From Canada with Love
Park Falls, WI - And now we go to our Canadian correspondent, Karl Kalonka, for blue-chip bass fishing tips… Say what? (Insert sound of vinyl record screeching to a halt.) Yes, friends, the Canadian frontier isn't only about lifer walleyes, paddle-length pike and legal Cuban cigars. Our neighbor to the north also tenders world-class smallmouth AND… largemouth bass fishing. That, and the nation known for producing elite hockey talent is also home to a fountain of bass fishing information.
Welcome St. Croix pro and killer Canuck stick, Karl Kalonka.
Swapping the archetypal southern drawl for something bred from the movie Fargo, Kalonka openly shares bass fishing intel that'll make you a better angler - north, south, east or west. With the post-spawn period in mind, Kalonka serves up four scenarios that are sure to keep a bend in your rod this summer.
Wacky Rigging.I fish wacky style when the bass are in a neutral, non-chasing mood. You can always provoke strikes with a Strike King Zero stick worm by slightly twitching the tip of your rod as the worm falls through the water column. Wacky rigging a stick worm is also a great backup when fishing topwaters and a fish misses. Pick up the wacky rigged stick worm and cast it as close to the initial strike as possible and just wait!
Best rod for the job? I recommend the Legend Tournament Bass 6' 8" Medium, X-Fast 'Wacky Style' spinning rod (TBS68MXF) matched with a 2000-series reel and 15-lb braid tied to a 8-lb fluorocarbon leader. Or, just go with straight fluorocarbon line tied to a #1 or #2 wacky style worm hook, with or without a weed guard depending on the cover or structure you are fishing.
Cranking the Bronze.I love throwing crankbaits for smallmouth bass. If you locate a pod of roaming brown bass, the results can be memorable to say the least. Pack-hunting smallmouth are like seagulls; when one fish gets hooked up, his or her schoolmates want a piece of the action. On northern lakes, school is in session from June through early September, with bass roaming the shallows, or just off the first break.
I use a low-profile casting reel with a speedy 6:1.1 retrieve to burn the crankbait, and then stop it dead in in its tracks. This burn-and die-cadence is deadly on fish that follow, but need inspiration to strike. If you plan on a slower cadence or retrieve, a 5:1.1 reel may be your better option. But remember, smallmouth bass are like cats; they can be triggered by letting them see the bait and making them believe it's getting away from them.
The new St. Croix Legend Glass 7' 2" Medium, Moderate-Action casting rod (LGC72MM) is tops for casting crankbaits. If I am fishing larger crankbaits, or deep divers, I switch to the Legend Glass 7' 4" medium-heavy, moderate-action model (LGC74MHM).
The Timeless Spinnerbait.Nothing like the from bass slamming your spinnerbait! Up here in the north country, the smallmouth is king when it comes to overall strength, power and a never-say-die attitude when hooked. I fish spinnerbaits from late May to early fall in water depths ranging from 12 inches to 20-plus feet. Spinnerbaits can be cast long distances, helping you cover water quickly and locate aggressive, shallow roamers. Speed kills in the summer.
In autumn, I fish spinnerbaits over deep baitfish, making long casts, letting the lure fall on a semi-slack line to the depth baitfish appear on my sonar. Next, I begin a strike-provoking cadence of lifts, falls, twitches and speed-reeling that produces some of my biggest bass. I prefer a low-profile casting reel with a high line capacity for 14-lb fluorocarbon. No leaders or snaps; tie directly to the spinnerbait and hold on.
The St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass medium-heavy, moderate-action, 6' 9" 'Sniper Spinnerbait' rod (TBC69MHMF) is the real deal. In tighter conditions, like standing eel grass, the Sniper Spinnerbait rod makes manipulating your spinnerbait easier through thicker cover, as well as up and around rocks and boulders. My second choice is the Legend Tournament Bass medium-heavy, moderate-fast action, 7' 'Sweeper Spinnerbait' casting rod (TBC70MHMF) for larger spinnerbaits or making long bomb casts and covering water.
Pad Patrol.You would think bass would be smart enough to stay away from lily pads, since it's the first area most anglers head. Goes to show you, they really are not that smart - the bass, I mean. Scenic images of miles of pad beds are legendary, but most times not the best option for catching bigger bass. My favorite pad beds are the smaller, isolated ones away from the large matted pads. Big bass are notorious loners and seek out the best hiding spots that offer both security and ambush options; a smaller pad patch away from the heavily fished locations are usually over looked and are magnets for bigger bass.
I work a low-profile casting reel loaded with either 30- or 40-lb Gamma Torque braid tied directly to the hook or incorporate a 20-lb fluorocarbon leader. Or, go to straight to 20- to 25-lb fluorocarbon. Any Strike King Perfect Plastic or Rage Tail plastic creature bait or worm will provoke the laziest bass to bite. I would suggest a wide-gap hook, 4/0 or 5/0 depending on the size of bait you choose.
Hopefully, any stereotype you've held about Canadian bassing has been put to rest. From Karl, and Canada, with love…