More than 60 pounds of bass in three days—that’s what it took for Elora, Ontario’s Derek Strub to win the 2010 Canadian Open of Fishing last July, and head home with $40,000. A pro angler for 22 years, Strub is an expert at hauling up big summer smallmouths from 30, 40 and 50 feet of water. So although conditions on Lake Ontario were wild during the Open, with high winds and six-foot waves, he had the equipment and know-how to come out a winner. Here’s how you can, too.
“I look for needles in haystacks, offshore structures that aren’t on the map,” says Strub. With modern electronics, it’s easy for anglers to target obvious features, so he uses his side-imaging Humminbird to scan for isolated boulders, transition areas from shelf rock to rubble, and drop-offs of as little as a foot. The payoff? “Deep, remote areas have bigger fish and, especially in the Great Lakes, they’ve probably never seen a bait before.”
“In four or five days of tournament practice, I spend 90 per cent of my time idling and looking,” says Strub. Even when he finds promising structure, he won’t wet a line unless he marks fish. Then he’ll make a cast or two and usually hook up right away. But if he doesn’t get onto big ones—four-pounders or better—within a few minutes, he moves on.
To fish deep, Strub is almost always drop-shotting or tube jigging. For drop-shotting, he uses a 6′ 8″ Crucial rod with a soft tip, and a variety of Trigger X baits, including small worms, minnows and gobies. He also uses six- or eight-pound fluorocarbon, which is invisible to fish and has a slight stretch, making it more forgiving when setting small hooks. Working 3/8- to ½-ounce tube jigs requires a stiffer rod and braided line with a fluoro leader for slamming home the bigger hooks. And for all his baits, he prefers natural colours: browns, greens and black.
“The biggest mistake new drop-shot anglers make is overworking the bait,” Strub says. When it hits the bottom, don’t move it at all—just fish it on a semi-slack line. Stay alert, as the bite will be hard to sense. When you feel the “mushy” take, he says, gently sweep your rod up and start reeling. Tubes require less finesse. Since they imitate gobies or crayfish, just make sure you can feel the jig ticking along the bottom.
Pulling a bass out of deep water causes rapid inflation of its swim bladder, which can be lethal. So if you’re going to keep the fish for any length of time, Strub says it’s crucial to “fizz” them, by puncturing the swim bladder with a needle to release excess gas. But the good news is that if you snap a quick picture and release the fish, it should be fine.