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Fallin' in Love with Weeds

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Fallin' in Love with Weeds

Don’t be surprised to catch bonus walleye, northern pike and even muskies when you’re bass fishing around weeds in the fall. It's truly a mixed bag of magnificent Northern Ontario fishing. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Pro Tips for Ontario Fall Bass Fishing

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If you're a gardener, you likely despise weeds. But if you're an angler, especially a bass fishing fanatic like buddy JP Bushey, your heart undoubtedly skips a beat when you spot a lush green bed of cabbage or coontail growing in a lake situated somewhere in Northern Ontario.

Matter of fact, I'd go so far as to call JP a weed connoisseur.

"The smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing is going strong right now," says Cabela's Canada Pro Staffer. "Lakes like Lake Muskoka, Georgian Bay and Lake Nipissing, in particular, have great weed beds. If you poke around and find the freshest ones, you'll enjoy some of the best bass fishing that the fall has to offer."

Should mention, too, that while JP has been catching the heck out of the bass lately, don't be surprised to nail walleyes, northern pike and even muskies in the same gardens. It is truly a mixed bag of magnificent Northern Ontario fishing. But to get into it, you need to find the prime petunias.

"For every three weed beds," Bushey says, "you're going to find that two are beaten down and long past their prime. But the third one will still have fresh growth, which is why we call them super clumps." 

Now, a lot of anglers will surmise that the reason the thriving beds of grass are so productive is because they provide the fish with oxygen, while the withered clumps are devoid of it. But it is not the reason, as brilliant research conducted by Sean Landsman on the Ottawa River has recently shown. Instead, in a word, it is forage.

"Small five-inch long yellow perch are so thick that we occasionally snag them on our hooks," says Bushey. "A lot of anglers totally miss the bass / perch connection but smallmouth and largemouth bass don't think twice about hogging down perch this size. It's a basic law of predation. Yellow perch are plentiful, so they get eaten.  They exist in such massive numbers that they become a viable food source for the bass at this time of the year."

The best bass fishing right now, according to JP Bushey, is around the greenest weed beds that you can find
The best bass fishing right now, according to JP Bushey, is around the greenest weed beds that you can find.

In fact, the perch / bass relationship is so strong right now across Northern Ontario, that Bushey cautions anglers about getting overly excited and fishing too soon. Far better, he says, to cruise around the lake for a while and check several areas with your sonar unit. Wearing a good pair of polarized sunglasses helps you, also, to spot as many lush salad bars as possible. 

"The best weeds in the fall grow on the firmest, hardest, cleanest bottoms," says Bushey. "I am looking for pencil reeds without any brown or fuzzy tips. Sand beaches are also excellent places to check out. Ditto, low bushes that grow around isolated rocks exposed to the wind. Lots of bald rocks have weeds growing around them and exposure to a fresh flush of wind-driven water, blowing in from the main lake, is important. The more sheltered the grass is, the quicker it becomes crummy."

After scouting a portion of a lake for a while, Bushey is usually armed with a half dozen or more prime weed beds to pick apart. And most days, he says, it is hard to go wrong with a tube jig. But, rigging it properly is crucial.

"One of the keys," says Bushey, "is using a heavy jig and pushing it all the way up to the tip of the tube. Don't leave an air pocket like you would in the summer when you're casting in open water areas or ice fishing in the winter. You don't want that sexy, wide spiral that tube jigs are famous for when you're fishing in the weeds. You get snagged too often. A 3/8-ounce jig is about as light as I will go, and most of the time, I am pitching 5/8- and 3/4-ounce tubes."

Another detail that Bushey pays careful attention to is the position of the line tie.  A jig with a 45- to 60-degree angle snakes through the grass much easier than one with a 90- degree angle. His casts, with a 7-foot medium heavy or heavy action spinning rod spooled with 35-pound test Maxima braid and a 15-pound Maxima fluorocarbon leader on the end, are short and accurate, similar to the way bass anglers pitch and flip to heavy cover.

Here is the attraction for fish in the fall – small yellow perch that congregate in massive numbers around lush weed growth
Here is the attraction for fish in the fall -- small yellow perch that congregate in massive numbers around lush weed growth.
Day in and day out, a perch coloured tube jig is your best lure for catching weed related smallmouth bass in the fall in Northern Ontario
Day in and day out, a perch coloured tube jig is your best lure for catching weed related smallmouth bass in the fall in Northern Ontario.
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"When you rig your tube with a heavy head and make a precise cast," Bushey explains, "you can punch it through the leaves and it will sink straight down, without gliding. I like to let it settle on the bottom for a few seconds before giving it a little hop, then I wait again.  Hits are rarely light or hard to feel. Instead, the bass will usually motor over and clunk it pretty hard. That is the reason I like using the no-stretch braided line, so I can set the hook hard and get the fish up and out of the weeds quickly."

Because the bass are targeting the abundant yellow perch populations at this time of the year, Bushey favours using 3.5-inch, green coloured Cabela's Go-To tubes, which he says are tough and "meaty". He also carries a garlic scented Spike-It pen to paint a few black bars on the tube to make it even more perch-like. It is a "cool detail", he says, that results in many more bites.

And more bites are what you're going to get when you pitch perch patterned jigs to the green weeds you find growing in your favourite Northern Ontario bass lake, in the fabulous days of fall that still lie ahead.

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