Being in the fishing industry for years - I've fielded many a fishing question. Likely the top question: "What is your best or favorite lake?" (These questions are generally referencing muskie, as this is the species I'm most known for.) Impossible question, actually, the way I perceive it – as my favorite lake varies with regard to current "catching" – which is always subject to many factors including individual lake dynamics, and weather changes ... for me, the question becomes much easier to answer- in the context of where I enjoy fishing most. I answer Ontario's Canadian Shield lakes which are found throughout Sunset Country. I've been going for years - as much as I can – whether soft or hard water.
Ontario's shield lakes are multi-purpose awesome. The first priority for most folks is the quality of the fisheries, or "fish-catching". Ontario waters are tough to beat anywhere in the world in this regard as there are literally millions of acres of water blessed with many fishes. Importantly these fisheries are managed aggressively with conservation in mind; this way the quality of angling opportunities is maintained. Considering the numbers and size of the fisheries, replenishing overharvested waters via stocking isn't at all feasible. While harvest and fish-eating aren't dirty words; selective harvest of the more plentiful species is the goal and fisheries are monitored; steps are taken proactively if necessary to protect and maintain. So whether it's walleyes or lake trout or trophy muskie you are chasing – "catching" odds are comparatively quite good.
If you enjoy being on the water, these are some of the most beautiful waters in the world. The Canadian Shield is carved out of much rock; the waters seem endless with many islands, bays, and structures. The vast majority of it is undeveloped, so it truly is a get-away.
By their nature, shield waters are just fun and interesting to fish; and, even though quite complex in many ways, fairly predictable with experience as to where to find fish. Typically, there are no flat or bowl-shaped waters here, leaving only shoreline or open water as structural options. Beyond traditional (above water) islands, there are many below (commonly called "reefs") as well, in addition to distinct holes and other structural irregularities. With regard to muskies, while they roam the wide-open spaces too, with all the structural options an angler can stay very busy – and be effective – on a classic structure. It's a super-fun way to fish.
And, it's not that complicated really; once anglers know what to look for on shield-lakes, the right stuff stands out. Start by looking for islands and irregularities on them (i.e. points, turns, shoreline extensions); even better, look for a series of islands and especially shallower-water connections between them (these are typically called "saddles" and are generally dynamite). Weeds and rocks are great places to concentrate – and many of these saddles will have both. Underwater reefs should stand out on maps, and in the case of more popular waters - on GPS mapping; structure extensions off shorelines will too. Much of the time, if you see a sandy bay, you will find weeds; rushes on the shoreline often mean weeds too. A common mistake can be a natural human reaction to trying to do (cover) too much. Many of these waters are huge and it's easy to start running all over looking for the promised land. Especially for starters in learning the water, it's best to draw a circle or square around a section of the lake and pick it apart; get to know it well; spend more time fishing and less burning fuel.
In later fall, you will generally want to fish a little deeper (on some of these same structures) and with crankbaits, soft plastics, and jerk baits. The majority of the year anglers can find success plying these shallow structures with in-line spinners, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures. There are tremendous varieties of lures available; certainly, the other lure types can work well in the warm water period ... and there will be tendencies towards jerk, crank, and other types. They should be tried when things are tough; yet, it's nice to have a simple and effective plan for covering water as well.
We're all different, so I suspect then the importance of this varies with the individual, but there is no doubt about the fact that – on Ontario, Canadian Shield waters ... you can at any point just decide to lean back, take it in and be happy; enjoy God's creation. It truly is simply a beautiful place with minimal development ... and if I have a fault to this day it's that I can get too wound up about the "catching" and forget to look around. When I recall the important stuff I always smile.