I had never heard of Lake Simcoe until I was fishing in a tournament on the Potomac River with Canadian hammer John McGoey. John was like “How have you never heard of Simcoe?” After getting home and doing some research, I have to admit the Shimano pro was right. One quick internet search and you’ll see that the heart of the debate for years has been which body of water reigns supreme in the smallmouth fishing world: is it Simcoe, or is it Erie? And to be honest with you, that’s really the driving force behind the summer series. I wanted to see for myself which was the top dog. And don’t get me wrong, I passed some bodies of water along the way that I know have gigantic smallies! Places where I’ve competed in double shot tournaments (double shots are (2) 4 hour events in one day, two weigh-ins) and seen guys bring in over 25 pounds TWICE in the same day. But hearing John tell me stories of how he had just under 30 pounds and took second place because he had ” …two 7’s and 4 pound rat I couldn’t get rid of” was something I’ve never been able to get out of my head. So here I am. On my way to see for myself what it’s all about.
This trip took months. Between not being able to make the trip for personal reasons, scheduling conflicts, wanting to do the trip with John and trying to plan around weather (something that you really need to be concerned of at this place), it’s been a bit of a strategical nightmare. Not nearly as simple as just running up to Oneida. When I finally find myself here, it’s after a frustrating day in NY, and on a whim. I have less than a day to go up, fish, and come back, leaving me with about 8 hours on a lake I’ve never been to before, never studied a map, nothing. In fact, I don’t even know where to launch my boat, and I don’t dare use my cell phone because of the huge cost of data out of country. So I do a lot of stopping and asking for directions until I get lucky and find an old timer who offers to lead me to a small ramp. When we get there he points out about 100 yards and says he’s caught some on that ledge before while pan fishing, and wishes me luck. I’m very grateful, but by now I’m down to about 6 hours, and I need this to pay off so I’m starting to get a little anxious.
The water is gorgeous. At this point, the dirtiest lake I’ve fished in this series is Oneida, and that’s saying something. But Simcoe looks clearer, cleaner, colder (lol), and more magical for some reason. It’s about an hour in when I get my first fish and it’s a good one. I’m using a small 5 inch swimbait on a heavier head to help me really slow it down. I’m using a 5:3:1 reel, and a 7’3″ medium action graphite rod (I started out using a glass rod, and switched because I lost the first two fish I had on). First fish over 4 in the box and although it’s only one, I really feel like a lightbulb went off. There’s a decent amount of wind, and I’m throwing my bait at about a 30 degree angle from the tip of my boat, so that I’m passing it mid retrieve, and that’s roughly when I’m getting bit. It’s a combination of speed, location, and bait. I’m not getting a lot of bites. I’m drifting an area about 80 yards long and getting one or two bites per drift, but they’re the right bites and every time the fish get bigger and bigger. And I can see a TON of fish on my screen so I know I’m where I need to be. I’m in 15 feet, probably 100-150 yards from the ledge to 8 feet, and the fish are suspended in 8-10.
As the sun starts to go down I realize I better get some pictures of the fish I have before it gets dark. So we finish our drift, snap a quick time lapse video, and release the fish, and decide to head back. As we’re heading in, we see some fish busting on the surface and can’t resist the “one last cast” idea. So we grab a Sammy and had an epic 15 minute flurry that turns into what could really have been a second story on fishing for smallmouth at night. The biggest bag I’ve ever had of smallmouth, captured only because of my SP Gadgets POV light that I had with me, was so heavy that I struggled to hold them up all at once, and the camera was having a hard time getting a clear shot. These are the best I was able to get, picture wise, and the smile on my face should be a clear indication of how happy I was with my short trip up north.
If you haven’t been to Simcoe, you gotta go. I can’t say it was the winner in terms of the best lake in this series, but having the biggest overall bag is impressive, when the locals there said we had come at a time of year when the fishing was far from optimal. I plan to go again, and again, and again. I wanna say real quick that having an updated Navionics card is the biggest key to fishing unknown water and staying safe. Invest in one and take the time to update your charts!
Quick rundown of my gear is below.
7’3″ medium weight, graphite rod.
Reaction Innovation Skinny Dipper, white, 5 inch
3/4 oz custom made jig head with a Trokar hook, extra long shank (prototype)
10 lb Fluorocarbon line/Palomar knot
Navionics Platinum Plus card: 648P+
Stormr Limited Edition Strykr Jacket and Fusion bibs
Costa Del Mar Corbina sunglasses, copper lenses
SP Gadgets POV light