Smallmouth Smack Down: Six Lakes in Six Weeks! Part I, Lake Erie

After spending my entire life chasing huge smallmouth in the Northeast, I picked six of the best fisheries and set out on a mission to see for myself which of those legendary bodies of water wear the crown for the largest and meanest smallmouth bass!  My journey will take me to: Ontario, Champlain, Oneida, Simcoe, The St. Lawrence River, and to kick it off I grabbed my buddy and professional photographer Jon Fuchs and went to a place that is often regarded as THE smallmouth fishery of the world, Lake Erie.  Together we went out with my friend Larry Mazur, who is thought of by many in the Buffalo area as the smallmouth King.  If I told you we caught monster smallies you’d probably nod and say that’s to be expected.  That’s what I expected.  I knew it.  I know Larry and how dialed in he is on that lake.

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The Buffalo area of Lake Erie. I can’t tell you how important my Navionics cards are to this body of water!

“I’m gonna blow your mind dude” he said to me on the phone as I was driving up there.

“No way bro.  I know we’re gonna smash em!” I said to him.

“Oh yeah?  Well where do you fish for smallmouth, on rocks right?  Oh wait…where are we fishing tomorrow?  In the sand…”

Insert explosion graphic here

He was right.  He absolutely blew my mind.  And what followed for the next two days was so off the charts that it’s taken me weeks to wrap my head around it.

Pictured from left to right:  Larry Mazur, Jon Fuchs (Photographer), Jim Root

When Larry first told me we would be fishing the sand I couldn’t believe it and had an even harder time understanding how he found that.  People who know smallmouth know to look for irregularities, rock piles, ledges, more rock piles.  This was unlike anything I’ve ever heard of, and you need to understand 5 things to make this happen:  wind, the right depth, great electronics and knowing how to use them and a killer Navionics card.  To begin with, how do you know if you’re fishing in sand or not?  You want to find areas that have long stretches of little-to-no fluctuation in depth.  It looks boring.  Like a long flat.  When you drive over it, use your downscan and sidescan.  When you’re cruising over sand it’ll actually look like sand on the beach.  You’ll be able to see waves of it like ripples.  It’s remarkable to see.  Once you find the sand you’re halfway there.  The fish aren’t easy to see on your graph because they don’t suspend in the sand very often.  Usually when you mark suspended fish in sand, you’re marking walleye.  In fact, most people won’t even mark the smallmouth because they’re tucked so tightly to the bottom that your sonar won’t pick them up.  That’s why we zoomed in to within 5 feet of the bottom. When you see a red blob on the bottom, that’s your fish.

This is a screenshot of Larry’s graph and the smallmouth on the bottom.

Now you’ve found them, but you still need a little wind and the right bait.  And asking for wind on Lake Erie is like asking for a small case of nuemonia so you don’t have to go to work.  Even a little bit is often enough to scare you.  But you need the wind to push you and create a break from the surface.  As for your bait, you want one of two things and one is absolutely crazy.  If the wind is really slow, throw a Mendota Rig with a tube and drag it (  If the wind is moving a little harder and faster, which is ideal, you’ll want to throw the “Donkey Kong Rig” (Larry’s own code name) which is a 3/4 football head jig with a 5.8″ Keitech Swimbait!  Be warned:  they will hit your baits so hard that you’ll lose your rod if you’re not paying attention and they will swallow those baits so deep that you’ll spend quite a few minutes safely removing the hook without hurting them.

“Once I found them I used the football head because I needed to get that swimbait down on the bottom so I could mimic a Golby.  I originally was using a smaller swimbait but ran out and had to switch to the big dog.  That’s how I came up with that Donkey Kong Rig and they destroy it!” said Larry.

He was right.  All morning we smashed one huge fish after another.  We caught so many our photographer Jon took a break and got in on the action and caught a few himself!

Jon and Larry, doubled up!

Photo By Jon Fuchs

Photo By Jon Fuchs

Around noon the wind totally died, and for the first time in my life I saw the giant monster of Buffalo NY lay down like a lamb.  The water was crystal clear, and absolutely beautiful.  I had no idea it was so blue and green and clean.  Without the wind, the fishing died, so we packed up and headed into under the Peace Bridge to fish the Niagara River.  This, as you can imagine, was a totally different deal.  Current, and lots of it, and jerkbaits.  My arm hurt when we were done.  We probably caught 30 fish in the river fishing the banks of the Niagara, doubling our catch for the day.  It was easily one of my most memorable trips I’ve ever taken, and an incredible way to start my trip.

“You gotta come back in August” said Larry.  “They’ll be schooling up and we can fish some lasagna!”

Lasagna is code for another kind of spectacle Larry showed me that I will definitely return for!

Larry does guide, so feel free to leave a note if you’re looking to book the trip of a lifetime with a true smallmouth legend.
If you liked this…wait until you hear about the rest.  Next stop:  Oneida Lake.  Where I bet I surprise you with the smallmouth I pulled there!

Photo by Jon Fuchs

Photo by Jon Fuchs

My setups I was fishing with are posted below. Score for the Lake Erie Trip:
55 Smallmouth (2 over 5lbs) Average Smallmouth: 3.5
1 Walleye

Rootbeer Mendota Rig
Sungill Reaction Innovation Swimbait
Dobyns Fury 703 (swimbait)
Shimano Saros (spinning)
10lb Seaguar InvizX

Dobyns Champion Extreme DX 743 (Mendota Rig)
Shimano Chronarch
12lb InvizX

Dobyns Champion 765CBGLASS (jerkbait)
Lucky Craft Bevy Shad
Quantum Smoke 6:3:1
12lb InvizX

Don’t forget that anyone who likes my Facebook Page (click here) can send me a private message and I’ll give you any waypoint I have from any lake I’ve ever fished!
Instagram @JJ7712


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