Pound Sand For More JumbosBy Jason Halfen - February 5, 2021
Throughout the ice belt, hardwater perch collect in vast numbers on mid-depth, sandy flats. These areas may have some scattered low-growing vegetation or perhaps stands of chara - a calcified algae also known as stonewort. Perch gather here for one reason: this is where their finned forage is - baitfish like small shiners and young-of-the-year perch. Additionally, these same areas tend to have low densities of other predators; pike will be much more weed-oriented, and while walleyes may patrol these flats under the cover of darkness, there are few perch-eating toothy predators on these flats during the day. If you're a winter jumbo, this equation is squarely in your favor: lots to eat, and few things that want to eat you.
Big perch on the flats are meat eaters. Leave the waxies, spikes and tungsten jigs at home. Bring spoons - I like to use spoons that cover a lot of ground as they tumble and fall. Spoons like the Slender Spoon from Custom Jigs and Spins, or the VMC Tingler spoon, are excellent choices. Dress that spoon with a minnow head - or even a minnow tail for an entirely different action. I use 10 lb test PowerPro to provide a strong, sensitive connection to my lure, with the braided main line linked to my spoon through a 12-18" leader of 6 lb test fluorocarbon. Use a quality swivel between braided line and leader to help eliminate line twist from the tumbling spoon. I like a 32-34" rod while hole-hopping for jumbos; the 33" G. Loomis IMX-Pro 331F is an excellent choice, as its medium-light power is very sporty when chasing panfish, while its fast action features a sensitive tip that transitions rapidly into a stout backbone for positive hooksets. Rig up a 500-series Shimano Nasci reel, and you're ready for anything that the sand flats throw your way.
If you're looking for a quality Midwest perch adventure, I am happy to recommend Brindley's Harbor Resort, on beautiful Leech Lake near Walker, MN. Brindley's Harbor offers a unique, perch-focused guide service that will keep you filling the pail with fish, with fun on the ice paired with tremendous accommodations and hospitality to match. I've been visiting Brindley's Harbor for years during both the open water and hardwater seasons, and I know that you'll thoroughly enjoy your stay. Find them on the web at brindleysharbor.com.