Lake Ontario is big big water as one of the Great Lakes. The Lake is usually filled with large fishing boats. Even some bass boats can seem small on Lake Ontario. So when I first read that Rob Hoehn aka @njyakattack on Instagram and YouTube spent time there catching big largemouth out of his kayak, I was instantly intrigued. Here is what Rob shared. Not only does he provide great fishing information but also keys to taking on the big water in a kayak.
When and where did you go fishing on Lake Ontario?
So I decided to take a chance knowing it was cold up north and I headed up to Lake Ontario in the second week of April. I stayed right off one of the many bays this great lake has to offer right on the water. It was about a mile or two from the inlet into Lake Ontario, on the New York side.
I chose this location because I figured if the water got rough which it did on the main lake I could fish the entire bay and surrounding islands for Largemouth and Northern Pike. I also figured the bass were coming out of their winter mentally and going into pre-spawn. It was a great decision because the big lake was not possible to fish without risking my life on my kayak.
Lake Ontario is not a small body of water. What research did you do to break the lake down and make it manageable to fish from a kayak?
Since Lake Ontario is a massive body of water, fishing it from my kayak all depended on the weather the five days I stayed there. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on my side with constant wind, drop in temperature, and heavy rain. So I narrowed it down to stay close to the shore line and drop off points to target these bass.
Before fishing I paddled around the nearby islands and the rest of the bay constantly checking my depth/fish finder to get the layout of the area. I figured out how I was going to fish those 5 days and adapted to my environment.
What kayak did you fish out of when fishing Lake Ontario?
I own three kayaks but the one I chose for this trip was my Feelfree Moken 12.5 sit on top angler kayak. The yak performed excellent in the conditions I was faced with and I didn’t have a single problem for the five days I was there fishing.
It’s a very stable kayak and its balanced very well especially if I decided to
stand up and fish. It has a lot of leg room, tons of storage, a stand up platform, and a comfortable seat for fishing for hours on the water. I recommend this brand and model from beginners to pro anglers!
Not only were you fishing this big lake but also fishing it in colder weather and water temperatures. What safety steps and equipment did you use to assure you had a fun, comfortable and safe time on the water?
Since the weather changed constantly throughout the whole day of fishing I needed to have the right gear and clothing to get the job done. I wore waterproof wolverine hiking boots, rain proof/wind proof fishing bib, Under Armour wind proof/rain proof jacket, hoo-rag wind proof face wrap, waterproof/windproof fishing gloves, fishing hat and my trusty Oakley polarized glasses.
When you’re out on the water for over 9 hours a day you want to be ready and comfortable for what Mother Nature throws at you. The last thing you want to be when you’re in the middle of slaying is to be cold and wet.
How would you describe the overall quality of the fishing?
The fishing overall was absolutely amazing in those 5 days I was there. I have not caught that many monster largemouth in a short amount of time like that. My arm literally was sore after every day from laying down hook sets on these pigs.
Once I found the pattern of where these fish were stacked up it didn’t matter what method of fishing I was using. The fish weren’t picky and couldn’t get enough. Definitely the best kayak fishing trip I have ever been on.
What were your best patterns?
It took me 2 solid days of fishing this bay to figure out where all these fish were stacked up. They were all in pre-spawn, moving from the deep to the shallows in 2 to 7 feet of water. They were honing in on this certain large section of tall reeds and grass around structure and rock points.
My Lowrance Elite 4 fish finder with chirp helped me figure all this out very quickly. It helped me especially when there was a sudden drop off point from 3 to 7 feet where a lot of these fish were suspending. Electronics is key whenever you fish a new body of water. You could easily miss great opportunities to catch quality fish.
What were your best baits on this trip?
I had a nice variety of different baits and lures tied on at all times while out on the yak. It ranged from finesse to big trout swimbaits. Since the weather was rainy with over cast I stuck to dark colors on all my soft plastics. I used black and blue senkos for wacky rigging, black craws for Texas rigging, black and blue craw jigs, and dark colors for big swim baits. Spinnerbaits and bluegill/perch colored chatter baits were killer also.
A good thing to remember is when it’s overcast and rain use dark colors and moving baits in open water and around structure. And when its bright use more natural colors and stick to structure.
Another good tip is when your fishing in early spring I tend to stick to using straight Seaguar fluorocarbon from 8 pound on my spinning to 15 to 20 on my bait casters. Then when the warmer weather rolls around I’ll go to braid for heavy cover, topwater, and flipping.
In the kayak, you can’t have a big rod locker. How many rod combos did you carry?
Actually on the Feelfreeus Moken models you can store many rod combos inside your kayak for either transporting or just as backups in general in the hull of the boat. But when I’m out on the water fishing I built a custom kayak milk crate to have everything I need right behind me. I can have up to 8 set ups in their rod holders right behind my back.
I usually will have a set up for every style of fishing for bass. All of my setups I specifically made for the set ups I throw. I have wacky rigging finesse rods to extra heavy swimbait rods. You need to have the right combination with your rod, reel, and line to get the best performance from the bait your throwing.
Finesse and jigs require a fast retrieving gear ratio reel to pick up all that slack line while with moving baits require a slower retrieving gear ratio reel to get the best action out of the lure your throwing. If you’re smart setting up your combos you will not be let down out on the water and I promise you will land more fish.
What are the keys to catching a sunfish on a giant swimbait? Lol. Your primary target was largemouth but did you run into any other Lake Ontario gamefish like smallmouth or pike during your trip?
When fishing in a body of water that’s full of different species you really never know what you’re setting your hook into. It could be a bass, pike, pickerel, walleye, trout, sunfish, or even a catfish. A lot of fish hit on reaction bites like how I caught a quarter pound pumpkin seed on a six inch Savage Gear Line Thru Perch.
This trip specifically I lost many expensive set ups on big northern pike. At least 7 times a day I set the hook on them and they broke off immediately due to the fact I was throwing 8 pound to 15 pound fluorocarbon. That’s the way things are sometimes for when fishing in an area full of pike, musky, and pickerel. You just got to be ready at all times when it happens!
If you were to do the trip again, what would you differently or change either about your approach to the trip or the fishing techniques that you used?
If I decided to go there again with the same conditions and weather I wouldn’t change a single thing. In five days I easily caught over 200 largemouth, and lost another 100 on top of that including a 6 and a half pound largy at the boat. It was the best fishing trip I have ever been on and I can’t wait to do it again!
Who are your sponsors and pro staff companies?
My Sponsors/Prostaff companies are as Angling United, Keepitreelfishing, Hoo-rag, Fish Getter Attractants, Woo Tungsten, Tuffbait, and Ultimate NJ Outdoorsmen. They’re very supportive of everything I do and constantly help me out with free stuff, discounts, and posting my content to help me grow on Instagram and Youtube @njyakattack. I love the angler I have become and they have really helped me this last year!
Such an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing Rob. So much great information to be used for anyone fishing Lake Ontario or any other big water from their kayak.