I am a finesse fishing guy. I know it about myself. The thought of fishing with big swimbaits is not in my DNA. But this definitely isn’t true for Quebec angler J.S. Forcier. J.S. loves his swimbaits and loves the big fish he catches with them. We discuss using big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass.
When did you first start fishing for smallmouth bass with swimbaits?
I fished with family and friends since I was a kid, but It become a passion almost 15 years ago in 2003 and 2004. First we were fishing home town fishing spots, we caught walleye, sometime bass and pike. Always in the mind was the dream of catching a monster.
In 2007 and 2008 we started having interest in musky fishing, we caught one or two in 3 years of fishing small baits so we had an idea of where to find them. We started buying musky baits and cast them from the shore, same spots . That first year we caught few muskies and monster walleye and bass. Same spots where we fished since we were kids.
Its at this time that I understood that size really does matter to have a shot at big fish. A few years after, I started bass tournament. We won a classic and a few other tournaments. For the last tournament season I fished in 2014, we participated in a tournament Big Bass Challenge. One bass, the biggest and it was in my hometown.
My partner was a flippin’ machine. So I told him to flip all day and I would throw a 6.5 inch weedless soft swimbait all day for one big bite. We caught 5 fish that day. I caught a 4.15 on the swimbait. My partner caught a 4.5 while flippin’. And then I finally caught a 6.21 post spawn largie, which is actually still the record for that tournament. After that I really got confident in swimbaits. and I started to read a lot about swimbaits. I discovered a whole different world. I started swimbaiting on smallies as well and it all came naturally.
You not only fish swimbaits but you fish big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass. This usually involves less bites during the day. How do you mentally stay focused with the big bait on a day when you know you could get more bites on other baits?
Yeah its definitely hard to stay focused on swimbaits when your partner is nailing them on a drop shot or tube. Especially when you start and aren’t very confident in big baits.
You definitely need a few days of only swimbaits, trying to understand where and when those type of swimbaits are better then others. When you started understanding and having success, it becomes very fun.
I like to compare it with fly fishing, it is hard to start. But when all the elements are put together and you catch the beast of the day, the satisfaction is one hundred times better then catching it on conventional bass techniques. Bigger the effort, bigger the satisfaction.
I valorize it a lot in my boats and all the people that come with me know it. Most of my partners are now throwing swimbaits. We like to do friendly tournaments in the boat, major league fishing style. If you want to have a chance to win you will need to catch a bass with a big swimbait.
What section do you fish big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
I usually fish from Cornwall to Trois-Rivières. In my opinion all lakes or rivers can be good to fish with oversized baits, if your goal is to catch that one biggest and most experienced bass, swimbaits can definitely help you do that.
What do you consider ideal conditions for throwing big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
I will say there are swimbaits for all conditions…Hard, Soft, Jointed, Multi-Jointed, Straight, Weedless, Top Water, Floating, Slow Sinking, Sinking, Small, Big. In Canada, we got a small and intense season, where the fish are moving a lot and the temperature rises and drops quickly. In the St Lawrence river the water can become murky very quickly…lots of current too.
One of the best swimbaits days I have had was in late September. The water was clear but the temperature had dropped quickly in the week. We caught that day a fair number of big fish on 7 to 8 inch gliders on sand flats. Three fish were over 5 pounds. I lost a fish that day at the boat that I still see in my nightmares. It was on a big glider, the Gan Craft Jointed Claw.
The second best day was late June, just after the opener in Quebec. I found two points with a good amount of fish. I was casting a 6 inch Magdraft from Megabass and let it sink in the drop of the current break in heavy current. Every cast I had a hit. I caught 21.6 pounds of bass on swimbaits that day. A good bag for the stretch I was fishing at that time of the year.
What are the conditions where you find big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass to be most challenging?
The hardest time of the year for big smallmouth on swimbaits is definitely the “dark days” of summer. The two first weeks of august, when the water temperature is at the highest point of the year and there are lots of boats on the water.
First its hard at this time of the year to find the big big smallmouth and secondly they are hiding deeper in strong current where its difficult to make a swimbait swim correctly. I found this year the new small swimbait from Megabass, which is the Dark Sleeper, 4 inch model for 1 oz. I caught my longest of the year on that little swimbait, in heavy current, 15 to 20 feet deep.
What are your favorite big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
My favorites swimbaits are:
1 – The Huddleston Deluxe 6 inch Trout ROF 5. This is a rigged soft plastic swimbait. Not too big big so big smallmouth can inhale it. Heavy enough to fish current breaks when the conditions are difficult.
2 – Gan Craft Jointed Claw 148 and 178. These are gliders type swimbaits with a good rate of fall. They can be fished in current and stay subsurface. I lost the biggest smallie of my life on that bait.
3 – Roman Made Negotiator. Gliders type as well, this bait is wood carved with a slower sink rate. Probably the best glide action on the market. I love fishing it in calm condition.
4 – MS Slammer. This is a wake bait, that will dive when retrieved fast. For topwater lovers and musky guys who also like to catch smallmouth while musky fishing, this one is a great hybrid swimbait.
5 – If you want to start with cheaper bait, the River 2 Sea S-Waver and the Megabass Magdraft/Magslowl series are great fish producers.
What are your rod and reel choices for throwing big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
I actually work with 5 swimbaits setups.
Low down Custom Rods 8’6 XH 3-8 oz Mod-fast / Daiwa Ryoga Shrapnel 6.3:1 with an oversized Hedgehog Sudio 108 mm carbon handle. 80 lb braid is on it. I use it on extra big swimbaits for musky. The mod-fast taper is ideal for the hook penetration in musky mouth. And its slower enough to help the gliders works well.
Low down Custom Rods 8’6 H 2-7 oz Parabolic Slow / Daiwa z2020 SHL 7.2:1 with a DRT Varial Handle 100mm. 65 lbs braid. I use it for medium size gliders. The high ratio on the reel give you the chance to quickly retrieve the slack on the line between each glide. The slower taper on the rod follows the glide of the baits and helps the action of the bait…prevent losing fish as well.
Low down Custom Rods Workshop White Label Series 7’9 MH 1-5 oz / Shimano Calcutta 200 5.8:1. 65 lbs braid. This taper gives a good hook penetration on soft plastics and has a good bend to fight the fish. I use it with Hudd 6 inch and wake as rats or crawler. The slower ratio of the reels help to naturally retrieve slowly the soft plastic and hit the bottom time to time.
Low down Custom Rods 7’6 1-3oz Mod-fast/ Shimano Metanium DC 6.2:1 with a S=DRT Varial handle 95mm. 40 lbs braid in it. Use for 5 to 7 inch soft bait, weedless and treble hook rigged. The Mod-Fast taper helps the hook penetration on the weedless rig and helps to get through the grass while fishing for largies.
Low down Custom Rods 7’6 1-3oz Parabloic (Slow) / Daiwa Steez A TW 7.1:1 40 lbs braid in it. Use for 6 inch gliders and swimmers. The high ratio help retrieve the line between each glide and the softer tip helps the action and to prevent losing fish.
Why do you choose braid as your line for fishing big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
In the swimbait world it is recommended to fish with mono or fluorocarbon for sink rate and action of the baits. The swimbait influence mostly comes from California and Japan. Big lakes with 15 pounds plus largies in deep cover. Personally I fish a total different system. The St. Larwrence is full of toothy critters, current and structure. I prefer to fish with big braid on all my reels and instead work with the rod action to make the baits run correctly.
What is your personal best smallmouth bass on a swimbait so far?
My PB smallie is 22 inch and 5.84 pounds. Onn swimbaits, it is 5.44 pounds and 21 inches.
I was slowly passing a point with the electric motor, my friend was casting a tube, I was casting a Hudd 6 inch in perch pattern. On the other side of the point, there was a little pocket on the shore, between weeds where the current was breaking on. On the first cast I made in that pocket, the smallie come from the bottom and inhaled the Hudd. When we netted her the bait came off in the net, which mean I almost lost it.
I think after reading everything J.S. talked about with big swimbaits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass. I just may need to invest in a couple and add to the box. Someone will have to lockup my drop shots and tubes on those days though.
Thanks you J.S. for such great information. J.S. works with GFW distribution. They distribute products mostly for walleye and trout in Quebec and Ontario. He also works closely with SBSRFC. They are a new fishing/lifestyle apparel company and marketing agency. You can follow J.S. on Instagram @js_forcier or check out the Swimbait Canada project.