September Off On Vacation = Bass Fishing Almost Every Day!

Wil Wegman

For the last couple of years I have been fortunate to be able to take a month-long vacation in September. Although I love fishin’ all four seasons, this particular month is one I think I like best.  The bass are usually biting big time to fatten up for the winter; weather is typically still beautiful, and the crowds are gone from the waterways I love to fish and the roads to get there!

This year, I hooked the boat up to my truck on the Friday night just before the Labor Day Long Weekend. On the evening of October 2nd (after our last club tournament of the year) I finally had to unhook my boat from the truck. It was a sad realization that my vacation was over however I sure did store a bunch of great memories in-between that will be fun to recollect here.  As usual, I learned or re-learned a bunch that made me a better fisherman – and I hope that passing on those tips will help you as well.  For this lengthy blog-style report - grab a coffee, sit back and relax while I highlight my 22 days on the water fishing eight different lakes … three of which were new and four that were during tournaments.

Fishing Lake Simcoe: I fished my home lake a total of 8 times in September beginning with a great outing on Saturday of the Labor Day Long weekend.  Not only was the gorgeous six pound largemouth I caught in 20’ of water but all the others I caught were deep as well.

Largmounth

Wil began his holidays on a high note with a big largemouth. His digital Normark scales bounced between 6.4 and 6.2 lbs … so he called it a 6.3 pounder.

What I learned or re-learned: These fish told me that the seasonal pattern signifying the period when bass move deep, was underway and that this vacation would be a bass-filled fiesta allowing me to fish largemouth exactly where I like them to be! I was so pumped to start, that I wrote a quick deep water largemouth report that can be read here. 

Camping at Oastler: Immediately after Labor Day, my son Izaak and I enjoyed a short camping trip up to Oastler Lake Provincial Park near Parry Sound. The park is not very big and nicely laid out with spacious sites and many that have shoreline access. We elected to get a site with hydro though to charge the bass boat batteries – which was a treat but the $93.00 for two nights was a bit much.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reduce rates after Labor Day … to provide an added incentive for seniors and others to utilize Provincial Parks during the off season and possibly reduce pressure in summer. We truly enjoyed camping there though … listening to the Blue Jay Games and watching one of them at least carry on at our site.

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Unfortunately Blue Jay populations have declined dramatically in recent years so we were happy to have one grace our presence while we listened to Jay’s games during our stay at Oastler Lake Provincial Park

Fishing Oastler Lake: We tried fishing this lake for the first time (other than ice fishing there during a winter camping expedition many moons ago). Our expectations weren’t too high … which was good because although it’s a very pretty Canadian Shield Lake, the occasional small smallmouth we found were nothing to get too excited about. This small lake has a fair number of cottages, plus sees many park visitors so I’m sure during the summer it can be very busy. It lacks decent submerged aquatic vegetation that bass crave other than some pads near the old Hwy 69 that runs by.  Even though other rocky structures, ledges and fallen timber there are ideal habitat these unfertile waters only coughed up a few pint sized smallies and none of the largemouth it supposedly has.  Apparently rainbows are stocked here, however it’s very unlikely they could reproduce successfully. In many US lakes, government bass stocking programs and artificial bass habitat initiatives help revitalize depleted recreational fisheries while providing great potential for natural reproduction to once again sustain a quality fishery... unfortunately that doesn't happen so much for bass here in Ontario! 

The highlight of our outing there began after I noticed a large dragonfly on the water’s surface. I love these fascinating mosquito-devouring double-winged beauties so I gingerly scooped it up with my fishing rod where it quickly climbed up the rod, and gently dropped onto my sandal. I carefully encouraged it to climb onto my hand where I held it to dry out and pose for this pic. 

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This beauty borrowed me for about 15 minutes to dry out, then gloriously flew off … making my day!

What I learned or re-learned: Small lakes typically produce small fish with occasional Hawgs present that have gotten that way by learning to avoid most angler baits. After decades of fishing new waters, sometimes you just get a feeling for whether your slow day of fishing is due to your lack of being able to find fish … or whether enough of them are even present to find. Oastler fit into this latter category but instead of small bass less than a pound it sure would have been nice to see a bunch double that weight.

Off to Mill Lake: While camping at Oastler, we made a short drive over to Mill Lake on day two, just north of Parry Sound.  The public boat launch near the main highway is excellent with good parking and I had hoped the lake would be charted but unfortunately it didn’t show up on my Navionics Hot Maps chip. This was a much larger oligotrophic shield lake, with huge fascinating cliff walls, large rocky shoals, sand flats and interesting shorelines.

Fishing Mill Lake: We began by fishing a small secondary shoal off of an island and then a much larger one in the main lake.  They were text book and we marked suspended bait so with overcast conditions to start, I was expecting big smallmouth to blow up on my topwater with almost every cast! That certainly wasn’t the case though … as these areas and so many others including a few decent docks and weed patches disappointed us. The steaming hot/humid day may very well have added to our mediocre success but we finally landed a couple 2-3 pound smallies on drop shot rigs. Izaak did battle a nice pike as well that also fell for the drop shot.  Walleye and even the occasional muskie are present here but didn’t show faces for us.

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Izaak enjoyed battling this nice pike with light line on Mill Lake…

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And his dad had fun dropping down to catch and land this nice smallmouth

What I learned or re-learned:
Going back to lessons learned at Oastler; this Mill Lake does have potential and is worth a revisit. It’s a very cool lake with amazing scenery and variety that doesn’t allow you to get bored very easily. I’m certain several four pound smallies reside here feeding on pelagic baitfish. Sometimes I also have to be reminded that fishing isn’t always about catching as fond memories were created by just stopping half way thru the day for a shore lunch at a nearby picnic table we borrowed, by swimming several times to cool off and by the fact that my adult son still enjoys spending a day fishing with his fish-a-holic dad every once in awhile.

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The cliff walls at Mill Lake were definitely worth the price of admission

Lake Couchiching

         Day 1: Right from Oastler the following day, we broke camp and drove down to Simcoe County and Orillia’s pride and joy … Lake Couchiching. During my holidays I would fish this, one of my favorite lakes four times. This one; with Izaak, was one of those magical days when storms appeared imminent all day however never materialized until the drive home at dinner time. There was a decent chop on the water but nothing that really deterred our ability to fish weedlines effectively. This we did and although the occasional large and smallmouth bass fell for our X Raps or jigs, it definitely was a day far more suited for largies and deep diving crankbaits like the Rapala DT 16’s. 

Deep cranking largies out off the breaks from mid-lake weedlines or humps, really begins to shine in late summer and lasts well into October. Weather can greatly influence your success however and calm, bluebird days with a blazing sun shining are not ideal if you want to throw cranks; whereas some wind and overcast are.   For Izaak, it may have been his best deep crankin’ day ever and he reveled in the fact that we lost count of how many 2-4 pound bass we landed.  This not only made it very gratifying for just his dad but made it especially memorable for both of us!

What I learned or re-learned: There are so many fantastic weedlines and humps with beautiful aquatic plant growth on them in Cooch … that you would swear that if one held bass … that they all should. This is certainly not to say that ‘at one time or another’ big largies don’t lay claim to each of those spots, but they’re simply just not always there or willing to bite. Despite the fantastic day we had … only about half of the areas we visited provided any action.  When we did find a couple nice bass … it was super important to stay put and work the area thoroughly as deep bass are seldom alone and it’s rare when only one wants to play.
       Day 2: A few days later I was on Cooch again, but this time with a couple of retired gentlemen. Lloyd, Larry and I had a great time but the fishing was nowhere near as productive as when Izaak and I were here last.  Although we caught some nice bass, the pike were especially active that day … not only along the weedlines we fished for largemouth … but the shallower rock/weed transition spots like The Limestones that typically hold smallmouth. For my two guests the species caught certainly didn’t matter too much so I’m glad they had bent rods and big smiles before the day was done.

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Larry (with the smallmouth) and his buddy Lloyd are still active anglers and got this trip at the start of another hockey season.   Both of them are still lacing them up regularly and play in a league with other seniors.

What I learned or re-learned: Big smallmouth on this lake certainly aren’t always holding off the legendary shallow rocky areas that so many of us love to fish when we visit Cooch.   Fishing off a deep weedline in late afternoon for largemouth I had a smallmouth engulf my firetiger DT 20 in 21 feet of water but I didn’t know how big it really was until she was almost in the net. I’ve caught some smallies pushing 7 pounds in Simcoe before, and this ol girl would have been all of that and then some – so possibly originated from that much bigger-sister lake.  I’ll never know for sure though cause she spit the hook out and jumped clear of the net at the last second.

Day 3: A week later and a return visit was in order. This was an odd day in that most of the areas I fished appeared void of the bass I was after.  Despite arriving bright and early for a good topwater bite, it wasn’t until 11 am that I landed my first nice bass.  I had all-but-given up on top water after a couple of hours and was already fishing jerks, cranks and tubes but as the wind seemed to all-but disappear when I reached my next spot at the far north end of the lake, I decided to heave my saltwater X Walk a few more times across a large weedy outcropping far off shore. Despite the bright sun, the seductive walk the dog, zig zag motion was too much for a couple of nice largemouth including this one:

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What I learned or re-learned:
By the end of the day I had finally stumbled across a couple of my old waypoints that produced some good numbers of deep largemouth.  These were off shoals with some rock and plenty of mixed weeds cabbage, coontail and eelgrass! Oh my … the lusciously still-green trifecta of optimal native deep water aquatic plant growth beautifully harmonizing together off the deep side of the shoals – could it get any better? Well … yes – as there were baitfish, bluegills and not surprisingly big bass there too, and although I wanted desperately to get them with my deep cranks … the fish told me in no uncertain terms that here they prefer my big 5” tube instead. 

This scenario was not the case however along a major deep weedline that I love to fish. I was ending my day there and casting the tube to the edges of the deep weeds, catching the occasional two pounder. Then a bass boat came from the other direction, the guy in it saw me waved and began fishing well behind me but directly within the thickest part of the weeds. I recognized the boat … and driver as fellow Aurora Bassmaster Oliver Grigull and it was no surprise that this master with a flippin jig was methodically pitching and flippin his weapon of choice short distances in front of his boat. Nor was it surprising – or at least it shouldn’t have been, when he began catching fish there as well.

Hey Wil … they’re up shallow today!” he yelled over to me. My response was that I was getting most of them deep and not two seconds later the retrieve I was in the middle of came to an abrupt halt.  I had switched over to a DT16, Rapala crank and enjoyed the battle before I got her alongside the boat and carefully lifted her in. I held the 4 pounder up for Oli to see and he quickly said he’d come over and take a pic … so the photo below is courtesy of him. Both of us spoke about how easy it is to think that all largemouth are deep or all are shallow on any given day … when in actual fact there are individuals in both sections of any given lake throughout most of the year.

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Wil with a decent deep water largie caught on the Rapala DT. 16 Photo by Oliver Grigull

Day 4: In actual fact, I only fished Cooch for half a day; as the 2nd half would be spent on nearby Bass Lake. That half day would end up being very important however as it would turn out to be a game-changing pre-fish for our last club tournament of the year on October 2nd. 

What I learned or re-learned: Although my time on Cooch that morning was short it really reinforced how critical it can be to find large concentrations of bigger largemouth bass – cause where there’s one there’s almost always more.  If it wasn’t enough that my number one shoal proved this to a T … my number two spot showed even greater promise – as it yielded as many fish and slightly larger ones to boot. There was a very specific way to fish here though … that I will reveal near the end of this article under Day 5Lake Couchiching Aurora Bassmasters Final Club Tournament… so hang in there reader and keep trudging thru the rest of this piece till we get there.

Bass Lake: So, right after the morning’s pre-fish on Cooch, I headed to Bass Lake Provincial Park, to meet up with another ½ dozen tournament anglers who would be bringing out a couple of guests during a short afternoon of fishing.  This event was organized by my friend Gerry Heels thru his business: Heels Recreational Fishing Services,” that offers companies and their employees a fun-filled outdoor activity … a good alternative to a golf tournament. Here Gerry began their outing with a chance to network over a hearty lasagna lunch prepared by "Deb's Restaurant' that was followed up with a quick get together with all the anglers. The three would fish as a team- five heaviest bass wins; tournament to end at 3:30pm. Prizes would be doled out for the company employees so  to make things a little more interesting, the ‘guides’ decided to each throw $20 into the pot – for a winner take all tourney amongst themselves.

Fishing Bass Lake: I have fished this small lake in Simcoe County for many years now and even used to host some of my amBASSadors Cup Tournaments here for the students of the bass fishing courses I used to teach at Seneca, Georgian and Fleming Colleges. Our Aurora Bassmaster club also has fished many little clubby’s here and almost always the vast majority of bass caught are largemouth that have come from the main lake weed patches. Very seldom do you see big limit bags topping 13 or 14 pounds, but the occasional hawg or big smallmouth can increase that sack. None of us had ever fished the lake this late in the season as the park gates were closed (opened for this event only). For those of us who have fished it in summer, we knew it would be a tough largemouth bite with the strong north winds making it very difficult to hold on the weed humps. I had two guests aboard my boat but only one of them chose to fish (the other didn’t have a fishing licence) but we tried our best to get onto some numbers of largemouth in the short 2 ½ hours allotted to us.  This was not to be however, so we cruised hard bottomed shorelines looking for smallmouth and managed two decent three pounders.

What I learned or re-learned: Bass Lake has more 3-4 lb smallmouth in it than I realized! Although way more abundant, a few largemouth were brought to the scales at the end of the day and the two top teams each weighed in five bass limits that were primarily made up of smallmouth. Second place led by angler Paul Kindy had all smallies weighing over 14 lbs and first, led by Mitch Livingston had more than 18 pounds.

Sparrow Lake: Sunday September 11th our Aurora Bassmasters had a clubby on this lake that is also located in above Cooch and below Big Chute. I don’t mind Sparrow early in the bass season, and utilized this lake for 10 years to host amBASSadors Cup Tournaments for my students because lots of bass would usually be caught. However for many of us we’ve learned that by September fishing can be really tough and for my non boater Andy Moszynski and I that day, it was indeed. We caught fish, but they were small … not unlike the rest of our members who experienced the same. This day was unique though because it was the first time in about 20 years that I caught a muskie on Sparrow Lake; not counting the trap netting we did there 3 or 4 years ago when we caught one over 50 inches long. This one was less than half that though and came from a white Rapala X Rap.

Of peculiar interest that day was when Andy and I were fishing the main lake not far from Bayview Wildwood Resort. He had just caught his fourth fish and I was confident he’d get his 5th as he’d just had another bite. Suddenly however, we heard what sounded like a million mosquitoes buzzing above us. As we both looked up, we saw a drone hovering directly overhead and it stayed there for several minutes before finally taking off. Whether we lost focus or the fish scattered, Andy’s 5th and final bass didn’t materialize then … nor unfortunately later on either. 

Others in the club also had their own highlights and reported seeing deer swimming across the lake.

What I learned or re-learned:    Sparrow really is a wonderfully set up lake with a variety of structure to fish. It’s a long haul to the far north end near the locks where it almost fishes more like a river but there are many weedlines, rocky outcroppings, shoals, islands, pads, docks, back bays and current breaks to fish along the way. Seasoned pro’s like Oliver Grigull didn’t forget that and still ended up with a decent limit by runnin and gunnin to win this tourney.

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Oliver’s bass weren’t huge but on a tough day of fishing he and his flippin jig  coughed up enough clones like this to outdo his fellow competitors with 11.84lbs for the win.

Georgian Bay:
Day 1: We had a very unique Major League Fishing style club tournament planned for Tuesday September 20th so on the Sunday prior, I headed up to Honey Harbor where the tournament would be held, to do some pre fishing.  I used to fish a lot of tournaments on Georgian Bay – going back to the OV Pro Bass days in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s – and typically would just cruise thru the Honey Harbor area to get away from high winds on the main lake on my way somewhere else. So, I figured I had better learn those waters a bit.

What I learned or re-learned:    Honey Harbor sure did offer a respite from the main lake windy waters of Georgian Bay, but with all the crazy boat traffic there for the same reason, it became a very hectic and stressful day of pre fishing. I tried to fish some of my nearby main lake areas and did get a couple of decent smallies in one of them, so at least that paid off

Day 2: Although I had not planned on fishing Georgian Bay again before the tournament, yesterday’s dismal results brought me back to try and redeem myself and find some good numbers of fish for tomorrow. The fact that it would be a flat calm, sunny day helped convince me. Just as nice, was that I didn’t have to launch up in Honey Harbor where all the private marina launches cost at least $20, as I launched in my old stomping grounds down in Sturgeon Bay and Victoria Harbor in Simcoe County. This No Charge public launch is even better than I recall – especially now that water levels are up.

Fishing Georgian Bay: When you can run almost wherever you like without big wind and waves hampering you … Georgian Bay can be a spectacular place to fish bass. Granted – it can still be very dangerous to lower units so I always had a keen eye on my Lowrance unit – both the depth sounder and the Navionics chart to make sure I was clear of rocks and shallow water. Keeping an eye for marker buoys is also critically important.

During the day I witnessed an intensive pod of long nosed gar feeding near the surface way out from shore.  There were gar on the surface, 10 feet below me, 20 feet and more … and I can only begin to guess how many.  Of course the allure to try and catch one was too great to resist and I did manage to get a couple hooked up but their long hard snouts prevented me from doing that. Interestingly enough when I first arrived on one main lake shoal and saw some of these fish feeding … I cast over to the spot and managed to catch this decent smallmouth directly below them in 23 feet.

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What I learned or re-learned:    Sometimes we take for granted the benefits of modern technology provided to us anglers with GPS, High Def sonar and Navionics Mapping, but I sure didn’t that day.  With an easy glance at my electronic chart displayed by my Lowrance HDS7 I could easily see all the shallow water humps way out from my launch site and beyond. During the course of the day, after I found one loaded with smallmouth in the 2-4 pound range, I realized I had to have more … so travelled to about another dozen humps in the main lake that same glorious day to enjoy seeing some truly remarkable schools of smallmouth and even catching the odd one despite the tournament the next day. Of course only about half produced however these gave me more than enough confidence to revisit during the event if I could. What I also learned was that muskie use these very same humps to feed just like the smallmouth. In all I saw four 15-20 pound muskie cruising up on these humps and twice had one on for a couple of minutes before they broke me off.

It was not muskie however that we wanted the next day … as it would be our first ever MLF style tournament, and that night I found myself more excited for a tourney than I have been in quite a while. I shared my proposed game plan with my non boater, Andy’s son Zach Moszynski.  It’s great having such amiable father and son members as these two great guys in our club and I always look forward to fishing with either one of them.

Day 3 – Tournament Day: For those readers unfamiliar with the MLF style tournament (seen on WFN several times per week) … it’s unconventional format allows anglers to catch as many bass over 12 inches as they can; record the weight immediately after each one, then release the bass right afterwards. No keeping bass in live wells and no conventional weigh-ins at the end of the day means a rapid free for all... everyone trying to catch catch the most and heaviest bass during the course of the one day tournament. Just like on the MLF show as well, we had a very computer savvy member develop an App that would allow weights to be recorded instantly on our cell phones – and that would be visible for all competing anglers to check during the course of the day whenver they chose. 

As usual, our clubby’s  see boaters draw non boaters and each fishes as an individual in the same boat … so when a boater would catch a bass, the non would weigh the fish- both would agree on the weight, it would be entered into the app and witnessed.  As a fall back … a paper recording of each catch was also required. In order for all weights to be equal … we obtained 20 digital hand held Rapala Scales (thanks Normark!) and each fish also had to be placed in identical mesh bags before weighing.  This would be the first such style tournament for the Aurora Bassmasters and likely one of the first in all of Canada … re-enforcing our club motto “More Than Just Another Fishing Club”.

As we headed out, I feared the wind would play havoc with my main lake spots so I elected to fish a nearby area near the mouth. Although it was rough here I managed a couple really nice ones on a Rapala X Walk and one on a tube … then lost a real beauty well over five when it jumped and spat the hook!  Recording these in a flurry of action was quite hectic and nerve rattling, but it all added to the excitement of this new style of tournament fishing.  When things slowed down here I went to some of my main lake stuff despite the wind … and even crossed over to Victoria Harbor … but simply just couldn’t hold to fish there properly, and when my troll motor mount had come loose and was hanging on by a thread- I knew it was time to head to sheltered waters.

What I learned or re-learned: Of course hind sight is you know what, but with the strong winds in the main lake, I possibly should have put more time in on my first stop over spot.  There weren’t a lot of fish there, but they were bigger than average – and even though I was convinced the winner would tally up big numbers of smaller fish – this really didn’t materialize as Oliver once again took 1st place with 12 bass weighing a total of 39.50 lbs and his closest rival … our president Scott Cochran had 10 bass for 32.2 lbs and big bass at 5.97. For the rest of us who witnessed the run-away between these two sticks the battle to see who would come out on top was surprisingly addictive and very exciting! By the end of the day Oli had 10 largies and two smallies and Scott had all smallmouth.  Perhaps the most important thing I learned though … is that I love this style of tournament fishing and am really looking forward to similar events next year.

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President of the Aurora Bassmasters Scott Cochran with his big Georgian Bay smallmouth

Lake Simcoe:
Day 2- Day 8:  We already discussed my first vacation day back on the Labor Day weekend but between then and the end of the month, I would revisit my home lake on the west side of the lake from Simcoe County seven more times! To be honest some of these days run into one another now, so I will just highlight my general success and lessons learned.
Overall for the month, I focused almost entirely on deep water largemouth that were between 15-22 feet deep using Rapala DT 16’s, 20’s and the Storm Arashi Deep 20. A lot of my fish came from that big 5” brown tube though that I began the month with.

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Beautiful green coontail like this gives life and home to Simcoe’s nice largemouth

What I learned or re-learned:

  • When fishing way off shore it’s just so critical to throw a marker buoy either on your best waypoint within an established area or where a couple fish hit in a new one … or sometimes both!
  •  Trying to stay on a spot marked on your sonar is just way too much work and ineffective to achieve maximum results
  • Do your best to learn EXACTLY where bass are holding within your favorite deep areas by paying close attention to where the fish bit – then bring your boat overtop that exact spot and then save the waypoint – avoid doing this from where you made the cast because being out just a few metres can make the difference between catching just one or two bass next time or non-stop action!
  • When water temps are still well above 60F like they were this year … If you consistently have light-moderate south winds – your chances of consistent success for deep largies those days are elevated dramatically. Cool, strong north winds can have the opposite effect.
  • It’s critical to have a milk run of your most productive humps to visit throughout the course of the day

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Largemouth like this came from deep water all month so keep reading Wil’s tips to see how he did it.

  • At the start of the month, I still had one Rapala Shift rod and Shift reel set up for my tube jig rig and I caught fish with it. As the days progressed however I found myself using my new Rapala Concept series outfit far more because the sensitivity factor was just that much more incredible. When all was said and done the 7’1”, one piece Concept rod matched to the 35 series Concept reel spooled with 10 lb Suffix 832 braid and 10 lb Suffix Floro was the ideal combination that allowed me to pick up the most subtle of bites and have fewer wind knots! I know for certain some of these light biters (you’d swear they were gobies) would not have been felt by the angler behind them if he had stayed with the Shift outfit.  I do still like that model for jerkbaits or other reaction baits.
  • The early morning bite with topwaters at the high points of all my favorite humps can be real good but not always – so it paid big dividends to quickly cut your losses and move on to the next one in order to capitalize on the short early morning period when top water shines the most
  • Late afternoons and dusk were also golden and could account for some serious numbers of bass
  • Although it was difficult to tear myself away from known productive areas I was so glad that I forced myself to try and learn new spots – or even revisit others that haven’t produced for me in years. This enabled me to add two or three really good new areas to my milk run and just gives me that many more options when times are tough.
  • My number one location for the last five years did not really show how good it can still be despite repeated efforts yielding only an occasional bass.  I was about to give up on it but once again I found myself there Sept 26th.  The result? Eighteen nice largemouth in just over a couple of hours of early morning fishing.
  • Although I haven’t given up on 12-14 lb. Suffix floro for my deep cranking … I have added the new Suffix low stretch mono to my arsenal on a couple of my Concept series baitcasting reels. This line is super silky smooth and casts like a dream. When rigged to matching 7’1” MH action concept rods (with the micro guides) it’s great for those big cranks and big swimbaits!

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Throwing a marker buoy to stay oriented and closely in-tune with his surroundings, is something Wil has done to help him catch bass like this since the late 1980’s.

Lake Roseau:
We had a club tournament scheduled for this large oligotrophic lake near Parry Sound for September 25th and I had never fished it before, so my son Izaak and I used that as an excuse to get to learn it the two days prior.    

Day 1: My first catch occurred not long after we launched, but it sure wasn’t anything I was expecting or even wanted. This was the 2nd such catch of the year with the same topwater for me … and I swear it’s definitely something about the walk-the-dog movement that drives these winged critters insane.  I’ve had several gulls over the years pick topwaters up and not let go and fortunately have been able to remove the hook without too much effort every time. So, like all the others … this one flew away unharmed.

From there we combed shorelines and got to know many of the beautiful back bays and points on Lake Rosseau... many with multi-million dolar cottages owned no doubt by the rich and famous.  We also saw plenty of extremely steep bluff walls and water over 80 ft leading close to shore so it was easy to eliminate many unproductive waters without ever fishing them. Still, that first day we caught a few but really no great pattern developed and the ones we caught were all small not topping two pounds.

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Staying calm is obviously the ticket when dealing with an excitable bird such as this. Gently close the wings together, secure the bird firmly and delicately remove the hook from the hard beak with long handled pliers … no harm … or fowlnm to the foul.

Day 2: After a slow morning, we found a gorgeous extended point that reached way out into deep water and formed a dynamic rock shelf on the north side. It looked incredible! There were baitfish galore off on the deep side and it had all the makings for an outstanding spot. In fact after just one big blow up on my Rapala X Walk I decided to leave it alone and save it for first thing the next day.

What I learned or re-learned: We explored a great deal of this massive lake and caught bass here and there but unfortunately it only provided limited action. The MNRF fish on line site said there were largemouth here so we looked long and hard for good largemouth habitat and or decent weedgrowth, and really only found a bit in Skeleton Bay.  Here we fished for a couple of hours but only came up with one 1 ½ lb largemouth. It did have potential though as did so much of the rest of the lake that we were unable to cover.

Day 3- Tournament time! The day started with an interesting drive with my non boater Blake Dennis when we approached Rosseau that had us stop once for a flock of wild turkeys and then again to allow a black bear to cross the road.  We launched at a beautiful public park and launch area in town but had to wait a few minutes before the fog lifted before our day could begin.

When it did, I had chosen that rocky extended point as my number one spot first thing in the morning and raced there eagerly awaiting some great action.  That it did … but it took three real good blow ups before I finally landed a decent three pounder- bigger than any I had seen in two days of pre fishing.  We continued to work the spot hard and the blow ups were like nothing I had seen in a long time.  I finally stuck another that came close enough to the boat to know she would have been that four + pound kicker fish – had she not jumped and spat the hooks!

Throughout the rest of the day we expanded on some of the bays Izaak and I found and once again I lost another really good fish that was down 20ft.  By day’s end, we each managed a few dinks but nothing to get too excited about.

What I learned or re-learned: There was a beautiful area we fished near the bay at Rosseau falls that oddly enough was most productive around a spot where bubbles were coming up from 15 feet of water. We caught several fish there and although it had several endearing qualities the bubble pattern (methane gas being released perhaps) was one we were unable to duplicate elsewhere … go figure!

Lake Couchiching
Day 4 - Final Aurora Bassmasters Club Tournament of 2016- Oct 2.
As promised earlier, I’ve saved the discourse of my last vacation day on Cooch until the end of this article. Unlike last year when I knew a good showing on this same lake at the same time of year could solidify my chances to win Angler of the Year … I knew going into it this year, that I didn’t stand a chance! Last year I won a couple which is key for added points and so far this season I had yet to win one.  I hoped my largemouth pattern would hold up to change all that.

When blast off began at 8am, I couldn’t believe so many of the boats were headed in the same general direction as I was! When about  four or five fellow competitors stopped in the same general area, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who had done some pre-fishing and found bass here. Unlike the others however who stopped their boats and began fishing immediately I was very particilar about where I wanted stop ... and set up shop.  I slowly cruised around until I was exactly upon the waypoint I wanted – verified it even closer by the same weed patch where on the east side it dropped off into 15-18 feet. I finally deployed the marker buoy – placed my boat precisely where I wanted, and only then began to fish.

The action did not come while I threw my topwater; nor when I switched to a deep crank, but after I picked up my big brown tube and figured out exactly what was going on … it was a little like being in heaven as bass after bass came to greet me. Before I knew it I had my five bass limit – all over two pounds in the well. I checked the time … it was 8:27. For the next couple of hours we milked that spot and I upgraded considerably. My non boater Quintin Janse Van Rensburg caught his share and we then finally moved off to fish other locations… including what I thought would be my number one spot that day.

When we got there though another competitor was already fishing, really close to where he should be but reportedly had not landed any yet. We tried the far end of the weedy/rock shoal but I more or less didn’t have too much confidence in it so we left soon after.  For the rest of the day we’d fish other weedlines and edges in deep water … catching the occasional fish here and there but not finding the motherlode like we did first thing in the morning.  All in all though, we both ended up with decent limits.

At weigh in many anglers came in with some gorgeous bass, but none prettier than the mixed bag Bob Kendall had of two big smallies and three nice largies.  His weight of 18.65 lbs topped my 15.6. Bob also took big fish with a nice 5.17 lb smallmouth.  So … like last year at this same event- I came in 2nd – but lost out by a couple pounds instead of a couple ounces like last year when Des Barnes won with a bag of gorgeous smallies.

What I learned or re-learned: As both Lake Couchiching and Simcoe reminded me over and over again this fall – when you find a couple deep largemouth, mark it, figure out what makes that area tick, throw a marker … and just as importantly make sure you determine what angle those fish want your bait presented at and where they want you to place the boat to catch them.  This last tip is one I’ve long been a big believer in not only on Cooch, Simcoe and the other lakes mentioned in this long drawn out article but whatever lake or river I’m fishing anytime or anywhere!

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Wil’s three pound clone largies were no match for Bob’s two kicker smallies along with his 3 largies. Both anglers agree however it was a great day of fishing to end another fun year of club tournament action. Meanwhile … Wil is back to work already looking forward to next September, while his buddy Bob continues to enjoy his retirement fishing as often as can … livin’ the dream!


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