Ontario has a well-deserved reputation as an outdoor sportsman’s paradise with some of the best fishing on the planet. Anglers from all over the world come to the province with dreams of pursuing trophy specimens of northern pike, walleye, muskie and lake trout.
Though with their eyes focused on those legendary fish of the Great White North, they often overlook the fact that Ontario offers some fantastic smallmouth bass fishing opportunities.
That is hardly surprising when considering Ontario is truly a land of water, with over a quarter million lakes and innumerable rivers and streams. It contains more than a fifth of the world’s total supply of fresh water within the boundaries of its 415,000 square miles — an area larger than Spain and France combined. Much of that liquid treasure is held within the five Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River basin, which inhabit the province’s southern border. With so many lakes and rivers, it’s not hard to find pristine places that have hardly been fished, and trophy-sized catches are common.
Recreational fishermen catch more than 100 million fish annually, choosing from a lengthy menu of 37 species of sport fish. Smallmouth bass are among the most popular because, pound for pound, they’re considered one of the feistiest fish, loads of fun to catch, and make for a tasty dinner, too. Bass are everywhere in the province, but some destinations are better than others. Here are five hot spots for the best smallmouth bass fishing in Ontario:
Lake of the Woods:
At over 70 miles in length and with 65,000 miles of shoreline, Lake of the Woods is one of the largest lakes in North America. It spills over into Minnesota and the neighboring province of Manitoba. More than 14,000 islands dot the lake, from the deep clear waters of the northern end to the shallower depths of the south. The variety of structure available makes Lake of the Woods a veritable paradise for smallmouth bass, and a true test of the angler’s skill. The Kenora Bass International is the largest bass tournament in the region and is held every August.
This is yet another lake shared with Minnesota, though more than 70 percent of it belongs to Ontario. Rainy Lake has 360 square miles of surface area and more than 2,200 islands. The popular Voyageurs National Park is located on the southeastern edge, and the lake is also home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park and Superior National Forest on the American side — so there are plenty of first-class accommodations for tourists and fishermen who wish to experience the natural wonders of the northern forests. Rainy Lake is known for its smallmouth action, and it’s the site of the annual Canadian Bass Championship.
The fourth largest lake in Ontario was known as “beautiful water” by the native Hurons, and it’s an apt description. It’s one of the most fished lakes in Canada, and because it freezes entirely in the winter, it has been called the “Ice Fishing Capital of the
World” — there are numerous competitions held each year. With extensive shallows rich in weedy structures, and plenty of shoals and points, it’s also known as the abode of the fabled Lake Simcoe smallmouths — which can be found in abundance year-round, especially in Cook’s Bay. They are a favorite target of anglers in pro bass tournaments each summer.
Lake St. Clair:
The 430 square miles of this fisherman’s heaven is shared by Ontario and Michigan, and it serves as a connection between the Great Lakes of Erie and Huron. Lake St. Clair has an average depth of only 11 feet, and with a sandy bottom littered with old stumps and weedy shoals, smallmouth bass thrive, averaging between 3 pounds and 6 pounds. One of the best spots for smallmouth is found on the southwest shore where the
Detroit River empties into the lake.
One of the jewels of Southern Ontario, Eagle Lake boasts more than 67,000 acres of surface area and 400 miles of shoreline. Plenty of islands, coves and bays offer the perfect habitat for fish to grow to record sizes, and they do. The smallmouth fishing is best in the spring and fall, but like most Ontario lakes, the ice fishing season offers excellent opportunities as well.
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Dave Swistun is the owner and manager of Duck Bay Lodge in Sleeman, Ontario. Dave and his wife Sheree have welcomed outdoors enthusiasts since 1988. Duck Bay Lodge visitors enjoy fishing, hunting, bird watching, hiking, and more. For fishing enthusiasts, Duck Bay Lodge offers guided tours of lakes in Ontario with a selection of the best fishing spots.