I love fishing big water for big bass. When Freddy Roman suggested we head up to Lake Ontario, he did not have to twist my arm. When people hear about fishing the Great Lakes, a lot of them immediately think you are talking about trout and salmon. Don’t get me wrong, these are good sport fisheries, but when it comes to pound for pound heart stopping, take your breath away action, it is bass fishing that really gets a fisherman’s blood pumping. The smallmouth fishery in Lake Ontario has had its ups and downs. The cormorant population has exploded causing decimation amongst the young of the year in some parts of the lake. Zebra muscles have caused some issues with micro-organisms that sustain the bait population but at the same time they have had a positive impact on water clarity and the vegetation needed to support good bass habitat. Likewise there are concerns about gobies invading the Great Lakes but they are also great Smallmouth food. So we take the good with the bad. Generally, from the south-central shore to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, the smallmouth population is enjoying some good times.
Now you will get some arguments, but if you ask fishermen in the know, people like charter Captain Bill Lortz and professional fisherman Jim Root, they will tell you that Lakes Erie and Oneida hold some giant smallmouth, but when it comes to really legendary smallmouth fishing, they will say that the waters of Chaumont Bay, Henderson Bay and some of the smaller bays in and around that region could easily be the best smallie water in the state. A lot of anglers are intimidated by what can be huge rolling waves on Ontario. But it can also be like no other place you can fish for bass- crystal clear water, a great rocky bottom, and gravel points that stack the smallmouth like the condos of Miami stack wealthy, retired Northerners. Each of the many bays in the eastern part of the lake have their own peculiarities but generally they are all good fisheries, each with a smattering of walleyes, pike and largemouth to compliment the plethora of football sized smallies.
One of the reasons this part of Lake Ontario has such tremendous bass fishing is due to the shallow shores and numerous shoals that make for top notch spawning habitat. The water clarity is excellent now due to the zebra mussels. Unless the waves are rolling, if you are fishing bass under 15 feet, you can generally see the rock structure. The real excitement is that fishing in this type of clarity offers the ability to see the bass while you are fighting them. This is primarily a smallmouth bass fishery, but largemouth bass can be found in the bays off of the main Lake.
It should also be noted that for many years the salmon, trout, walleye and musky fishermen and guide community pretty much left the smallies alone. Unlike fishing for the cruisers, fishing for smallies meant you had to know the bottom of the lake and understand how bass feed differently and behaved differently from the other game fish. Bass fishing required electronics that were able to read the bottom- not just know where it was relative to the fish on the fish finder. Bass fishing is more hands on than trolling for salmon and trout. A true bass fisherman needs to feel the bottom, feel the bite, and fight the fish all the way to the boat. If salmon fishing represents the artillery units in the rear echelons, bass fishing is hand to hand combat. As a result, for much of the 1950’s through the 70’s the bass population was never really pressured. All that started to change when tournament fishing came north and bass fishing became popular on more than just Southern impoundments.
For our 2-day adventure, we launched out of Henderson Harbor onto the Bay. We spent our time fishing the classic Ontario bass structure- underwater points and humps- typically dropshotting in 18 to 30 ft. water. We tipped our drop shot hooks with a variety of soft plastics- Keitech Swing Impact, Swing Impact Fat and Sexy Shad; Power Team Lures JP Hammer Shad in Green Pumpkin, and Poor Boys Erie Darter also in Green Pumpkin. We had an epic 2-days. Our best 5 were 6 lbs., 5 lbs.14 oz., 5 lbs.11 oz., 5 lbs. 7 oz., and 5 lbs1 oz. The second day we were culling 4 pounders.
In as much as the fishing industry on Ontario is long established, there are a fairly large number of state and municipality maintained launch ramps to choose from most with good rest rooms and more than adequate parking facilities. Hotels and campgrounds are plentiful for weekend or longer stays and the guide community is extensive. In the iBass360 books, there is none better than Captain Bill Lortz, owner of NY Northcountry Bassin’. If Bill is booked he will certainly have colleagues to recommend. If you plan a vacation in the area there is a lot to do with plenty of trails for hiking and biking, lighthouses, battlefields, boat tours, and even a near-by island castle to explore.
So, next time you have a “jones” for really big smallmouth, head for the northeastern basin of Lake Ontario from Henderson Harbor to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The beauty of this area will not disappoint and, unless smallmouth averaging 2 1/2 to 4 pounds with the potential for a 5- 6 pound fish doesn’t excite you, go ahead and LIVE THE PASSION of SMALLMOUTH BASSIN’.
iBass360 Pro Staff member, Kenny Garippa from Pocono Summit PA. is a touring professional fishing for Team Toyota Scion. Kenny is Living the Passion and contributing to the iBass360 Blog through his G-Spot Adventures. Kenny organizes tournaments and most recently recruited Boaters to take First Responders fishing in a tournament on Lake Wallenpaupack. You can contact Kenny Garippa Fishing at https://www.facebook.com/kenny.garippa