Weekend Warrior, Northern Style

As I sit here writing, bass season opens in four weeks and four days. This is the first time that in Zone 17, our season has opened earlier than the rest of the Province. In this part of Ontario walleye, panfish, and pike seasons are already open and in full swing. This weekend warrior is waiting for June 15th, the bass opener. I claim this to be an addiction because once the season closes you feel depressed, needy, and bored about what to do. You can pass your time hunting, but let’s be honest; it’s not nearly as much fun as catching a 5 pound bass.

This season will be a different one then the usual season. Our season opens a week early, and we have had a very late spring. I’m primarily a shallow water finesse fisherman who throws a lot of Senko’s, trick worms, and soft jerk baits. My set up for these rigs is a Dobyns Champion Series 704SF with a Lew’s 300A Laser Speed Spin; I have two of these setups ready at all times. I spool both reels with Vicious 30lbs braided line with about a 3ft fluorocarbon leader, which is 15lbs Vicious Fluorocarbon. The reason I chose to use braided line on my spinning reels over regular fluorocarbon and monofilament is simple. I like that braid sinks faster, has less stretch, I can cast further, and I can feel the smallest hits. I can tell if it’s a bluegill nibbling on my lures tail or if the bass are just not aggressively taking the bait. Sometimes if the water is stained, I will skip the fluorocarbon leader all together.

I know some of you reading this will be thinking, “Mike that line seems to be a little heavy, don’t you think?” I would respond by saying “Yes it is”, and I will tell you why. Not only are the lakes I fish primarily shallow and have problems with high weed density, but bass are not the top freshwater predator up in the north, unlike our friends down south of the border. In these waters, northern pike and muskellunge are at the top of the food chain, as well as walleye. These fish are toothy and aggressive. The musky in this area can just chomp down on your bait, do a typical head shake and break you off. Pike of all sizes will attack your bait; in certain lakes you can almost catch a hundred little “Hammer Handles” a day. This means checking your line every time you catch one. Trust me on this one guys, you will go through a lot of plastics. Walleye are not nearly as aggressive as pike and musky (musky can also be really docile). During the day, you can catch the odd one on an outside weed edge close to a deeper channel. Walleye primarily are nocturnal feeders, so they are not a real concern. This August, when the B.A.S.S. Elite Series stops at the St. Lawrence River and Lake St. Clair, all three of these toothy creatures will be there, and a lot of them will be trophy sizes. Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are trophy fisheries for all species.

My bait selection is pretty simple. I follow the K.I.S.S. formula, Keep It Simple Stupid. When it comes to senko type baits, I choose the Strike King Shim E Stick or Zero, Yum Dinger or Zoom Z-Tail. You can fish these both weighted or unweighted Texas style. Once a few fish have destroyed your bait you can always rig it Wacky Style, and you can do the same thing with a Zoom trick worm. For my hooks, I like to use the largest hook I can use without ruining the baits action. That means I will use a Lazer Trokar TK120 sizes 4/0 or 5/0. Depending on how risky I’m feeling that day. All of my plastics are no shorter than 5”; this matches what size the bass’s food is. By this time, the females are in their post-spawn locations starting to bulk up again for the summer. This is also the time most panfish start to spawn.

When choosing my color selection, it’s all based off of water clarity. You have heard before, “If the water is clear use natural colors and if it’s stained use brighter colors”, which is true most of the time. In clear water, I mostly throw Black/Blue, Watermelon Candy, Baby Bass, etc. However, if I’m feeling sassy I will change it up completely and throw a bubblegum color. Rock Bass love this color, you will need to fight through these smaller guys, but it will pay off. Bass get used to seeing the same thing all the time, sometimes you just need to change it up. A bubblegum senko will do that. Bass will attack it just out of curiosity, and that could pay off as a nice kicker fish for you tournament guys.

Fishing these soft jerk baits is idiot proof; if I can fish them efficiently, so can you. For the senkos and trick worms, cast the bait out, count to 5 then twitch and repeat. It’s as simple as that. For baits like a Zoom fluke, I like to either use a count from 1-3, normally the fluke is used to target those aggressive feeding bass.

This way to fish is a cheap and effective way to catch some nice bass. You don’t always need a $50,000 boat and fifty rods in the boat. You can fish this way anywhere across the world and have success. I have to budget myself every time I go out. I’m a college student who can’t afford to waste time and money on techniques that don’t produce. As much as I would like to have the funds for all the newest gear, that’s just not possible. I hope anything I wrote above will help you in your pursuit for the trophy fish.

P.S. Watch out all you Ontario tournament anglers I’m fishing the events next year.

Mike Raine

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