Today’s post comes from James Burns, conservation officer and former interior ranger at Quetico Provincial Park from 2000 to 2013.
If I thought more people were going to read this article, I would almost feel guilty, because a gentleman should not kiss and tell; or in this case, catch and count. Fortunately I am not a gentleman!
Before anyone gets excited, I’m not talking about romance today (although I personally find a five-pound smallmouth pretty sexy, and I know plenty of other Quetico anglers who feel the same way!).
So. Low. Big low
Big Small-Mouth Bass, more specifically.
I’m going to tell you a little secret about smallmouths in Quetico Provincial Park. The best time to catch them is in the fall: last week of August and first half of September, to be exact.
Not only are these big fish at their peak of feeding aggression this time of year, but there are more of them. Because? Well, after gorging on cisco or smelt all summer (the preferred food of a bass in northwestern Ontario), a 3-pound bass has gained enough weight to become a 4-pound bass, and a 4-pounder is has become a 5 lb. etc.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught an 18-inch bass that would average 3 pounds, but since it’s September, it has morphed into a 4-pound football bass.
The fighting strength of the fish is simply incredible at this time of year. Fish that are normally known for putting up spectacular fights become much feistier due to the extra mass they have acquired, preparing for the long winter ahead. Bass are largely inactive during the winter, so the warm water of fall causes them to gain weight as quickly as they can.
It’s up to you, dear fisherman, to take advantage of this season.
How, you ask? It’s simple. Give those fish what they want. Large and small mouths focus on energy-rich foods like cisco or smelt. Most of the time they feed in large schools to corral bait.
Look for natural pinch points on lakes that have easy access to deeper water. Schools of bass will use these areas as ambush spots and spend a good percentage of their day circling these spots, waiting for a school of baitfish to arrive. Constantly be on the lookout for fish breaking the surface, even in rough water. If you see fish on the surface, chances are you’ve found a school of hungry bass.
Throw anything that looks like a blue and white baitfish at them. You have hundreds of options, from soft plastics (Zoom Flukes, etc.), hard baits (Rapala Jerk Baits, etc.), or my personal favorite, topwater baits (Zara Spooks, etc.).
Catching a 5-pound angry bass is one of my favorite things in the world, but doing it with a topwater bait? Well, that’s the best thing that appears in my books.
It’s especially amazing when you’re out in a boat with a big bass, look out into the water, and see five of his friends waiting for leftovers!
See you in September!