Bass fishing is excellent for beginners no matter the age! Largemouth are prized by many for their size and are excellent fighters on light tackle. Ontario is home to the largest trophy Bass fishing in Canada, according to Outdoor Canada. For many, Largemouth Bass fishing in Ontario is the beginning of the most exciting lifelong adventure anyone can take.
Fun Fact: Since 2018, about 30 million US anglers are hooked by the explosive action that Bass fishing offers!
How To Identify a Largemouth Bass?
Let us start with the basics, how do we identify a Largemouth Bass from a Smallmouth Bass? While they have a similar appearance, since they are both from Black Bass Family, there are also many important differences.
Largemouth grow larger than Smallmouth. They also have larger mouths than their direct cousins, Smallmouth Bass. They also have different markings. Largemouth have a black horizontal line running the length of their bodies while Smallmouth have many vertical bars.
For more detailed information, here is an article about the key differences between Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass.
What Habitats & Where to Fish for Largemouth Bass?
Largemouth Bass are non-migratory fish that inhabit a wide range of water bodies in North America. From lakes, streams, rivers, swamps, and reservoirs they usually find a home. They prefer water temperatures above 15.6°C (60°F). Though, they can adapt to cooler climates in Ontario.
They are ambush predators that need cover to hide and hunt. Common places include weeds, submerged logs, rocks, brush, or docks. Largemouth usually stay in water less than 20 feet deep, but more than 6 feet deep. They prefer clear water but will tolerate some turbidity and murkiness.
Freshwater Weeds to Comb Through
Freshwater weeds are their favourite form of cover. From late spring until late fall, these are the common weeds Largemouth Bass prefer in Ontario:
Not only do weeds provide cover for Largemouth to hide from predators, but also allow them to stay cool during the hot summer months. The denser the patches of weeds, the more likely they will be hiding in there.
Sunken Logs, Brush & Downfall
Ontario was once the home of lumber barons. Many rivers that flowed through the Great Lakes have evidence left over from the logging days. This is especially true of my home waters in the French River Provincial Park.
Logs once intended to build homes now make excellent cover for Largemouth Bass. They are a constant source of shade and create a calm spot for fish to strike from in the current. It also becomes a more viable location to fish when weed beds cannot support the Bass’ needs.
Normally in Spring with high waters, submerged brush acts like freshwater weeds for fish. For baitfish, they chase after larvae, and the Largemouth chase after them.
Also, keep a vigilant eye out for downfall – especially green downfall. Just like brush, it acts as a beacon for baitfish eating various nutrient-rich insects. Besides Largemouth, this also attracts Black Crappies.
Rocks & Shoals
Rock piles provide excellent cover for Largemouth Bass. This is particularly true in the early spring before weed growth and late fall after weed beds are no longer hospitable for the Bass.
In some locations, it also provides cover from the current. This allows them to take advantage of smaller and weaker fish trying to swim upstream.
Spawning Times for Largemouth Bass
The Bass fishing season varies on different bodies of water in Ontario. For the French River Provincial Park, Bass Season starts after the third Saturday in May every year. This allows time for the fish to recover from spawn and for a new generation to enter the ecosystem. Targeting Bass on their beds will result in fines from the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources.
Feel free to skip to the next section unless you are interested in how Largemouth Bass spawn and why we protect them below.
Spawning times will vary each year depending on water temperature. Largemouth spawn when the waters warm to 16.7°C ~ 18.3°C (62°F – 65°F). They will continue to spawn until surface water temperatures reach 26.5°C (80°F). This usually happens between early May to late June in Ontario.
Male Bass sweeps an area with their tailfin, creating a nest out of sand and gravel. Their nests have a diameter of about 50.8 cm (20 inches) and about 15 cm (6 inches). Nesting occurs within 2.5 meters (8 feet) from the shoreline with their nests submerged in 30.5 – 91.5 cm (12 – 36 inches) of water. Largemouth beds are never close together and are normally spaced out about 6 meters (20 feet) apart.
Once the male completes their nest, they begin circling the nest. Performing to entice a female for the spawn. When a female joins the male, they circle the nest together. Finally, when their dance is complete, the two will swim over the nest and tilt to their side, with their vents near each other, releasing eggs and milt. The Largemouth’s eggs have an adhesive coating that helps them clump together and stick to the nest, protecting them from waves washing them away.
Female Bass then leave the nest in search of other partners, while the males continue to guard the nest. Depending on the size and age of each female, they can contain 2,000 – 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight. This allows the female to lay a few hundred eggs per nest and increases genetic diversity. Likewise, males will collect several thousand eggs from several female partners. From the nest fanning process, the bottom of male Bass tail fins will be visibly worn. This will last four to six weeks until the tail regenerates back to normal. Bass can regenerate exact bone growth, blood vessels, nerves, and even the same skin pigmentation.
Largemouth eggs normally hatch within 10 days at temperatures of 18.3°C (65°F) or 5 days at temperatures of 26.5°C (80°F). Even after the eggs hatched the male will continue to guard their nesting young for the next week or two. The Largemouth fry will have absorbed their yolk sacs and grow up to a length of 2.5 cm (1 inch) before feeding on microorganisms.
Interestingly, Largemouth fry will school together unlike Smallmouth fry which scatter. The males will continue to guard their young until they can feed on smaller fish less than 5 cm (2 inches). When danger approaches, the male Bass will scoop up the Bass fry and guard them in their mouths until the threat leaves.
Despite every attempt at being a good parent, often many eggs or even entire nests are lost to predation. Many fish species target Largemouth fry, but the biggest threat to Largemouth nests is Sunfish. As you would expect, the nesting period is very stressful on male Largemouth. Those in poor condition before spawning or during, may die.
Largemouth Bass’s Favourite Types of Food
Largemouth Bass are not exactly known as picky eaters. In fact, they will try to eat anything in their mouths!
Below is a table of common Largemouth prey.
|Type of Food
|Bluegill, Shiners, Shad, Yellow Perch, and Ciscoes
|Worms, Snails, and Crayfish
|Salamanders, Leopard Frogs, and Bullfrogs
|Northern Watersnakes and Baby Map Turtles
|Small Mammals and Birds
Baits & Lures for Largemouth Bass Fishing
As previously mentioned, Largemouth have a varied diet for anything they can fit in their large mouths. Yet, they are also like us where they eat with their eyes first.
Here is an excellent article from Game & Fish Magazine, “What Colors Do Bass See?” by Dr. Jason Halfen. To quickly summarize the article, researchers in Illinois and New York by L.D. Mitchem, et al. confirmed Bass have dichromatic vision. In short, Largemouth Bass’ eyes can determine the different shades of reds and greens. From their research, Bass were more likely to detect and strike red and green targets with accuracy.
However, many other dark colours (blue, black, and purple) are similar for Largemouth. Likewise, chartreuse and white colours are hard for them to distinguish. Therefore, Largemouth are unable to make highly selective decisions outside of red and green colours.
The oldest and simplest technique in the angler’s textbook, Live Bait is the most natural choice for any fish. Baitfish, leeches, and worms are good and simple choices to pair with a hook and bobber. It teaches the virtues of patience to many young anglers. It also allows individuals to suspend their bait near the structure and visually see strikes.
Live Bait can also be paired with other lure types like jig heads, drop shots, harnesses, and more!
However, variety is the spice of life! Bass fishing with artificial lures also makes for an excellent teacher should you choose to fish for larger gamefish like Muskie.
For lures, there are many different types and colours to choose from that will change with the season. We will keep the selection simple for popular choices among Bass Fishermen that should work in most of Ontario’s water bodies.
Swimbaits are a type of fishing lure that imitates the swimming motion of fish. There are several styles like paddle tail, soft and hard-bodied lures, and glide baits.
The most common Swimbaits Bass Anglers use are worm-shaped paddle tails and rubber crayfish. Other common choices are shad-shaped lures with various actions like floating, slow sinking, and fast sinking models.
The key with any of these baits is to match the season to the types you use. Most of these baits are designed to cover large areas and fish weed edges.
Spinnerbaits are another favourite fishing bait for Bass fishing for their simplicity. They are versatile year-round fishing lure that has two main components: a lead head moulded to a stout hook with an added skirt on one end and at least one blade on the other.
The lure’s rotating blades catch and reflect the light, making them look like a small school of baitfish to Largemouth Bass. Their rubber skirts also flutter in the water, further attracting interest from hungry Bass. Good colour choices are fire tiger, perch, red, and white. Since Largemouth Bass love thick cover, you should use weedless baits first.
Spinnerbaits work best in clear, shallow water that is less than 3 meters (10 feet) deep. Fishing in shallow water, a larger blade will help lift your bait and protect the hook from weeds. In deeper water, a smaller blade runs the bait deeper. These factors will vary in the areas and conditions you are fishing.
An advanced technique some anglers use is a surface pulse. It is a combination of pulling, pausing and then cranking that causes a series of splashes and noise on the surface. The trick is to keep the blades spinning and not yanking the bait out of the water with the rod tip up.
Another factor to consider is the size of Spinnerbaits to cast. To start, sizes ranging from 1/4 oz to 1 oz are recommended.
Buzzbaits are a fast, fun and great surface lure. As the name suggests, from the moment the lure hits the water to the end of the retrieve its blades make a “buzzing” sound for the fish. They are meant to be loud and annoying to arouse the curious and aggressive nature of Largemouth Bass.
Buzzbaits are like Spinnerbaits but have a propeller blade instead of a spoon. They are not as versatile as Spinnerbaits but are a better choice when fishing overgrown weed beds or murky water.
Buzzbaits are commonly used when water temperatures are 16°C (60°F) or above in the spring. They are most effective in the heat of summer to force Largemouth out of hiding during the day. Fans of this bait will continue its use into the fall until water temperatures near 10°C (50°F) before switching to slower-moving baits.
Crankbaits are hard plastic fishing lures shaped and coloured like baitfish. In the old days, they were made from wood with a thin sheet of metal for the lip. Today, they can be solid or hollow pieces of plastic with a clear plastic lip.
Crankbaits with a metal lip are adjustable to change how the lure wobbles. They feature two or three treble hooks and depending on their design can float, sink, dive, or suspend.
Most Crankbaits float on the surface or sit suspended in the water. The bait dives when retrieved. Anglers take advantage of this action with a series of reel-and-stop moves. This resembles the behaviour of swimming baitfish. Learning how to change your twitching intervals and reeling speed to better mimic prey will entice Largemouth Bass.
With time, you can control the Crankbait to swim around structures and terrain. For shallow-water Bass fishing, your rod tip will also affect the action of the lure. The higher your rod tip, the shallower the bait will run and the inverse is also true.
This bait tends to be more favoured at warmer temperatures above 16°C (60°F). Yet, Crankbaits are a good fallback lure in cold water when nothing else is working. Since the lure’s tendency to nose-dive can be used to bottom bounce and not get snagged.
- Largemouth Bass live in a shifting combination of both cover and structure. Cover refers to vegetation, docks, or anything else that Bass can hide under or around. Structure refers to the bottom contours of the lake, such as points, humps, or drop-offs.
- To be successful in Bass fishing, match your lure to the hatch. Ask around at the local bait shop or fishing outfit to find out what is hatching and then look for the lure or bait that most closely resembles it.
- Largemouth Bass are voracious feeders and, if the mood takes them, hit almost any lure that you throw out there. However, some of the most popular and effective lures for Bass fishing are spinnerbaits, crankbaits, soft plastics, jigs, and topwater baits.
- Largemouth Bass are more active and aggressive in warmer water temperatures, so they tend to bite better in the spring, summer, and early fall. They also tend to feed more during low-light conditions, such as dawn and dusk, or on cloudy or windy days.
- Largemouth Bass are very sensitive to noise and vibration, so stealth is key when approaching them. Use a quiet electric motor or paddle to get close to your fishing spot, and cast your lure as far as possible to avoid spooking them.
Article by Joe Barefoot, M.B., Outdoor Writer of Canada and Nationally Published Author & Photographer