Lake Ontario is a magical place filled with giant smallmouth bass. Jesse Spellicy knows how to catch them recently taking a Top 10 at an FLW event out of Clayton, New York. Jesse gives us a lesson on how to drop shot Lake Ontario for big smallmouth bass.
How long have you been fishing Lake Ontario?
My first experience on the lake was a team tournament in 2013. We fished out of Chaumont Bay. I did not have a boat at that time, and we stayed in the bay.
It was pretty cool we caught like 18 pounds and came in 10th I think. In 2015, I bought a boat and started running out into the lake and exploring more.
That’s when I really started to experience what the lake truly had to offer. I had to figure out how to compete with guys in my club that were consistently bringing in 22 plus pound limits. I get to fish out there half a dozen times a year, mostly during tournaments.
You had a post that Lake Ontario has the best smallmouth fishing in the Country. What is your proof to back up that bold statement?
I truly believe that statement holds true because there is just simply so much water that doesn’t get touched, and so many big fish that have never even seen a bait before. 25 pound limits are common now. There was 2 limits over 30 pounds weighed in a couple years ago during a 20 boat derby!
Those numbers are almost unheard of anywhere else. Combine that with the weather also playing a huge factor into limiting the amount of fishable days and you have a smallmouth mecca. The sheer numbers of fish out there is just incredible too. 100 plus fish are not uncommon.
The average size of fish is going up slowly but steadily each year. I personally know of multiple 7 pound plus fish that have been caught and released out there this season. That’s not counting how many were caught by the charter boats and thrown into the cooler. That’s a major problem right now, but a topic I wont get into now.
How do you describe Lake Ontario to someone who hasn’t fished it before?
If someone has never been there before, I would tell them the same thing I tell everyone. That place can be so frustrating at times, you can go hours and hours without getting a bite some days. Then you can pull up on a spot and literally find a school of 4 to 5 pound fish and catch them almost every drop, for hours at times.
When that happens you easily forget about the hours that went by without a bite. If someone is really good with their electronics and willing to idle for a good bit of time to find some of the mega schools out there they would have a ball. If you pay attention to the details of where those schools set up, in relation to wind direction, time of year, and bottom content, you can get on a pretty solid pattern. It is also one of the most beautiful places you will ever fish, gin clear water, wild life all over, and awesome sunrises.
How much does drop shotting play into your success on Lake Ontario?
Drop shotting is #1 technique out on the lake. It’s a great choice simply because it’s so efficient for the way I fish. That Is marking the fish with my humminbird units, dropping the bait straight down and practically watching them eat it on the screen. It is also a great technique because you can present a small subtle bait in a natural manor, but still fish it pretty fast. I prefer ¼- ½ ounce size weights, ¼ for anything less than 10 ft, 3/8 for 10-30 ft zone and ½ ounce for anything more than 30 ft.
There are a ton of drop shot baits on the market. What are your favorites?
My favorite bait is by far the Gajo Baits Spirit Shad. It is injection molded so every single bait comes exactly perfect every single time. They are super soft yet durable enough to catch multiple fish on a single bait. There are so many colors to choose from to match any of the forage base in the ecosystem from gobies to alewives. They come in 2 different sizes which also helps match the hatch even better.
What are your favorite colors and sizes for drop shot baits on Ontario?
The number 1 color I use is a green pumpkin/ blue highlight Spirit Shad. It matches the color and profile of the gobies that the bass eat perfectly.
Other colors I use frequently are natural green pumpkin, morning dawn, perch, and a special run alewive color not available to the public yet. My color choice for a given day really is simple. I just grab whatever color I feel like using. I don’t think the color matters too much. As long as its natural looking, the big thing is finding the fish.
There are two exceptions to this. First one is if I’m bed fishing. I want to use the brightest color so I can always see my bait. This color will vary depending on bottom content and color. Most of the time the morning dawn or chartreuse are the go to.
The other exception is during the late fall when the fish start really keying on the bait balls of alewives or even smelt. That is when I will primarily use to the alewive color.
As far as sizes go, I start early in the year throwing the smaller Spirit Shad to try to mimic the size of the forage. But as the water warms and that forage grows, I’ll switch to the bigger 4 inch size. I’m not so sure that it really makes a difference, but in my head it gives me confidence.
What is your rod/reel/line setup for drop shotting on Ontario?
I alter between 2 different rod set ups. The first is an IROD Air Series spinning rod, 7’2” medium power paired with a Shimano Stradic 2500 size spinning reel. I use this for my heavier drop shot set ups, and even a small swim bait at times. This rod has an extra long handle which is awesome for support when fighting those big fish. I can rest it on my forearm and take some pressure of my wrist. I feel like I have a lot more control over the fish like that.
The other rod I use is an Irod Genesis II 7’1” medium power spinning rod. It is also paired with a Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel. This rod is my work horse that always has a drop shot tied on anywhere I go. The blank has a very parabolic bend to it. This rod has plenty of power to drive a small hook into their into hard mouths, but enough give to keep them pinned when they make that last minute run at the boat.
I use straight 7 lb Sunline FC Sniper on both of my set ups. I can use any rod/reel/line combination I want, nobody pays me or gives me this stuff for free. I use these products because I have put them to test against the meanest brown bass on the planet and they have not let me down. I just have so much confidence in the my gear I know when I set the hook its gonna drive into the fishes mouth, and I’m gonna put it in the boat darn near 100% of the time
Do you have a leader length preference?
I basically start out with a leader around 20 inches, as I get snagged or my weights thrown off throughout the course of the day I’ll continue to use that leader until it gets down to 10 inches and then I’ll retie. I keep it pretty simple.
What are your rules of thumb for weight size?
I typically use 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 ounce just depending on depth. I will sometimes go heavier if there is a lot of current or wind. Being able to feel the bottom and what is down there is key.
I am using lead. I pour my own weights just to save money. I don’t generally go through a lot of weights when fishing the lake, but I also fish the St. Lawrence River frequently and its not uncommon to go through 10+ weights a day there. I have played with all the drop shot shapes and I’ve come to find the tear drop works best all around for me.
What are you looking for on your graph to determine whether this is a spot to drop on?
Rock and sharp breaks are always great areas to start looking, but I have also found fish just out in the middle of nowhere sitting on a sand bottom. The main thing I’m looking for is the classic arch or half moon just off the bottom. If I see one arch, I’ll typically keep looking. Ideally you want to find 4 to 5 grouped up tight, drop a waypoint, spin the boat around drop down on them.
Typically if you find that, more of them are around. Once you start getting them to bite, more will show up. Its like the other fish in that general area come over to see what is going on.
As far as patterns go, the majority of the fish are shallow in spring/ early summer. So your casting and retrieving the drop shot versus dropping vertical when they get out deep mid July through November. As the season progresses into Sept and October, I believe they concentrate more. They can be harder to find as it gets later in the fall but when you find them you can have a knockout day.
My best days out there have been late September and October. I have absolutely crushed them one day and gone back the next day only to find them gone. I feel like they stay put a little more during the summer months.
Overall, what are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anyone drop shot fishing on Lake Ontario for smallmouth bass?
- Learn to read your electronics.
- Don’t be afraid to move around.
- Get yourself a good quality rod/reel/line setup.
- Get some Gajo spirit shads in your favorite colors.
- Be extremely cautious of the weather. Make sure you tell someone where you plan on going and what time you will be back. There’s hardly any cell coverage out there, and safety should always be our #1 concern. No fish or amount of money is risking your life.
Thank you Jesse! Will be following on Instagram @j_spellicy.