Chasing big perch

With the river season over, Ady and myself often switch off from the pike fishing and turn our attentions to other things. This usually means a mixture of species and mostly on lighter gear. We still may have the odd dabble for pike but mostly for the next few months at least, it will be light lure fishing. It makes a nice relaxing change from the hard graft of pike fishing. Actually it’s not always relaxing as we go a bit hard no matter what we do, and I will explain our approach to perch later in this post.

So first thing up was for us both to sort a new outfit. We get a few offers now and again and we are lucky enough to be able to have a play about with bits of kit. First off a new rod was on the cards. Something with a bit of sensitivity but also a bit of back bone so you could give the fish a bit of hammer or so it would handle the pike we would still no doubt catch. My buddy Martin at Lurelounge suggested we have a look at the Favorite rods he had coming in and we both opted for the Bluebird. At 1.5g-8g it seemed perfect for jigging, should be fine for the smaller trout lures but also importantly for us, be able to handle casting the 5cm Rapala jointed shad rap and X rap shad that we use for big perch.

I switched my new Daiwa Legalis 1500 on to my rod and Ady pulled out an old Shimano Aernos for his, though he soon realized that he needs to treat himself to a new reel as his shimmy has seen better days. Now I’d spooled up my reel with 8lb Suffix nanobraid a few months ago. I’m positive I spooled it up right, but the braid seemed to always be twisting and tangles would arise. On top of that I felt it seemed to break too easily, not anywhere near the 8lb mark. I’ve always pretty much used Power Pro because i’ve never had any issues. Usually I’m reluctant to try new braids and so I thought about putting some Power Pro on the Legalis until I spoke to Gary at American Tackle who suggested I try the Bushido combat braid, so I did.

So that’s the gear sorted, we are ready to fish. For you, well it’s a bit of a  guide, you don’t need to have the exact combos, but it gives you an idea of where you want to be. We’ve had umpteen combos over the years, some perfect some a bit of a bodge job but the important thing is to get yourself fishing first and upgrade later or fine tune your gear to suit your preferred way of fishing. The only other bits of kit i’ve not spoken about, a wire trace. I was using knot2kinky wire which you can easily tie by hand and make a trace to suit your set up. I won’t get in to the wire versus fluorocarbon debate and whether wire puts off perch or not. I think the article itself will answer that question as you read on. As for lures, whatever floats your boat really. A selection of soft plastics in sizes that a big perch might want. Say 2 inch up to about 4 inch is good. Yeah 4 inch, you are chasing big perch aren’t you? Not the little wasps, that’s a different ball game all together. All though the approach for most people chasing big perch is soft plastics, for us, they are only there as an option. Our preferred lures are crank baits and as most already know we love to use the Rapalas, jointed shad rap and X rap shad are a great option. Now if you want, you can fill four lure boxes up with a massive selection of softies and hard baits and you can lug them around all day, swapping and changing in an attempt to figure out that one lure they want. Or, you can trust that with just a couple of lures, you have it all covered. You have enough variety to catch fish in various situations and you can trust that it’s not so much about what brand of lure they want but more that you know your lures work and you need to find that big hungry perch, and that if you find that big hungry perch, any of your lures will do the job. I reckon that between me and Ady we had around six or seven different lures and probably twenty lures between us. Let’s go find those perch.

So without trying to seem like I’m having a pop at anyone here, everyone these days seems to go out fishing and have super glue on their feet. How many times do I bump in to people on the bank who have been in the same spot for ages, I can even go off and fish for a couple of hours and come back and they are still there. Some days i see lines of four or five lure anglers covering fifty meters of bank, cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. Dip in to the four tier lure bag and pull out another lure. Cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. Now that method is fine if you are catching, but if you are not, why do they carry on at it for the next hour? Unless you are in a well known spot then that is a waste of time, fish do swim about, one minute they are there the next they have moved fifty meters, hundred meters and more. This is probably where the superstar anglers are ready to jump in and tell me that grinding a spot is a great way of catching big perch. Grinding a well known spot with a few fancy techniques and trying to lure that magical stripey to take your lure. Yes it does work, especially if all you ever do is fish those same spots day in and day out, raping the shit out of them. Well done pal, you’re a lure angling superstar. Why don’t you write me an article explaining that it was all down to that special brand of soft lure you’ve attached yourself to that made all the difference? These poor newcomers to the sport are so filled with shite by some of you that they think the only answer to their problems is to go out and buy your lures, cos you said so.  >insert rolling eyes emoji<

Ady and myself prefer to stay away from the crowds/circus and as a consequence we have to work our socks off for a fish. That’s why we travel light, because we will cover some amount of canal in search of our fish. Location is key, not all canals will produce the big fish but I do have to say, that every single canal that I have ever fished has produced a perch of 2lb plus and who knows else what lurks? Get out and give them a go for yourself and see what shows up. They don’t come easy and they aren’t as numerous as the little wasps and angry teenage perch that always seem to be everywhere. You’re fishing for one or two small pods of big perch and you have to work out where they might be, or get lucky. The canal we chose we hadn’t even fished for a year. We know it has some nice fish in, but we were aware that the recent rise in popularity of lure fishing means that it will no doubt have been fished most days for that last year. This can mean that the bagging up spots might have moved and the fish broken up, it might mean the perch have moved far away from the features or it might mean that the fish have seen it all. Every combination of lure flying past their noses and we now have a bunch of perch that are lure shy. This could be hard work.

We were joined on our session by a buddy, Drew. We’ve fished a few times together but shifts and such mean organizing a session isn’t always easy. Last time out we were trout fishing and we managed to help him break his pb in spectacular fashion with a proper lump of a brown trout. He already has a superb pb perch under his belt, a couple of notches over the 3lb mark but we quietly whispered to him that there was every chance he could beat that today, if we could find those perch. On these sessions you can easily fish all day and catch nothing and that is the risk you take. Our approach is the slightly larger lures, the noisy cranks and this approach is a searching method and one that will mostly rule out the larger shoals of perch. We’re chasing one fish today but it could be a whacker!

We actually had a bit of a late start, crack of dawn had been and gone and it was well after 8am before we even got to the water. Bit of traveling involved but sometimes you need to have a change of scenery  or the fishing can become boring. Canals aren’t my favourite to be honest but early doors in the closed season I’m quite up for it. By about May I’m pulling my hair out and thinking about the rivers again. But the canal is where we were heading and if a few fish are caught then there is a chance that one of us at least will be smiling. Rolling up to the car park, surprisingly not another angler in sight. I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or a sign that the fishing on here had been poor recently. Only one way to find out. We all grabbed our gear and had a few chucks in the first spot. Casting around, this bridge used to throw up loads of fun size perch and the chance of something bigger if you were lucky. While the fun size perch were not our intended target it would have been nice to have caught a few here. It didn’t happen, not a nibble or a pluck. Sure sign that this spot has been fished recently and probably hammered over the last twelve months. No bother, we didn’t intend on standing here jigging and drop shotting all day anyway. So off we went, a handful of lures and our trusty feet to help us find some perch.

We explained to Drew that the idea is to leap frog each other, covering loads of water and using noisy cranks to grab the attention of the fish. Hopefully we could cover loads of water between us and find a pod or two of large stripey spikey things. The clarity of the water was ok, enough visibility to see a following perch and enough murkiness to give us some cover and give the perch the confidence to hit the lures rather than just follow. All we had to do is fan cast the water in front of us, and then move on. Quietly leap frogging along the bank, casting up along the edge first and then covering the water in front of us. The plan is a good one, it has worked for me and Ady in the past and we were quietly confident that it would work again. The first canal session I am always switched on, ready for a few fish and the thought of a potential long hard blank don’t really enter my head so much. But that could easily happen.

Drew asked Ady which lure to stick on and after a quick glance in Drew’s lure box, he spotted a Jointed shad rap in hot tiger, “that one pal” he said. Ady put on a smaller 4cm jointed shad rap because he’d brought the wrong bloody lure box and instead of the perch lures he had his trout lures. I stuck on a small Ujka lure thinking we would have a bit of variety between us. After a hundred meters, I could see Ady wasn’t happy as his 4cm lure wasn’t getting down the required depths. He had me digging out my lure box and offering him up a few choices, and he went for one of his favourites, the Rapala X rap shad. Not too much later I was making a switch myself and since Drew had a nice bright shad rap on i went for a more natural looking pattern, an old Walleye pattern. not really natural for these parts but you get the idea. At least me and Ady were happy now, confident in our lures again, that they were getting down to the right depths and we knew we just had to stick to the plan. After about an hour of this and not a fish to be seen, I’m not so sure Drew was happy with our plan. Stick with it, we explained. The fish can come from anywhere. They are not always in the most obvious spots and we have to work and find them. You see this method of fishing isn’t for everyone.

Often in lure fishing you role up to a fishy spot, start off small, catch a few fish and you are enjoying yourself and a bit of sport. The sport dries up, so you change lures, methods or spots and you start to catch some fun size perch again. Nice bit of sport and some good fun. Before you know it, time is ticking on and you’ve caught plenty. But often you do this, and nothing of note shows up. No big stripeys to show for all your effort and when the fishing is tough, you resort to finesse tactics to try and tempt a fish or two. The drop shot comes out, tinniest of movements on the rod tip, keeping the lure in their faces and eventually a fish. But for us, it’s the opposite. Stick to the larger lures, stick to keeping mobile and just keep fishing, moving and hammering away trying to find that one fish. Go big or go home.

Three hours have gone past now and we’ve not had a sniff. We come to a canal narrowing and then finally I manage to catch the first fish of the day, a fun size perch. We’ve kind of reached the wall now, where the enthusiasm is nearly gone and all excitement at the prospect of a big perch are practically gone. So the tiny lures come out and we’re jigging around like loonies for fun size perch. Luckily, i managed to come to my senses and snapped at the lads to pack this in and get  moving. “We can catch these anywhere lads, we haven’t come for these” and so off we toddle, plodding on along the canal in our search for the biggest fish of them all.

Within about ten minutes of moving I get the first hit of something decent. A couple of violent shakes and I shout to the lads I have a fish. My heart racing as the rod is bent double and the tell tale fight of a large perch, or so I first thought. The fight changes and the short sudden lunges tell me this is no perch but in fact a pike and by the time the lads get to me we all know it’s a pesky pike. I do love pike, but they are a bugger when you’re heart has just been racing at the thought of a huge perch. At least its a fish and Drew kindly slides his net under and then quickly takes me a photo.
Another couple hundred meters of water covered and I think we are nearing four hours of fishing without a single sighting of a chunky perch. Drew is blanking and is starting to doubt there are even any bloody perch in this canal. This kind of fishing is really tough on the body and the mind, its draining and it’s hard to keep your head on the target. You start to doubt your tactics and your mind starts to wonder. You want to try other tactics, you need to catch a fish, you have a bag full of lures and surely there is one in there that will do you a job. We reach a bridge and have a cast around with the softies, but for me and Ady it’s a quick few flicks around and after not so much as a bump we are confident that nothing is here that we want and so off we move yet again. A quick few words from Ady and Drew is back on track, putting the trusty jointed shad rap back on and again we are off leap frogging. We passed a couple of spots where we have previously caught nice perch in the past. The initial excitement of the chance for a large perch comes and then quickly goes and before long we have covered another few hundred meters of water and again, nothing.

The good thing about these days fishing with others is that when the going gets really tough, at least you can still take the piss out of each other. That itself gives you a little bit of an energy boost, raises the spirits and enables you to conquer those nagging thoughts in your head. Soldier on we must and soldier on we will. In front of us is another, boring featureless bit of canal. Nothing to target and nothing standing out that says anything special or points to the potential of a perch holding spot. Though we have to remember that while all above water may not scream fish, we really don’t know what is down there and there could be something somewhere here that holds a few fish. As Ady passes me, casting up the canal I stand just off his shoulder, ready to cast. “I’m going to cast right behind you hear pal when you hook this perch” I explained. We’d explained to Drew before that if one guy catches a perch, first priority is to get that one in the net but then the other lads need to be fishing in the same spot. So often the big perch hang around in small groups and when one large perch is caught, it is the perfect opportunity to bag a couple more. A few cranks of the handle and a few twitches of the X rap later and Ady is calling out, he has a big perch on. The typical jagged fight of a big stripey and I can see his rod rattling away as the perch keeps darting for the bottom. Ady gains control and Drew quickly slips the net under while I’m already casting at the spot where the perch came from. Ady instructs Drew to do the same and we are both casting around, hoping and praying that we can bag another one. Ady unhooks the perch and leaves it to rest safely in the net before joining us casting around the area to try and bag another, and he did. “I’m in” he shouts and again Drew is quick to net the second fish for Ady. Two lovely fish in two casts and finally Drew starts to believe that this method might actually bag him a fish.

Ady and myself set about sorting the fish out and getting some photos while we instruct Drew to keep fishing to see if anything else will show. The immediate area in front of us and where the perch came from doesn’t throw up any more and before long Drew has made his way a little further down the canal away from where the action took place. A few photos are taken and me and Ady have a little chat, full of enthusiasm again and happy that we have managed to bag a couple of nice fish. Ady is beaming with his double capture and i’m just happy one of us has at least caught. These days are tough and if we all blank its a bit of a downer but so long as at least one of us bags a good fish, then it is a result. Drew is a good sixty meters from us now, fishing hard. We ponder on what is going through his head right now. Excited that Ady has caught but at the same time gutted he’s still not had a good fish. “At least they both came to you pal and not one each to both of us mate” I said. That one would be tough on Drew we thought. It’s bad enough not getting in on the fish but if everyone else but you has caught a big perch it’s even tougher. No soon as we have said that, there’s a shout from sixty meters away. “I’m in, I’m in. Get the net, get the net!” Camera still in my hands I set off running down the bank towards Drew. I look up and see his rod bent double, and on the floor at his feet, there lays his own net. but Drew is just too drawn to the huge perch he has on that he doesn’t even realize the net is beside him. I can’t run and talk cos I’m belting down the bank faster than Usain Bolt. Just as I bend down to pick up the net I get my first glimpse of the fish, and its a good un. I slide the net under and Drew is jumping for joy. “What’s your pb again pal?” I ask.
With the two perch in the net, plus Drews super pb 3lb 10oz perch we set about getting a few photos. I think Drew is in shock and just can’t believe he’s just bagged such a superb fish. This method of lure fishing takes you from rock bottom to being on top of the world, and all in an instant. From feeling like you are never going to catch, doubting everything you are doing, out of no where it happens and you are left quivering like a little baby at the sight of something magical darting around in front of you. When you lift the thing out of the net it grows again and you just can’t believe what you are seeing. These perch are just something special.

There’s a spring in the step of everyone now and what was turning in to a long hard day is now a splendid result for everyone, except me of course. Ha ha, but that’s the way it is sometimes and to be honest I wasn’t that fussed. These are special moments and next time it will be me with the fish and someone else missing out. Me and Ady have had days where he’s bagged up and i’ve blanked and likewise the other way around. Luckily those days where one of us misses out are rare and usually we both get at least something from the day, even if one of us catches slightly more. Drew suggests now that the only thing missing from the day to make it perfect is for me to get one. “Don’t say that mate” explains Ady, “the spawny bastard will probably bag a bigger one”.

Next cast, a few cranks of the handle, a few twitches and my lure is smacked. Big fish! Ady is next to me with the net and we see this thing coming up and then going back down. “Net this quick Ady” I say in a panicked voice. This thing is massive, deep bellied and potentially a massive fish. Rod bent, i turn the fish and as it comes up Ady slides the net under. “This is huge” he says as I leap for joy. The scales swing round and drop short of the magical figure, but who really cares. At 3lb 15oz it is the biggest of the day and a tremendous fish, truly tremendous.
I think by now we are all happy with the result and even though we soldier on for a little while longer, deep down i think we were all ready for a bit of food and drink and a chill out in the car. We fished for a good half an hour or so, leap frogging our way on the trusty method and trying to catch another big perch. Drew is in front and Ady feels it is time to pull a prank. He whispers to me and says, “watch this” then proceeds to wait for the perfect moment and as Drew is winding in his lure he taps the end of his rod butt section. Instinct kicks in as Drew feels the hit, or so he thinks, and he yanks in to thin air nearly pulling his arm out of joint. Ady and myself are chuckling away like little kids at the back, Drew unaware of what just happened and thinking he just missed another big perch is gutted. Again, he gets a twang and quickly reacts “I’m in” he shouts. Wait a minute, Ady didn’t do it a second time. He’s bloody in to a perch again, ha, marvelous. As Ady nets the perch he’s explaining to Drew what the hell just went on and claiming that this 2lb 13oz perch is part his capture too. Super end to the day and another cracking capture.

So there you have it. A little insight in to how we go about targeting the big perch. It’s not an easy method and as described earlier, can be really draining and especially so if you don’t manage to catch one of the dream fish. There are other ways to do it and on other waters this might not work and standard jigging is more suited. We could have jigged for perch but since we didn’t even know where they were we had to go find them. If you are hammering a spot that has perch you can roll up with fancy techniques and try something different to wangle a fish out but to do all that on here would mean you wouldn’t have even got within a mile of the spot we found the perch and you certainly wouldn’t walk the couple of miles to target such a featureless open bit of water with softies.

As for our new combos, we ll we both love the new rod. Really great bit of kit and handled the fish really well. Perfect for the 5cm shad raps and sensitive enough to fish small softies too. I have used one inch lures and 3g jigs to have a bit of sport on the fun size perch already so I know it will do me a good job with those not just chasing the big ones. My reel is bang on though I already knew that as i’ve been using it a few months now. Ady on the other hand is on the lookout for a new shiny reel, no doubt he wants a blue one to match the rod. First impressions of the Bushido braid is really good. It’s silky smooth from the start and doesn’t need three weeks to bed in or soften up like some braids do and we were able to cast a fair distance too. So we are really pleased with our new bits of kit,  looking forward to giving them some more time on the bank and catching a few more fish on them.

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