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Ontario Fishing Network
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Volume 9,  Issue 10 -Oct. 2009 #106

J.P. DeRose


 

St Lawrence Fishing

 

 

J.P. DeRoseBRONZEBACK BONANZA Ė Fallís Monsters.
By JP DeRose

People often ask me why I fish so late in the season. The reasons are simple, NO BOATS, NO SEADOOS, NO BACKED UP LAUNCHES, THE ENTIRE LAKE TO MYSELF(basically)!!!!

For years I was a diehard deep weed line angler for big fall largemouth bass. I would fish until the end of November, searching for the greenest weeds in the lake. Some days were unbelievable, where you would catch 25 Ė 30, 3 pound plus buckets, other days you would get 10 or 15. I swore I had the greatest thing going, that is, until I was invited to fish smallmouth bass in November.

The term TOAD, GIANT or PIG when referring to a smallmouth means that the fall is here. Never, during anytime of the open bass season will you see such brutes come up to play while fish hitting the 7 pound mark are not unheard of and 6 pounders are seen almost on a daily basis yet the best feature of fishing fall smallmouth bass is the fact that they tend to school up. On a lake like Erie you are allowed two rods at a time and a quadruple header is not uncommon and even better is the commotion in the boat when this occurs, 2 guys, 4 fish on at the same time Ė priceless!!! Itís not just Lake Erie that produces. When things are right, Lake Simcoe, and the southern parts of Georgian Bay, can prove to be lethal with double headers and non-stop action if you can stay on top of these feeding fish.

Lake Erie is a lake that you often hear about, but many donít try it out. I was one of those, always thinking that you needed a 20 foot boat or a battleship to brave the Great Lake waters and that couldnít be any further from the truth. If you learn to pick your days, the spoils are well worth the wait. An average day on any smallmouth lake can produce 20 Ė 50 bass for a pair of anglers, but when all goes right, you will stop fishing because your arm wonít be able to handle the abuse these feisty fish can dish out.

TIMING
Starting in October, when the water starts to hit in the 50ís, the smallmouth bass begin the move to deeper water, looking to put the feed bag on for the impending winter. In lakes all over Ontario, there are phenomenal smallmouth bass waiting to be caught, and a few of the best lakes are Lake Erie, Georgian Bay, and Lake Simcoe. These lakes offer very similar structure and patterns, which can be utilized on either body of water and if you already know one, then you can apply the same knowledge to the other.

FINDING THE FISH
The key to finding and catching big fall smallmouth is a combination of mapping, and graphing and without a doubt, the better the sonar unit you have, the better your results will be. When I fish a new area, the first thing I do is look at a hydrographic chart of the lake in question. Typical fall smallmouth locations are rock, or rock/sand transitions in 20 Ė 50 feet of water and by analyzing the area I am interested in I look for humps, gravel piles or sharp drop offs which are adjacent to deep water. Once these areas are found, you have to find them on the water and the easiest way to accomplish this is with any of the new Humminbird Side Imaging GPS units, which use the Navionics mapping chips. If you do not have this feature, yet have a GPS unit or handheld, computer programs such as Fugawi are available for many of the lakes, and all you have to do is put your cursor over the spot and it will give you the latitude and longitude of those places, and then input them into your unit. When fishing large bodies of water, trying to locate off shore humps can be a real problem, but with this technology, itís as simple as can be.

Once you locate the spots, itís time to drive over and around them, looking for two very important features: 1. BAITFISH 2. HOOKS on your graph and if you find either of these two things, then itís time to fish. If you donít, move to the next spot until you do.

BAIT SELECTION
Once you are on fish, your next obstacle is to find out what they want. Come fall time, I find that you really only need two types of baits. There are many other ways to catch them but these are two of the most straight forward and most productive.

Without a doubt in my mind, my number one go to bait is a tube. Dragging a tube will account for 70 percent of my deepwater smallmouth every year however the colors and weight you throw can be very critical. The key is to match the forage that these big fish are feeding on and a selection of 3Ē, 4Ē and even 5Ē tubes can be very helpful. In most instances, they are feeding on crayfish, perch or minnows depending on the lake so if youíre marking suspended baitfish, odds are they are feeding on smelt or shiners and you should look to the smoke, white or silver fleck tubes. When you are marking the fish tight to bottom, smokes, greens and browns are my go to colors and trust me when I say that these are not the only ones that work, but they are a starting point for everyday that I fish.

Weight selection is dependant on the speed of the drift. You want to have bottom contact with the tube bumping it off the rocks and dragging it through the sand to trigger strikes. I have thrown as heavy as 5/8 ounce jigs in my tubes when fishing in some rough stuff while using 2 drift socks to control the speed of the drift. On a normal day 3/8 ounce jig will do the trick, but the best advice I can give you is to have a wide variety of jigs on board. In my box, I have 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 5/8, 11/16, & 3/4 ounce jigs as this allows me to be in the strike zone no matter the conditions.

The second bait, and probably my favorite is a jigging spoon. Jigging spoons have always produced some of my biggest fall smallmouth bass and there are a lot of jigging spoons on the market and all have their day, but a couple of the more consistent producers for me are the Crippled Herring and the BPS XPS Tungsten Jigging Spoon. Just like the tube jig heads, it is equally important to have a good variety of weights on hand to be able to keep these spoons as vertical as possible. I like to have 1/2 oz, 3/4 oz, 1 oz, & 1 Ĺ oz jigs on hand. The most common size for me is the 3/4 ounce, because I like the way it falls and the feel of the spoon when jigging however this is just a personal preference. One thing that should be mentioned is that if one of your fish happens to spit up some food, as they often do, check the size and what it is as this can pay huge dividends when choosing you spoon size or tube color, and size. The colors of the jigging spoons are quite simple, Silver, Gold, whites, and Chartreuse or any combos of these are all good choices.

The jigging action used can be a variety of cadences just like jerk bait fishing, every day is different, just let the fish tell you what they want. I typically start with a standard snap sweep and change up until I get hit and keep in mind that generally the bait is right near bottom and swept 4 feet in the upwards direction and 90 percent of the hits will be on the spoonís flutter down, so donít be surprised on the next sweep if your rod is stopped in its tracks. This is why I love the bait, you never know when, but when they hit and you set into a moose, your heart just stops!!! A big fish can be compared to wrestling a Volkswagen off bottom, they donít want to come up, and they will prove it.

RODS, REELS & LINE
When it comes to choosing the appropriate rod for the task at hand, I have always leaned towards a 6í8Ē - 7'2" medium heavy rod with a fast tip. Spinning rods that are rated 6-15 or 8-17 lb test usually fit this description. As for my jigging rods, a 6í6Ē or 7í medium with a fast tip is used. Bait casting rods that are rated from 8-14 or 10-17 lb test are good choices. The reels are open to anyoneís preference as it has to feel good in your hand. All I can recommend is a good drag with some decent line capacity. Usually the 2500 series or 3000 series of reels are good choices for size but the real debate over line will continue for years to come...Braid or Mono? Personally I like the braid in the deep for dragging tubes; however I prefer mono for jigging spoons.

For the tubes, 15 Ė 20 lb braided line really does the trick and when they are a little picky, try running a mono or fluorocarbon leader. Try to go as heavy as the fish will allow, as you will almost always be dragging through rocks and of course zebra mussels but generally 10-14 lb test will do the trick.

As for my jigging rods, 14-17 lb Fluorocarbon is all I have ever used and probably ever will. It has served me well over the past couple of years. Many anglers choose braid for the sensitivity and it can be very useful in detecting the bite on the drop.

My last piece of advice is to dress properly; layers of clothes, survival suits and hats are highly recommended as are a good pair of insulted boots and gloves. Itís better to have on too much than not enough. Put a lighter jacket in the boat incase things heat up in the afternoon and remember if you find them, they will come (to eat), just donít let go of your rod because your arm is hurting!!!!

Tight lines and long weekends
JP DeRose


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