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Catching Big Bass

Bass Fish caught in Algoma Country, Northern Ontario. • Credit: Karl Kalonka
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Catching Big Bass

Fishing for Smallmouth Bass at Waterfalls Lodge in Spanish, Ontario

We just returned from another amazing road trip thru Northern Ontario filming shows for the upcoming season of Extreme Angler TV.

On this trip, our gracious hosts Rob and Kathy of Waterfalls Lodge in Spanish, Ontario made us feel like old friends instead of first-time guests upon arrival.

They both took the time to give us the guided tour of the lodge and surrounding cabins, cottages, custom-groomed beach with sand as soft as if in the Caribbean, boat launching and docking, and of course the main lodge where the meals are served, featuring some of the finest wilderness decor imaginable. The lodge features remote outpost lakes and sits on a chain of five to six lakes, joined by narrow passes that are easily navigated by boat. I decided to stay on the main lake system as I towed my boat to the lodge. The layout of the lodge and surrounding cabins, cottages, and amenities are very well planned out with easy access to the bait shop, fish cleaning station, gas pumps, or offices.

After our initial meet and greet, it was down to business as we planned our morning attack on these Spanish smallmouths with Rob, who took the time and effort to give us a detailed map of the lakes with any potential hazards (which are very well marked by the way with white jugs) and a quick update on the recent bite.

I was pumped and ready to go.

The weatherman got it right this time as we arose to a beautiful sunrise with hardly a cloud in the sky and the lake as calm as glass. Bring on the topwater bite! We started out on some mid-lake rock piles that scream "fish here," with a few smaller bass and one big ole gal that jumped sky-high over my spit n' king popper. It was run and gun time to as many "high potential" locations as possible, with the calm conditions and my insistence on catching some big gals with the topwater baits. I stuck it out for about an hour with a bunch of cookie-cutter smallmouth in the 12-to-14-inch range; fun, yes, but not what I was after.

I had to find the bigger bass.

I was fishing locations that are as traditional as you will ever find: island and main lake points leading to deeper water with scattered rocks, boulders, and sand, but couldn't get a big bass bite. Instead of trying to force the shallower water bite on these points, I decided to try a presentation that has worked for me in the past, and even put money in the bank in a few tournaments in northern climates similar to this one.

I pointed the nose of the boat away from the shorelines and out into the sharp, dropping depths, which ranged from 20-plus feet to over 40 feet of water. I was literally casting my sexy dawg walking bait and KVD splash popper into the abyss. Not 10 casts into this slight movement, a big five-pound-plus smallmouth as dark as chocolate engulfed my dead still popper and it was game on. Unfortunately for me, the fish missed the bait and was slightly hooked under her jaw, so after numerous jumps, it was adios amigo and became just another fish story of the one that got away. Sure, I was disappointed in losing a fish that big, especially when the cameras were rolling, but I was very excited about the opportunities that morning could bring, especially since that big bass tried to eat my bait within five minutes of fishing the deeper water.

Gaining back my composure, I kept the trolling motor on a slow speed and zig-zagged my way along the deeper edges, while making casts all around the boat in search of any fleeing baitfish or fish activity. I saw neither, but what I did see is giant red-orange bait ball symbols of baitfish suspended five to 10 feet below the surface – bingo!

That's what these off-shore bass were feeding on, the smorgasbord of offshore bait – and they had no reason to venture into the shallower water to gorge; the big meals were out here in the deeper water. Not three casts later, bam! Another big dark smallmouth eats my bait, only this time she is hooked well and is all over the surface, cartwheeling and making the water froth with awesome tail-walking jumps all the water to the boat.

This action continued for another hour and a half, but when the sun got high and pushed the baitfish lower into the water column, the topwater bite vanished for the time being. I wasn't ready to head back to the lodge for breakfast just yet, so I picked up my trusty coffee tube jigs and spinning outfits and fished along some of the shallower sharp dropping shorelines that had a mix of cabbage and stringy grass. Using a cast, fall and slight rip presentation to provoke strikes, I managed to put some very thick, hard-fighting Spanish smallmouth bass into the boat for a few photographs, then released them all to fight another day.

Another region of Northern Ontario is off my bucket list and another awesome experience.

People ask me all the time, why I go to lodges when I can fish anyplace in North America I wish with my line of work? I answer them the same way every time. It's not because the fishing is easy, which it can be at times depending upon weather and seasonal conditions – it is because I love the Ontario experience. We are blessed to have so many lakes, rivers, regions and lodges that harbour so many different species of fish and fishing opportunities, that are each unique in their own way and attract visitors from across the globe to our incredible province. The atmosphere, lodge hosts, and friendly guests share this similar bond that is the outdoors.

The folks at Waterfalls Lodge say it best: "where you come as a guest and leave as a friend."

I know I'll be back for more Spanish smallmouth.

Visit Waterfalls Lodge in Spanish, Ontario phone toll-free 1-800-666-2812 or visit waterfallslodge.com

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