Much Overlooked Smallies on Lake of the Woods
If there is a gamefish in Lake of the Woods that receives very little respect, it is the smallies that inhabit the waters in good numbers, more formally known as the smallmouth bass. These hard fighting fish that rip drag and burst out the water without notice are in big numbers throughout the Rainy River, Big Traverse Bay and of course, the NW Angle and islands area of LOW.
Where do smallies reside? First, let’s talk the Rainy River. With over 40 miles of navigable and fishable water from the mouth of the Rainy River up to about the Birchdale access (and even further if you know how to navigate the Manitou Rapids by boat), bass are prevalent in many spots. Rocky areas, bays, current seams and tributaries to the river are great places to start.
Bass offer some great shore fishing opportunities. Try the Clementson Rapids, where the Rapid River dumps into the Rainy River and the Franz Jevne access, which are both east of Baudette.
In addition to the river, Four Mile Bay is a huge area with edges of the river channel, rock, reeds and areas off of the main river current that is home to a lot of forage for big bass. Locals have known for years the good numbers of bass in the big bay.
The main basin called Big Traverse Bay holds good numbers of bass. Target rock reefs and island areas. Most of the bass are caught in depths less than 20′. Most of the smallies caught on Lake of the Woods are caught accidentally by walleye anglers. The numbers are great and many of them turn into footballs, I mean really big bass.
Up at the NW Angle is where the 14,552 islands of the lake begin. Literally every island has habitat attractive to smallies. Rocky points, scattered boulders and bays are good areas to begin your focus. There is over 65,000 miles of shoreline on Lake of the Woods, most of it holding bass.
There are many ways to catch smallmouth bass, but one technique that is effective in covering water until you find a good pod of fish is pitching crankbaits to shore. On a recent trip in which we casted island shorelines with shallow diving cranks, two of us ended up with just less than a hundred fish. About 20 of those were pike, walleyes and muskies. The rest, bass.
Other techniques are certainly accustomed to bass anglers. Buzz baits, poppers, spinner baits, and tube jigs. For the skilled bass angler, this is a very short list!
Interestingly enough, another walleye technique that produces good numbers of bass, and not intentionally, is trolling with crawler harnesses. A bottom bouncer combined with a snelled spinner and night crawler is a nice search technique that catches almost everything, including smallies.
If you enjoy bass and want to have thousands of world class smallmouth bass spots to yourself, give Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River a try. Just because walleyes get all of the attention doesn’t mean that is the only fish living in these productive waters!