Lake Nipissing in Northeastern Ontario has always been known for some great walleye and pike fishing. But as you will read, the bass fishing should not be ignored for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. In this Ontario bass fishing spot interview, Tysan Dowdle talks bass fishing Lake Nipissing with us.
How long have you been bass fishing Lake Nipissing?
Last year was actually my first year bass fishing Lake Nipissing. I had previously fished some waters connected to it for bass and have ice fished Nipissing probably over 100 times.
I usually only get to fish it a few times a year for bass. I’ve never lived close enough to it in the summer to fish it much unfortunately.
Describe Lake Nipissing from a bass fishing perspective for someone who has never been there.
Lake Nipissing is one of those lakes that has everything for bass. You have your big lake offshore islands, humps, large bays loaded with small islands and outcropping rocks, shoals, points, flats, sand, pads, reeds, bulrushes, pretty much any structure relating to Ontario you can find somewhere on Nipissing. The lake is real big, and can be quite mean on a windy day but fortunately areas on Nipissing like South Bay for example often provide areas that stay much calmer and are far more forgiving for smaller boats while still giving the potential to put out some big fish.
Nipissing starts to get to a northern range limit for largemouth bass. How is the largemouth bass population on Nipissing?
I had never actually targeted largemouth on Nipissing until recently. Although I was fairly unsuccessful I really think Nipissing has a solid population of largemouth in certain areas and has a decent average. If you look into a lot of tournaments its not uncommon on Nipissing for guys to win with 5 bass bags of largies weighing between 17 and 22 pounds.
How about the smallmouth population? How does it compare in terms of quality and quantity to other Ontario bass fisheries that you have fished?
The Smallmouth Bass population is great in my opinion even though they can be difficult to trace sometimes. My best days on Nipissing targeting the small jaw have probably averaged around 30 fish between two guys, not crazy numbers, with a few over 4 pounds mixed in. It’s certainly not like heading further north on highway 11 where smallmouth bass often dominate lakes and there are no largemouth.
I’ve fished lakes in the Kirkland Lake District where you would catch 6 to 8 smallies off one tree or 15 to 20 off one very small shoal. But its a different world when you go further north because people don’t care about bass, don’t really fish for them, and really don’t even bother going to lakes that have them in it so they thrive to say the least.
I grew up in Eastern Ontario, just north of the Bay of Quinte and smallies around there were definitely less common then on a lake like Nipissing. Quality wise I think the lake is pretty solid in comparison to some other lakes I’ve fished. It definitely provides a good chance at catching some solid fish but its certainly nothing like Simcoe, Erie, or the Thousands Islands.
We have to keep in mind that because the growing season is shorter then in Southern Ontario that it makes prefect sense that these fish wouldn’t have the size. Nipissing also doesn’t have a Goby population, so that could account for its lack of huge fish in comparison with other big waters in Southern Ontario.
You had a recent tournament there for the OBN Provincial Qualifiers. How did that tournament go for you?
Yes, the tournament went very bad for me…haha. I no joke had a total of 3 maybe 4 bites from bass in 2 days of competition, which makes it really tough especially when your breaking off $20 lures on small pike.
The good and bad parts of the tournament were all related to the same thing for me. Being a Co-angler is tough because if you are not on a solid school of fish, or fishing a style that makes it easy to work an area that your boater hasn’t already worked then its just plain challenging to get something going. I paired up with a couple anglers who both were great fisherman which in a sense made it even harder for me because those are the guys who typically fish pretty clean and don’t miss out on much.
Unfortunately neither of their main spots we went to had much of a bite going and we had to pick them apart finding the odd isolated fish that hammered whatever my boater threw at them. Both brought me to very shallow water casting at shorelines or weed lines which made it tough to find fresh water being at the back of the boat.
At the same time the good part of the tournament was getting to watch these boaters and seeing how they reacted, what they would do in certain situations, what baits they liked, and how they would generally go about trying to catch fish. It’s nice to fish with these guys and pick their brains a bit!
What do you consider your favorite baits for smallmouth bass on Nipissing?
My favourite baits on Nipissing for smallmouth are definitely the River2Sea Whopper Plopper Size 90, a Bass Pro Shops Sinko, and a Berkely Havoc Grass Pig Swimbait. I think the keys to success with all these baits are just knowing when to use them and using them in the right areas. Shallow structure and shade are key!
I know you use Liquid Mayhem. How much of a difference do you feel scent makes when bass fishing Nipissing?
I think scent like Liquid Mayhem can give you a big advantage fishing for a species like bass especially when they are pressured on any lake! Did you know that studies have shown that a bass can smell a prey fish odor from 25 feet away?
Liquid Mayhem can make fish hold the bait for longer and be more likely to bite while removing distasteful odors we may accidentally put on our baits, like sunscreen. Their products are made with real bait, amino acids, and bite stimulants. They have a large assortment of scents to cover the baitfish or bait you are attempting to replicate like shad, craw, leech, minnow, or night crawler. It stays on your bait for a lot longer than other scents, and you really don’t need to put much on.
My boater pairing on day 2 of the OBN qualifier mentioned to me that in his main spot on day 1 his co angler had been killing it with Liquid Mayhem in a garlic shad scent on a Sinko. So sure enough I offer him to use any of the scents I have, no joke first cast after applying the exact same scent his co angler had on day 1 he hooks into a 5 pound largemouth, and we land it!
Overall, what advice do you have for anyone bass fishing on Nipissing?
Fish fast until you find a school or a solid pattern and then reevaluate from there. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and fish smallies in ways you might not normally fish them, and to know your and your boat’s limits.
Fishing fast is generally a great way to find fish but Lake Nipissing doesn’t see as much bass fishing pressure as a lot of other lakes in Ontario. I think that’s a good piece of advice because generally if you put the bait near the fish your odds of getting a bite are pretty good where as other lakes those fish might not commit to the fast approach or commit as often.
In Northeastern Ontario in general as smallies begin to dominate lakes and there isn’t a or there is a low population of largemouth. Smallies seem to take over some spots where they might not normally be found so I think leaving your comfort zone and fishing some styles you might not normally use for smallies can be quite beneficial. I’ve been quite surprised how often I’ll find a big smallie sitting in the back of a boathouse, in some reeds, or under docks in areas that just wouldn’t seem that typical for them.
Knowing your and your boat’s limits is a great piece of advice. Like I previously said Nipissing is a big lake and can get mean fast and you just simply put don’t want to put your safety in jeopardy or destroy your boat.
Who are your current sponsors?
Liquid Mayhem is currently my only sponsor. I had a few others, but I realized after a while that they just didn’t seem to care about their pro staff or make them feel valued. I wasn’t in love with their products so there was no point in being there anymore.
I think Liquid Mayhem makes me a better angler because it gives me an added advantage on the water as we discussed above helping me catch fish. Their team is a great group of people who ask our opinions, ask for help at trade shows etc. They make you feel valued and can help you evolve around and with them.
Thanks you Tysan. I will be following on Instagram @tysan_dowdle.