Largemouth Bass is by far the most popular freshwater game fish in America. Fishing for bass is a popular pastime that has evolved into a multi-trillion dollar industry. If you are coming up to Ontario from the south you need to know that fishing for Largemouth Bass in Ontario is different. If you stick to southern methods you may find it a bit more challenging to catch them in northern waters and that is not what we want. We suggest you alter your tactics just a little so you will catch a boat load of them.
Down in the southern and central states Largemouth Bass are usually the top predatory fish, with exception of lakes that have been stocked with Musky. As a result the bass have nothing to fear in most cases, which makes them more aggressive than Ontario bass. The water in the south is warmer thus bass have a higher metabolism and they are more aggressive because they need to eat more. In the southern warmer water there is more organic material in the water. Suspended organic materials and algae suppress visibility and because of this the bass blindly attack without fear. Because of the organic matter in the water the Largemouth Bass also respond better to scent as that is a back-up to finding prey by sound or variations in water displacement.
In northern lakes the water is cooler, which makes bass a little more lethargic. In the case of Crotch Lake there are monster Northern Pike that can easily swallow a big bass so the bass can be a little shy. Most northern lakes have crystal clear water or at least extremely clear compared to southern lakes and reservoirs. This results in a major behavior change. In Ontario's clear lakes, Largemouth Bass hunt visually and are less responsive to sound. Because the water is clear they do not rely on scent as a back-up to sound and are actually hypersensitive to smells. This makes a big difference and results in the following:
Scent: Largemouth Bass in the north do not like scented baits. You will catch way more using unscented or salted baits. Traditional scented baits will actually cause the bass to turn away before striking in many cases because the smell is way too strong in the clean water and it seems unnatural to them. Salted baits are outstanding because the salt mimics the electrical ions discharged from the lateral lines of bait fish as they swim.
Sound: Largemouth Bass still react to sound in northern lakes but too much sound will scare them away. You need to use smaller lures whether they are surface baits or spinner baits. Spinner baits should have the quieter willow-leaf blades. Rattle baits do work if reeling in slowly but if you reel in too fast the sound will be too much and scare the bass off.
Speed: The cooler water means the bass are a little lethargic so you need to real in slower. Most people's instinct is to use a spinner bait with larger blades to keep the lure from sinking but larger blades will scare the bass so you need to go to smaller and lighter spinner baits.
Visibility: Just like above you need to use blades that are smaller and less flashy. You also need to use smaller lures. Because of visibility you should use thinner line that is dark in color. If you like pulling bass out of Lily Pads and Wild Rice it's best to use a thin braded line. These are all factors that keep visually hunting bass from spooking.
Colors: In Ontario's clear cool lakes the Largemouth Bass are generally feeding on small Leopard Frogs and Bull Frogs, leeches, chub and shiner minnows, Perch, crayfish (crawdads), baby Walleyes and other baby bass, whether they are largemouth or smallmouth. The best colors to use if casting spinner and crank baits is the natural colors of food found in their environment. Brown, gold, copper, black, green, silver and white work best. Bright obnoxious colors such as red, pink, fire tiger and chartreuse do sometimes work but in clear water most bass get spooked by these colors.
Other than the points mentioned above, you would just fish for bass like you always have. Cast the edge of the Bulrushes and into the Wild Rice with spinner baits. Tease the bass by dragging Carolina or Texas rigs over Lily Pads. Get those crank baits and rattle baits in between the logs. Cast over top of the patches of Musky Cabbage with small Jitter Bugs, Poppers and Spooks. You just have to be a little less visible, a little less noisy, a little slower and smell good.
Texas Rigs Vs. Carolina Rig
Many people from Ontario might not be familiar with American Bass fishing methods so here is an explanation of the Texas and Carolina Rigs, which are two of the most popular ways to fish for Largemouth Bass in the south. Both of these rigs were designed to be tossed out over Lily Pads and other surface weeds. You need to retrieve the rigs two or three feet and then stop for a few seconds and start reeling again. You want the bass to think it's some kind of bug or frog jumping over top the weeds.
The difference in these rigs and how they perform is based on the position of the sinker and the size of the sinker. The purpose of the sinker is to have enough weight to cast to the spots you choose. If you want your whole bait to sink down into the weeds when you pause your reeling you would use a Texas Rig. If you want your bait to sit up on top of the weeds you would use a Carolina Rig. Generally with a Carolina Rig you would use a smaller weight so the weight does not drag your bait off the plants. With a Texas Rig the sinker is allowed to slide right up to the rubber. With a Carolina Rig the sinker has a foot lead ahead of the rubber and kept in place with a tiny spit shot. Red is not a good color. We only used red rubbers because it looks cool on the diagram.
Traditional Canadian Methods:
You can catch Largemouth Bass with many different lures. Casting shallow running Rapalas and Thundersticks over top of thick weeds that have not reached the surface is an excellent way to bring out bass from hiding. One really hot lure for Largemouth Bass is a Mepps' Spinner with a gray rubber minnow hook on the back. Lots of people like to jig with white and green twistertails in between patches of these weeds. One effective way to catch Largemouth Bass is with a floating jig and a leech with no weight. Just cast out to the edge of the Bulrushes or Lily Pads and just leave the float there. The leech should be squirming around and that will attract a bass.
Minnows: An extremely fun way to fish for Largemouth Bass is with a float, hook, sinker and a minnow. Not only is this a relaxing way to fish for Largemouth; it is extremely effective, especially for the big trophies. You will catch tons of bass using many methods in the Wild Rice and Lily Pads but generally the really big bass claim the prime areas and chase smaller bass out. The three very best places to find big Largemouth Bass is under logs, under floating docks and under floating patches of Bulrushes. Since Crotch Lake is a wilderness zone with hardly any docks we'll stick to describing logs and Bulrushes.
Logs: Big Largemouth Bass like to sit under logs where they can be at least a foot off bottom without touching the bottom of the log. In this case you just cast your minnow and float a couple feet from the log. In area you can also cast lures if you don't have any minnows.
Bulrushes: If you see an area where there are large colonies of Bulrushes facing the open lake you need to investigate. In some places along the Bulrushes wave action will dig out all the mud and soil from underneath the edges leaving a floating overhang of plants and roots. If the edge of the Bulrushes are floating a foot or two off the bottom of the lake then odds are a big old Bucketmouth has claimed the area.
You want to use a small float with a tiny split shot weight, have your hook about one foot from the float with the weight about four inches from the minnow and cast towards the floating Bulrushes and plop your float down about two or three feet from the edge. You do not want to be any closer than two feet, which we explain later.
Let's say a Largemouth Bass takes your minnow. The bigger the bass the slower the float will submerge and the slower the bass swims back to his fortress of Bulrushes. You need time for him to take the bait before setting the hook, which is why you need him to come out a couple of feet to get the minnow. If you cast right at the edge chances are he will get into the Bulrush roots and you lose him.
You also have to show patience. A really big Largemouth Bass may look at the minnow for ten minutes before taking it. If your minnow is dead, you might have to pull your float towards you a couple of inches at periodic intervals to give it some movement. If you don't get any strikes reel in and cast towards the Bulrushes again but six feet to the left or right. What you want to do is start where the Bulrushes start floating and make your way along the shore and fish the whole area.
After a Storm: Many times what happens after a violent wind storm is a big patch of Bulrushes will break off and float out into the lake. Keep your eye on the floating mass of weeds because eventually it will wash up on shore. There is a good chance a really big bass has claimed it. If you are out in the boat and you see one of these floating islands of Bulrushes head right to it and start fishing.
Good Luck !!