Into the Bear's Den: Bass Fishing on the French River

The Bear's Den Lodge is a primo spot for bass fishers. Get ready for lots of bites!

They say don’t poke the bear unless you are prepared to get bit!

I poked the bear of bass fishing on the French River in Northern Ontario and got bit really hard—many, many times—by some big, fat bass!

On a road trip to the Lower French River in late August, we visited with Art and Benda Barefoot, the very gracious owners of Bear's Den Lodge. They're awesome hosts who have lived on the lower French for over forty years and know the river inside and out.


Bear's Den Lodge is a world-class fishing & hunting lodge conveniently located in the French River Delta, Northern Ontario. Boat access or fly-in floatplane wilderness resort that offers all-inclusive American Meal Plan packages and quality self-catered Housekeeping Cottage Plans.

This place is perfectly located near some of the finest fishing for bass, walleye, northern pike, and a host of popular panfish.

Early spring provides the best opportunity to catch your limit of walleye and northern pike. Late spring and summer bring the added challenge of really nice largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and dinner plate-size crappies that are being caught in ever-increasing numbers. Throughout the summer and well into late fall, huge tackle-smashing musky and northern pike patrol French River waters, with an appetite that increases as the water starts to cool down. The fall season is a world unto itself - gorgeous colour, warm days and cool nights make this a favourite time of the year. Large walleye are migrating back up the river from Georgian Bay, the smallmouth bass are feeding in a full frenzy and the muskies' appetites are at their peak in this northern Ontario fishing hotspot.

We were fortunate to have stable, glass-calm conditions during our visit and we took advantage of the conditions by chasing the ever-abundant smallmouth bass on the river by fishing noisy topwater baits from YoZuri including the prop bait, poppers, and wake baits.

To say the lower French River has lots of natural structure and ideal habitat for smallmouth bass and walleye is an understatement, the entire river looks fishy and does produce bass and walleye but locating the hidden gems that hold the larger bass can take a little more effort.

After a hearty breakfast at the lodge, we ventured out on the river in search of some heart-pounding moments as the river was glass-like and we could see a lot of surface activity with baitfish breaking the surface almost everywhere, the bass were feeding!


At the second rocky point, I fished the noisy prop bait, a bait that makes loud, irritating noises that call bass from a far distance and it did not take long for the first bass of the morning to crush my bait seconds after landing a foot or so from the rocky shoreline.

This exceptional topwater action continued just about everywhere I fished and to be honest I put the trolling motor down and just worked every rocky point, secondary point, shoal, cove, or beaver house I could find and caught some gorgeous smallmouth in the two to three plus pounds range all the way to lunchtime.


We headed back to the lodge for some more classic lodge fare to fill our bellies before venturing out once again after an afternoon nap, but this time in search of some of the big fat largemouth bass that the lower French is famous for.

I brought some of my favourite soft plastic beaver and creature baits rigged on heavy action casting rods by St. Croix and found some back bays littered with thick lily pads, slop grass, and duckweed, the perfect cover for Mr. Bigmouth Bass.

I pitched and flipped my way through the weeds and worked the outside edges with the same prop bait that I caught all the smallmouth bass with earlier in the day.

I caught my first river largemouth, a beautiful five-pound bass that crushed the prop bait literally at the edge of my boat, talk about exciting.


Took a few pictures and let her go.

I continued pitching the thick aquatic vegetation and hooked into three more big largemouth, one fish that pushed the scales past the six-plus-pound mark and the other two in the high-four-plus-pound range, impressed, you bet I was.

This was some of the finest largemouth bass fishing I have had in quite some time and to do it on a body of water with very little angling pressure, was simply astonishing to think just how close to the big city the French River is located.


Bears Den Lodge offers both American and Housekeeping meal plans and the cottages are fully equipped for those who enjoy preparing their own meals. Vacation at your own leisure while the cottages are supplied with essential kitchen supplies and utensils so you can self-cater and enjoy the freedom of the Canadian wilderness. Bedrooms are carpeted with electric heat to stay comfortable for your great Canadian outdoor adventure for the chilly days of spring or fall. These folks offer a wide variety of packages to cater to everyone who loves the outdoors and not just anglers.  Canoe and kayak enthusiasts as well as hiking and boat tour packages are available upon request. Click here to view these amazing packages.

The lodge also offers rentals that are sixteen- and fourteen-foot aluminum V-hull boats with matching 25, 20, and 15-horsepower motors with cushioned swivel seats with depth finders and trolling motors for rent at the Bears Den Tackle and Gift shop.

Contact the friendly hosts and see why you too should consider fishing in the Bears Den of bass just like we did and make some memories that will last a lifetime, I know we did and so will you.

Bear'S Den Lodge

Alban, Ont. P0M 1A0
Tel: (705) 857-2757

Bear's Den Lodge Facebook

About Karl Kalonka

It's possible Karl's love for fishing began as early as the age of five. His parents took the kids on weekend trips across Ontario fishing for panfish, catfish, and bass. "I started with a bobber and worm from the time I was five years old," says Karl. These days, he has the enviable task of doing what he loves for a living, travelling across Ontario fishing, filming and producing two outdoor series, Extreme Angler and Crappie Angler TV.

Recommended Articles

3 Great Ontario Walleye Destinations

Karl of Extreme Angler recommends must do walleye lakes in Ontario.

5 Places to Shore Fish

Fish’n Canada shows you where to go shore fishing in Ontario.

Top 5 Musky Destinations in Ontario

The Musky Hunter shows you where to land the best musky in Ontario waters.

Ontario Brook Trout

Fish these 10 sweet spots.

Lake of the Woods

10 Facts You Didn't Know

Top 5 Flies for Smallmouth Bass

The inside scoop on bass flies from the hosts of The New Fly Fisher.

5 Keys To Canadian Muskies

The fish of 10,000 casts; an elusive predator fish with legend and lore.

Exclusive Video

How To Zero In On Lake Trout

Top 10 Ice Fishing Lakes

Every kind of fish and experience—Ontario ice fishing is some of the best in the world.

Top 5 Baits for Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

What baits do you use to target bass? Find out why these 5 are the best!

Fishing and Foraging

Add some fresh foods and forage to your fishing adventures!

Hidden Musky Gems

The Musky Hunter shares 3 favourite musky hot spots across Ontario.

Steelhead of the Upper Ganaraska

Known to most trout and salmon anglers as one of Ontario’s most popular fishing destinations.

Steelhead and Salmon of Northern Ontario

Ontario's north is home to tributaries of Lake Superior and Lake Huron—and many species of salmon and steelhead

Pike Aplenty

Fishing for Pike Has Been a Picnic in Northern Ontario This Fall Season

Musky Mayhem in the Kawarthas

Experience top notch musky fishing on Buckhorn Lake in the heart of the Kawarthas.

The Ontario Fall Crappie Hunt

Ontario's 400,000 lakes are home to a variety of fish species.

Wind, Cloud & Walleye

How Weather is Important to Walleye Anglers

Fall Walleye

Using Chub, Bottom Bouncers and Beads

An Angler’s Perspective on Northern Ontario

Find Your Favourite Fishing Adventure in the North.