Terrific Topwater Bass of Lake Onaping

Lake Onaping Lodge in Northeastern Ontario is located on a Lake Onaping is a bass angler's paradise.

How many different ways can you catch bass?

What is one of the most popular ways to catch bass?

Is it the shoulder jerking strikes on a spinnerbait, a crankbait or jerkbait that have you addicted to smallmouth bass?

I’m betting a lot of you do enjoy the experience of catching those big brown bass, but can anyone argue the fact that catching smallmouth bass on topwater baits is not the most exciting way to fish for bass? Something about seeing the strike, seeing the fish, and watching the bass cartwheel and jump all the way back to the boat is as addictive as it gets for us.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity this past summer to fish in another lake that I have never fished before in my life. A lake that has a reputation for both numbers and size of smallmouth bass. That lake is Lake Onaping, located in Northeastern Ontario near a town called Cartier.


We planned our road trip with the nice folks at Lake Onaping Lodge, Jack and Sandy Element. Their lodge is located near Cartier just off Highway 144, an easy three-mile drive on a hard-top road. These folks offer a main lodge with five housekeeping cottages which sleep between two to 10 people and are equipped with three-piece bathrooms, kitchens and living areas, motel-style efficiency units equipped with all the same amenities as the cottages, and a marina with fuel, boat ramp, and a sandy beach.

Then there are the three outpost camps located approximately 25, 33, and 41 miles from the main camp. These outposts are renowned locations for excellent fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike, and they’re very popular with groups of anglers looking to escape it all while still having the comforts of home via propane-powered systems.



Our plan was to fish the main lake, which is 48 miles in length with 2,200 miles of shoreline and offers literally hundreds of prime locations to fish for the abundant smallmouth bass on Lake Onaping such as rock points, islands, shoals, reefs, back bays, and countless locations with prime bass attracting features including pea gravel, weeds, and basketball-sized boulders, prime crawfish habitat. Almost every prime location was sheltered from the main lake wind and offered us prime topwater bass opportunities, as in dead calm! We found similar locations and conditions from morning to late afternoon and caught smallmouth just about everywhere we fished.


Lake Onaping is heavily tea-stained in terms of water clarity, so the topwater bite can be, and was, available throughout the day, but definitely peaked from first light to around 10 am, then again in mid-afternoon until sunset. Exactly the kind of lake and conditions I was hoping for.


I fished a lot of rocky points leading to back bays that featured most of the aforementioned natural structure and cover and caught a variety of year classes of smallmouth bass in the 1- to 3-pound range. However, I did miss some opportunities to land a few of the big gals in the 4- to 5-pound range that simply outfought their way to freedom before getting close to my boat. I will say, these fish fight hard!

I truly believe the fact there are so many bass in this lake, very few anglers as compared to the overall size of the lake, and countless locations to fish for bass, all make for some truly virgin bass that may have never seen a lure before. Most of the smallies I hooked were airborne upon hookset and were, out of the water as much as they were in the water, tough as nails.

Lake Onaping has a natural rocky structure, warm shallow back bays, and pea gravel. It also produces excellent spawning beds, which is crucial to keeping a healthy and high population of bass. Smallmouth bass is open all year on this lake, so practicing responsible harvesting of smaller bass while releasing the bigger females will ensure a future fishery for generations to enjoy.

If you’re addicted to topwater smallmouth bass fishing as I am, consider Lake Onaping this year and experience the same kind of amazing fishing adventures as we did on our trip.


Lake Onaping Lodge (Main Lodge)
Jack & Sandy Element
Levack, Ontario P0M 2C0
Phone: (705) 965-1116
Email: lakeonapinglodge@sympatico.ca

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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