Panfish spinbaits that feature a flicker blade as part of their design are outstanding for panfish like perch, bluegills, and crappies. The small blade creates a surprising amount of flash and vibration that attracts fish visually and via their lateral line, which entices fish to chase a bait from quite a distance.
Spinbaits are easy to use. A 6 1/2- to 7-foot medium-light to light-action spinning rod equipped with a slightly oversized spinning reel spooled with 2-, 4-, or 6-pound-test mono allows for long efficient casts. Cast to key spots and use a steady retrieve to get the blade to throb in a natural fashion. Pausing or speeding up your retrieve often also entices strikes. Spinnerbaits work for panfish, but bass, pike, and even walleyes strike them, too. It's a wonder we don't use them more than we do.
Mini-Spinnerbaits: Miniature spinnerbaits featuring a fixed arm that positions the blade over the hook of the bait are a good option around weeds and brush.
Jig-Spinnerbaits: (original Beetle Spin style baits) feature a free-swinging wire safety-pin arm attached to the line-tie of a small jig. Although these baits come prerigged with a specific plastic, you can team other soft baits, like tubes, curlytail grubs, straight grubs, shad baits, or tiny twintail frogs, to modify the action of the bait. Low-action plastics like grubs or split-tail baits offer a subtle action compared to high-action soft plastics, like curlytail grubs or shad baits that work well for targeting aggressive and larger panfish.
Jig Spins: Jig-spins feature a swivel and blade positioned below the jighead. They're a good option around wood and weededges, for fancasting open water, and also vertical jigged. Use a steady constant retrieve as you would a spinnerbait, or a lift-fall retrieve to get the blade working properly.
A Few Modified Spinbaits
Add-On Options: A few companies offer attachment spinner arms and flicker blades that can be added to your favorite panfish jig.
Company Contacts: APEX, 402-494-3009; Bass Pro Shops, www.bassproshops.com; Betts, 919-552-2226; Blakemore, 417-334-5340; Blue Fox, www.bluefox.com; Lindy Little Joe, 218-829-1714; Lunker Lure, 800-842-0582; Mar-Lynn, 816-229-3480; JB Lures, 507-647-5696; Mepps, 715-623-2382; Northland, 218-751-6723; Strike King, 800-467-5873; Terminator, 800-944-4766; Zeta, 334-943-1902.
3 Devils Lake, North Dakota
This ever expanding perch mecca is again on the upswing for trophy-size perch. North Dakota Fish and Game reports that the lake's perch population is at the highest level since 2003. With strong year-classes from both 2006 and 2007, perch in the 10- to 14-inch range will make up a large percentage of the catch this year. Contact: Guide Jason Mitchell, 701/662-6560, fishdevilslake.net; The Perch Patrol, 701/351-3474, perchpatrol.com
9 Lake Michigan, Indiana
Big water means plenty of opportunities to intercept roving schools of jumbo perch that can number in the thousands. High winds in spring have reduced angling pressure during the last two spawning cycles, and 2013 should be a banner year for fish in the 12- to 15-inch range. The prespawn bite starts in deep water over clay bottom during early spring, with fish moving to shallower rock and weededges in summer and fall. Contact: Capt. Ralph Steiger, 219/688-3593, captainsteiger.com
7 Finger Lakes, New York
Perch thrive in these 11 glacier-formed, deep, clear waters. Multiple lakes in close proximity allow for lake-hopping for beautifully colored perch. Seneca Lake draws much of the attention, but perch over 12 inches are in all of the lakes. Contact: Capt. John Gaulke, 607/319-0450, fingerlakesanglingzone.com
4 Glacial Lakes, South Dakota
With more than 50 lakes near the town of Webster, each year sees different lakes peaking for perch in the 9- to 13-inch range. Fertile waters from recent flooding help to ensure consistent good year-classes of perch. Bonus fish include a nice mix of crappies, bluegills, walleyes, and pike. Contact: Guide Cory Ewing, 605/929-3894, waubaylakeguideservice.com
1 Interlake, Manitoba
Situated between the mammoth waters of lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, local fisheries range from natural valley lakes of 30 square miles, to shallow inland lakes of modest size. Fantastic perch fishing runs from early December through ice-out. Plenty of perch hit the 12-inch mark in these fertile lakes, and there is a good shot at 14- to 15-inchers. Contact: Dino Branfield, 204/362-2945, nelsonvilleoutfitters.com
10 Lake Erie, Ontario
Along with its 'walleye factory ' moniker, Lake Erie produces more perch than any other lake in North America. A hot bite exists in fall along Erie's north shore. Once fish are located, 50-fish daily bags are the norm. Manmade structures, including midlake gas wells and underground pipelines, concentrate massive schools, making the fishing reminiscent of the Gulf of Mexico. Contact: Capt. Frank DiMarcantonio, 905/933-4834, niagarasportfishing.ca
8 Lake Gogebic, Michigan
Despite being the largest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula and producing more state angler award fish than any other fishery in the area, this trophy perch fishery somehow remains under the national radar. While not a numbers fishery, perch surpassing 2 pounds are caught each year, both during the open-water and hard-water seasons. Contact: Barry Drews, 906/842-3361, ninepinesresort.com
; Gogebic Lodge, 906/842-3321, gogebiclodge.com
5 Lake Simcoe, Ontario
Abundant freshwater shrimp and other small invertebrates allow this heavily fished lake in southern Ontario to continually produce good numbers and sizes of perch. While ice fishing generates the most angling pressure, some of the biggest fish are taken shortly after ice-out in shallow bays around Beaverton. Schools of big perch roam deeper water throughout summer. Contact: Guide Greg Klatt, 416/580-2541, profishntanglingservices.com
6 Lake St. Clair, Michigan
Lake St. Clair provides incredible summer and fall fishing for numbers of 8- to 12-inch perch. Target them just outside thick vegetation in 6 to 18 feet of water. By fishing shallower water, deep-water mortality among sorted fish isn't an issue. One hundred- to 200-fish days are common. Contact: Capt. Steve Jones, 586/463-3474, fishpredator.com
2 Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
A big-water favorite in central Minnesota, this year-round fishery puts out jumbos averaging 12 inches, if you know where to hunt them, and fish in the 15-inch range aren't out of the question. For those willing to put in the work to locate a mess of jumbos, the rewards can be huge. Contact: Guide Tony Roach, 763/226-6656, roachsguideservice.com