Tweaking your spoon technique will help you catch more perch this winter

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By Jason Mitchell

When it comes to ice fishing, a primary aspect of finding perch is making sure they can find you, and spoons can be seen very easily by fish. A spoon’s easy-to-find profile not only pulls fish in, but it can also raise fish further off the bottom. And, the higher you can lift perch in the water column, 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 them down, you will catch them.

What can make ice fishing for perch challenging is the somewhat random nature of their location and the fact that these fish are often on the move. 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 unpredictability that means you have to be willing to drill plenty of holes in order to find fish.

Perch can also range dramatically in aggressiveness, all the way from recklessness to demanding finesse. While tough bites can demand small tungsten jig profiles or even deadstick 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 20 feet I like to use a lead spoon that drops fast to maximize my fishing time. Also, lead spoons typically drop straight down without swaying to the edge of my Vexilar’s cone angle so I can watch the spoon through its entire descent. The Clam Tackle Speed Spoon was designed specifically for this application.

This particular spoon drops through the water fast and 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 such as a minnow head, perch eye (where legal) or a Maki 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 spoons to maximize the presentation’s efficiency.

When finesse requires wax worms or Eurolarvae, I often stick with the dropper chain 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 with more leverage and also unhook it much 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 drifts 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 — the drag has to be slow and tedious — back toward the center of the hole.

I find that I often do better with this technique if I tie about a 6-inch dropper below the spoon. We have seen this presentation shine on tough bites where the fish won’t accelerate toward the presentation or lift off the bottom.

Shallow run and gun

The nuances of finding perch change in less than 10 feet of water. Flutter spoons can really shine when fished shallow, 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.

In shallow water I also find myself incorporating soft plastics with a single-hook spoon much more 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.

Shallow water so often demands even more mobility as it seems like 90 percent of the fish can be caught in 10 percent windows. In other words, 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 perch, you might even be lucky enough to encounter a scenario 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 then 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. Try to stay away from a split ring or treble hook, and use a fixed-hook spoon such as Clam’s Blade Jig where a larger hook is molded into the spoon.

A single-hook accomplishes a couple of things when you’re on a hot perch bite. First, you can load up a soft plastic or more bait onto the hook, but, more importantly, the larger hook allows you to reel the fish up faster and allows you to unhook the fish much faster which speeds up your turnaround 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 efficiency and maximizing your opportunities in that short window of time.

One of my favorite presentations over shallow water is to horizontally rig a Maki XL Minnow onto 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 on glow colors and gold over deeper water or whenever light penetration is less. Chromes, metallics and realistic finishes can shine over deeper water, but color is sometimes overrated 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.

About the author: Jason Mitchell earned a reputation as a top walleye guide on Devils Lake, N.D. Today he produces Jason Mitchell Outdoors, which airs on Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Midwest. For more information, go to

Spoon designs that not only sink fast but also drop straight down without drifting can maximize your efficiency for perch while fishing over deep water. Photo by Jason Mitchell Outdoors
Without a doubt, spoons are one of the most effective lures for catching perch once the lakes and rivers freeze each year. While “spoon” is a general term that covers a broad spectrum of lures, this category typically packs three important factors — weight, flash and water displacement — into one presentation. Photo by Jason Mitchell Outdoors