Hot largemouth bite on Shoal Lake

The second-last Sunset Country bass tournament of the year took place last weekend at Shoal Lake as 37 teams participated in the annual Last Chance Bass Classic.
Shoal Lake is one of the best bass fisheries we have in Northwestern Ontario because of its clear water and relative remoteness.
My friend, Dennis Favreau, and I have fished the “Last Chance” tournament together since 2001—and have had a lot of fun over the years.
After spending a few days pre-fishing last week before the tournament, we determined the largemouth bass were biting a lot better than the usually-plentiful smallmouths, which was okay with us because we enjoy fishing for largemouths anyway.
After talking with several other anglers over the past week, there were a number of theories as to why the smallmouth fishing was not as good as it has been in the past.
The warmer-than-normal weather has not cooled the water down enough to get the fish moving out to typical fall locations, there is a decline in the smelt population (which seems to help congregate smallmouths in predictable locations), and there is an insane population of walleyes (which seem to be out-competing all other species in the lake).
After being closed since the early 1980s, the walleye fishery on Shoal Lake has rebounded to the point where I don’t know that you could find better fishing on a fly-in lake. We are bass fishing and catching walleyes of all sizes in depths from five-30 feet on artificial lures.
My hope is that the Ministry of Natural Resources will take a look at opening this fishery to walleye fishing, at least in a catch-and-release manner.
The first morning of the tournament, Dennis and I started fishing for largemouths within a few minutes of the take-off and quickly put together a large five-fish limit in the first hour of the day.
Although we caught a bunch of nice fish throughout the rest of the day, the first five good ones that we caught all stayed in the livewell and we weighed in a limit of largemouth bass tipping the scale at 19.30 pounds.
That put us in second place behind the local team of Carl Greene and Kendrick Penace, who brought in 19.46 pounds.
We started Day 2 with the same plan—to target largemouth bass for the whole day and hope we could catch five big fish. Well, we caught a number of fish over the first few hours on Sunday but no big ones, so we really were starting to scramble by noon.
The thing with fishing for largemouths is that usually if you’re catching numbers of smaller fish, it’s only a matter of time before you connect with a big one—and we finally did around noon.
Over the last few hours of the day, we managed to catch five good fish and brought in a limit weighing 18.68 pounds, which was enough to win the tournament (we had a two-day total of 37.98 pounds for 10 largemouth bass).
Second place went to the always-consistent Sioux Narrows team of Joe Pritchett and Hiram Archibald, who brought in 10 smallmouths for 34.92 pounds, while Kenora anglers Jamie Bruce and John Frost were third (34.40).
The big bass of the tournament was a smallmouth caught by Adam Bachinsky and Andrew Beernairt that weighed 4.42 pounds.
There is one event left on the 2013 tournament schedule this coming weekend down in Sioux Narrows. The Whitefish Bay First Nation community has put on this tournament for the past five or six years, and it has become popular because of the large fish that have been brought in by anglers in recent years.
The tournament is taking place this Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. each day. The entry fee is $400 per boat.
Hopefully, the nice September weather keeps going for us for one more weekend!