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On Top Of The Smallmouth World

The author's grandson Liam Whetter caught this smallmouth bass on Lake of the Woods in Ontario's Sunset Country. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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On Top Of The Smallmouth World

The author had an incredible week of summer fishing for smallmouth bass in Ontario

My, oh my, oh my, what an incredible week this has been for smallmouth bass fishing in Ontario.

It all started last weekend with the Shoal Lake Bass Classic tournament on Lake of the Woods, in Northwestern Ontario's fish-filled Sunset Country. The air temperature was hovering in the mid-30 Celsius range (high 80s Fahrenheit) and the Humidex made it feel even hotter still.

It was fitting, however, because "hot" is the only word I can think of to describe smallmouth bass fishing.

It has been on fire.

My partner, Dean MacDonald and I finished 8th in the tournament, but we were only 5 or 6 ounces out of third place, which we probably had several times swimming in the livewell.

Liam Whetter Lake of the Woods Smallmouth Bass
(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

If that sounds strange, let me explain.

On our way back to the weigh-in site, with only 50 minutes remaining in the two-day contest, Dean and I stumbled upon a smallmouth bass-feeding frenzy -- one of those rare, magical moments when no matter where you cast, you catch another big fish.

As a matter of fact, we were catching gorgeous three to three-and-a-half pound smallmouth bass so quickly, so steadily, and so seemingly at will, that we didn't -- actually couldn't -- take the time to weigh the fish carefully. Instead, we simply held up the most recently caught bass, compared it visually to what appeared to be the smallest one of the five fish swimming in the livewell and then kept the biggest, letting the smaller one swim free.

That is not a wise thing to do when nearly every one of the top ten positions in a smallmouth event is separated by only an ounce or two, but we were catching the fish so quickly and so consistently, we were sure the next cast was going to deliver a coveted four pound plus bass to win the event.

And get this, we were catching many of the fish on topwater lures. Baits like Rapala Skitter Pops and Skitter Walks.

It always surprises my American friends when I tell them I am catching smallmouth and largemouth bass on the surface during the dog days of summer, even during the middle of the day, but our lakes are so large with such enormous amounts of water, they don't heat up like their lakes "back home". As a result, Ontario bass doesn't sulk, lie on the bottom and stop feeding during the day.

Indeed, as we discovered last weekend, they do the exact opposite.

As a matter of fact, the weekend action was so spectacular, I had to take out my ten-year-old grandson, Liam, twice this week, so he could experience it and repeatedly catch his personal best bass and then break the record. And, to give me a step-by-step seminar on how he was doing it because I kid you not, he out-fished me.

It was comical.

Liam Whetter, Lake of the Woods, Sunset Country, Northwestern Ontario, smallmouth bass (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

I'd tied an X-Rap jerkbait to the end of his line and had shown him how to rip the bait aggressively, incorporating short pauses between the powerful strokes. It's the traditional way to catch aggressive Ontario smallmouth bass in the summer and if you use a gel spun braided line like Suffix 832 or Fireline, you can make the bait turn around 180° on the pause.

The key is ripping the lure forward then dipping your rod back as you pause the bait. The tactic throws slack into your line, permitting the lure to circle around and face any following fish. The bass reacts to this staring contest by eating the lure, every time.

Only during these two days, they didn't want the overly aggressive rip, rip, rip, a pause of an adult, but the comparable cadence from a ten-year-old.

For, try as he might, Liam couldn't quite duplicate my erratic retrieve, his ten-year-old arms not being quite strong enough for the job. And it was exactly what the smallmouth wanted.

Time after time after time, I would hear him holler, "Grandpa, I've got one," and I'd turn around and watch another spirited Ontario bass come flying out of the water.

"Not another smallmouth?" I'd say, feigning annoyance.

"Yep," he replied, his rod tip bent over like a pretzel and a grin stretching from one ear to the other. "Help me land this one and I'll show you how to do it!"

pair of walleye
A pair of bonus walleye caught in Lake of the Woods, Sunset Country, Northwestern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

By the time our two days on the water were over, Liam had landed close to 100 smallmouth bass: a 3-pound 14-ounce beauty being the biggest of the bunch, at least a dozen bonus walleyes up to 26 inches and a score of hard fighting northern pike.

"That was our best day ever fishing for bass, wasn't it, Grandpa?" Liam said to me, as I winched the boat onto the trailer, while a giant red ball of fire set over the horizon and he waded in the warm water, up to his waist, trying to catch one last bass.

"Yes, it was," I chuckled. "Yes, it was."

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