Spring Bass Fishing Trip

After a three year hiatus from la Reserve Beauchene I finally had an opportunity to visit once again in early June 2009. This time the workload would not be research based … but for a feature article in BassMan magazine. Gerry Heels and I would focus solely on pre-spawn bass and we had a great time catching a boatload of beautiful French Canadian Bronzebacks.

“What ... a dollar for the first bass?” “We never do that … but ok, you’re on!”

The guy who asked was my long-time fishing partner Gerry Heels of Barrie Ontario. We’ve fished together for fun and competitively in tournaments for over ten years. In all that time for some unknown reason, this friendly common wager has never been part of our fishing routine.

Wil with bass
Wil in front of “The Whitehouse” – Beauchene main lodge

It was May 31st and we were fishing pre-spawn smallmouth bass on Lac Beauchene in Quebec. On the drive up through North Bay earlier that day, we were greeted with a significant, yet freaky snow storm that brought the plows back onto the roads. A major cold front had moved into the entire region just in time for our much anticipated bass fishing trip to la Reserve Beauchene … an amazing first class fishing resort about just over an hour east of North Bay. With a year round open bass season – where catch and release is required … the quality of bass fishing here has gained a reputation worldwide as some of the best on the planet!

 “It’ll probably take us quite awhile to figure out these smallmouth; we’re not used to fishing them this early in the season”, I remark haphazardly to Gerry as I tie on my favorite Tennessee Shad colored Rapala Suspending Husky Jerk. “Yah … and with this cold front I’m sure even the bass here are going to be shut right down.” I lower the electric trolling motor and quickly fire out the jerk bait. While the bait is in the air, he says “Remember … dollar for the first bass” … “Yah, yah – whatever!”

 I rip the bait once, twice and out of the corner of my eye see Gerry toss out his pink Rapala X Rap. I was just about to comment on that bait … and how well I did with it the year before in Mexico’s Lake El Salto … when the rod in my hand suddenly bolted forward. With a rapid reverse I set the hook and started to do battle with my first bass of the 2009 season.  Much to my delight, despite the cold, it still jumped and fought hard.  She was a gorgeous, plump 3 ½ pound smallie that experienced quick CPR – Catch, Photo and Release.  While Gerry was taking the picture … he had to suddenly drop the camera onto the seat and lung for his rod that was quickly exiting out the back of the boat as a hungry smallmouth enveloped his pretty in pink lure. Soon he too was landing a clone of what I had and it was my turn to snap a quick photo before his bass was put back. 

As I was about to make my next cast … I felt a determined thud hit my backside – only to look down at my feet and see a bright shiny Looney laying there. “Ah my dollar, thank you … Yes we should do this wager thing more often … first cast, first bass … ya gotta love that!”

About la Reserve Beauchene:
 La Reserve Beauchene is a magnificent, exclusive 205.7 square kilometre territory in the high hills of Quebec. The province of Ontario can be seen across the beautiful valley of the Ottawa River. Beauchene drains into the Ottawa River by several distinct water-courses, the largest of which is the Beauchene River. Although lakes on the reserve are surprisingly close together the area is very rugged, and picturesque. The hills around the lakes range up to 550 feet in height above the lakes' surface and the various "back" lakes are found closely scattered throughout these hills.

Beauchene ’s cottages
One of Beauchene ’s cottages – on a beautiful little island

The resort is truly a fisherman's paradise spread over 50,000 acres of untouched Canadian wilderness. With more than 36 pristine lakes to choose from, it could be quite a chore deciding where to begin and what to fish for. Most BassMan readers presumably would choose smallmouth bass (no largies are present) but there are plenty of other species. Therefore, you may want to take a day to sample some of the world class brook trout, lake trout, walleye, whitefish, northern pike and splake fishing at their five-star destination.

During a couple of other previous trips to Beauchene, I did indeed experience some phenomenal fishing for these other species. This time around we decided to focus on just bass and did not regret our decision. Here you can leave your own boat (or your rental) in the water the entire visit … and the lake is large enough that even if you stay a week, there will still be areas you haven’t touched. Typically, the largest bass also come from the main lake. There aren’t many waterbodies surrounded by such pristine wilderness where you can catch smallmouth all day averaging an honest three pounds; but Beauchene is one of them.

Beauchene ’s cottages
Gerry with an average Beauchene smallmouth

“Lac Beauchene is the largest lake and where the main resort is located. Many of our guests who are real serious about bass fishing even choose not to fish any of our other lakes”, says Tony Avramtchev, Manager of Beauchene. “But, there are over a dozen smaller lakes at Beauchene with lots of smallmouth bass in them where you can enjoy great fishing and fly-in like surroundings yet still be able to drive to the lake by bush road. At these lakes we have a boat and outboard motor waiting for you and you can also borrow an electric motor if you like,” he concluded.

There are a variety of accommodation options at the resort, from camping to remote luxury cabins to the infamous main lodge - The Whitehouse. Guests consistently rank the meals as excellent and they’re a great mixture of special French Canadian Cuisine and traditional favorites. Staff will offer you the opportunity to come in for a warm lunch or will gladly pack you a box lunch so you can stay out all day.

Catching Beauchene Bass:
Despite the cold front and the perpetual rain the first couple of days, Gerry and I continued to catch bass throughout our stay.  Our pre-spawn pattern developed early that first day and lasted for three more. Generally we found smallmouth off of the first break from shore in about 10 feet of water. Not a weedy lake by any stretch, but wherever there was some weed/rock mix, chances were good you’d get into a few smallies. Submerged wood also accounted for many big Beauchene smallmouth.

Wil

Besides the jerkbaits which were exceptional … Rapala DT 10’s crankbaits were also very productive when cranked down and slowly retrieved near bottom. In mid day when fishing traditionally slows down a little … even up in this unspoiled wilderness … all we did was work slower moving unweighted KJ Monster Baits plastic stick baits.

Drop shotting Strike Zone Slammers and of course tube jigs also accounted for plenty of nice bass.

As luck would have it, the day we were to depart donned bright, sunny and warm. We had half a day where the short sleeves came out and the pre-spawn bass moved in. They had sensed the change in weather and eagerly began to move shallow, anxious for the upcoming spawning period. Bass were definitely not on their nests yet, but we still had a blast working our baits close to shore in water 2-5 feet deep. During one phenomenal hour we witnessed literally dozens upon dozens of smallmouth swimming up a small back channel … and were able to catch and quickly release a couple beauties.

Wil's Bass

For anyone with a chance to visit and fish Beauchene consider staying at least three days – preferably four or five if visiting in the early spring or later in the fall. Weather conditions can change rapidly but with an extra day or two, you’re odds of experiencing good weather and exceptional fishing increase. That extra day or two can also be used to visit some of the other back lakes holding smallmouth.

The only problem with Beauchene is, that time spent there goes so quickly that you’ll already be looking forward to your next visit as you’re making the last cast of the trip.

For more information on Beauchene please visit: www.beauchene.com

This article first appeared in BassMan magazine’s fall 2009 issue