Sunrise Smallmouth Spectacular

Experience great fishing at Camp Conewango for smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, lake trout and muskie!

So many articles have been written about the joys of catching smallmouth bass with a wide variety of baits and presentations, but for my money, nothing compares to the child-like excitement of catching them on topwater lures, just as the sun rises signalling the start of another day of adventure.

This exact scenario was repeated many times for us during a road trip to Northern Ontario on Lake Talon from Camp Conewango, located between North Bay and Mattawa.  

camp conewango

This four-season resort offers so many options for the vacationing family including camping, ATVing, biking, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, snowmobiling, hunting and of course fishing as the camp is surrounded by the natural beauty of Crown Land and has so much to offer for the entire family.

Lake Talon offers a smorgasbord of species to chase including northern pike, big muskie, lake trout, walleye and both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

lake talon, northeastern ontario

The many trails around the Camp will lead to many remote lakes where you can fish for speckled trout and jumbo yellow perch.

We came for the smallmouth and were rewarded with some of the aforementioned ‘sunrise surprises’ that were simply spectacular in terms of non-stop action and quality of bass.

The first evening of our arrival in Camp we launched the boat and scouted the lake for areas that ‘looked fishy’ and that could possibly provide the kind of topwater bass action we so desired.

The lake is a popular cottaging spot during the summer, as it is dotted with cottages mostly along the southern shore. It also has a Nipissing University field station on the north shore of the eastern end. The lake and its shores, with the exception of Kaibuskong Bay, are protected as part of the Mattawa River Provincial Park.

lake talon beach

The primary inflows are the Mattawa River and the Kaibuskong River, and the primary outflow is the Mattawa River at Talon Chute, which flows to the Ottawa River. The lake is roughly 11.3 km (7.0 miles long) with a maximum width of 1.7 km (1.1 miles) with depths of 67 metres (220 feet deep). With these kinds of depths and a constant flow of water, you know the forage base is healthy and can sustain a very large and fertile fishery for game fish like smallmouth bass.

The lake is dotted with islands, countless rocky points and shorelines, thick weed beds, numerous shoals (which are clearly marked) and wide flats where smallmouth love to roam in the low light periods of each day.

I found a large flat surrounded by deep water on both sides at the front of the river that had rocks, weeds, and sand and looked absolutely perfect for what I had planned for this bass. Morning one, we headed straight for the shallow flat, gliding in slowly as the fish finder showed the tapering edge from deep water to the flat and started fishing with the YoZuri 3-inch popper on a medium power St.Croix casting rod with braided line, making long casts ahead of my boat to the edge where the deep water met the shallow edge of the flat, no sooner did the popper hit the surface of the water, did a fat three plus pound smallmouth bass crush my bait in its powerful jaws. The kind of strike that gets the heart pumping really well.

First cast, first fish on a brand-new lake. I could now exhale as I knew this area of the lake just had to harbour more and hopefully bigger bass, no body just catches one on the first cast.

extreme angler karl kalonka bass fishing

The next two hours were nothing short of sheer spectacular bass action as the sun rose over the treetops and the lake as calm as glass, these roaming brown bass were literally travelling in packs and smashing my popper with such velocity I could hardly contain my laughter and joy for the cameras, it was truly magical.

I kept only two fish at a time in the boats live well for pictures then released them back to the same area they were caught to fight another day. Respecting this valuable resource with catch and release for generations of anglers to enjoy for many years to come.

We headed back to camp for a late breakfast, re-grouped and decided to explore additional locations on this lake and see just many smallmouth bass I could catch in a single day using a variety of baits and presentations including hard jerk baits, small soft minnow baits, mini tube jigs and Ned Rigs on the limitless rocky points not far from the camp. As I slowly fished around these rocky points, finding small isolated weed beds that held some of the bigger bass, I easily lost count of how many bass I had hooked, missed, caught or fought and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet!

Was I impressed with Lake Talon and the abundant smallmouth bass, you bet!

As the late afternoon sun began to take its toll, we decided to head back to camp, re-group our gear this evening outing and prepare a full course BBQ fit for kings then probably take a nap before our sunset excursion.

camp conewango campground map

Camp Conewango has a full-service gourmet restaurant called McBride’s. We did talk to several regulars of the camp and they raved about the quality of the meals and variety, I guess we will have to plan a return trip to sample these meals for ourselves.

camp conewango historic log cottage

The camp features a historic Log Cottage with a view of beautiful Lake Talon which is well over 100 years old. It has been outfitted with modern conveniences while maintaining the charm of a bygone era. It has a large living room/kitchen with a propane fireplace and flat-screen TV with satellite. The two large bedrooms on the second floor can accommodate up to 10 people (2 double, 6 twin beds). They also have the Cedar Cottage which is a hideaway on a private beach with a fabulous view of Rice Bay. Ideal for couples and families, it has a living room/kitchen with satellite and a flat-screen TV and two bedrooms for up to 4 people (one double, two twin beds).

camp conewango interior cottage

They also offer Camping at Camp Conewango, with a sandy beach, spacious lawns and a children’s playground with a horseshoe pit that offer comfort and relaxation for the whole family.

camp conewango interior cottage

Our evening and the second morning were exact replicas of the success we experienced the first morning on Lake Talon with both numbers of smallmouth bass and a few big fat bass to transform a good trip, into great. I caught numerous northern pike in the three to five-pound class on most of the same areas the bass were attracted to, with several 40-plus-inch muskie sightings to show me this lake has an abundance of the big toothy critters as well.

Check out this family-friendly and relatively close resort when planning your next vacation in Northern Ontario, contact the friendly owners here. On the ‘net is located in Redbridge, Ontario.

Call them and book some Fun and Fishing at 1-866-802-6644 or 705-776-2320 to experience your own sunrise smallmouth spectacular.

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.

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