Photo by Tucker Henderson
Scott Perala works on mounting an 11-inch bluegill for a customer in his workshop.

By Tucker Henderson


After a real doozy of a winter and a mountain of work piling up, Scott Perala was ready to close up shop at his store at 219 Main Avenue South in New York Mills this spring. His decision was reversed after he devised a schedule that will work better for his workload.  ¶  “I’ll be open, but it’s not on a daily basis and if somebody needs something, they can either call or text me,” said Perala. “It’s been working out okay. I’ve got quite a bit of stuff booked and a lot of my customers are return people that have come back over the years.”  ¶  Some weeks last winter, Perala said that he wouldn’t have any customers, so it didn’t pay to hire someone to sit and watch the store while he’s away.  ¶  “This winter was terrible, we had good ice right away and then we had all that snow and the lakes flooded out and guys couldn’t get around,” he said. “My fish house spent more time in the yard than it did on the lake. There was weeks that I didn’t even have a customer. The bills don’t go away.”  ¶  Despite the hard winter, Perala enjoys what he does and has seen some improvements to the business over the years.

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Scott’s Bait & Tackle remains open on a limited basis at 219 Main Avenue South in New York Mills.

“As far as the way we can harvest minnows with the zebra-mussel infested waters, certain restrictions and guidelines, it’s not as wide open as it used to be, although they loosened it up to a certain extent,” he said. “We have been allowed to harvest infested waters, but all of our gear has to be tagged for that purpose. I can’t go from this lake to that lake with that same gear, it has to be kept separate.”

“Technology has changed a lot,” he said. “With GPS and now with the live scope, that kind of stuff. I think it’s kind of made fishing easier.”

Perala opened the business over 30 years ago, right around 1990. He has worked as a Jack-of-all-Trades in the hunting/fishing industry during that time.

“I enjoy it all, I do. From trapping and seining and doing the taxidermy, meeting new people with the guiding.”

Finn’s Best Tackle

“I do jigs,” he said, pointing to a rack of unpainted tackle. “These are ready to go right now, I just haven’t had time to paint them.”

Finn’s Best Tackle is a large arm of his business and takes up most of his winter months.

“That’s my February, March, and April,” said Perala. “Some of these, I did double batches, so there’ll be like 1,500. They’re all gone. I sell thousands of them. I made 17,000 this spring, go look at my jig bins out there, there’s a lot of empty ones.”

Perala supplies Gene’s Sport Shop in Perham and Quality Bait & Tackle in Detroit Lakes.

“They carry my stuff and they’re all out too,” he said. “I’ve got people that come from all over the state to buy them. And they don’t just buy one or two, they buy hundreds of them. I got some guys, they’ll buy 500-1000 every year. What they can possibly do with them, I have no idea.”

At one point, Perala had to change his molds in order to fit new hooks. His process didn’t change much, but the overall quality improved over the factory-made jigs.

“It’s like three sizes bigger, just the hook,” he said. “It doesn’t add much weight. My profiles a bit bigger, maybe because of the paint, but they don’t weigh any more. This enables you to use a little bit bigger minnow.”

The process starts with pouring the molds and what he’s got on hand is now ready for the lacquer-based paint dipping, glow dip, and the hand painting of each individual eye before a clear coat finishes off the product.

The jig bins in Scott’s Bait shop have thousands of Perala’s handmade jigs. Some of the bins have completely sold out in the past few weeks.

“This one here is peppermint, that’s a very popular jig,” Perala said as he displayed his tackle. “This one here is pink lemonade, that’s a really good jig. The reason I did a double batch, I was selling out every year and now it’s slowing down. The guys call this one alien. That’s a really good jig, I use that one a lot.”

“This one here they call Thielen,” he said, showing a purple and white jig. “This is green-chartreuse. This one’s watermelon. This one’s cotton candy, that one’s just about gone. This one here was a triple, so 2,300 and they’re all gone. Even the big ones are wiped out.”


Perala also works on taxidermy projects during his time in the shop.

“I do pretty much everything—deer, mammals, birds, fish, even a chicken,” he laughed, showing pictures of past projects. “This was a little grey fox that I just finished up not too long ago. He turned out pretty.”

He showed the fence post with barbed-wire still attached that he used from his own property for the project to make sure it was perfect for his customer.

Perala worked on a bluegill as he sat in his workshop, surrounded by tree limbs, a tanned bobcat hide waiting to be mounted, as well as other mounting supplies.

“This is a big bluegill here,” he said, “This is a monster. 11-incher.”

Guide Service

“Last summer, I was pretty busy guiding,” said Perala. “I had a guide trip Thursday and Friday last week.”

During Perala’s time guiding, the shop is closed, which makes it hard to have regular hours. Perala also works part-time at Swan Machine in Perham.

“I work three days a week,” he said. “They’re willing to work with my schedule, so if I got a guide trip, or like here when the minnows were running, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me to say, ‘hey, I’m not gonna be here tomorrow.’ Something to supplement my income a little.”

“I have people stopping, but if you need something call me at (218) 639-8933. It’s been working out okay.”

Perala has his own rules when it comes to fishing and guiding and he makes sure to conserve the natural resources in our area so that everyone can enjoy nature’s bounty.

“As sportsmen, we need to practice selective harvest for future generations,” he said. “Take what you can eat and leave the rest. Just because the limit says it’s six, doesn’t mean we have to keep six every time out. Personally, if I keep two walleyes for me, I eat three pieces and I got one piece for a sandwich the next day. That’s my limit.”

“When I’m guiding now, I cut it back,” he said. “I don’t let them keep anything over 18 inches. Take a picture, let it go. Some people don’t like it, but if you don’t, it’s my boat, my rules. Same thing, just because the state says you can have six fish, it don’t mean I’m gonna let you catch and keep six fish. My rule is four fish for you, that’s enough for supper tonight and for you to take some home. There’s days that maybe we don’t catch that, but there’s other days that we catch either 30 or 40 depending on the time of year.”

During his guide trip the week before, he made sure to give his customers the best experience they could have.

“We had like eight walleyes that morning and then I had them again on Friday and we had seven walleyes. The little guys had some fish right to the boat, right there, that they just quit reeling and looked at them, and the fish would get off. They ended up with plenty of fish anyway.”

“I had a guy and his two kids and their dad caught a 50-60 pound sturgeon Thursday morning,” he said. “I told him, ‘you know what, when those little boys are my age, they’re still going to be talking about the big fish that dad got on Ottertail Lake.’”