Many anglers visiting Ontario for the first time, especially from the United States, are pleasantly surprised to discover that superb largemouth bass fishing opportunities abound in the province. Even more unexpected, however, are the plethora of prospects in Northern Ontario.
Lake Nipissing and the French River area, in Northeastern Ontario, for example, offer bragging size bigmouths that would turn heads even in the biggest professional cast-for-cash tournaments south of the border. It is the same in Northwestern Ontario, where 7-pound plus bucket mouths have been weighed in at local events.
But it gets even better.
But it gets even better.
Imagine flying in on a float plane to a wilderness lodge or your own private outpost camp tucked in on the point of a secluded, picture-postcard body of water loaded with largemouth bass.
Trust me, it doesn't get any better than this, and there is no better time to take advantage of the phenomenal fishing than right now, as we transition into the glorious autumn season. Just be sure to factor in the fall migration of largemouth bass away from the shallowest and weediest water in the lake.
Indeed, as I discovered the other day while fishing my favourite Northwestern Ontario Sunset Country lake with my 11-year-old grandson, Liam. The bigmouths are on the move, even though the surface water temperature is still above 70°F, and daytime temperatures are hovering in the mid- to high-80s.
It is a dead giveaway that the impetus for the bass to move in the fall has less to do with highly variable stimuli such as water and air temperatures and far more with influences like diminishing levels of light.
Indeed, a good friend and renowned Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources bass researcher, Dr. Mark Ridgway, has studied the habits of both largemouth bass and their smallmouth cousins for much of his career and even Mark marvels at how the fish move each year from their summer haunts to the fall digs, within a matter of hours, on and/or around the very same days associated with the autumn equinox.
And while the shifts are not always large in terms of overall distance, they are significant in terms of the adjustments in habitat, as Liam and I quickly discovered on Sunday.
In fact, whereas we've been finding the largemouth lounging deep in the jungle, buried in the thickest lily pads, cabbage beds and grass for much of the summer, we found them on the weekend relating to the deepest outside weedlines. We also caught several fish on adjacent shallow, vegetated flats, edging toward deeper water.
In the days and weeks ahead, this fallback will intensify, as ever more largemouth bass gather and relate to the deepest weed edges. And shortly, the secondary and primary points that lead into the shallow bays and coves will hold more and more fish.
Indeed, while diminishing day light appears to be the spark that ignites the trend, over the years I've noticed that as soon as we experience a few chilly nights and the first fall fronts that the largemouth will intensify their bag packing and vacate the backs of the shallow, weedy coves, cuts, pockets and creeks as they migrate out toward deeper water.
Eventually, later this month and especially in October and November, as the weeds begin to wither, you also will find the fish gravitating toward much harder rock and wood cover. When this happens, I like to concentrate my fall fishing around isolated rocks, initially around the secondary points halfway back into the bays and then, later on, the points adjacent to the main lake.
By the way, consider any isolated sunken logs you find lying on the bottom, adjacent to the weed flats, to be a bonus.
As for the best baits to use in the fall, I like to keep it simple, employing a one / two combination punch, starting the day by power fishing with reaction lures like surface baits, spinnerbaits, chatter baits and swim jigs, especially when it is cloudy or windy.
After I've effectively covered an area with these lures, and especially if I've caught some nice largemouth, I'll go back over and through the same spots, probing them more slowly with soft plastic stick baits, worms, tubes and creature baits.
It is a deadly bass tactic made all the more enjoyable by the fact the fish are feeding lustfully now, packing on the calories needed to sustain them through the winter.
Oh, and it doesn't hurt either, that you're likely going to be the only person on the lake taking advantage of this bountiful Northern Ontario bass bonanza.