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Bronzebacks of the Whalesback

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Bronzebacks of the Whalesback

• Credit: Mark Romanack

Along the North shore of Lake Huron, the Whalesback Channel ranks as one of the top smallmouth bass destinations in North America.

Ontario is one of the most beautiful places in North America. Breathtaking views are seemingly found all across this Canadian province. It’s one thing to be zipping down the highway and witnessing this beauty and another one entirely to be experiencing Ontario’s natural beauty from a fishing boat.

The Whalesback is a little-known channel in the Algoma region along the north shore of Lake Huron that ranks not only as breathtakingly beautiful, but also ranks as one of the top smallmouth bass destinations in North America. The Fishing 411 TV crew and smallmouth specialist Bryan Darland of Jay’s Sporting Goods recently visited this region as the guests of Waterfalls Lodge, located near the tiny maritime village of Spanish, Ontario.


Waterfalls Lodge is full service fishing camp located on a string of inland lakes teaming with smallmouth bass. Waterfalls Lodge is also only a few miles from the Spanish Municipal Marina and acts as a gateway to the famed Whalesback Channel of Lake Huron.

“The Whalesback region of Lake Huron is big water that fishes small,” says Bryan Darland of Jay’s Sporting Goods. “A string of islands protects the Whalesback channel from the open waters of Lake Huron, inviting anglers to enjoy pristine fishing without having to expose themselves to the wind and waves of Lake Huron.”


With the many islands, bays and protected coves of the Whalesback, it’s easy to forget you’re fishing in Lake Huron. “You’re much more likely to encounter a sailboat or transient power boat than another fishing boat,” adds Darland. “The Whalesback might be one of the best kept fishing secrets in Ontario. Not only does this fishery harbor lots of smallmouth bass, the average-size fish puts other bodies of water to shame.”

The forage rich waters of Lake Huron offer smallmouth bass everything they could hope for. Smelt, emerald shiners, crayfish, and round goby are abundant, and everywhere you look there are boulder-strewn islands and shorelines that provide ideal smallmouth bass habitat.

The Fishing 411 TV crew arrived at the Whalesback in mid September. Most of the smallmouth bass are going to be found in deeper water (20 to 35 feet) during the late summer and early fall.

Soft plastics fished on drop shot rigs represents the ideal presentation for smallmouth bass throughout summer and fall. This approach allows anglers to fish plastics that resemble crayfish, smelt, and even the round goby to perfection. “A few of the soft plastics that worked for us include the Z-Man four and five inch Jerk ShadZ, the three inch Trick ShotZ, the four inch SwimmerZ, and the Finesse TRD,” adds Darland.

The ideal rod and reel combination for fishing drop shot rigs is a 6- to 7-foot, 6-inch medium/light action spinning rod and 3,000 class spinning reel loaded with 10 pound test super braid. The Fishing 411 crew used Daiwa Tatula spinning rods matched up with Tatula spinning reels and Daiwa J-Braid ultra smooth fishing line. A 3- to 4-foot leader of clear 12-pound test fluorocarbon line was knotted to the J-Braid using a double uni knot, and at the business end a surgically sharp Eagle Claw No. 2 Trokar Drop Shot hook completed the rig.

“Not only is the Whalesback region easy on the eyes, your eyes are the best tool for finding the countless smooth boulders emerging from the water this region is named for,” explains Darland. “Big boulders and the rock and rubble fields that surround them provide the ideal ambush sites for hungry smallmouth. We also found lots of smallmouth using the deeper flats that featured gravel and scattered boulders.”


Structure scan side imaging electronics is the ideal tool for searching out flats that feature smallmouth-attracting rocks and boulders. Side imaging not only shows the composition of the bottom, but it allows anglers to spot individual boulders and even fish among the boulders. 

The Whalesback region of Lake Huron is one of the most scenic and smallmouth rich waters in Ontario. Every cast an angler makes into the Whalesback potentially represents the fish of a lifetime. World-class fishing, world-class scenery and world class accommodations are all awaiting anglers who visit Waterfalls Lodge in Spanish, Ontario.

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