By Jason Mitchell
Few lures can be as effective day in and day out for jumbo perch as spoons. This lure category packs weight, flash and water displacement into the presentation. Spoons can be seen and one aspect of finding fish is making sure that the fish can find you. An easy to find profile not only pulls fish in but can also raise fish further off the bottom and the higher you can lift perch, the easier they are to catch. Day in and day out, I find myself using some type of spoon whenever I am looking for perch or hunting down schools of aggressive fish. Spoons can shine whenever you need to eliminate water or are in a situation where the battle is simply finding fish knowing that if you can hunt these fish down… you will catch them.
What can make winter perch fishing challenging is the somewhat randomness of their location and the fact that these fish are often moving. Perch can often be found relating to some type of definite edge but when schools of fish start roaming expansive flats and basins, there is a certain unpredictable ness where you have to be willing to drill holes in order to find fish. Perch can also range dramatically in aggressiveness from recklessness to demanding finesse. While tough bites can demand small tungsten jig profiles or even dead stick presentations, many bites can be discovered and maximized by using spoons.
Deep Water Exploration
Spoons can shine over deep water for a variety of reasons. Deep water is often darker so the larger profile and flash of a spoon can be seen from further away. Most of the time in water deeper than twenty feet, I like to use a lead spoon that drops fast to maximize my fishing time but also drops straight down without swaying to the edge of the cone angle so I can watch the spoon on my electronics through the entire descent. The Clam Tackle Speed Spoon was designed specifically for this application.
This particular spoon drops through the water fast and drops straight down without any drift and features a short dropper chain which is deadly for combining a little bit of finesse to the presentation. On hotter bites, replace the chain with a treble hook. I find that my batting average is better if I use a treble hook whenever tipping with anything that has bulk like a minnow head, perch eye (where legal) or a Makki XL Minnow.
Besides adding some weight for pounding the mud along with profile and flash, a spoon also essentially works as a delivery system for your bait whether you are using soft plastics, Eurolarvae, a minnow or some other type of live bait. With that being said, I often find myself changing hooks on the spoon to maximize the efficiency of the presentation. When finesse requires wax worms or Eurolarvae, I often stick with the chain dropper but switch hooks when I can. I have the mentality that I am going to use the largest hook I can get away with because when you hook fish on a larger hook, you can reel the fish up faster and put a lot more leverage on the fish and also unhook the fish faster.
Another deep-water spoon tactic we pioneered many years ago is a method we call “bottom dragging” which shines whenever fish are keying on invertebrates in the mud. If you catch perch that have mud in their gills or really pink gills and pink scales on the belly, those fish are rubbing on the bottom. The bottom dragging technique requires a spoon like the Clam Tackle Blade Spoon that does drift to the side of the hole when fished over deeper water. To maximize the drift, let the spoon free fall to the side of the hole as far as possible. When the spoon hits the bottom, slowly drag the spoon back towards the center of the hole. I find that I often do better with this technique if I tie about a six-inch dropper below the spoon. The drag has to be slow and tedious. We have seen this presentation shine on tough bites where the fish won’t accelerate toward the presentation or lift off the bottom.
Running and Gunning Shallow Water
The nuances of finding perch changes in less than ten feet of water. Flutter spoons can really shine particularly in clear water. There are times when we see perch respond to a spoon as soon as it clears the bottom of the hole in really clear water. I also find myself incorporating soft plastics with a single hook spoon much more so in shallow water or in some cases not using any bait at all. Shallow water fish are notorious for being more aggressive so your presentation and strategy should reflect the attitude of the fish.
So often, shallow water demands even more mobility as it seems like ninety percent of the fish can be caught in ten percent windows… where you have to simply eliminate water and find that hot hole or two each day where you can wind up on the fish. When you finally find the fish, you are on them where multiple fish are stacked up below and you literally have a fish on as soon as you get back down. The key to catching fish is simply finding them and than being as efficient as possible so you catch as many fish as possible before you lose them.
On these torrid shallow water bites, I like the efficiency of a large gap single hook. No split ring or treble hook, use a fixed hook spoon like the Clam Tackle Blade Jig where a larger hook is molded into the spoon. This single hook accomplishes a couple of things… you can load up a soft plastic or more bait on to the hook but also the larger hook allows you to reel the fish up faster and allows you to unhook the fish much faster which speeds up your turn around time. I will even go so far as to bend out the hook and pinch down the barb so I can get fish unhooked even faster. I will also use heavier line and a stiffer rod just so I can crank the fish up as fast as possible as the name of the game is maximizing your opportunities.
One of my favorite presentations over shallow water is to horizontally rig a Makki XL Minnow on to a Blade Jig. We filmed an episode on Lake Winnibigoshish a few winters ago with this presentation and the number of fish you can catch on a soft plastic is staggering. Again, you make yourself more efficient by being able to get fish unhooked faster and not having to rebait.
As a general rule of thumb, we rely more so on glow colors and gold over deeper water or whenever light penetration is less. Chromes, metallic and realistic finishes can often shine over deeper water but color is sometimes over rated in that there are many variables and factors that are usually much more important. The most important factor is finding the fish and being efficient with the bites and how you manage the school. Match the spoon profile and characteristics with the water and don’t be afraid to make additional tweaks to hook size to maximize your efficiency on the ice this winter.