The smallmouth are here. I know this not only because I can see arcs on the sonar, I just saw a massive one—swimming away from the boat about a foot or two off the bottom. The water’s clear for the most part and with my polarized glasses, it’s not hard to see the big bronzebacks. “There’s another one,” says my fishing buddy for the day, Grant McAllister (pictured, left). One of the co-founders of G2 Angling Specialists, Grant is especially adept at spotting, and catching, fish. But so far today, the smallies aren’t too interested in what we’re throwing. We’re at the southwest end of Bald Shoal in Lake Simcoe and for the last 40 minutes we’ve tried crankbaits, tube jigs, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and topwaters but no go.
I asked Grant out on the boat today so I could pick his brain for an upcoming “Field guide” article I’m putting together on how to get the most out of your flasher when ice fishing (to appear in the Winter 2012 issue of Outdoor Canada). Grant’s a whiz on the ice as well as the water, so I figured what better place to do an interview than on board our new boat while casting for smallies?
Although I know the south part of Simcoe fairly well and have managed to pull a number of fish out of there over the years, I have to admit I was still somewhat anxious about being able to put Grant on the fish. This was supposed to be my territory, after all, since Grant does most of his fishing and guiding for walleye in the Bay of Quinte. And here we are with nothing in the boat but the few perch we caught at a stop at Cooks Bay Shoal on the way here.
Not that I should have worried. Grant’s a pro and knows more than many how unpredictable fish can be. “That’s fishing, man,” he says and suggests we head down to the very far south end of Cooks Bay to throw weedless topwaters for largemouth. Great idea, I figured, as I hadn’t yet had a chance to try my new Livetarget frog.
After a quick but fruitless stop near some of the shallow, weedy inlets near Crate’s Marina, we head down into the real slop along the marshy shore of the south end. Grant steps up in the bow to man the trolling motor as I pull up the main motor so it doesn’t get completely engulfed in weeds.
While I don’t have that much experience with it, I love topwater fishing. One of my best fishing memories ever is catching around a dozen 30-35 inch pike in an hour, on a Super Spook in northern Manitoba. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush when you're pulling a plug slowily across the top of the water and see a sudden V appear behind it. Then comes the violent splash. It’s a ridiculously tense way to fish.
“See that hole in there?” Grant asks, pointing to a break in the lily pads, “that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.” The name of the game here is to make a long cast into lilies or weeds, to get the fish’s attention, then pull the lure along the top until you hit a section of open water. “They almost always hit in the open,” Grant says.
I get my lure into one of said open sections and slowly twitch it across the pool when a fish suddenly attacks. Unfortunately, I set the hook too early and miss the hit. Argh, is this going to be a bass-less day?
It’s not long before Grant answers that question. He casts a white Spro Bronzeye Popper frog into a particularly sloppy spot and as soon as the lure drops over the edge, it’s swallowed up by a bucketmouth. The fish quickly heads back into the weeds but Grant skillfully pulls it free and reels it aboard for a few pics before we release it.
As the day is getting on and we still have an interview to finish, we pack it in with only one bass in the boat. However, the trip only confirmed my taste for topwater fishing. The next time I fish Simcoe, I’m going to start by tossing frogs into the salad.