Sunset Country: Thanks for taking the time to do this Jeff! So let's talk structure first. There are so many locations on these Shield lakes up here that offer anglers varying structure - rocky flats, humps and saddles, weeds - what advice can you give visiting anglers on how to read structure and how do bass relate to structure at different times of the year?
Jeff: No problem Gerry, always happy to talk bass fishing. As to your question about lake structure you're right, there are many different types that you can fish in Sunset Country. As a general rule, I fish shallow water during the spring and for most of the summer months. That includes weedy back bays and rocky shoreline structure and I usually do well on both. When the water starts to cool down in late-August is when I will start to look a little deeper and jig for bass - for example, using a favourite bait of mine - a tube jig. I also look at the weather patterns and when a cold front has moved in, I almost always go deeper - at least for the smallmouth. I like shallow water in the late spring and summer because it allows me to use my arsenal of top-water baits. There's nothing like catching bass at the surface - the strike is the most fun part and I usually use a bait like a popper. If it's really a windy day, I may go to a spinnerbait or start to jig for them, again, usually using a tube jig.
Sunset Country: You're well aware that there are a lot of bass tournaments in Sunset Country - both big and small - what advice would you give to anglers fishing under these "high pressure" conditions where prize money is on the line?
Jeff: You're right, there is a lot of pressure on anglers - mostly self-induced mind you - when fishing in a tournament. The best advice I could give here (and something I follow to the letter) is to fish for the big fish as opposed to trying to catch a lot of bass and hoping for a few lunkers. So when I fish in a tournament, I like to use a larger-sized top-water lure and I fish it slow on specific kinds of structure. By this I mean I look for places where the big bass like to hide. This includes around docks, at the end of a rocky point or where pencil reeds emerge along a defined break in water depth. You'll often find the bigger bass in these kinds of locations.
Sunset Country: In Ontario's Sunset Country most lakes with bass harbour smallmouth bass but there are several lakes with largemouth bass in them. I know many a bass tournament has been won by anglers who catch the largemouth bass given their average size is usually bigger than smallies. What tips can you provide our readers with regarding finding and catching the largemouth bass?
Jeff: With largemouth, I almost always look to find them in or around weed beds or structure like dead-heads, docks or fallen trees. I usually target largemouth bass with baits like a top-water frog which I cast into the weed beds or a "Senko" which also helps reduce problems with weeds fouling the line. Under the right conditions, I will sometimes use a spinnerbait.