Every year for the last decade, my family has taken a trip up to the St. Lawrence River in the Chippewa Bay area. This is really where my love for fishing started. A lot of catching bluegills and perch of the dock and in the mornings and evenings we would go out in our Bayliner, and anchor out somewhere and cast live bait for bass and pike. About six years ago now we were introduced to the Wacky Rigged Yamamoto Senko. This is where it all changed, our quality and numbers of fish sky rocketed quickly. The next year I found out about Mepps Inline Spinners and that did wonders for us, especially for pike. The following year, the double willow leaf spinnerbait completely changed the game for us. My Dad bought a bass boat shortly after and we started seriously fishing. Another huge factor for us learning how to fish the river was a local guide. Our first year with Captain Randy Yager was phenomenal and it secured the obsession with fishing. We still book him every year and we still catch giants! https://guidedbasstrips.com
This years trip was up there with being as memorable as any. We all arrived Saturday afternoon and got out that evening. The first stop was our usual haunt, the wind was howling so it was a challenge to fish. Nonetheless, my brother caught the first fish of the trip, a nice Largemouth on a 1/8oz weighted wacky and a watermelon red flake Senko. Shortly after we moved spots and on my first cast with a spinnerbait a Bowfin demolished it! Very cool to catch it on a spinnerbait I made as well. Slow start to the trip but it continued to get better as we got into our rhythm and the flow of the river; it is slightly different almost yearly due to the change in water levels. Sunday we expanded on where we usually fish. We started the day with two buck smallmouth, one on a drop shot and the other on a ned rig. In the same area I lost a nice one on the spy bait. After a lull we changed gears and decided to go target largemouth. That is the beauty about the area we stay in, at any moment you can change species easily. There is a spot we hold very near and dear to our hearts, and every time we go someone catches a fish on the same spot. Last year I tossed a 1/4oz finesse jig I made in there and hooked up with a big largemouth who came undone when he swam into the trolling motor shaft. Thankfully I recalled that situation, I tied on a very similar jig and it produced! (Fish pictured below) That combo actually proved to be very effective throughout the week on largemouth. The breakdown on that jig; 1/4oz ball head jig with a Gamakatsu hook, PB&J skirt paired with a Xzone Lures Muscle Back 3.25" craw in watermelon red flake, 7'3" MH XF rod with a 8.3:1 reel, 30 pound Cortland braid to a 20 pound Seaguar leader, connected with a blood knot and finished with a improved clench knot; casting the bait out near grass and letting it fall, popping it a few times then repeat. Jeremy caught two nice largemouth soon after on the same wacky setup as the day prior. The last fish on that spot was a buck smallmouth my Dad caught up in 1' of water. We fished another tried and true spot on the way in and it produced a few more nice largemouth, mostly wacky and one flipping a Xzone Punisher Craw, 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG and WOO! Tungsten 3/8 weight.
Monday, July Fourth was our guided trip with Captain Randy. The day started off slow, I think two small bucks on the ned and another lost on a spy bait. Randy kept telling us it gets better as the day goes on and the bite comes in flurries. That could not have been more true. Around 10am we got into the first flurry, well my Dad did. He caught our biggest of the day just over four pounds. The smallmouth on the main river were either spawning or post spawn. About an hour after that first bite window I ended having my time to shine, with the spinnerbait. I broke off a really nice one on a spinning rod with the single swimbait so I went with my bait casting setup and chucked the spinnerbait. The shallow smallmouth spinnerbait bite is something every angler should experience. These fish blew up that bait! The breakdown on that bait; 1/2oz double willow leaf spinnerbait, white skirt and silver blades paired with a 2/0 Gamakatsu trailer hook, the same rod, reel and line as the jig above; making a targeted cast to our piece of structure, instantly winding it so it did not get caught up in moss, as it got closer to the boat and in deeper water I would slow down my speed. Tuesday was full of rain so we made the most of the day, relaxed, went out to dinner, stopped in Alex Bay for a souvenir and ice cream. We did manage to get out fishing for a bit and targeted Northern Pike. Another wild experience, in the two hours we were out we boated one, had two more hooked up and a follower. My Dad was throwing a #5 Mepps in Chartreuse and they were digging it but they came off quick. I dedicated some time to the Storm Arashi Glide Bait and that had a follow as well as the first Northern Pike of the trip!
Wednesday, this was an important day for us figuring out a consistent pattern. We also put out a challenge, a challenge for the trifecta, largemouth, smallmouth and northern pike in one day. It was my brothers last day up there so we went to tried and trued places. As we were passing between spots I was letting us drift and I figured I may as well drag a bait along. I tossed my 1/8oz black hair jig as I was dragging it along bottom a solid 3.5 pound largemouth ate it in 18' of water! It was very cool but confusing. Then I realized throughout the week how I hadn't utilized the hair jig. That evening I dedicated time to the tactic and it paid off. I caught a smallmouth on it, a few casts later I threw a 3.5" Xzone Swammer in "Ayu" on a 1/8oz JDO Ballhead and a largemouth demolished it, a few casts later, a northern pike demolished it; all of this happened between 3:05-3:16pm. My first trifecta of the trip! Thursday morning my Dad and I decided to explore some "new" water adjacent to old spots. We went on a hair jig frenzy for about two hours, this included half a dozen smallmouth and a dozen largemouth including my Dad's best of the trip! (pictured below) The breakdown on that bait; 1/8oz JDO marabou hair jig, two strands of tinsel, trailered with a black flatworm the rod was a 7'2" ML Spinning rod with a 3000 size reel spooled with 8 pound cortland braid to a 8 pound Seaguar leader, connected with a blood knot and finished with a improved clench knot; casting the hair jig as far as we could and instantly reeling it slowly. The light rod and line are crucial for getting that light hair jig out there. Having such a light jig helped keep us off bottom and out of the muck. Every now and again they would smoke it when you speed up the reel for a turn. Both of us had another trifecta that day. In the evening we went out to the main river channel and caught a few but no real big ones, the hair jig once again and a spy bait fish.
Friday, the final day. We planned to leave around 1pm to go home. That morning we explored and expanded on another spot. It payed off yet again, no giants that day but we caught them on hair jigs on shoals, I caught a largemouth flipping the same jig into some reed patches, caught a perch on the spy bait, another largemouth on a drop shot, a big smallmouth on the spinnerbait and that wrapped it up.
Overall I can say that was one of our best trips up there. We did not connect with any true giants as we have in the past, but we had many cool experiences and gained confidence in multiple lures. I cannot recommend enough for people to go visit and fish the 1,000 Islands region. When we first started it was scary and intimidating to navigate due to all the water hazards, but with our Navionics chip, it gave me a ton of confidence to explore. Just do your research, study maps, and take it slow. Tight lines everyone! Check out my photo gallery for more awesome shots of our vacation. Peace, Love and Positivity