Lake Ontario Smallmouth Bass: Freaks of Nature
It’s been a while since I’ve hit Lake Ontario for Smallmouth Bass. Shame on me for letting the time pass. Why? Because it’s one of the absolute best smallie waters in the entire universe.
Breaking down specific lake geography, it’s the eastern basin of Lake Ontario that tops the scales as a producer of both numbers and size of fish. I have yet to fish a water body that can outproduce Lake Ontario’s eastern basin. It may be out there somewhere, but I have no clue where it might be.
The Outdoorsman Known as Mike Burriss
This above title will make Mike Burriss cringe and laugh at the same time. Mike’s my long-time fishing buddy. Besides my dad, Mike is the guy I have been fishing (and hunting) with for the longest time. We have teamed up for years of pleasure fishing, tournament fishing, fishing/networking the same lake out of separate boats—pretty much anything not work-related, although he has also appeared on The Fish’n Canada Show in the past.
Mike’s from Napanee, the town where I spent my latter years of public school and all of my high school. It’s also a town where most of the population loves fishing and hunting. While growing up, Mike and I spent countless time on the water—mostly Napanee River and Bay of Quinte and some smaller lakes to the north—learning all about fishing.
Video captured during this day-trip to Lake Ontario with pal Mike Burriss showcases the gin-clear water of Lake Ontario and the plentiful (and BIG) Smallmouth Bass that reside there.
I’ve since moved away from Napanee, but Mike still resides there and always has a finger on the pulse of the local fishing situations. We always look forward to outings together. Tons of laughs, and often tons of fish.
Took His Daughter On A Fishing/Scouting Mission
Mike told me about a recent Smallmouth day trip that he and his daughter Jen took; they’d had a great time and had caught a ton of fish. He said, “Come on up, we’ll do great!”
Now I must tell you right now: I’ve been bitten by the “no big largies for a while” bug, which makes moving on to a strictly Smallmouth fishing day a tough choice. That said, when it’s on a fishery like Lake Ontario (between Lake “O” and the rest of the province, Ontario is one of the world’s best destinations for Smallmouth Bass), the decision comes pretty quickly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, buddy!”
The beauty of having a buddy living in the day’s fishing destination is that I didn’t have to pull the boat all the way from the GTA to Kingston. I don’t mind trailering—Hell, Ang and I have been doing it for decades—but it’s kind of nice to go sans-trailer now and then. I can adapt to any boat, so this day was pretty much a day of no brains, just brawn—for big brownies, that is.
With all this COVID crap going on, we took separate vehicles. Not the best way for buddies to catch up with fishing stories, but it is safer. The drive from Napanee to Kingston, Ontario is nothing—especially when thoughts of catching big Smallmouth are running through your head.
(By the way, throughout our lengthy past, for two Napanee boys like us, the only “Rona’s” we’d normally encounter would have bottle caps on them!)
Once in the boat, that’s when the B.S. could, would and did start. We tried our best to fish from the front and back. It’s inevitable that we would cross paths, but we definitely fished much differently from any other time. Normally we’d both be up front, side by side, for 90% of the day.
Smallmouth Bass Galore
Since both Mike and I have been fishing the Kingston area of Lake Ontario for quite some time, we knew areas to hit. More importantly, we knew that the fish would still be shallow (two weeks after the opener; water in the low 70s).
Mike started out pretty well, cherry-picking roaming fish. But me, however, I lost or broke off the first three or more. Time to smarten up, beef up the line, and set even harder!
Once I had my gear dialed in better (No more 6lb test baby-sized line!), I started smashing fish, too.
Ned and Droppy
For most of the day, Mike stuck with a Ned Rig for his slow presentation, and the odd time fired out a big Spinnerbait. (I want to thank Mikey-boy for his fine Spinnerbaiting; he popped a couple of beauty eating-sized Northern Pike.)
Myself, I pretty much stuck to dropshotting all day with the odd shot of “big ugly”—a creature bait that I’ll throw when I’m getting sick of light line. It doesn’t work nearly as well, but who cares. For my dropshotting, I forgot our (Ang’s and my) favourite bait: Yamamoto Shad Shape Worms. But that ended up being a good thing. It made me consider other ideas. A finesse worm was my top choice, but I even resorted to cutting a beaver bait in half. And it looked pretty damned good, I might add.
Some Fishing Gear Notes
I didn’t get into the specifics of Mike’s Ned Rig set-up. However, I can give you the lowdown on my dropshot gear.
I like a long, limber-tipped spinning rod for dropshotting. So a 7+ footer is my deal. It needs a soft tip section and lots of backbone. If you can find a dropshot-specific rod, it might be a good thing to have.
For spinning reels, anything from a 1,000 size to 2,500 will suffice.
For this day, I used 10lb test braid as my mainline and worked up from 8 all the way to 12lb test fluorocarbon for my leader. You must remember, Lake Ontario is full of zebra mussels, so the lighter line you use, the more break-offs you will incur. 12lb is heavy, but it’s all I had. I’ll sacrifice some bites so I can convert my hooked fish into netted fish.
I like to use smaller hooks for Smallmouth, so a #6 or #8 Mosquito or Octopus hook or a dropshot-specific hook is ideal.
Finally, a cylinder weight of about ¼-ounce anchors the rig.
Black Bass vs. Brown Bass (and Roamers vs. Locked and Loaded)
The beauty of fishing Lake Ontario Smallmouth early in the season is the chance at seeing lots of fish. You won’t see them all, but you’ll see enough to blow your mind.
Some look jet black, while others are light-toned. It’s those black fish that really get anglers stirred up. They look just plain nasty and act that way, too. (Plus, they’re way easier to see cruising.)
Some fish will roam either by themselves or in groups, while others are locked onto rocks, nests, weed patches, etc.
Our favourite technique is looking for and casting to roamers. When you see a couple of black Smallmouth marauding in the shallows, your heart will certainly start pumping—I guarantee it!
On this day, Mike and I ultimately laid a beating on some big Smallmouth. It was a fun day that we both needed and a great get-together.
A lot of roaming fish did avoid us. However, we also caught our share of the more aggressive of the bunch. Single boulders had some fish, and the weed patches either had big groups of Smallmouth or my supper: Mr. and Mrs. Pike. Thanks for slinging the blade, bud!
This was an excellent day with a great friend.