Here at DockTalk365, we focus on the Northeast but we also take the time to discuss some great bucket list fishing destinations. Out of all of the places and fish I expected to interview people about, I didn’t think it would be British Columbia smallmouth bass fishing. That was until I stumbled upon Matt Benson who catches big bass, both smalmouth and largemouth, in British Columbia. In this interview, Matt lets us know why BC should be considered a bass fishing destination.
When I think of British Columbia, I don’t exactly think of smallmouth fishing. What is the quality like of BC smallmouth bass fishing?
There is both smallmouth and largemouth bass in BC. The smallmouth are originally from Lake Simcoe. In the 1920’s, they were stocked by the Government of BC in a few lakes throughout BC.
The smallmouth fishing is very good in a lot of local lakes. Depending on the lake, catching 20 to 40 fish per day is common. Fishing usually starts late March and runs into late October since a lot of lakes don’t freeze over.
There are a few lakes that produce 5 to 6 pound smallmouth throughout the year. Oosoyoos Lake, in the Okanagan can produce 5-7 pound smallmouth, with the possibility of a giant 8 pounder. Interestingly enough, this lake is actually the Northern tip of the Sonoran Desert which runs as far South as Mexico.
Only a few lakes in BC contain largemouth bass. I predict that the Canadian record for a largemouth bass will come out of BC.
What are your favorite BC smallmouth waters?
My two favorite lakes are Shawnigan and Osoyoos. Shawnigan is located on Vancouver Island. It has several different types of structures. In the spring, it will produce multiple 5 pounders. It is normal to land 20-40 fish per day.
Osoyoos is a desert lake that borders with Washington State. It produces the largest smallmouth in Western Canada. This lake is not known for numbers, but you can catch both small and largemouth bass.
To guide in British Columbia, you need a BC guide license. It is difficult to make a living exclusively guiding for bass in BC. BC’s fishing industry is mostly driven by ocean and small trout fisheries. So, it is rare to find a guide that will only fish for bass. I recommend checking out the Facebook page, Bass Anglers of BC or Brackish Water Outdoors. This is a great place to create contacts with local anglers who could show you around BC bass waters in your area.
Can you walk us through bass fishing in BC throughout the different seasons? How do patterns change over the course of the year?
Fishing techniques such as drop shot, Senko, crankbaits, flippin, pitchin, and jerk baits are very effective in BC waters. On Vancouver Island, the pre-spawn usually starts early April until the end of May. This is when fish begin to migrate the arms of creeks. Some fish will move to gravel flats to spawn. The summer season runs from middle of June to early Sept. The early part of summer you can find fish around docks. As the water temperature rises the fish will move offshore into 12 to 24ft water. For some reason, we don’t have a strong fall bite. This is odd since fish usually feed heavily in the fall as the water temperature decreases. On Vancouver Island, the bass activity decreases in early October.
The Okanagan bass pre-spawn starts in early to middle of May. The spawn starts usually around May long weekend and lasts until early June. The fish set up in very traditional locations during the spawn. The summer season runs into middle of Sept. This time of year, it helps if you’re good with using your graph. A lot of fish will move a couple hundred yards off shore. If you can mark them, they are usually catchable. Lakes in the Okanagan are more productive in the fall compared to Vancouver Island. In the fall, you can find fish feeding in spawning areas. These lakes freeze over in the winter. After feeding, bass move toward their winter areas and set up in very deep water. This time of year, they can be very hard to locate.
Do you have any recommendations of where to stay for anglers coming from the Northeast to fish BC?
If you’re coming to Vancouver Island to fish Shawnigan Lake, you may be able to find homes to rent right on the lake. Unfortunately, there are no hotel close to Shawnigan. The closet hotel area is the town of Duncan.
If you’re heading to Osoyoos Lake in the Okanagan, you can stay at the Holiday Inn in the town of Osoyoos. It is right on the lake. It has its own boat ramp and moorage right on the water. There are also a few campgrounds on Osoyoos Lake, but book these in advance.
Skaha Lake, which is located North of Osoyoos, is a good smallmouth lake. However, there are no accommodations on the lake, but there are several hotels in the town of Penticton to stay. Since the Okanagan is an active tourist area, ensure that you book your hotels far in advance during the summer months.
Windmere Lake in the Kootenays, is one of the most Northern largemouth lakes in North America. It could possibly be the least fished largemouth lake out there. A few places to check out would be, the Lake Shore Resort and Campground and the Village Inn and Motel.
I know one of the tactics that you are using for smallmouth is spoons. How are you using spoons to catch big smallies?
I use the Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoons. Out west they are mostly used for beach fishing Coho Salmon in the fall. I fish it just like I would when ice fishing. I use a vertical presentation looking for fish on the graph. I have seen Bob Izumi catch them in Ontario, so I figured why not give them a try. I have had okay success on them. The lake I was fishing in my spoon fishing videos had the dirtiest water ever. Next year, in the summer and fall, I will expand on this technique in clearer water lakes.
Do you think your application of spoon fishing would also work here in the Northeast?
I honestly think it will work in any lake. In the southern US, a lot of guys are using those huge spoons for off shore largemouth. I can’t see why a scaled down version wouldn’t work on an off shore structure fishing for smallmouth. It is all about a reaction bite.
Who are your sponsors?
I work with a bunch of great companies like Cabela’s Canada, Minn Kota, Humminbird, Cannon Downriggers, St. Croix Rods, Fish on Energy Clothing, BCfishn.com, Smith Optics, and Spro. I want to mention that I used all their products before representing them. They make some of the best equipment out there and have always taken great care of me. I know sponsors always change, but I have used their products before I worked with them and will continue to use their products down the road. That is how much I believe in these companies.
Also, I want to thank you for giving me this chance to represent the West Coast bass industry in Canada. It is not well known, but if people are traveling out this way and want to try something different than Salmon fishing, try some bass fishing. I know you will be pleasantly surprised.
I am sure we will Matt. You fish in such a beautiful part of the world. I can’t imagine fishing for smallies on Vancouver Island. It is definitely now on the bucket list. For now, I will enjoy following along as you post your big catches on Instagram and great videos on YouTube.