Big Northern Bronzebacks on a New Lake

Posted on October 13th, 2013

After rolling around some lakes to try for smallies on Friday, I decided to try a new small lake I have never fished before. I wanted a break from the usual Lake Erie trips. I wanted a northern experience with fall colours and solitude. Lake Erie may be relatively easy fishing for big smallies this time of year, but the boat traffic can be high, the wind can be rough and the landscape becomes quite small in the far distance. I really wanted a new challenge as well with something I enjoy immensely: exploration on new waters.

Mike’s 40-year-old family cottage fit the bill perfectly. It lies in the Burke’s Falls area and is a small shallow lake. I didn’t mark an area over 25-feet deep, even in the middle. He informed me of nice size smallies on the lake, but he has never fished it before other than his dock. I cannot comprehend that LOL.  Mike is an avid salmon and trout angler, and doesn’t fish for bass much.

With the boat in tow, I picked Mike up along the way and drove over 3 hours north. We were greeted by a launch that is a shallow sandy beach. Crap, I forgot to take my leg waders. Ah well, we made do and Mike got his feet wet early on a cold morning. Luckily it turned out beautiful and sunny.

We were greeted by a beautiful northern lake with fall colours on the trees and a mist coming off the water. It was picture perfect.

Since this is a small lake, there are no charts for it. I switched out my stainless prop quickly in favour of my aluminum before the trip. I would just have to wing it the old fashioned way and search areas above water that looked fishy. This wasn’t hard on such a small lake. I cast spinnerbaits and XRaps while I went into search mode exploring.

We started off very slowly, and I didn’t see a fish, bait or crayfish in the shallows on many spots. It appeared dead. We also searched a bit in deeper water, although my screen was fairly blank. After a couple hours without even seeing a fish, I was beginning to draw a blank!

I thought to myself “this is s small lake. There aren’t many places to hide as a smallie. Break it down section by section, and I will find them”. After a couple more spots unsuccessfully, I tried a rocky main lake reef off an island. A few casts in with my XRap and wham. I got hit by a nice smallie. It wasn’t a tank, but I was happy to get the monkey off my back!

I then hit another smallie as it dogged, jumped and pulled drag. It was music to my ears. I had another big smallie follow behind my fish as it went berserk and I told Mike to throw in a tube jig or soft plastic. Unfortunately, he didn’t have one ready.  After a short battle, Mike slipped the net under a big northern smallie. It was an incredible fish and it brought a big smile to my face.

I then hit another nice one around 3-pounds on a tube jig. It wasn’t the big one that followed my bass. Never did see it again despite further efforts.

It went cold and we tried other similar looking spots without much luck other than some small ones on an XRap. I also lost a couple. We then tried the only spot Mike had some success on: off his dock LOL. No luck there or the small shallow rocky reef surrounded by deeper water 70-feet off his dock. I did hit a couple small ones just down the shoreline that leads to deeper water.

We then checked out a nice shallow rocky reef out from a point also surrounded by deeper water. It was the nicest spot I had seen on the lake and I got excited. I told Mike we would hit some big smallies there. Our first cast each and we both hook a nice smallie. Our first double header! Mine hit an XRap and Mike’s hit a Sail Store $2 bargain bin crankbait LOL. I quickly released a nice 3-pound smallie and grabbed the net. His fish pulled drag and dogged like my big one. Yes! I slipped the net under another big northern bronzeback. Mike was ecstatic. Unfortunately, that would be his only fish on Friday, but it was a great one.

We then tried around the edge of the reef and I tagged another big smallie with another bigger one close behind the hard-fighting bronzer. I yelled at Mike to throw in a tube jig, but again, unfortunately he didn’t have one ready since he lost it due to a snag.

After another small fish it went cold so we moved back to the other big fish reef again. Despite all our efforts, we didn’t see a fish. We tried deeper off the edges with tubes, drop shots to no avail. We tried these presentations on other reefs as well to no avail. Strange, the drop shot was so ineffective with TriggerX and Jackall baits. Well, can’t argue with the fish.

We then hit another isolated reef but only managed a few more small bass. Other spots that looked sexy didn’t produce a thing along shoreline. I would really like to know where the bulk of the smallies are on this lake if anywhere. I didn’t see any crayfish, minnows or bass anywhere on the lake in shallow. I also didn’t mark many hooks at all, even in the basin or deeper water off structure. It is possible it is a very small population of smallies. They are all skinny and looked under nourished, especially for this time of year when they put the feed bag on. One of my fish was 21″ long and still under 5-pounds.

Later afternoon had come and I was very tired from staying up all night working and heading directly to go fishing in the morning with such a far drive. We had called it quits quite happy with the day. It was a gorgeous day outside at 22 Celsius and sunny, and we had caught some big smallies. We didn’t see another fishing boat all day while fishing in serenity. We saw loons from a distance when they gave themselves away with the pleasing noises they made on a dead quiet lake. It was just what the doctor ordered for me. Mike learned a lot about smallmouth bass fishing as well.

We found all the big smallies shallow off the edge on rocky reefs and the only presentation that worked was a moderately jerked XRap and a Phoenix tube jig worked down the drop of the reefs. Oh, and a Sail store $2 bargain bin crankbait. The Rapala Shift rod teamed up with Rapala RType reels worked great. Sufix 20lb 832 braid with a Sufix fluorocarbon leader rounded out the set-ups. I used my Minn Kota electric motor to position us around the structure with precision.


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