Location: Southern Ontario
Surface area: 744 square kilometres
Hottest spot: South side of Thorah Island
Why we chose it
In 2012, ranked #1 in all-time hot spots
This hot spot’s nomadic smallmouth can be tough to catch, but when they turn on, there’s no better place to land a true trophy. Despite heavy pressure—Simcoe is within an hour’s drive from several million people—the lake seems to just get better, with multiple, goby-fattened eight-pounders caught and released in 2011. Add in a hardwater fishery that gives up tons of perch, lake trout and whitefish every winter weekend and it’s little wonder Simcoe is the number one all-time favourite hot spot.
Best for smallmouth bass
There may be other waters with more smallmouth bass, but very few can match Lake Simcoe when it comes to consistently producing big fish from early season to late fall. In fact, a 20-pound-plus tournament limit on Simcoe rarely gets much attention these days—the fish are just that big. For evidence, look no further than last October’s Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open, when Joe Muszynski and Mark Moran weighed in a record 31½-pound five-fish limit to win the event and a total purse of $45,000. The largest single fish of the tournament, meanwhile, was an 8.05-pound smallmouth.
Early season through the summer finds most anglers fishing in the vicinity of Thorah, Georgina and Strawberry Islands. These are spawning grounds for many of the lake’s smallmouth, although giant fish can be caught here all season long. As the season progresses, many fish also move to deeper off-shore structure and form large schools in 25 to 40 feet of water.
Lake Simcoe’s smallmouth can be very selective when it comes to artificial lures. In the early season and throughout summer, jerkbaits, tube jigs and drop-shot rigs see the most use. By late fall, jigging spoons and heavy drop-shot rigs are best for the deep-water haunts the bass call home at that time of year.
Hot lure: Four-inch Gulp! minnow on a drop shot
Hot fly: Black Conehead Bunny Leech
Learn more: Trombly’s Tackle Box
In 2010, Smallmouth bass; The lake routinely produces five fish tournament limits of nearly 30 pounds
When to fish: Late fall is prime.
Where to fish: Fish deep.
Tip: Drop-shotting on a seven-foot-plus rod is favoured.
—George Wallace, Canadian market manager for Bass Pro Shops
In 2009, Largemouth bass; Good concentrations of fish with a solid average size
When to fish: Fall is prime.
Where to fish: Work deep weed points in Cook’s Bay.
Tip: Try a Texas-rigged soft-plastic worm or a jig-and-pig.
Smallmouth bass; Good numbers of fish and the potential for a trophy
When to fish: Late summer.
Where to fish: Fish shallow shoals along the eastern side of the lake between Orillia and Beaverton.
Tip: Cast tubes or jerkbaits.
—Tom Brooke, vice-president of Shimano Canada
In 2008, Smallmouth bass; The chance for the next Canadian record
When to fish: Early in the season, and the fall.
Where to fish: Use sonar and polarized glasses to locate hard, rock bottom.
Tip: Use tube jigs or rip hard jerkbaits, and be prepared to toss soft stickbaits for followers.
—Cam Brownson, host of The Angler & Hunter
Largemouth bass; Good numbers of three- to five-pounders, with the chance of even bigger fish
When to fish: September to October.
Where to fish: The edges of the last deep weedlines in Cook’s Bay.
Tip: Cast deep-diving crankbaits, 3/8- to ½-ounce tube jigs, or ½- to one-ounce flipping jigs.
Whitefish; Good numbers of better-than-average-sized fish
When to fish: Last two weeks of ice-fishing season (early March).
Where to fish: The edges of soft-to-hard-bottom transitions in 60 to 70 feet of water.
Tip: Vertical jig Shoal Diggers, Meegs or Badd Boyz with the skirt end of a tube added to the end.
—Gus & Steve Jojos, hosts of the In-Line Fishing Show
Perch; Huge numbers of jumbo perch
When to fish: Ice-out.
Where to fish: Main-lake points.
Tip: Drop-shot three-inch Gulp! Minnows or vertically jig small tubes.
—Dave Mercer, host of Dave Mercer's Facts of Fishing: The Show