Not many fisherpersons with disagree that pound-for-pound Smallmouth Bass are the hardest fighting freshwater fish on the planet. Wabigoon Lake and Dinorwic Lake are stuffed with Smallmouth Bass of every size. Smallmouth Bass also taste fantastic and many of our guests enjoy their white fluffy meat just as much as Walleye.
Wabigoon Lake and Dinorwic Lake are peppered with thousands of rocky islands, rocky points, shoals, reefs and weedy bays. Smallmouth Bass are available in vast numbers and are very easy to catch all year because they don't take off into deep water like that do on deep lakes. Smallmouth Bass are caught in the shallows all year. You don't have to travel far from camp to start catching them. We also want you to remember that you have 62 square miles of water with 236 miles of shoreline on the two best Smallmouth Bass fishing lakes in Northwestern Ontario. Somewhere off those rocky points is the biggest bass you will ever catch and he is just waiting for you.
If you are new to Smallmouth Bass fishing in Northern Ontario; it helps to understand Smallmouth Bass society. Bass in the 1/2 to 2-pound range generally travel in large schools and roam along the shoreline looking for food. They can move into an area with lots of Crayfish and minnows and stay for days until the food is gone. If you find one of these schools you can virtually catch a bass every cast all day long. That's a lot of fun but many of our guests come to Merkel's to catch the big old lunkers and there are plenty of them. If you are into a school of bass and they suddenly stop feeding don't stop casting because that means a big Pike or Muskie has moved into the area so be prepared to get a big surprise.
Larger Smallmouth Bass in the 2-1/2 to 7 pound range almost always travel in mating pairs. These mating pairs are very territorial and do not let the smaller bass near their rocky point or rocky shoal. Mating pairs are always the same size. It you catch a 5-pound bass you know that there is another one in the same spot. You may get lucky and find a spot where a big single female is being chased around by 4 or 5 big males of the same size. This happens often. If you are in a spot where you are catching bass on almost every cast then chances are you will not run into a big one unless it's a rogue male coming in to eat smaller bass.
Serious bass hunters will have some fun at these spots but eventually hunt down the big ones. If you move into an area that's perfect for bass but not producing any fish that that means there is a big pair in the area. They are big because they are smart so perseverance and trying multiple baits is the key to getting a big one. Moving your boat into the area may have spooked tham so just keep trying and try to stay quiet. If you specifically target bass and spend your time where there is a school of smaller ones it can be easy to catch 60 to 80 bass in a day. We say only 60 to 80 bass because you will also be catching Pike, Walleye, Muskie, Perch and Crappie in the same spot and that reduces the numbers of bass.
Wabigoon and Dinorwic are 100 fish-per-day lakes. As far as Smallmouth Bass over 3 pounds; spending the day targeting the points and shoals should produce around 30 fish over 3 pounds. If you spend the whole week bass fishing you will catch quite a few in the 4 and 5 pound range and maybe a couple in the 6 to 7-pound range. A 7-pound bass is considered a trophy by most. Smallmouth Bass this size are in the lake but they are not as common as the smaller sizes but guests do catch a couple per week. Smallmouth Bass in the 8+ pound range are extremely rare but they are there. There is no reason why Wabigoon Lake or Dinorwic Lake could not produce the next World Record Smallmouth Bass.
Smallmouth Bass can seem like the easiest fish to catch one day and impossible to catch the next. Sometimes they are in the shallows right on top of the shoals or in the rocks. Sometimes they take off into deeper water. The bass are almost always feeding and where they are and how they are feeding is dictated by where the food is. Leeches, Crayfish and minnows make up the majority of the Smallmouth Bass' diet. They hunt for Leaches along the shore where there is weed cover. They hunt for Crayfish where it's rocky. They follow the minnows whether they are in shallow water or deep water.
Smaller bass in the 1/2 pound to 2-pound range usually travel in hunting packs. You could hit a rocky point and catch bass after bass one day and go back the next day and there is nothing there. That's because the hunting packs are always on the move. Generally they travel along the shore but sometimes they can decide to cross the open lake to a group of islands and in this scenario they are very hard to find while they are in this type of location transition. It's your best bet to stick to the rocky points, shoals and islands where there is a sudden drop-off. The reason why drop-offs are so attractive to the bass is because they are sensitive to atmospheric pressure and if a low pressure system comes in they can quickly move deeper to compensate for the change and pressure without having to experience any discomfort and not travel far from their feeding area. Drop-offs also attract minnows.
Smallmouth Bass are also attracted to points where the wind has been blowing into shore for a couple of days. Warm surface water washing up on a rocky shoreline washes in surface bugs, which attracts minnows. If the waves are really big the oscillation of the waves is uncomfortable for the bass so they may sit off into deeper water where they are not getting bounced around. When you hit a rocky point, island or shoal try working the shallows first and then let the boat drift into deeper water. Try starting in deeper water and then drift over the shallows and then back into deeper water. The bass may be on the side of the shoal with the most wave action or they may be resting in the quiet water on the calm side of the shoal. When you run into a hunting pack of Smallmouth Bass most likely you will catch lots of bass but they will all be 2 pounds or smaller. The really big bass travel in mating pairs and they are very territorial. They are also big because they are smart. If you come to a place that looks perfect for Smallmouth and don't catch anything, try to stay quiet and try different baits. The bigger bass spook easily and if you disturb them they might not feed for 10 or 15 minutes. Any bait you throw while they are spooked becomes unappetizing to them. It's best to quietly wait and then throw different baits to catch their interest. If you catch a big bass it is almost certain that another bass of the same size is in the area.
Smallmouth Bass Baits & Lures:
Bass at times will hit just about anything. The most popular deep-water lures are tube jigs in green, blue, black or worm color. For shallow water small spinnerbaits, spinners with a rubber minnow, a regular jig tipped with worm, leach or a minnow or a jig with a small crayfish also work great. Other effective lures are small crankbaits and retrieving lures like Cotton Cordell Walleye Diver or Cotton Cordell Big "O" for deeper water, floating Rapala and Thundersticks for shallow water. In early summer they will go after bright colors like red or Fire-Tiger. As you move into August and September they tend to go for darker natural colors like silver and black or silver and blue. Smallmouth Bass when really feeding will hit surface lures like Jitterbugs or a Cotton Cordell Crazy Shad.
Live Bait for Smallmouth Bass:
The very best bait is live bait. If the bass are in a picky mood and won't hit lures you have to try live bait. Bait stores are not allowed to sell Crayfish anymore in Ontario. Minnows, leaches and worms are still allowed with no restrictions. With a medium size bass hook, put a minnow or a nice fat worm on a hook with no weight and let lots of line out and try drifting over a shoal and drag the minnow or worm off the tops of rocks. If you are in a situation where there is no wind at all and you can see there are no bass on top of the shoal. Cast your minnow or worm off into the deeper water and just let it sink slowly. If your minnow or worm land on the bottom, let it sit there for a minute and then try a long slow jig to gently lift it off the bottom and then let it sink again. Some of the biggest Smallmouth Bass caught in Ontario are caught on a worm or a minnow and it remains the most popular method for catching Smallmouth Bass.
Deep Water Smallmouth:
After the Smallmouth Bass spawn in the spring they tend to take off into deeper water during the day and don't come really shallow until late summer or fall. They will also go deep if a low pressure system comes in. In Wabigoon Lake and Dinorwic Lake you don't have to worry about Smallmouth going deep because they are shallow lakes. In lakes that have really deep areas the bass can go 40-feet deep or more. The most popular way to fish deep for Smallmouth is with tube jigs. Black, green and worm color are popular. You can tip them with a tiny piece of worm for flavor. The worm has to be small or it may affect the swirling motion of the tube jig. Just drop the jig down to the bottom and do long slow jigs. Most times the bass hits the jig while it's sinking. Deep water tube jigging is easier with a long rod so you can do long slow jigging motions.