Episode 531: Twitchbait Smallies

Hey everyone and welcome to the premiere episode of the 2023 airing Fish’n Canada season. We thought we’d start this year’s shows out with a bang and feature one of the most exciting shows we’ve ever put on TV! 

We were fishing in northwest Ontario in the Seine River system near Atikokan, Ontario with a target species of Smallmouth Bass. We say “system” because the river is made up of a chain of lakes. The lake that we featured in this episode is called Calm Lake.

Branch’s Seine River Lodge is a short drive due west from Atikokan ON

Now don’t let the name fool you because during our first two days here, the area of the lake we wanted to shoot in, was anything but calm. Our production team couldn’t film due to rain, nasty whitecaps, and big rollers.

At least it gave us a chance to record an episode of the Outdoor Journal Radio podcast!

Our intended area, by the way, was a narrow area that opens up to the main lake… big water indeed!

Sparked up the Garmin’s and… waited for the winds to slow down

This narrowed-down area apparently has a phenomenal amount of roaming Cisco throughout the summer months. Of course, with bait like Cisco, come gamefish of all sorts, and if there are Smallmouth Bass present, they could well be the dominant predator. That includes Pike and Walleye. With smallies being a schooling fish, they essentially take over these areas.

Things were actually getting worse for the first couple of days

So, as we said, the wind was ridiculous so we looked for protected water in and around our intended “narrows” area. And, when each window of opportunity came that we could film, we caught everything that we didn’t want… AKA little hammer-handle Pike, and couldn’t BUY a Smallie. We knew they were there, we just had to wait em’ out!

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day…

A NEW DAY

FINALLY… the weather, she has broken. You have no idea how difficult it is, to either be locked up in a cabin for a day or two or worse yet, be out on the water and not able to shoot.

This was the day we’d been waiting for… a perfect smallie day.

Other people had the same idea as us… get out there early. This trio even beat us and were the first to hit the water

We headed to our intended fishing location and low and behold… this time the conditions were bang-on! Upon arrival, we could instantly see fish on our Garmin…both baitfish as well as predator fish… it’s exactly the scenario that we’ve been waiting for…

Now, although what we’re going to describe to you sounds like a unique situation, it actually is quite common worldwide where smallies exist…so long as there’s also a population of pelagic baitfish to support it.

The smallies we’re after today are part of a special segment of fish that prefer to feed in big open waters. This large predatory group of bass are set up in a funnelling area that’s perfect for corralling and busting into big schools, or “balls” of Ciscoe, a high protein baitfish throughout this system.

Kind of a cool view of the boys firing on suspended Smallies

As we mentioned earlier, these Ciscoe are Pelagic, meaning they roam the waters away from shore and away from bottom. Essentially, they’re huge floating cafeterias that attract pelagic predators, like these marauding smallies.

To better describe what is actually going on here today, we captured some amazing LiveScope footage.

Before forward scanning technology came along, it was hard to see what “bait balls” looked like or exactly where they were and what they were doing. Now it’s a no-brainer. Imagine being a big smallie, Walleye, or Pike hovering underneath a massive source of food, waiting for the dinner bell to go off!

At any given time, it seemed that these Smallmouth were in one of two modes. Actively cruising around midway in the water column getting ready to attack the cisco balls or not paying any attention to the bait above instead relating to bottom structure like boulders and wood.

There are even times, when for whatever reason, the roaming baitballs swam down to the Smallmouth near the bottom. Looks like Cisco suicide!

HOWEVER, once these marauding predators decide to feed, it’s an ALL-OUT attack! The odd time it’s a single Smallie blitz, but most of the time, it’s an entire wolf pack onslaught! 

Absolute eating machines!

OUR PRESENTATION:

Ang with his new discovery, a Yo-Zuri 3DB Twitchbait… ya’ think he’s happy???

In preparation for this shoot, Ang had found in browsing through the latest Yo-Zuri line of freshwater baits, a lure called a 3DB Twitchbait. Essentially, it’s a long slender-shaped lipless lure, that has a slight side-to-side wobble upon a straight retrieve. However, combine that with twitching and pausing throughout the retrieve, and it’s a whole different ball game.

Angelo calls it his “Slide and Glide” retrieve.

These unique baits are barely running under the water’s surface. With fluorocarbon line, the 1-ounce 110mm floating model will only glide to a couple of feet deep and if the retrieve is stopped, the bait will float back up to the surface. The 1-ounce suspending/slow sinking model 110mm, will drop to 3 or 4 feet deep and slowly sink when paused (this is the one that worked best on this trip).

Essentially, while fishing in 20-plus feet of water, our baits are only diving down two to four feet below the surface. 

Every single smallie has to swim up to attack our baits… it’s the perfect presentation when the fish aren’t hitting on the surface… exactly what we were looking for.

On this episode we were concentrating on Smallmouth Bass, however, the Seine River system also has a strong Walleye population and some gigantic Northern Pike as well. And the best part is, all of these species also rely on the Cisco as a food source. By trolling the open water, anglers can score big time!

Along with this particular Smallmouth we were catching, which are feeding on pelagic baitfish, there’s also a so-called “normal” smallie population throughout the rest of the system which we call crayfish-eating, bottom feeders. These of course can be caught on baits like tube jigs, Ned rigs, dropshot rigs, etc. The options here are endless.

BRANCH’S SEINE RIVER LODGE INFO:

For more information on Branch’s Seine River Lodge, the accommodations, and the absolutely incredible food. Check out the article over at Northern Ontario Travel!

https://www.northernontario.travel/fishing/open-water-smallmouth-fishing-in-atikokan

THE FISHING

The Seine Chain Smallmouth Bass: Pound for pound there is no better freshwater sport fish that gives an angler a better fight and better action than the smallmouth bass.

The Seine Chain of Lakes is home to some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in Northwestern Ontario, and we welcome die-hard bass fishermen from all over the United States and Canada year after year to enjoy the action that our scrappy smallies provide.

The Seine Chain Walleye: The Seine Chain of Lakes offers an incredible array of walleye fishing opportunities throughout the system. In a time when many lakes are facing declining walleye stocks, nettings by the MNR on the Seine Chain indicate population levels are strong, consistent and perhaps even rising.

Aside from being able to access 30 miles of water and five lakes right from our dock, our pickerel anglers appreciate many other features of the Seine River System.

The water on the Seine is a stained shade of rust – some say it’s from the iron formation upstream in the Steep Rock Lake / Atikokan area. Others say it’s from other naturally occurring causes. Our walleye anglers say it’s great because it enhances their fishing success at any time of day.

The Seine Chain Northern Pike: With a surplus of ideal habitat – shallow & weedy bays, deep drop offs, islands and reefs and a healthy bait fish population, the northern pike thrive on the Seine Chain.

If you’re just throwing a line in, not trying for any particular species, often the pike is the fish you’ll wind up reeling in.

GETTIN’ THERE

To get to this outstanding “slide and glide” Smallmouth Bass fishing we first drove north on hwy 400 to hwy 69. From there we travelled west on hwy 17. We next took the 102 bypass at Thunder Bay. From there we headed west on hwy 11 and finally turned north on Banning Lake Rd, which took us to the beautiful Branch’s Seine River Lodge.

This great resort has all updated and modernized cabins and has some of the most outstanding meals in all of northern Ontario. 

It’s all about amazing food, spectacular accommodations and awesome fishing!

Hotspot

This episode’s Hotspot is Calm Lake. This area is known for suspended Smallmouth Bass. These fish are feeding on suspended Cisco’s and they’re aggressive.

The Twitchbait is a perfect imitation of those Cisco. Let it slowly drop after it hits the water and then work it back with various cadences until you find the one that works.

When the Smallies are busting bait on the surface, Walking the Dog with the Pencil Popper is a perfect presentation.

Baits: Yo-Zuri Slow Sinking Twitchbait and Pencil Popper

Presentation: For the Twitchbait, stop and go pulling action (or as Ang says “Slide & Glide”), and for the Pencil Popper Walk The Dog.

Depth: 16-40 feet

For more Hotspots, check out this section of our site.

TV EXTRAS

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