The Kawartha Lakes Region in Ontario is home to some amazing fishing. Ben Hollinger has been fishing the region his entire life. We discuss with Ben his Kawartha Lakes largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing as well as his fishing of Lake Simcoe for big smallies.
How long have you been fishing?
Like a lot of people obsessed with fishing I started very young. Some of my earliest memories are of fishing with my dad from shore and in the canoe.
How long have you been bass fishing in the Kawarthas region?
I grew up on Cameron Lake fishing for smallmouth, and have lived in the Kawarthas most of my 26 years. Smallmouth are the best, but both species of bass are very aggressive and curious which allows us to fish for them in so many unique ways.
I have to start with your giant Ontario personal best largemouth. How big was it?
That bucket weighed 5.24 pounds and was landed on opening day for Zone 15. I was fishing with my good friend, and long-time fishing partner, Mitch Klatt. We had overcast conditions that morning, on a lake just south of Haliburton Ontario.
It was our first time on this lake and we struggled to catch fish on traditional gear, so I switched to a spinning rod. That fish was the second big fish of the day, and she was strong. We released her to gain a few more pounds.
What do you consider your favorite Kawarthas region largemouth body of water?
Balsam Lake would have to be high on the list. There are a lot of shallow water areas along with deep weed to fish. The lake has a good average size and you can catch largies using most bass techniques.
What are your favorite techniques and baits for fishing this largemouth lake?
Topwater is a technique I have always loved, working and pausing your lure, waiting for a blow-up is addicting. However, running crankbaits is by far my favourite technique to catch largemouth. Both techniques require long casts, the right line, and a varied retrieve to effectively catch fish.
You have been fly fishing for smallmouth bass. Where are your fly fishing spots for smallmouth in the Kawarthas region?
In the Kawarthas, I fly fish Cameron Lake with my Dad. We often wet wade, and I will practice fly fishing while my Dad spin fishes. Pursuing smallmouth on the fly is exciting, and a 2 pound fish can double-over a 5-weight rod.
One of the best techniques to target smallmouth on the fly has to be streamer fishing using larger minnow, leech or crayfish patterns. By jerking and twitching the fly rod you create an erratic retrieve similar to a jerkbait. Nothing like stripping in a fly you tied yourself and having a nice smallie rip the line out of your fingers on the take.
Lake Simcoe isn’t in the Kawarthas but you have caught some big smallmouth from there. What do you like about this lake?
Lake Simcoe is the best smallmouth lake in my humble opinion. I’m sure others will agree. It’s clear waters and massive rock flats are a smallmouth bass anglers dream come true. Sight fishing these massive bass is an amazing experience.
I have had the honour of fishing this awesome lake with some awesome anglers, specifically Mitch Klatt, his dad Greg Klatt and Luke Sellick (@lukesellick). These exceptional anglers have all taught me important lessons on how to catch these big brown bass.
Big bass on Simcoe are wise and making long casts is one of the best ways to catch smallies off guard in the gin clear waters. Using scent can play a big role in triggering fish to bite when they have so much time to study your lure. The most typical smallmouth lures are very effective on Simcoe including jerkbaits, tube jigs and swimbaits.
You enjoy chasing other species as well. What do you consider your favorite fish to chase in this region?
Kawartha Walleye are a favourite of mine, when the fish are fired up, the action can be non-stop. Jigging for these fish is an excellent way to target Kawartha weedline Walleye and almost any 3 to 4” soft plastic will catch these fish. Crankbaits are another fun way to catch Kawartha Walleye, and are particularly effective in the spring.
Tell us about Team Cold Front.
Team Coldfront consists of Mitch Klatt and myself. We started Team Coldfront a little over a year ago on YouTube to highlight the awesome fishing to be found in the Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton Highlands. Currently we are working on a compilation of the summer’s fishing so far, should be on Youtube in a week.
Looking forward, we are going to be upgrading our film quality and maybe even including some drone footage, you can find us on Instagram: @benfly91, @klattrap, @tcfishn. And Team Coldfront on YouTube.
Thank you Ben!