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Catching Perch with Topwater Lures

You’ve probably heard it before, but here it is again – of all the different techniques to fish, there’s nothing like topwater fishing! Why do people keep saying that? Because it’s true! Topwater fishing is playful and, at best, packed with action. And today, we’ll be delving into the specifics of catching perch with topwater lures!

Of course, there are hundreds of ways to catch a perch. But for now, our focus is on topwater fishing. While it may not be the most effective method around, there’s undeniable excitement in the playful act of skimming the surface and luring the fish right where you can see them. And, especially for perch, the choice of method is more than justified, as the perch is a predator that hunts near the surface. A stroll by a river during the summer months is all the evidence needed: during those warm months, the waters echo the sounds of the hunt. The sound, a sort of “tchoc, tchoc, thoch”, is the signature sound of the perch snacking on fry swimming near the surface. And, if you manage to sneak in the right kind of topwater lure, the perch won’t know the difference.

What lure to choose?

In terms of lures, topwater fishing is a game for two players: stickbaits and poppers.

Stickbait:

Stickbaits are floating lures that zigzag on the surface, imitating a fleeing fish. This presentation is also known as “walking the dog”. For perch, stickbaits with sizes below 11 cm, like the Skitter Walk® (8 cm) or the Skitter V (10 cm), are perfect options. While larger lures may trigger attacks, they often result in the fish breaking free.

Popper:

A real feast for the eyes, poppers are lures that pop and skip on the surface – and perch attack them with incredible aggression. This often results in a magnificent splash, followed by an exciting battle. When targeting perch, the optimal size for a popper is between 4 and 9 cm. Poppers usually feature a feather on the treble hook at the end of the lure. This feather is important, as it adds color and flash, especially when twitched. I often use the Skitter Pop® (7 cm), but sometimes you have to go smaller – in those cases the Ultra Light Pop (4 cm) is a magnificent choice.

How to Fish with Stickbaits and Poppers?

With stickbaits, it’s all about walking the dog. This well-known presentation is created by lowering the rod and cranking slowly and regularly while adding small twitches in the mix. You’ll need some slack in the line to get the desired side-to-side movement – with a tight line, you’ll only end up pulling the lure straight towards you. The science behind this retrieve is that it imitates a wounded baitfish very effectively.

Poppers, naturally, are best when popped. Reel in small amounts of line slowly while giving it gentle twitches. This results in popping – when you do it correctly, you see and hear the “pop”. Best results come from making four of five pops, followed by a brief pause. And then another set of pops! During the pop, the lure should move only a few centimeters at a time, meaning it’s a slow game. Until, of course, the fight begins.

How to Tie the Lure?

With poppers and stickbaits, it’s difficult to get the best possible swimming action when using a swivel. That’s why I’d recommend tying the line directly to the lure. I use the Rapala knot – it’s an easy knot that forms a small loop when tied. It gives the lure the freedom to swim, making it the ideal knot for these situations.

The Gear

For long casts and lively swimming action, I recommend using a rod of 2.1 meters in length, with a casting weight of 3–12 or 5–20 grams. In terms of reels, I often use sizes 1000 and 2500 – they allow for a light and balanced set. When it comes to picking the right line, I always go for braided line. The action of these lures requires precision that is easily cramped by any elasticity. And what’s more, braid allows for a better casting distance for lures this light. As a rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong with a 0.13 mm braid. That’s why I always go for the 131 G-Core. It’s soft, doesn’t sink too fast, and casts for miles! If you want to opt for a fluorocarbon line, Sufix’s got your back. The Super 21® FC is a 100% fluorocarbon line and virtually invisible in the water.

Where and When?

This is, by far, the trickiest question. That’s because the answer is vague but simple: you need to go where the fish are. From the moment the fry start swimming, perch will soon follow. That’s why you need to go where the fry are – that’s how you’ll get to the perch. Edges, sunken branches, and underwater structures are excellent areas to start with. Spots with depths between 1 and 3 meters are a good starting point. However, I’ve also seen perch rise from depths of more than 5 meters after spotting the lure! So, there will be a lot of variation and a lot of circumstantial factors. For instance, in darker waters, the perch will move less than in clear waters. It’s also good to keep in mind that perch are great at adapting: they adjust and learn from each other, meaning that perch in lakes can behave very differently when compared to perch found in rivers. So, the recommendation is to try out all the locations that seem good. Don’t remain static – move around and roam the banks and keep your eyes open. And if the perch are there, they’ll let you know it, as the attacks are almost immediate.

When it comes to timing, the prime time for topwater perch fishing is during the warmest months. The water must be warm enough to accommodate the fish, both fry and perch. The season for topwater fishing for perch starts from the moment the fry hatch and start swimming. This often takes place during June or July, depending on your location. The perch will roam the banks and shallow waters until the first cold of September (or late October) settles in. But, since the climate has been getting more and more unpredictable, making predictions has gotten a lot more difficult. But, the previous statement holds true: when you hear that distinct “tchoc, tchoc, thoch” emanating from the surface, it’s time to grab a rod and a box full of topwater lures, put a pair of polarized sunglasses on, and get a piece of that topwater action!