Fall Bass Fishing Tips For The Lake Ontario Tributaries
Every year around September, countless anglers use the fall transition period to shift their focus their efforts on the fall salmon run in the many tributaries of Lake Ontario. It’s a special time of year and that can sometimes turn normal citizens into fanatical anglers in search of their trophy catch.
That’s exactly what happens to me and a few of my closest fishing buddies. Only, we aren’t targeting the salmon run; instead we’re searching for late season bass that are putting on the feedbag in preparation for the long cold winter ahead.
Fall Bass Behavior
These hungry bass are voracious feeders that follow the baitfish into the backs of coves and feeder creeks off the main lake. Another food source they seek out is the fall frog migration. As the 70 degree summer waters give way to cooling autumn water temperature, the fall top water bite is one of the most exciting times of the year to cast for really big bass. Find schools of bait fish, and you’ll find bass worth catching.
Top Water Bass fishing
The late Jack Wingate, a bass fishing legend around Lake Seminole, Georgia, once said, “If he won’t hit on top he isn’t worth catching.” That statement speaks highly of Wingate’s passion for top water bass fishing, and the Lake Ontario region offers some excellent opportunities to enjoy top water bass fishing this fall.
From Sodus Bay to Chaumont Bay (and all bays in between), Lake Ontario hosts a great population of both smallmouth and largemouth bass that are more than willing to provide discerning anglers with hours of top water fall fishing fun.
Top Water Baits
Several top water baits work well for catching bass in the early fall, including chugger styles plugs (Lucky Craft G-Splash or Rebel Pop-R) or cigar style baits (Lucky Craft Sammy or Heddon Spook). But one lure that I think is the easiest and most effective way to catch fall bass is the Wake Bait.
About eight years ago I was introduced to the Lucky Craft 2.5 Wake, and this lure is by far my favorite of all top water plugs available. This compact bodied bait sports a short square lip with a hinge in the middle and a rear treble hook dressed with feathers.
When cast and retrieved on a steady crank of a 6.3:1 gear ratio reel, one can cover the water with ease in search of the active feeders. I’ve enjoyed great fall bass fishing success using this lure on medium or medium-heavy casting tackle rated for 10-20 lb. test line.
Top Water Tackle
For topwater tackle I use a TFO GTS C734-1 medium action rod paired with Bass Pro Shop (BPS) Extreme reel (6.3:1) spooled with 30 lb Excel braid and a five or six foot leader of mono line (17-20 lb.). The braided line allows for better long distance hook sets due to no stretch and the mono leader helps the topwater lure stay on the surface.
Adapting Fall Season Fly Techniques
Another tip I’ve borrowed from our fly fishing brothers is to dress the first two or three feet of the line coming off the lure’s eyelet. I use fly line dressing and if that’s not available you can try applying plain ole chap stick. Just rub a little of it on the line and work it in with your fingers. When the line is dressed it provides better buoyancy that helps keep the lure on the surface with less effort.
If you’re not into trying braided lines then I recommend using a monofilament line in 12-17 lb. test. Avoid using fluorocarbon line because that stuff sinks; it’s not your best choice when trying to fish a surface lure.
Lucky Craft Speed
When retrieved at a high rate of speed, the Lucky Craft 2.5 Wake will dive just beneath the surface and create a bulge in the water; but on a normal steady retrieve the lure crawls across the surface creating a very visible “V” on the water. The pressure waves it omits are easily detected by any bass in the area (remember pike love this bait too).
I’ve experienced days when fish feel the bait pushing water and they’ll come from as far as 15-25 ft. away to take the lure. Some strikes are very violent and other times I’ve been reeling in and simply felt the fish on the end of my line. In my experience, the more aggressive strikes occur when multiple bass are feeding in the area.
Fall Bass Fishing With Wake Baits
These wake baits seem to perform best in calm conditions. The surface doesn’t have to be as slick as glass, but the smoother it is the better the results. It works best in clearer water with visibility of three feet or more. I recommend starting in 10 feet of water or less for your best results, but I have cast it around bass that are chasing shad to the surface over 25-40 ft of water and have done very well too.
Key elements in fishing the wake bait are location and presentation. Remember, bass chase baitfish to the surface because it immediately eliminates fifty percent of the bait’s escape route making them that much easier to catch. Likewise, a steady retrieve is usually best because it replicates a fleeing baitfish. However, if the bass in your area are keying in on the fall frog migration, then a stop and go retrieve might yield better results.
Wake Bait is Worth a Try for Fall Bass
In closing I can promise you this much: if you haven’t tried fishing a Wake Bait for fall bass in the Great Lakes, then you’re missing out on one of the most exciting styles of top water fishing you’ll ever experience. Wake Bait fishing is a great top water technique for beginners to catch bass in the fall months. Just cast it out, let the rings disappear, and then begin a steady retrieve. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Original Article By Burnie Haney
About The Author
Burnie Haney is a Pro Staff member for Lucky Craft Lures, TFO Rods, The Rod Glove, and Bass Pro Shops Nitro Boats. Haney holds three fly rod line class world records with the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame (Chinook salmon, steelhead, and common carp) and two IGFA NYS line class records (walleye and smallmouth bass). He is a life member of B.A.S.S., FLW Outdoors, and the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Assn. He serves as chairman of Jefferson County Sport Fish Advisories Board and Public Relations Officer for the NY BASS Chapter Federation. Get in touch with Burnie at burniehaney.com.