Top 5 Canadian Bass Lakes

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To run parallel to Angelo’s recent and very technical bass piece, I thought I’d tackle the question of where to find bass by providing a list of some of my favourite bass lakes to fish throughout Canada. I do realize that his article focused primarily on Largemouth Bass, but I had to include some Smallmouth waters as well. These aren’t my only favourites, they are merely some of the favourites that I highly recommend.

When I can catch a mixed bag of Canadian Smallmouth and Largemouth during the early fall, my Bass fishing season seems so complete

I’ve also included an extra in the mix as an honourable mention. It’s a lake that I’ve fished for only a day—but it was a great day!

Starting west and moving east:

BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. has amazing bass lakes throughout much of the province. There are both Largemouth and Smallmouth. To be honest, of the entire country, British Columbia has the absolute best climate to grow BIG BASS.

Vancouver Island alone has over 20 bass lakes to boast about. And although it may be the best concentration of waterbodies for bass, my B.C. pick isn’t from there. The Canadian desert area of the Okanagan Valley is my area of choice, and Osoyoos Lake is the beast that harbours the beasts (both Largemouth and Smallmouth).

Osoyoos is approximately 18 kilometres (11 miles) long, has 46 kilometres (29 miles) of shoreline, and 5,729 acres of water. It is situated mostly in B.C., but a portion sits in Washington State.

Since this area is designated as a desert, the water temperatures in the heat of the summer can reach 26-33 Celsius. Great for Largemouth, not so much for Smallmouth. But remember, that’s surface temps. Smallmouth Bass are as instinctive a creature as anything alive. They will find deeper, cooler water. To add to the sweltering surface temps, Osoyoos has zero shade protection along its shorelines. It truly is a unique-looking body of water.

Ang with British Columbia Bass
Angelo with a great British Columbia bass, back in 2007.

Nothing Short of Fantastic

We had the honour of fishing here back in 2007 and it was nothing short of fantastic. Ang did a piece on the oxbows at the north end of the lake (unique on its own), and then another in the main part of the lake. On that main lake portion, the Smallmouth back then were giants. I cannot imagine what they’re like today!

Ang and his little homemade bass boat (a 14’ Princecraft Fisherman) puttered along with a little electric Motorguide and proceeded to beat up big smallie after big smallie.

The icing on the cake during this trip was when Ang walked to the bank of the lake back at the boat launch, saw what he thought was a giant Largemouth, cast out and brought in one of his biggest Canadian bass ever! It had those bugged-out eyes and we all swore it was a six-pounder!

Angelo Viola with a British Columbia bass.
Ang proudly displays his “bank-beast” that he caught while sneaking along the shoreline of Osoyoos Lake. Check out those buggy eyes!

SASKATCHEWAN

As we have now said many times: Yes, there are bass in Saskatchewan. In the southern portion of the province, just outside of the town of Estevan, is a man-made body of water that is picture-perfect for bass habitat. It’s called Boundary Dam Reservoir. The reason I feel it’s perfect is the constant, warm water temperatures.

The reservoir was created to aid in cooling the generators that run the local power plant. The water is pumped in from the reservoir through the pump house. It’s then piped through a cooling system in, over and around the hard-working and extremely hot generators and ultimately discharged (at a much warmer temperature than when it was sucked in) back where it came from. It’s an age-old cooling system that still works today. It also keeps a body of water warmer than normal for the area. This warm discharged water creates a phenomenal year-round environment for Largemouth Bass.

Flatland Largies

Boundary Dam Reservoir has an excellent population of Largemouth. I visited the area back in 2012 with my special guest Keith Beasley from Canada In The Rough. Here, we shot two fish-filled, fantastic Largemouth Bass episodes. One at the north end, the other at the south. Both were quite different in surroundings and, as well, in the techniques used to catch the fish.

Keith Beasley and Pete Bowman with a Saskatchewan Bass.
Canada In The Rough’s Keith Beasley smashed this beauty on the jig while I was smashing a sandwich into my yap. Ya snooze, ya lose, Bowman. Well done, Beasley!

The north end is weedy and quite typical of Largemouth water. We found that Jig & Pigs were the #1 answer to our “What do you think these flatland largies will hit?” question.

As for the deeper south end, dropshotting five-inch soft stick baits was the deal.

Boundary Dam Reservoir is a great place for Saskatchewanians to get out and try their hands at catching this unique, acrobatic and extremely popular gamefish species.

ONTARIO

Although Ontario boasts several world-class bass lakes, I’m going to choose one that’s somewhat centrally located and one that certainly can’t be argued as to its output of big fish. With Erie being on the west side of the province, Lake Ontario’s eastern basin obviously being to the east, Lake of the Woods being well to the north, I think that Lake Simcoe should fit the bill for this piece.

Simcoe is a massive body of water. It has an area of 744 km², an average depth of 15 metres (49 feett) and a maximum depth of 41 metres (135 feet). That equals LARGE! Although it may not look all that big on a map, as soon as you tuck the bow of your boat out of the protected boat launch and into the main lake, you’ll soon notice that you can’t even see the other side!

Phenomenal Simcoe Smallies

Speaking of large, there are Largemouth Bass in Simcoe—and some great ones for sure. But honestly, they pale in comparison to the Smallmouth. Simcoe smallies are a phenomenon. Check out any bass tournament weigh-in on Simcoe. If someone comes in with 22 pounds of smallies, they would be lucky to break the top twenty on some days. That’s over a four-pound average for five fish!

In the late fall, they’re even bigger!

I will warn you, however. Lake Simcoe gets angry in a hurry. I’ve seen a perfectly calm morning turn into an ocean-like afternoon that had me barking curse words on every third wave! Be careful out there and pick your days with wind in mind.

Pete Bowman with a Lake Simcoe Bass
I remember this Simcoe giant well. The damned digital scales said 5.99! I’m serious, not .0 or .00 or .000… but point-nine-nine. Are you frigging kidding me? BTW, I’ll take these any day.

That said, on the right day and in the right area, 10-20 Smallmouth from 3-5 pounds is as realistic as it gets. If your personal best is a 5.75 and you’re looking to better it, Simcoe is the spot!

If you want to witness a great day of smallie fishing on Simcoe with that 5.99 (pictured above) which, by the way, I caught on a suspending jerkbait, go here.

QUEBEC

The St. Lawrence River certainly is a unique body of water. It is the final draining run, if you will, that empties all its feeder waters upriver, into the north Atlantic Ocean.

Before Angelo and I fished it extensively, I personally didn’t realize the potential here. Many years ago, I won a bass tournament on a section of the river by catching a couple days’ worth of quality Largemouth. I’m pretty doubtful that could be replicated nowadays. That’s because the Smallmouth Bass in areas of the St. Lawrence River are as giant as they are plentiful!

That tournament area was Lac St. Pierre, a great section on its own. However, the one I’m recommending here is Lac St. Francis, which runs from around Summerstown, Ontario to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec.

Although it is part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, it is classed as a lake. It borders southeastern Ontario, southwestern Quebec and northern New York State. If you haven’t fished “Franny,” then you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

Aside from being a Walleye, Largemouth, Perch and Muskie factory (where Ang and I caught these two giants), Lac St. Francis is home to Smallmouth Bass that will blow your mind. I’m talking lots and I’m talking BIG!

The Franny Experience

I will forewarn you, though: You better be ready to fish in current. There are spots on the lake that are pretty much current-free and have great Smallmouth fishing—however, you’ll eventually need to get into that strong current (often 2 mph or more) to truly experience the full Franny Smallmouth experience.

Angelo Viola with a St. Francis Smallmouth Bass
Take a giant Franny Smallmouth like this one, add in a strong current, and you come up with the fight of your life on each-and-every fish!

As an example of just how strong the current is, Angelo and I will often anchor-lock our 36-volt Motorguide (that’s over a hundred pounds of thrust) up current from a potential hotspot and that trolling motor will be pumping at full capacity just to hold us in place. We’ve even had situations where we couldn’t hold (Canadian and U.S. power companies opening the dam for more hydro generated power).

Two of our favourite current-oriented Smallmouth techniques are dropshotting and Carolina rigging. Both have their place at different times.

As I stated above, we will sometimes lock into position and try to work a specific area,  but oftentimes, especially while looking for fish, we will drift with the current on a specific line and try to pick off fish with that approach. It’s great for covering water fast.

Both methods work on not only St. Francis, but on virtually any Smallmouth river with current.

Monster Largemouth

I must not neglect the Largemouth Bass here. Although they are seemingly outnumbered here, there are some real specimens in the back-waters. In fact, the feature image of this article is a giant that I caught (while fishing with both Angelo and Reno) with a “Jig & Pig” off of some wood in thick weeds. I was so surprised and excited that I craned that puppy in with my flipping stick before the brothers could even react.

Then I heard Ang pipe up, “What were you thinking? That fish is a monster!”

Things went so fast I didn’t even realize how big the fish was. “Wow, I guess you’re right,” I said, looking down at the massive largie. “That might be a five-pounder.”

Reno laughed aloud and said, “Try six-plus! And by the way, get your eyes examined next week, Bowman!”

Ang agreed.

NEW BRUNSWICK

Speaking of rivers, my last place on this list is another iconic Canadian river that may have more Smallmouth per square meter than even the St. Lawrence!

The St. John River in New Brunswick is quickly becoming one of the country’s best producing Smallmouth Bass waters. It’s 673 kilometres long and has a basin size of 54,986 km² (that’s lots!). It starts out in Saint John Ponds, Little Saint John Lake, and empties into the Bay Of Fundy.

The first time Angelo and I fished here, the conditions were less than optimal (cold front in the spring) and we still caught the hell out of them. No giants, but phenomenal numbers. I will always remember the very first area that we pulled into: a current break along the shoreline. Once we figured them out, it was fish after fish. The real memory kicker there was Ang catching two smallies on the same lure at the same time (a suspending jerkbait). That is what fishing stories are all about!

Angelo Viola with two New Brunswick bass on one lure on St John River
Ang couldn’t just keep it to one fish at a time, he had to go and literally double up! Ha, well done, fella!

The main river itself is a fantastic fishery. Add in the feeder creeks and rivers, and you’ve got miles upon miles of almost untouched water to explore.

Check out this blog post about that trip.

It’s on our “Return-Visit List” for sure!

CONCLUSION

Hopefully you enjoyed this piece about five-bass lakes that I recommend—they truly are great producers. It is such a difficult and daunting task narrowing down a list like this. Being from Ontario, we know of so many bass lakes that could have been included in this article. A future list is sure to follow—be on the look-out.

Have a great bass season!

– Pete

MANITOBA (HONOURABLE MENTION)

To be honest, I’ve only fished for bass in the province of Manitoba once during my entire fishing career. (Angelo and Reno have hit the province more, always with great success.) I’ve heard there are lots of Smallmouth throughout the province—and some big ones to boot. It’s most definitely an area for Ang and me to explore in the future.

The one and only Manitoba bass lake for me was called Bradley Lake. It’s not a big lake from what I remember. But once we dialled in the smallies, that little lake put out some big Smallmouth Bass! It had all of the crucial elements: shallow weeds, healthy weed flats in the mid-depth range, and a vast amount of deep water and bluff rock walls.

Steep Rock Bluffs of Bradley Lake, Manitoba
Manitoba’s Bradley Lake has lots of steep rock bluffs like this throughout the body of water.

Bradley is located east of The Pas, Manitoba. It certainly does not grab the fame and glory of the province’s most prominent fishing waters like Lake Winnipeg, Gods Lake, Lake of the Prairies, Dauphin Lake or the Winnipeg River, but those are sizable waterbodies that produce large numbers of multiple species annually.

Like Peanut Butter and Jam

Back in the day, when we visited Bradley Lake, we certainly were not the smallie anglers we are today. Time builds experience. Also, Senkos, swimbaits, weight-shifting suspending jerkbaits, creatures, etc. were not even thought about yet. It was crankbaits, spinnerbaits, floating minnow baits, curly-tailed worms, jigs and so on. Lots of choices, mind you, but still not like today. That said, the two baits that shone—and still would to this day—were tube jigs and topwaters, with the latter producing big time.

Smallies and topwater baits are like peanut butter and jam. They work perfectly together. If you find yourself in the right situation (usually calm, clear water), make sure you tie on a popper, walking bait or a prop bait. It’s always worth a few casts and if you get hit, you’re hooked as much as the fish is!

Of course, with all great fishing memories comes the “not-so-great” ones. Bradley is also the place where Ang stuck himself in the shin with one of those nasty little Pop R Excalibur trebles. He seemed to be on a self-hooking roll back in those days. Thankfully, he finally to grew out of it!

Pete Bowman

Pete, one of the most revered and popular anglers in the nation, has a tremendous love for the game… the fishing game. Pete’s vast knowledge of angling and ability to articulate it to audiences worldwide has endeared him to his fans who still see Pete as just “ONE OF THE BOYS”. Pete is also an accomplished and published outdoor writer and photographer as well as a sought-after speaker. In 2012 another of Pete’s ultimate fishing career highlights occurred when he was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall Of Fame, something he never thought would happen. A Canadian fishing icon.

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