Outdoor Life Online Editor

Think of those vast mats of lily pads and hydrilla as fish cafeterias.

All that cover is filled with critters that help bass, pike and muskies grow fat.

Weedless spoons are classic lures for enticing major-league strikes in such cover. While some soft-plastics are designed to skate over the top of the slop, weedless spoons are more versatile. They can slide over pads or snake through bulrushes; you can fish them just under the surface or a foot or two below it. Available in a variety of colors, these spoons feature a curved metal body and a single upswept hook, usually made weedless by a metal pin that extends from the lure’s body to over the hook’s tip. Tack on a soft-plastic or pork trailer to bulk up the offering.

To fish a spoon, cast it past the targeted weeds, keep the rod tip at 11 o’clock and reel the spoon back. Concentrate on irregularities in weed beds: holes, pockets or points.

When a fish blows up on the spoon, immediately drop the rod tip to 9 o’clock and count to three. Then set the hook with a rapid stroke of the rod to 12 o’clock.

Because you’re dealing with lunker fish in dense grass, use a 7-foot heavy-action bait- caster or flipping stick coupled with a high-speed reel and 20- to 30-pound mono or braided line. The long rod helps keep your line off the weeds, and the high-speed reel comes in handy for winching hooked bass or pike out of heavy vegetation. If you’re fishing for something toothy, remember to tie on a wire leader.