In my opinion, Travis Manson’s Smallmouth Crush YouTube channel is one of the best. Travis once did nearly 25 minutes on just drop shot weights, and I was glued the entire time. For my “real” job travel while others are watching the airplane’s movies, I am watching Smallmouth Crush.
Some of my favorite episodes are when Travis is fishing Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Travis catches big smallmouth bass on Lake Ontario throughout the year but the huge smallies he catches in the fall are just amazing. Travis shares his knowledge with us about fall Lake Ontario smallmouth bass fishing.
What gets you excited when you start thinking about late fall Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
I always get excited when I get the chance to head up and fish the waters of upstate New York. From the opener to ice up it is extremely good. Late fall is exciting time for me simply because I know the end is near….no more open water and I want to take advantage of all the fishing I can get in up there.
The fish are also a bit more aggressive and depending on the conditions and locations a few other baits that I don’t get to use much during the summer months start to come into play.
One things that comes through in your videos is your fishing confidence level. Does late fall fishing on these bodies of water require a lot of confidence in that you are fishing for a few big bites?
When the bite is off you just have to realize that eventually you should be able to come across a good group of fish. I remember a time last fall when for some reason I could not locate any big schools of fish. It took almost half the day to find some good fish. When I did we put a very good bag of fish together but unfortunately the sun was setting around 5:30 that evening so the days of fishing till 8 or 9 at night like you can do in the summer are gone.
What general sections of Lake Ontario are you fishing in the fall?
I generally fish the southern basin of Lake Ontario and the Eastern Basin near the mouth of the St Lawrence River. The southern end is good and has lots of fish but I feel the eastern end has the bigger fish.
You can expect to be able to get a solid bag of fish. 4 pounders are the norm so we are fishing for the larger 5 pound plus fish. At any given day you can have a chance to catch a 6 pound plus fish.
The patterns I use the most are either drop shot for fish on the graph, meaning dropping down to marks, small hair jigs and tubes. Most of the baits I use in the summer still work well into the cooler months.
I also will be able to use reaction baits a bit more. So crankbaits, jerkbaits, lipless, swimbaits and Alabama rigs.
You love the drop shot. Does the drop shot bite stay throughout this late fall period?
Yes it is very good this time of the year. I will stop using the drop shot when the ice forms and you can’t get out anymore…although if I ice fished I bet it would work as well!
What makes the Gajo Baits Spirit Shad one of your favorite drop shot baits for Lake Ontario smallmouth bass?
I like the Spirit Shad because I have so much confidence in it. If you find the fish, they will eat it. It is my go to bait for Lake Ontario smallmouth bass. I also like smaller Senkos, Crosstail Shads, Megabass swimbaits, and a variety of Keitech baits.
What do you consider your other top go-to baits for the late fall?
I do like a Get Bit Baits Tube and I use a tube insert and basically drag this around deeper breaks. I also like to throw a swimbait on a pivot head. The key is to find the fish fish on the graphs.
Sometimes the fish will be shallow just like in the middle of summer and you can find them in grassy bays with good rock and a Dirty Jigs Finesse Swim Jig with a grub as trailer works really well. Just a steady retrieve around shallow grass and rocks.
We can’t talk about fishing late fall without talking about staying warm. What are your keys to a comfortable and safe day on the water?
You need a good pair of boots and dress in layers. I wear heavy snow mobile gloves/mittens when running. If I have to, I wear some light gloves when fishing, but I really don’t like to fish with gloves on. After a bit your hands will get accustomed to the cold and you just go with it.
Hand warmers are also good for those that don’t like to wear gloves when casting. You can put them in your pockets and use them when you need to.
Winter style hats are also great and a face mask when running. You have to watch the weather when fishing late in the fall and plan your trip accordingly. If you haven’t been out there or have experience fishing big water, wind over 10 mph during this time of the year can make running uncomfortable. If there is 15 or 20 plus mile per hour wind it is best that you don’t head off shore this time of the year. You will be taking waves over the boat when fishing up at the bow and you will get sprayed and have the potential for spearing a few waves as well.
Once you get wet it is pretty much over when the temps are in the 40’s or less. My recommendations is to stay in the river or the bays if it is breezy out. You don’t always have to run out far of shore to get on some good fish.
Even with your experience level, what are you paying attention to in the weather/wind forecasts to decide whether you can make it to the big lake versus staying in the safer confines of the River?
Anything over 15 mph will create large waves off shore. If it is blowing at 15 or more I will not make the run off shore if the air temps are 50 or lower. If the air temp is below 32 degrees even some spray coming into the boat can mess things up. Rod and storage lockers freeze up, pumps stop working and it can be miserable out there, so plan appropriately.
Overall, what are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anyone fishing late fall Lake Ontario for smallmouth bass?
- Check weather – you need to be comfortable when fishing and strong winds and cold water can turn a trip into a very miserable experience. Perhaps try to plan a 2 or 3 day trip in case the weather is bad on one of the days.
- Graph – Spend your time looking on the graph for the fish. If you start to see large schools of perch and other baitfish you are in the right spot. In the fall the smallmouth really like to group up around the large schools of bait fish.
- Experiment with baits – This time of year you can use a variety of baits. Give some of the techniques that you may have not used for a while a try. Spoon and blade baits can really come into play but keep the basics near by such as a drop shot and tube.
- Pick a section of the lake or river you want to focus on and concentrate on that area. This place is huge and you can spend a lot of time driving to areas when you are passing by so many of the right fish near by.
- If it looks like it should hold fish you better check it – Any underwater points, humps, and ledges should hold fish at some point. Anything that looks good on the map you may want to idle over and perhaps fish for a bit. Don’t over look going shallow in 10 feet or less but also don’t forget the steep drops out to 60 feet of water as well.
How can someone book a trip with you for fishing these waters?
They can head over to my website travismanson.com and find out how to contact me there. I customize trips for people…some people may just want to catch as many fish as they can while others are just targeting the trophy size fish. I plan my trips to what they want….maybe they just want to learn a new technique so I can offer that.
Lastly, there is a lot I love about your channel but perhaps my favorite is the cast of characters like Epic Eric, Co-Angler Steve, the gang from Wisconsin and the list goes on. What are the plans for the channel moving forward?
The regulars crew will be with me this fall as well. I know it has been awhile since Big Stick Jimmy has been in a video so I need to find some time this fall for him!
I plan on continuing putting up videos on a regular basis. plan on doing some more how to videos this winter and of course plenty of fish catches and tournament videos as well. I would love to do a behind the scene style video but want to stay focused on growing the channel with the current approach.
Thank you Travis! Will be watching Smallmouth Crush on YouTube.