For Smallmouth Bass anglers, the Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass fishery is gaining in notoriety for big fish. Correct that. The Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass fishery is gaining a reputation for HUGE Smallies. Guide Callum Johnson owner and operator of Happy Go Fishing Charters has a track record of catching these big Smallies. In this interview, he discusses his approach to Simcoe. While we focus on Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass, we also discuss what the lake offers as a Perch and Lake Trout Fishery as well.
How long have you been guiding for Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass?
I’ve been guiding full time for 3 years now. I was a spoiled kid and lucky to live on the water growing up so I started fishing Lake Simcoe at a very early age. I have fished all over the Continent and have seen some remarkable places but Simcoe will always be home to me and thats what makes it a special place to fish and guide.
What have been the highlights of your 2017 fishing season on Simcoe, either as a guide or your own personal fishing?
2017 was a season for the highlight reel so I have to think about this one. For me personally the last 2 tournaments of this season are my highlights. Weighing 30.86 pounds plus a 7.29 pounds big fish and earning second place at the Jack Links Simcoe Open was my best finish after years fishing the event and my biggest stringer ever weighed in a tournament.
The following Saturday the North GTA Bassmasters hosted an open event and my partner and I weighed 27.90 pounds plus a 7.36 big fish and won the event. The best part about that event still gets my blood pumping thinking about it is we caught all of our fish in the first 20 mins of the tournament in front of 5 or 6 boats fishing a relatively small zone. Weighing 7 pounders in back to back tournaments is something I’ll never forget. Even though I didn’t catch either of them I think I still deserve a little net man credit right? Haha!
In this business there are so many special moments I could go on all day. One day on a Bass trip in September we landed 30 fish by noon and had about 24 pounds for our best 5. Three other Bass trips had 30 pounds or more for the best 5. We had some huge numbers days of Lake Trout and about half a dozen catches worthy of going up on the wall that I look forward to seeing. Helping people catch their personal best fish will always be special and this year we had dozens of special moments.
What were the biggest fish that you put in the boat this year of the various species in Simcoe?
Biggest Smallmouth weighed 7.36 pounds. Biggest Lake Trout weighed was 25 pounds. We caught some huge Perch in the spring and got some over 2 pounds, and we even got a 9 pound Walleye this fall.
Simcoe is becoming quite famous for its big Smallmouth Bass. If I want to come to Simcoe, what time of year should I come for my best chance at a 6 pound plus fish?
Honestly anytime of the season on Simcoe you have a good shot at catching a Smallmouth over 6, 7 or even 8 pounds. The time of year that provides the best odds for trophy fish is the fall in October/November. Simply because the fish are heavily feeding putting on weight preparing for winter and can be 20% bigger than the rest of the year.
How does Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass fishing change throughout the seasons when it comes to big fish?
In my opinion there are 2 Smallmouth seasons on Simcoe, there is shallow water season then there is deep water season. Basically it starts shallow then ends deep. All summer long there will always be big fish somewhere up shallow feeding. Yes there are days where you will catch most your fish in the 10 to 20 feet range and there are populations of deep fish over 25 feet but majority of the season you can fish 12 feet or less until the water gets cold in the fall.
Tactics change over the course of the season. For season opener and the first few weeks I throw alot of gobie profile baits. During and after the spawn the fish HATE gobies, they are hard wired to chomp them because they are such a nuisance during the spawn process.
After the gobie phase I change to a leech program for mid summer because leeches are like candy to Smallies they just cant resist. Come late summer their focus changes again to a baitfish program and you start seeing baitfish all over the lake which is your cue to adjust. During this time you can catch them on anything from jerkbaits and spinnerbaits or popular finesse tactics. the most important part of the equation is being on the fish and fish that are chasing baitfish move around alot.
Once the fall season arrives I put away all finesse gear, no drop shot no wacky rigs, just all big stuff. Jerkbaits, swimbaits, heavy spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and spoons when the water gets very cold. The most finesse technique I use in the fall is a tube jig but it seldom comes out anymore.
For anglers coming for a first time to fish for Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass, what are the 3 must-have baits that they should stock up for big smallies?
If I had to narrow it down, I would say drop shot is #1 for sure. Rigged with either a gobie style bait, gulp leech or 3″ soft plastic minnow. Its a versatile rig that is effective under various conditions and very simple to use for beginners.
A Maribou jig would have to be my next choice, I catch giants Smallies on these tiny baits all season long until the fish get too deep to target with the maribou. Much like the dropshot it is very easy to use, if you can cast you can fish these baits effectively. There are a variety of good color choices but black seems to get the most attention and in terms of size I’ll throw either a 1/8oz or 1/16oz depending on the wind conditions and depth fishing. For such a small bait it creates such a large strike zone and fish will travel great distances to eat it which is a lot of fun to see on calm days.
The 3rd choice would have to be a spinnerbait, mostly for its versatility and fish locating ability. You can cover lots of water and slow roll them over deep water for fall Smallies or burn them on the surface for shallow fish. If the fish aren’t annihilating the spinnerbait they will at least show themselves and give you an easy aggressive target to follow up with the dropshot or maribou.
Its hard to just pick 3 for baits for the entire season so if I had a 4th pick it would have to be a swimbait. As the fall season gets going and fish head deeper a swimbait is a tough search bait to beat. They can be fished quite quickly in deep water which is key when trying to locate deep aggressive fish. Plus the bite has got to be my favorite, even if you throw it all day and only get one bite, it is worth the price of admission.
You don’t only fish for smallmouth bass. You also target perch and lake trout. What are the best times of the year to fish for perch on Simcoe?
Perch Fishing is phenomenal on Simcoe, many argue that the fishery is not what it use to be and I don’t disagree. Few fisheries are as good as they used to be 30 to 50 years ago. With what we know now about fisheries management we can hope the lake bounces back to those astronomical numbers but the fishery is very healthy today.
What about lake trout?
The entire open season for Lake Trout is a great time to target them. With a combination of the stocking program and successful reproduction happening every year, there is no shortage of Lakers out there. So either by boat or on ice if you want to catch a Lake Trout Simcoe is a great place to go.
What are 5 pieces of advice that new visitors to the lake should know about the Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass fishing and boating on the lake to assure a safe and successful day on the water?
#1 – Lake Simcoe gets alot of boat traffic all season so it is super important to know all your safe boating practices, proper etiquette and maneuverability of your boat. Knowing the rules and how to drive your boat will ensure your and everyone else’s safety out there.
#2 – Pay attention to the weather and know locations of public docks in case of emergencies. I’m pretty sure everyone checks the weather before heading onto the water but people sometimes forget to be aware of their surroundings on the water. Just because the wind is blowing from one direction it doesn’t mean a storm can’t be approaching from another.
Learn to read the signs of incoming bad weather and get to shore before its too late as things can change unbelievably fast. If you’re in doubt and want to get a real time update. I use this link to see exactly the size and direction of rain and storms. Or just google king city radar and you’ll get to the page.
#3 – Dont give up! Lake Simcoe receives a lot of fishing pressure and the fish can grow wise to traditional presentations. It can be a tough fishery to figure out but once you do it will be one of your favourite places to fish.
#4 – Hire a guide! If you don’t have time to spend hours or days searching for fish hiring a guide will drastically shorten the learning curve.
#5 – Spending a bit of time doing online research will help big time for planning your trip. There are a ton of resources out there that can really get you pointed in the right direction for a successful day on the water.
What is a day on the water like with you?
A day on the water with me would basically be the best day of your entire life even if we don’t go fishing…lol. At least I like to think so…haha. In reality no trip is the same but I try my best to exceed my client’s expectations in every regard. I understand that not everyone knows what to expect and people have had different experiences on fishing charters.
I focus on making everyone feel safe, comfortable and confident we are going to catch fish. I try to make every trip as educational as possible and most importantly have fun All my clients feel like long time friends after each day and I’m super lucky to be able to meet so many great people.
Thank you Callum! Lake Simcoe Smallmouth Bass fishing sounds so amazing. A trip with you for serious anglers as well as with the family seems like a fantastic way to spend a day. For anyone interested, you can find more about Callum and Happy Go Fishing Charters at HappyGoFishing.com.