Cranking Up The Heat in Northern Ontario

Tips for Using Crankbaits For Fishing Ontario Bass

It is often said that we learn best when we experience something firsthand. Observation and awareness are so much stronger than simply being told how to do something. Well, let me tell you, I had my eyes opened up recently when my grandson Liam and I arrived at one of our favourite fishing locations.

It is a gorgeous, finger-like underwater point, sprinkled with brown basketball-size boulders and lush green cabbage, that snakes out from the tip of a stunning spruce- and pine-studded island on a modest size lake in the heart of Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country. But, while the lake may be unassuming in size, the walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike that prowl its margins are huge. Our stoutest walleye, for example, nudged a dozen pounds in weight, while the biggest bass over the years pushed close to seven pounds. We’ve simply caught too many 17- to 24-pound northern pike to remember them all.

young angler fishing ontario bass

Gord Pyzer’s grandson, Liam, turned up the heat catching smallmouth bass on crankbaits when finesse presentations went untouched.

So, I was excited to jump to the front of the boat when we arrived, drop down the electric trolling motor and grab a nearby rod that I’d rigged with a Ned head. I pitched the jig up perfectly so that it landed as quietly as a wind-blown sigh beside a boulder that I could see was ringed with lush green vegetation. I let the soft plastic fall to the bottom, lifted it up gently, shook it a time or two, and do you know what happened next? Nothing.

So I reeled in quickly, made another pitch to another rock a few feet away, and went through the same procedure. Only this time, I stiffened up like a dog on point, once the jig hit the water, fully prepared to set the hook and cross the eyes on a big bruiser bass as soon as I felt it intercept the falling jig. But again, I felt nothing.

So, I dropped the Ned rod and picked up its buddy, adorned with a hand-tied black marabou jig that never fails, flicked it up onto the point, swam it back to the boat and…did I say it never fails?

angler holding ontario bass

While all of this was going on, Liam was at the back of the boat rigging up a couple of crankbait rods. He tied a gaudy, Bad Lipstick-coloured Rapala Rippin’ Rap on one, and a Helsinki Shad-coloured OG Slim 6 crankbait — that features a circuit-bill lip — to the other. We swapped positions, he made a long cast with the OG Slim first, turned the handle on his reel maybe three times, and set the hooks into a bronze-coloured smallmouth that bowed his rod dangerously and leaped at least three feet out of the water, re-entering with a belly flop that would have earned it a terribly low score at the Olympics.

After he nonchalantly landed the bruiser and set it free, he then had the nerve to pick up the lipless lure rod, make another long cast, lift up the rod tip just enough to feel the bait wobble, and set the hook into the twin of the bronze bomber he had just released. It was Groundhog Day all over again and I was shocked.

And, I still am at what I saw unfold the rest of the day. It was a kick-in-the-pants reminder that too often we over-finesse fish with live bait and soft plastic lookalikes when we should be crankin’ up the heat. This caused buddy, Big Jim McLaughlin, publisher of JUST FISHING!, to laugh out loud when I told him about it because he had used the same tactic twice to help him win the coveted Canadian Bass Classic.

angler fishing ontario bass

“There is just something about using crankbaits to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass that you can’t explain,” says McLaughlin. “You won’t catch nearly as many bass with them, but the ones you do will be so much bigger. And most anglers fishing in Ontario, rarely tie crankbaits onto their lines.

“Most folks don’t know this, either, but when I won the Classic on Lake Simcoe, I was struggling on the final day to get a bite, just like you were with Liam. I mean, I was floundering. But then I picked up my crankbait rod and proceeded to catch 30 or 40 smallmouth.

ontario angler fishing bass

Don’t always resort to a slow, small, finesse approach, as many days a crankbait is the answer.

“I wore out the largemouth that day on Simcoe, too, fishing a crankbait along a deep weedline in 12 to 15 feet of water. I was using braid and casting up to the edge of the grass. Once I got the lure down, I’d feel it contact the vegetation, so I’d let my line go slack and the lure would slip off the weeds. I tuckered out the largemouth that day.”

angler fishing walleye and bass

Don’t be surprised if the walleyes want your crankbait as much as the bass.

You’ll tucker out bass with a crankbait, too, on your next Ontario fishing adventure. I can tell you that from firsthand experience.

About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

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