Cool mornings are here—lakes greet us with a foggy mist on the surface and an abundant population of hungry bass awaiting our arrival. The cooler nights are lowering surface temperatures, in turn increasing activity levels and feeding patterns of one of our favourite fish species.
It’s one of the best times of year to hit the water, as many people are heading into the woods for hunting season, leaving local lakes vacant. One of my favourite parts is that the large and smallmouth bass populations school up in large groups and travel together, actively feeding in preparation for winter. This creates a feeding frenzy like none other and will make for many memorable days ahead!
Northeastern Ontario is home to some of the best schooling fisheries including the Ottawa River out of Mattawa and Temiskaming Shores, Lake Nipissing, Lake Temagami, Lake Wahnapitae, Onaping Lake, and Ramsey Lake in the heart of the City of Greater Sudbury. If you’re looking for an unforgettable trip filled with numerous bass this fall, look no further than the fisheries listed above (you’ll find a list of fishing lodgings right here).
Fall is a transitional time of year for both large and smallmouth bass, and can take a bit more effort to locate than usual. They can be up in the shallows feeding or in the depths roaming contour lines, rock piles, or submerged vegetation. Always stay focused, as your next cast may show you exactly where they live.
I rely heavily on my electronics from September until the end of the season, keeping an eye out for bait or even more importantly—FISH! Fish tend to roam and follow bait in the fall. Once the temperatures start to drop into the low 60s (around 15-18°C) fish will start to actively feed and roam the shallows. As temperatures lower into the mid to low 50s (around 10-13°C), bass will position near their wintering haunts, becoming opportunistic feeders.
Fall techniques that I always have ready on deck include jerkbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, football jigs, tubes, drop shots, and frogs. These presentations all mimic high-protein forage that a feeding bass cannot resist in the fall.
One large meal allows a fish to acquire its feeding goal without exerting a lot of energy chasing smaller baitfish—they want to expend as little energy while consuming as much as possible. In addition, a finesse approach will do the trick for the finicky fish that don’t want to chase, but can be targeted with your electronics—also known as "video game fishing!"
Some of my personal favourites that are readily available at most retailers include:
- Jerkbaits – Berkley Juke and Cutter Series
- Crankbaits – Berkley Dredger (14.5 – 25.5) and Digger Series to cover the water column
- Plastics – Berkley PowerBait Power Tube, Berkley Gulp Alive Minnow and Fry
- Spinnerbaits – Nichols Pulsator Series in ½ oz. – ¾ oz. models
- Swimbaits – Berkley Havoc Beat Shad
Resisting the urge to put my boat into winter storage has paid off greatly in the fall and is highly recommended for all anglers visiting and residing in Northeastern Ontario. The smallmouth populations and their aggressive nature will blow you away, not to mention physically exhaust you (especially if you’re on a quality jerkbait bite)! Largemouth should not be underestimated during the fall as they are ready to feed—top water frogs and swimbaits not only make for a great bite, but a high quality meal that these green fish cannot resist. The quantity may not be the same as their cousins, but the size and quality often makes up the difference.
So if a personal best in on your agenda, then this is the time to target it! The fish are filling their bellies and weigh more than at any other time of the year! Take these cool mornings as a reminder to bundle up, hook up your boat, and hit the lakes until the snow flies or the ramps freeze over.