I make it no secret that one of my favorite bodies of water is the St. Lawrence River. I have only fished the US side of the River but keep finding more and more anglers who target the amazing Smallmouth Bass fishing from the Ontario side. Jason Hare is one of these Ontario anglers that knows how to catch big bass consistently out of the St. Lawrence. I took some time to review his cold water fall and early winter fishing on the River. We also discuss his 2016 overall year and his goals for fishing in 2017.
I always ask people about their sponsors. You say in your Twitter profile that your sponsors are your wife and two daughters. How do they support your fishing?
Fishing has always been a big part of my life but family will always be priority number one. Having a young family doesn’t leave a lot of free time to get out on the water but they are very supportive of my fishing habit. I often joke that before I can go fishing “I’ll have to check with my sponsors”. They even join me once in awhile and that makes for a fun day on the water!
The weather got cold in November but you went fishing. What are your keys to dressing warm enough to comfortably fish when going out on a cold day?
For late fall fishing I prefer a good thermal base layer, warm socks, some comfy jeans, a hoodie and then a warm, water proof exterior. When the mercury really drops I’ll start wearing my ice fishing coat and bibs. My Striker Ice gear is very comfortable and functional plus it will float me should I ever end up in the drink. Of course a warm toque and good gloves are crucial in keeping you comfortable this time of year. I like a pair of fingerless cotton gloves for fishing duties and I make sure to bring heavier gloves and some type of face protection for those cold runs in the boat.
What are some of your keys to hot November Smallmouth fishing on the St. Lawrence River?
Early fall fishing is lights out as the fish are aggressive and packing on the pounds for the winter. Late fall can prove to be a little more difficult to locate the fish but if you find them they are usually stacked up and you can have some epic days.
They typically spend the winter in deeper water where the temps are more stable for the winter so a good place to start your search is around your favourite summer holes and slide out deeper until you connect. Finding them can be tough but idling around with your eyes glued to the electronics can do the trick. Normally I’m targeting them in 20-40ft during fall but they can be up shallower especially on those above average temp sunny days that we often see this time of year. I’ll drag tubes and dropshots out deep and throw jerkbaits and spinnerbaits if I’m searching up shallow. It can take some time to find them in cold weather but if you do you’ll warm up in a hurry!
After we get through the winter, take us through your early fishing on the St. Lawrence. What are your favorite techniques?
Bass season on the St Lawrence doesn’t open until late June so there’s no early spring bass opportunities on the river. Although bass are my favourite species to chase, I’m far from just a “bass guy”. I’ll fish for anything that swims and there’s not many freshwater species that I haven’t spent some time chasing. In early spring after ice out you can find me chasing crappie or perch and then walleye or pike when it finally opens in May. Before that you may even find me along the banks of a Lake Ontario tributary drifting for spring steelhead!
I know you are a big fan of tubes. What are your favorite tubes to fish? And what colors are your favorites for specific conditions?
I’m not particular to any brand of tube, they all seem pretty much the same to me. For Smallies on the river I prefer some variation of watermelon or green pumpkin to imitate the abundant gobie population. I use 3/8oz most often but certain scenarios can call for lighter or heavier weight. For shallow water or really calm days 1/4 oz can be sufficient but if it’s really windy and rough out then 1/2oz or heavier is needed. The key is being able to keep contact with the bottom and have a good feel of what your tube is doing down there.
What are your other favorite bodies of water to fish?
As a kid I spent a lot of time camping and chasing Largies on the Rideau River and Silver Lake so I grew pretty fond of those two waterbodies. I also spent a few years fishing the old Kingston Bass Anglers tournament trail around the Rideau Lakes. Big Rideau, Newboro, Loughboro, Dog, Cranberry, etc are all amazing fisheries. There are so many good lakes around this area that offer amazing Largemouth and Smallmouth fishing. So much water so little time!
What were your best three fishing days this year?
This year’s bass opener was a really fun trip. My brother Craig and I decided to ignore the Smallies and instead targeted Largemouth in some of the shallow bays around the 1000 Islands area. We didn’t fool any giants but we beat up on the 3 to 3.5 pounders all day. Hard to beat an awesome day of flipping and frogging for chunky buckets!
Another awesome day this season was a great Largie day that my buddy Graeme and I had while fishing the Shootout Fishing League tournament on the Rideau River in August. We spent the day punching thick mats in 2 to 4ft of water with heavy weights and creature baits. The action was fairly steady and we ended the day in 7th with a little over 13 lb, just 2 lbs shy of the win. We fished pretty clean but I actually lost one good fish trying to horse it to the boat. At the time we had a 1.9 lb in the box that we needed to cull and the fish I lost was a solid 3 lbs plus. It would’ve bumped us up closer to the win but hey, that’s fishing, and just knowing that we were around the right fish to win makes us more hungry for next time!
Another great day was a solo trip on the St Lawrence in mid October. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny day and the big Smallies were putting on the feed bag! I was dragging a tube…big surprise…haha…in 20 to 30 feet and on my very first cast I hooked up with a 5.8 lb tank! That was followed up immediately with another 5 lb plus that managed to shake free at the boat. Things slowed for a bit after that with some decent fish here and there and then on my very last cast I hooked and landed another fatty that went 5 lb even. It was definitely my best big fish day this year.
What are your fishing goals for 2017?
My goals for next year are pretty much the same as usual, fish when I can and try to maximize my time out on the water. Hopefully learn a few new tricks and find a few new spots. Of course get the family out on the water for some fishing fun when they feel like it. One of my old college fishing buddies and I have been talking about fishing the FLW Canada Series but we’ll have to wait and see if we can swing it. If not I’ll definitely get in on a couple of various tournaments here and there during the 2017 season. I’m already dreaming about bass opener 2017 and the 2016 season hasn’t even closed yet!
Great stuff Jason! I am glad your sponsors let you get out fishing every once in awhile. All of us can follow Jason as he meets all of his 2017 fishing goals on Twitter.