Magical Montreal River Bass

A Bucket List Angling Adventure at Horseshoe Island Camp

My bucket list of bass locations took a severe beating in 2019.

I was fortunate enough to knock off a bunch of new bass fishing hotspots that I have craved to fish for a long time. The Montreal River system is one location that has intrigued me, and boy did it deliver in a big, beautiful way!

I have driven by the Montreal River system for years and always wondered how good it really was for bass, walleye, and/or northern pike. I finally got the opportunity to find out firsthand during the summer of 2019 while visiting with the gracious hosts of Horseshoe Island Camp on Mistinikon Lake, which is part of the Montreal River system. With its 100 miles of shoreline and 24 miles of water, Mistinikon Lake is an angler’s playground. From rock formations, bays, depth, and numerous islands, Mistinikon provides the perfect habitat for walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass.

Ariel 1

Known for its trophies in all categories as well as an abundance of great eating size, Horseshoe Island has guests that visit at least once per season; some have even been returning for 30-plus years. New guests get a thorough lake orientation, which includes a topo map of the lake, plus in-depth maps of certain areas. In other words, they strive to treat your vacation time as they would like their vacation time to be treated—get us to the spots that produce tight lines quickly!

We met up with lodge owners Ian and Linda, who gave us the rundown on how the camp was operated, a map of the lake, and an in-depth description of locations where previous guests had experienced success for the ever-popular smallmouth bass on this lake. Since I had brought my own boat on this trip, I was fortunate enough to idle around the lake on the first evening, giving me a chance to mark a bunch of waypoints on my sonar and map charts for the next morning’s fishing adventure.

Sonar

My first impression of Mistinikon Lake was met at the very first rocky point I fished the first morning. Casting a walking style topwater bait over a dead calm rock outcropping in front of a small cover produced the first strike of this lake’s big brown bass. A thick, chunky, 3-plus-pound smallmouth was dancing on the calm surface while making three-foot-high jumps trying to throw my bait to no avail. After a few quick photos, she was set free to fight another day.

Impressed? Yes. I was not only impressed by the size of the average bass on this system, but the next two-plus hours of fishing produced similar results on just about every rocky point I fished and with not another boat in sight! That’s right. I had this entire area of the lake to myself. With a camp full of guests, I surely figured more anglers would be fishing these similar locations, but that was not the case. Not another soul was in sight for the entire morning.

Bass1

Luckily for me and other guests of the Horseshoe Island Camp, this part of the Montreal River (Mistinikon Lake) is blessed with countless locations that not only harbour good numbers of smallmouth bass but the walleye and northern pike fishing is just as productive throughout the entire system. The fact that this lake is part of a river system, offering many locations that have moving water, slow-moving current, that attracts baitfish, fresh oxygenated water, and in turn harbours bigger game fish, make this system an angler’s dream.

After an exciting morning of top water bass action, I decided to enjoy my mini-work vacation to enjoy a late breakfast and check out more of the lake before heading back out in the evening to see what other finned critters wanted to come out to play. I found a long mid-lake shoal with scattered weed patches along the tapering edges leading to deeper water, and I couldn’t wait to fish this location after dinner.

This evening bite was totally insane!

Bass 2

I thought the morning bite was good until I started catching bass after bass after bass that first evening, on subsequent drops right below my boat with a drop shot rig and soft artificial bait while positioned in only 8 feet of water, on the edge of the reef. I will never forget how much fun that was. Just to break up the madness of catching fish after fish right below my boat, I would change it up by picking up my topwater rod, casting a small popping-style bait and watching bass after bass literally smash my bait clear out of the water.

I was so happy I decided to come here.

After an absolutely incredible evening of catching countless numbers of smallmouth bass and smaller walleyes that were scattered on this reef, I headed back to our cottage in preparation for the next morning, but I knew I would have a hard time sleeping with all those thoughts of top water bass awaiting the next morning.

Ariel 2

Without boring you with details, the next morning was a mirror image of the first morning, except this time I started my top water bass assault on the deeper edges leading to the shallower reef edges with the same walking style top water bait and caught some beautiful smallmouth in the 4-plus-pound class on more than one subsequent cast for over two hours.

This place has to be added to your bucket list, honestly.

Mistinikon lake gets a well-deserved rest each winter with the absence of ice fishing on the lake.

Horseshoe Island Camp is also conveniently located in the center of the lake and just a short five-minute boat ride from the parking lot. All of the cottages are waterfront with their own private dockage. They offer various styles of cottages, from basic two-bedroom mainland and island units to the large three-bedrooms, to their top-of-the-line island and mainland deluxe units.

Whichever cottage you choose, you will find it is spotlessly clean and well-equipped for housekeeping use. All units feature a three-piece bathroom, which contains a shower unit, toilet, and sink. Each unit is fully equipped with propane (refrigerator, lights, stove, hot water, and BBQ). The lodge also supplies bottom-fitted sheets, pillows and pillowcases. Guests supply the balance. They also cater to folks with sleep apnea and have a charging station for electronic equipment.

Cabin

Trust me when I tell you that Horseshoe Island Camp and Mistinikon Lake will not disappoint you in any way. This place impressed me with the size of bass, number of bass, number of locations to fish for bass and, as already mentioned, I never shared any of the locations that gave me so much angling pleasure with another soul in sight!

Book your vacation today

Horseshoe Island Camp
Matachewan, ON Canada

PH: (705) 565-2222
Email: horseshoeisland@xplornet.com
www.facebook.com/horseshoeislandcamp
www.instagram.com/horseshoe_island_camp

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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