“Have you tried out there by them buoys?" responds the tall, thin, long-grey-haired man filling the boat’s gas tank when I ask him where the smallies are biting. I’ve got an idea which buoys he’s talking about and make a note to head there at some point after lunch. At least, I think that’s what he says. With his thick Aussie accent, it sounds more like “Ave ya trahed out der bye dem booeys?” He confesses that he doesn’t fish much in the summer, preferring to head out on the ice in winter. Still, in my mind, it’s good to get as much current local information as possible. And since he looked like he might have once been a roadie for ACDC, I figured this guy must have some life experience to learn from.
That was the scene last Friday just before noon at the Beaverton Yacht Club on Lake Simcoe, where Outdoor Canada’s associate editor Scott Gardner and I had stopped in to gas up the magazine’s spanking new Harbercraft 1925 Discovery. We’d left Crate’s Marina down in Cook’s Bay shortly after 9:30 AM, stopping to fish Roches point, then make a few drifts over Willow Rocks, before deciding to try the south end of Thorah Island. Though we had picked up a few perch at Willow Rocks, our sights were set on the massive smallmouth that Simcoe is known for.
I had already gotten some intel from my Lake Simcoe bass fishing guru—Wil Wegman. Wil’s an award-winning writer, tournament angler, fishing seminar host and one of the organizers of the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open. He also has his own Web site, where he shares fishing tips. So, it’s safe to say, he knows bass. “I would try the Willow Rocks area—just past the cut between Snake and the mainland,” Wil wrote to me on Thursday. “Move in to about eight to 12 feet and look for any light or dark spots that could hold bass. Otherwise, the west and south shores of Thorah are still holding smallies as well.”
It was a beautiful day with blue skies and calm water so the run from Cook’s to Thorah was smooth and easy, except for the minor hiccup of nearly running out of gas. When the boat was ready to rock again, Scott and I stopped at Barney’s, the restaurant at the mouth of the harbour. We refueled with some take-out sandwiches (I recommend the egg salad) and zipped out to Thorah. We drifted with the westerly wind along the south side of the island and I saw a couple of fish on the sandy bottom, but none were biters.
Back to the drawing board, and to the Aussie’s advice. Whether or not they were the same buoys he was talking about, we headed for the ones marking Bald Shoal. I dropped the trolling motor and started to cast a Rootbeer Chartreuse Bomber Model 5A crankbait into a dark spot in about five feet of water when BANG, a sizeable bass hit hard. Unfortunately, it shook the hook on its second jump. However, at least we now knew where they were and what they were biting. I reeled in, sharpened my hooks and started to troll around the rock piles again. 10 minutes later, another smallie hit and this time I was determined not to lose him. I set the hook hard and let it go for a couple of runs, reminding me why I love smallmouth fishing so much. For my money, they’re the best fighting fish in freshwater.
I got the fish to the side of the boat, lipped it, and lifted it up for Scott to take a couple of photos (see evidence, below). I then dropped it in the livewell so we could grab a couple of more photos before releasing it. After another 30 minutes of casting, I hooked up with one more smallie but lost it at the side of the boat when I made a bonehead move and knelt down to turn off the trolling motor, thus giving the fish some slack in the line. Mental note: Land the fish first, no matter what! Scott didn’t manage to connect with any bass, which is just fine as we now have a reason to head out this week. As if we needed one. Stay tuned.