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Don't Put Rods Away

There are still plenty of fish to be caught for Fish On Line Anglers this fall and more and more anglers right across the GTA are realizing that the month of November can offer them some of the best fishing opportunities of the entire year. And with global warming providing us with more tolerable, even warm weather later in the season than ever before, there really is't a good excuse anymore to give up on the open water fishing season just yet. So, let's have a look at catching the three the most popular fall fish species in November throughout nearby lakes like Simcoe and Couchiching.

Wil with a nice late season smallie

Wil with a nice late season smallie

Smallmouth Bass … Ah, my favorite late season species. There used to be a time when I would be proud of myself if I could still catch a few big smallmouth at the end of October. A week or so later, my success would drop right off and the boat would be put away in time for the deer hunt. Over the last decade or so though, I have extended my smallmouth hunting and somewhat reluctantly postponed my deer hunting - at least until the 1st week in December when bass season is closed. So, why has the bass boat and the crazy bass-a-holic in it remained active right up until and including the last day of bass season? Because for me, and a growing handful of other smallie fanatics, the best trophy smallmouth bass fishing of the entire year occurs during the month of November.

In Lake Simcoe - There is no doubt that the biggest bass of the year are caught at the end of October and thru November.  Witness the latest 2005 Crackle Cup held out of Monto Reno Marine in Lefroy on October 29th when the top two teams each had over 28 pounds for their five heaviest bass. Amazingly too many of the 27 teams had five pounders to even consider topping the odd six plus pounder that was coming in to the weigh in. Even the lowly 10th place anglers - yours truly and his tournament partner Gerry Heels, managed to catch four bass for almost 19 pounds. This was our worst showing in the Crackle Cup's five year history, and one of the reasons or our excuse was that we felt the warm fall had still not urged 'ou' bass to visit their typical late season haunts. The only thing that means to Fish On Line readers is that the best bass fishing is still to come.

How To Find and catch late Season Smallmouth: Catching these late season bass is not rocket science, but a few basic guidelines need to be followed.  First of all, you need to pick your days - strong winds on the big lake should keep you shore-bound … possibly to visit some of the late season rainbow rivers still producing. Then, only venture out into a boat known to adequately handle the rough water that Simcoe and Couchiching can dish out at a moments notice. Make sure you have all the safety equipment on board … including a cell phone and extra dry clothes. Floater suits are becoming popular for late season big lake anglers and these can be purchased at Fish On Line. Next visit areas of the lake such as rocky shoals, major points, ledges, drop-offs and around Islands like Snake and Thorah on Simcoe. Chances are in November 99% of the smallmouth you will catch on this big lake will be at least 15 feet deep and typically between 20-35 feet. Look for baitfish in the areas you are considering wetting a line as the smallmouth are relating to these much more than they are to any structure at this time of year.

Aurora Bassmaster Dan Fuligni

Aurora Bassmaster Dan Fuligni

Catching 4 to 6 pound or possibly even 7 pound monster smallies may not be as difficult as you may think. Tube Jigs are without a doubt the top choice for most in-the-know late season smallmouth experts but you need to begin with the proper rod and reel for them first.  I like a large spooled reel like the Rapala SX 10i 30 series matched to one of their Signature Series 7 footers in a medium/heavy action. 

One of the biggest mistakes tube jig anglers make is using a rod that is too wimpy to properly detect a bite and then set the hook. Use a heavier as opposed to lighter jig hook to ensure your bait gets down to the fish.  ¼ oz is as light as you'll wanna go this time of year with 3/8 and even ½ oz sometimes getting the nod for real deep water or on windy days.  Although you can cast these tube jigs and do well, the wind is often counterproductive for casting to be most effective - so 'dragging' often becomes the method of choice.  This simple technique simply means you drift over a pre-scribed area with the wind pushing you along. If the wind is too strong … toss out a drift sock to slow you down. 

The secret to the dragging a tube jig technique is to maintain bottom contact at all times … feel that jig as it softly works along bottom (remember there won’t be much structure down there to get hung up on) and when you feel resistance set the hook with a strong sideways sweeping motion. Look for that rod tip to signal that tell tale thump, thump of a big smallie at the end of your line … and then hang on cause you may just have the biggest bass of your life at the other end.

Other baits will catch smallies thru the fall, but jigging spoons are a must-have lure. For the best jigging spoons think "heavy for their size" , as these are key words to keep in mind.  Hopkins and Kastmasters are great but lately I have also had success with some of HT's gold Marmooska Spoons normally reserved for ice fishing. I just take off the dropper hook, add a red Gamakatsu treble, attach a split ring up top and its ready for action. Spoons are best worked vertically below the boat in 20-35 feet of water near bottom. They are particularly effective over schools of baitfish as the flash of the spoon mimics the flash of the emerald shiner minnows the bass are likely feeding on. I prefer using a quality baitcasting reel, 14- 17 pound Berkley Vanish co-polymer line and a 6 1/2-7 foot medium/heavy baitcasting rod like Rapala's Tournament Class Series when spoon fishing

So there you have some tips on late season smallmouth fishing … please be a responsible angler and let those precious big smallmouth go so that they can continue to benefit this great fishery. If you must keep a bass or two for the table please wait until you get one of the tastier 10-13 inchers … your grand kids will thank you some day.

Yellow Perch

Lake Simcoe and Couchiching offer some of the best late fall perch fishing found anywhere and Fish On Line anglers should be thrilled that this fall has been an exceptionally productive year.  Prime locations on Simcoe have been out from the town of Gilford on Cooks Bay's west side, the south shore of Georgina Island, Jackson's Point, Barrie's shoreline and of course the prime fall area at the mouth of the Pefferlaw River. At Lake Couchiching, Couchiching Point, out from the Town Docks in Orillia and up near Chief Island are spots worth trying. All of these areas offer tremendous opportunities for late season perch fishing when the winds stay down long enough to fish them effectively.  

Top baits this fall have included a simple minnow, split shot and pickerel type rigs that offer the perch a choice between a minnow near bottom and one a foot or so higher. With the incredible variety of minnows available at the Fish On Line store you may opt to try a few different sizes, as some anglers have realized that a larger minnow can indeed mean a larger perch. If jigs fishing is more your style for open water perch, try Jig-Whoppers Drip Line or Competition Jigs with a small shiner minnow attached. Some anglers have also done really well this fall with Berkley's Micro Finesse minnows; on these jigs … so even if you forgot live bait you can still get bit.

Northern Pike

Although not as popular as the perch or bass, the plentiful northerns in Cooch and Simcoe do have their following.  Cook's Bay in Simcoe is tops right about now, but the big mistake I often see is that anglers are fishing in the same shallow locations they were in a month or two ago.  The bigger pike especially have moved deeper so you should too.  Look for those weedlines adjacent to 20-25 foot levels and troll a crankbait like a deep diving Rapala Shad Rap   (perch color is hot right now) nearby. When the bite slows down, a jig and plastic combo can be the ticket to success … and some anglers still enjoy great pike action  with a big live sucker or chub; again available at Fish On LineMy advice though, is to fish this bait near bottom in the same area you would make a trolling run.  Look for small points or turns within those weedlines, place a marker buoy there … and toss out that minnow on a jig and just wait for a big ol northern to grab hold.

So whatever species suits your fancy, chances are you'll soon discover, like I did several years ago, a whole new exciting fishing season thru the month of November. Before you head out, pop into Fish On Line  and check out all the end-of season specials they have that may just help you catch more and bigger fish on your next trip.

Until then, tight lines … and hope to see some of you on the soft water this November before it turns hard near years end.


Wil Wegman is an award winning freelance outdoor writer who has had articles published in: Outdoor Canada Magazine, Ontario Out of Doors, In Fisherman, Bassmasters and several other publications.  For over a decade he wrote a weekly outdoors column for the Richmond Hill Liberal and Newmarket/Aurora Era Banner Newspapers.  As an official B.A.S.S. press-observer, he has covered more Bassmasters Classics in the US than any other Canadian writer. Not only does Wil write about fishing, he also teaches it - at Seneca College in Newmarket, Richmond Hill and King City. His bass and ice fishing courses have been a popular addition of the College's Continuing Education Program since 1986. He also is a part time bass and pike guide on Lake Simcoe and is a successful tournament angler who spends well over a hundred days on the water…hard or soft every year! Fish On Line is happy to have landed Wil on board as a regular contributor and we look forward to his articles in the coming months.  Readers of this Fish On Line website can reach Wil directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified onThursday, 17 October 2013 23:33