right back to the bottom when they're done. And if the schools of smaller wipers are feeding near the top, the Larger fish are always nearby, waiting to gobble down fleeing baitfish. The TNT 180 was exactly right for this situation.
On the first or second cast, I hit close to the shore and let the lure sink to the bottom. I slowly followed the contour of the bottom, occasionally letting the lure tap bottom just to be sure it was where I wanted it to be. About halfway to the boat, a fish weighing nearly nine pounds (8.14) took the lure. The hook clung like a magnet, even though when I got the fish to the boat I could see that it was barely hanging into the corner of its mouth. What a beautiful fish!
Next, I tried trolling the TNT 180 across the same area. Rather than fire up the big engine, I trolled with the trolling motor on high, and on the first pass another wiper, this one about a five pounder, hit the lure. The fight was great and the fish came to the boat with the lure attached, textbook fashion, in the corner of its mouth. It was 3:25 p.m. and I had my Indiana limit: two fish over 17 inches in length. Needless to say, I was impressed.
We remained until dark. We tried long line trolling with the big motor--my least favorite way to fish since it is hard on the environment, expensive and noisy--and I caught another eight-and-a-half pounder, and again it was a textbook hooking. Before leaving for the night, I caught three fair-sized crappie on this lure, and on one long line turn I caught the largest yellow bass I have ever seen. I drug that lure over the rocks and nearly lost it a couple of times, but at the end of the day, the paint was as bright and unchipped as it had been when I first snipped the loose end off my Palomar knot.
Mr. Piggy used everything in his tacklebox, but he didn't have any of the TNT lures and he managed to catch one wiper of less than a pound and one yellow bass, both on Kastmasters.
If you like spoon fishing, (and you should like it if you prefer angling to fishing) you should like spoon fishing. You'll save on gas. There will be less noise in your life, and you'll be doing your part to cut down on air and water pollution at your favorite fishing spot. I recommend giving Bryon Nolan a call or contacting him at his web site. Here's how to get in touch with him:
Trolling Nolan's Tackle Company