I just returned from a brief but rewarding trip to a lake to fish for smallmouth bass. I was invited by a friend from Louisiana to his rustic cabin on an island. Each day, he would gather neighbors from surrounding islands, and I would demonstrate the tackle I would use and what casts I would employ. In the afternoon, we would cruise the shoreline quietly using an electric motor while we searched for the luminous beds.
The male fish on the beds average about a pound. The female spawning bass averaged 3 to 5 pounds!
The males stay to guard the nest after the hens lay the eggs and depart. The young fish are taught to fear larger predator fish when the male often charges through the young, eating the slowest to respond to the threat.
During June, in this lake 200 miles north of Toronto, the bass spawn near the shoreline and alongside large boulders offshore. Their beds are easy to see because they fan out the silt, exposing light-colored gravel. The selection of a successful bed is where the cold northern lake waters warm first after ice-out.
When we found a bed, we would cut the motor off at about 50 feet away, and I would cast a popping bug directly over the bed. The fish are extremely protective of the nests. When anything appears to be a threat, they rocket upward with a vicious strike. Or … they leave the nest and slowly rise, nose the fly then softly sip it in. This tends to be nerve wracking, and often, I strike too soon!
There is one species that is a constant threat, the rock bass (red eye). They do not grow to more than 9 inches in these cold waters with the short growing season. These fish hang close by the nests and dart in for a snack while they are still swimming in the nesting area. They will hit the flies as well and are a bit of a disappointment when they win the race with a 4-pound smallmouth to snatch the intrusive predator fly!
I used an 8-wt. Gold Cup rod, along with others with a 270o Reel on each. I used a Rio Gold line ending with a 6-foot fluorocarbon leader. The rod performed well at short and long distance. The reel had a smooth start up when the drag system was employed and accepted adjusted tension easily.
In three days of afternoon fishing, I landed more than 100 smallmouths. I would think this method of fishing would appeal to many.
Other species that are available in this fertile area are northern pike and lake trout. These are available using fly or spinning gear in the area I fished.
Written by Harry Robertson