Gord Pyzer holding Bass

Ontario Now Has The World’s Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing. Here’s Why

If you want to start a friendly fishing debate, suggest that your local area has the very best angling in the entire country. If you want to stir the pot even further, claim that your area has the best fishing in the entire world. Well, let me stir the pot—when it comes to the world’s best smallmouth bass fishing, nothing tops southern Ontario’s fisheries management zones.

That relatively small area includes the Canadian portions of Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, as well as inland waters such as Lake Simcoe. It’s the same region where, for decades, the Ontario government’s top bass specialist, Mark Ridgway, and Illinois scientist David Philipp carried out much of their world-class research into the behaviour of northern-range smallies.

It’s also the only place on earth where smallmouth bass are off-limits to anglers in the spring, when the females spawn and the males guard the nests. Why no fishing during the spawn? The reason is simple. Only 30 per cent of mature northern-range males actually sweep out a nest, mate with a female and protect the eggs and fry. So, if you remove any of those few males, no others will arrive to replace them and protect the nests. Even if a guarding male is caught and quickly released, the eggs and fry will still be exposed to predation. By protecting the spawners, the entire population benefits.


For evidence of how well this regulation works, just look at the local bass tournament results. On Lake Simcoe, for example, anglers regularly weigh in five-fish limits approaching and sometimes exceeding 30 pounds. The bass fishing is so good, in fact, that anglers with five-fish limits weighing 20 to 25 pounds, which would win anywhere else on the continent, can be heard complaining they couldn’t find the “big” fish.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Simcoe is within a day’s  drive for more than 100 million potential anglers. And the same thing happens in many of the other waters in the region.

For even more telling examples, consider the tournaments on waters Ontario shares with the U.S. Take last June’s FLW event on Lake St. Clair, when the winning angler and most of the other top-five finishers had run south from Michigan and fished along the Canadian shoreline. They brought 15 smallmouth to the scales for a combined total of more than 95 pounds. And when BASS and the FLW hold events on Lake Erie, the victorious anglers consistently catch their winning bags of bass on the Canadian portion of the lake.

Similarly, whenever BASS conducts an Elite event on the New York side of the St. Lawrence River, the question on every competitor’s mind is whether the weather will hold up so they can make it up to the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. It’s a harrowing 145-kilometre trip, and if you risk it, you typically have only 90 minutes to fish before you have to turn around and make the nail-biting marathon back to the weigh-in site. But the pros do it, repeatedly.

The one thing each one of those lakes and rivers have in common—in the Canadian portions, at least—is a closed season to protect the bass when they’re spawning and guarding their eggs, fry and nests. And as a result, they have more and bigger bass than areas without a closed season. As Ridgway and Philipp have repeatedly said, there are no justifiable reasons to fish for nesting northern-range smallmouth in the spring.


It’s very likely some of you may be thinking that the areas I’ve mentioned are also places where the climate has warmed, and where invasive round gobies have become firmly established, offering the bass a bountiful buffet. There’s no doubt that’s true. However, neither climate change nor the presence of round gobies is limited to the Canadian side of those waters.

The case is clear: If you want to enjoy the best smallmouth bass fishing in the world, head to one of southern Ontario’s premier waters, where there’s a perfect mix of climate, forage and enlightened fisheries management. Any jurisdiction that wants to develop a high-quality, sustainable smallmouth fishery should follow the region’s example.

Catch Gord Pyzer on the Outdoor Journal Radio Show on The Fan 590. 

2 Replies to “Ontario Now Has The World’s Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing. Here’s Why”

  1. The “Doctor” is in the house!

    Yes, Ontario certainly has the world’s best Smallmouth Bass fishing as Mr. Pyzer has stated. His reciprocal understanding of our fishing regulations are indisputable. Suffice to say in that regard, Ontario’s fisheries management zones are second to none and one of the primary reasons this fishery exists.

    I might add to the “Docs” astute assessment, the Small Mouth Bass is found in clearer water than the Large Mouth, especially streams, rivers, and the rocky areas and stumps and also sandy bottoms of lakes and reservoirs. (Canada has an abundance of these types of structures) The Small Mouth prefers cooler water temperatures than its cousin the Large Mouth bass, and may be found in both still and running water.

    Because it is intolerant of pollution, the Small Mouth bass is a good natural indicator of a healthy environment, though it can better adjust to changes in water condition than most trout species. Carnivorous, its diet comprises crayfish, insects, and smaller fish.

    The indication arises, the reduced industrial and residential pollution on the Canadian side of these water bodies allows this to be so. This leads to the fact, Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Lake Simcoe, Lake St. Clair and Eagle Lake, being the top 5 Small Mouth Bass fishing “Hot Spots” in Ontario. A cool, clear water extravaganza.

    As the saying goes, “If you want to be as successful a fisherman as Dr. Pyzer, watch what he does and then do exactly the same thing.”

  2. Here are a few seasonal tips for fishing Small mouth Bass that should give even the novice fisherman/woman a heads start.

    Where you’ll find them in Spring :

    1) Small Mouth bass love rock and spend more than ninety percent of their time on this hard structure.
    2) Post-spawn Small Mouth will remain close to shallow rocky areas of the lake until the temperature of the water warms considerably.
    3) Islands, points and shoals are the three preferred spots to begin your Small Mouth search, starting each area up shallow and moving deeper until you connect with fish.

    Bait and Baiting Tips :

    Top water plugs, crank baits and jigs are the preferred baits early in the season
    “matching the hatch” by using crayfish coloured is a sure bet to entice fish into you landing net.

    Locating these Critters in summer :

    Summer fishing can often be a “hit and miss” attempt due to whereabouts of the fish during this time.

    1) Early morning and evening periods will usually find fish in shallow water aggressively feeding. This is where top waters lures really prove their worth and will lead to heart stopping explosions on the surface.
    2) Daytime Small Mouth will retreat to the safety of deeper water and will relate to depths from six to thirty-feet deep. The one thing they will relate to is having a dependable fish finder on board. Your underwater eyes so to speak.
    3) Look for humps, shelves and drop offs and work a jig over these underwater magnets.
    4) Due to the schooling nature of the Small Mouth bass, once one is caught, there are sure to be more to come.

    In the Fall, it is a whole different “kettle of fish” (pun intended).

    This time of the year means one thing to a bass angler, big Small Mouth. They gorge themselves on crayfish and minnows in anticipation of the cold winter months. The key to catching them is concentrating on some of the spots you had success on earlier in the season.

    1) Points, saddles and shoals will hold Small Mouth at this time of the year but the school will be situated farther from shore and in deeper water in comparison to their summer.
    2) Begin your search by finding water in the 20-foot depth and continue working until you hit 35 feet. Most of your fall fish will relate to water this deep and once you catch some, the remainder of the lakes’ fish will be holding at this magical depth.

    Casting Rattle Traps, cranks and jigs are the go to baits for the fall. Using a marker buoy to stay with the school and at the optimum depth will increase your chances of connecting.

    So you see, watching and learning from what Gord Pyzer and the rest of the gang at Fish’n Canada says and does, and then doing the same thing, has certainly paid off for me.

    It’s a piece of cake, eh?!

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