Puny perch are child’s play, but patterning potbellies is almost impossible without a bulletproof game plan. Veteran perch guide and avowed jumbo junkie Jeff Sundin follows the food supply to track trophies year-round on Minnesota’s Lake Winnibigoshish.
Minnows are the main course from late spring into early summer, as perch patrol shallow sand flats adjacent to drop-offs, rocks and other structure. In search mode, Sundin pulls spinner rigs perpendicular to shore in depths of six to eight feet. Once on perch, he slows down, casting and vertical jigging 1/16- to 1/8-ounce leadheads
tipped with minnows or whale-tail softbaits.
As midsummer arrives, crayfish hatches are king. Shallow gravel and near-shore rocks fire up first, followed by deeper main-lake bars. A jig sweetened with a minnow or ’crawler section is deadly as perch gorge on juvenile craws. Sundin hovers over key structure, jigging aggressively to attract attention, then slows the cadence as curious perch congregate beneath the boat.
In late summer, the bite switches back to baitfish as young-of-the-year perch reach edible size. The playing field widens exponentially to include deep main-lake bars and humps, plus subtle, secondary shoreline breaks. Slow-troll a fathead or rainbow chub on a live-bait rig
with a 3-foot leader, adding a small spinner blade when the perch are snapping. For fish pinned to deep structure, vertically jig a ¼- to 3/8-ounce leadhead
tipped with a minnow.