Catching Golden Perch: Hard bodies and spinnerbaits

Staying One Step Ahead of the Gold

By Rod Mackenzie

January 2014

In angling, frustration is as common as the number of lures or baits that dance invitingly close to the intended target without triggering the desired response. Wouldn’t it be great to know what it is these tight lipped fish are thinking as they refuse what you deem to be the best presentation at any given time? Could it be that fish have just as many excuses for not biting as we do for not catching them?
One can only ponder at their limited thought process but I would sanction at a guess that it’s most probably fairly simple.

Have you ever cast a particular bank or section of snags that just scream fish? You know these sorts of areas are conducive to goldens and yet your best efforts and favorite lures flirt the zone without a bump. Your gut tells you it’s simply a matter of time before one slips up and grabs your lure but as you cast the last snag you still remain fishless. It has taken a good hour and a hundred or more casts to draw a blank. No doubt plenty of fish saw or were at least aware of your lure’s presence. You can either move on or stick with your gut and do it again; I prefer to do the latter.

As you return to the first twisted snag along the course, the lure no sooner disappears below the water than it is slammed by a sizable golden. As you rework your way along the snags, several more present themselves where not an hour before they refused to strike. I can’t help but wonder what goes through their mind as they suddenly seem more than cooperative. Earlier they sat and watched lure after lure swim past within easy scoffing range but remained tight lipped. As the easy meals moved on perhaps they began to wonder, why didn’t I eat that? Geez I’m an idiot chances are not another baitfish will come along all day then suddenly there it is again. This time round with little thought they break cover and slam the small artificial bait fish. Now mind you, these are just my thoughts on a fish’s perspective of the whole event but over time it seems to ring true. Returning to and recasting a bank an hour or so later on many occasions’ produces the required response from not only golden perch but the occasional Murray cod.     

Something else most notable with golden’s, especially in hard fished waters where loud rattling lures have ruled supreme. The Bibbless crank rage has swept its way along the Murray these past few seasons finding great popularity in sunny Sunraysia’s Mildura. Very versatile and simple to use, these small lures were an idyllic and similar bait size to that of small boney bream that make up a good portion of what golden perch predate upon. Their distinct rattling vibration was hard for fish to miss and to the untrained, an exciting noise to be investigated. For more than a season they were the must have golden lure that shone above all others.  Twelve months on, the fish are nowhere near as susceptible to these rattling shad styled lures and for many die hard users catch rates have spiraled downhill.  Just like the fish, those a little faster on the uptake fell for the silent running models that still continue to work very well. Subtlety seems to be the new vogue for many forms of frequently targeted fish that include golden perch. True to form we need to be thinking ahead of recognition and stay that one step ahead of what some fish begin to shy away from.

In the waters I most commonly fish, the majority of anglers are trolling large hard bodied lures in the pursuit of cod. And while golden’s will attack large lures they are far more responsive to smaller models. This season I have noticed when trolling and casting that timber lures seem to be attracting plenty of attention. Perhaps this is a legacy of the loud rattlers that have graced our waters these past few seasons. Timber or silent runners pass through the zone a lot more naturally and are less likely to spook otherwise flighty fish. In saying that, most lures emit at least some form of sound but in the case of timber it’s not quite as in your face. Trolling is very effective for golden perch and when things are tough will often turn up a fish or two where other methods fail. The added bonus with trolling is that every now and then a giant cod will lock in on the small offering adding credence to the age old saying of elephants eat peanuts. 

It’s not uncommon when casting for golden’s for these fish to flick or short strike at a lure or spinnerbait. This can at times be very subtle and may be dismissed as light contact with a twig or in some cases completely overlooked. If at any time during your retrieval, you have a gut feeling or even suspect there may have been a show of interest, follow it up with several casts to the same location. If these go untouched then it’s time to try something different. Short strikes or small bumps are a genuine show of interest and although they have not committed, they have followed the prey with at least some intent to feed. Try downsizing your lure by at least a third of the size and choose one that exhibits more of a tight shimmy action than the previous offering. Its amazing how often this smaller meal will be belted with gusto.

Locally speaking along the Murray River, the larger fish seem to put in an appearance as the water temperature begins to cool down; this usually starts around the month of April. While Golden’s along the Murray  rarely attain the size of their impoundment grown brethren, fish to four kilos plus are landed by a lucky few each season. With the popularity of  lure fishing on the increase, fish like golden perch are going to wise up to the gear and techniques they are seeing on a day to day basis. As anglers we need ask ourselves if a fish can work it out then surely most of us are smart enough to do the same.

Recasting banks that look fishy in impoundments will often draw a response that did not arise the first time round.
The feature image and this solid perch were caught using this method in Lake Eildon.


Small hard bodied lures and spinnerbaits are very effective second time round. If you even suspect you had a bump that fails to return, downsize your lure and hold on tight.