Spring Smallmouth Bass in Northeastern Ontario

You know those days when you can’t possibly do anything wrong? I recently had that kind of day fishing—so good that it is now the best day of fishing in my life! I was absolutely blessed and couldn’t have asked for a better experience. 

I was sitting at my desk mid-week pondering where I would fish and what species I’d be going for, when a friend of mine told me the spring smallmouth bite had started. Within seconds I knew exactly what I was about to do with my weekend—I was heading to Zone 10 targeting pre-spawn bass!

My trip included a three-hour drive followed by a 5-km boat ride across the lake, ending at an island where I’d be camping out for the weekend! The weather was calling for thundershowers overnight and I got a break—upon arrival the clouds parted, giving enough time for me to set up camp. I started a fire and cracked a beer to get settled in and unwind, however, the weather felt otherwise. The skies opened with an absolute sheet of rain! It poured down the entire evening and into the early morning. Luckily, I had an excellent shelter with a conifer tree canopy aiding in my protection.

I woke up damp and groggy to the pitter-patter of the rain on the fly of my tent. Knowing I had made the trip with the sole purpose of fishing, I dressed warm and put on my rain gear. A quick breakfast and bailing of the boat—which seemed like it took forever—was completed and the boat was finally loaded and ready for my day on the water. I had a good idea of where I wanted to fish, but knew I’d have to cover water and use a variety of baits to determine the bite and the structure the fish were relating to.

My search along the wind-blown shoreline of a large bay was completed utilizing a jerk bait presentation. This area was chosen to start due to the fact that bait fish get pushed up on shore by the waves and predatory fish feed in these areas. The jerk bait replicates dying bait fish with its erratic action and can be used to cover a lot of water fairly quickly. I was hooked up and into my first fish within the first 30 minutes on the jerk bait. A fair amount of what I deemed to be unproductive water was covered and a few different baits were used including a spinnerbait, lipless crankbait and a deep diving crankbait to rule them out entirely. As I continued down the shoreline, three more smallmouth became victim to the jerk bait. I knew I was onto something and my confidence grew with every cast of the bait. 

I was at the far shoreline out of the wind when I discovered the target structure for the day—beds, and lots of them! I could see the shoreline in the clear water once the wind died down and found out why the bite had turned on. All the beds I could see had a male clearing and preparing the beds for the spawn. It was something I hadn’t experienced before due to previous regulations set by the Province. Once I started to target on these key areas, I had countless fish to the boat that were all released and back to their beds.

I fished nonstop until 2 pm and finally took a break to eat and recollect my thoughts on what I had just experienced. Fish were caught with an average weight of 3.5 lbs the entire morning, including many back-to-back fish. I was at a loss for words and reveled in the moment while enjoying my lunch in the middle of the lake. I re-organized the boat, checked all my baits, and repaired those that were damaged in anticipation of an afternoon filled with fish. 

I was off to another part of the lake closer to my campsite for the second half of the day’s adventure. The bite was a bit slower as many variables had changed between the locations and unfortunately a lot of unproductive shoreline was discovered. I was up for the challenge knowing from earlier on the size of fish in the lake … BIG! Jerk baits remained the dominant presentation, along with the addition of a simple plastic grub being used for the lethargic fish in sight.

The day was winding down, as was my body; I knew I’d be fishing till dark, and chose a final shoreline to fish before making the trip back to the campsite. I had finally found productive waters again, including large boulders, and tossed out my faithful jerk bait. Within a couple twitches of the bait, my rod was doubled over and I knew I had something big! It felt like I had set the hooks into the side of a barn, my rod stopped dead and the fish pulsing at the end of my line. The fish took multiple runs until it broke water, flying three feet in the air; my jaw instantly dropped. I prepped the net to land the fish and did my best to keep it down in the water column. The fish was soon in the net and I was immediately filled with a sense of joy and accomplishment.

I had set and broke three personal best bass throughout the day, including a 4-lb 15-oz, tying my original, followed by a beautiful 5-lb 6-oz, capped off with a 5-lb 14-oz tank!!! Roughly 50 fish averaging 3-4 lbs were caught, photographed and released. I still can't believe how perfectly timed this trip was with the bite. I can easily say that this was the best weekend of bass fishing of my life!

I am still on cloud nine and I hope the photos can fully share the fun I had and how much I love this passion of mine!

Keep your tips up and line tight!

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