After fishing the Bassmaster Open on the St. Lawrence River out of Waddington, New York, Matt Pangrac realized that fishing a swift current river connected to a Great Lake is a totally different ball game than fishing any other body of water in the country. Matt spent several days practicing and competing, and even though he cashed a check and finished in 23rd place, he realized that he was inadequately prepared to handle the big water. Here are some of the key things that Matt wished he had known before he headed North:
QUALITY FOOTWEAR (NOT FLIP FLOPS)
I’ve always worn flip flops in the boat, but in rough water flip flops don’t provide enough support and my feet were sliding around in the flip flops and my footing was unstable. I switched to a light, waterproof hiking shoe and the difference was incredible when it came to stability and comfort in the big waves.
Everything is bigger on the Great Lakes and trying to find on Lake Ontario without the best available contour lines was literally like searching for a needle in a haystack. I didn’t even realize that I had bad mapping until a fellow competitor showed me his mapping during pre-practice. I immediately ordered a chip that covered both the United States and Canada and the difference was incredible.
Between the mosquitos and biting flies, I nearly went insane swatting at my ankles and legs until I stopped by the convenience store and purchased some insect repellent. In the middle of open water, the fish slime attracts a crazy number of flies.
WIND APP ON YOUR PHONE
Wind direction and speed is critical when it comes to fishing big water for both fishing as safety. I found that the wind direction and speed from basic predictions was unreliable, and I got caught miles offshore when the wind switched direction and started blowing. Downloading the Windy App on my iPhone really helped me decide where and when I could run the big lake.
LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING THAT DAY
The further you go into Lake Ontario, the less cell service you have. I’m used to fishing bodies of water where there are docks, marinas, and other signs of human life. When you’re fishing alone 20 miles offshore, it can be a lonely feeling. After getting stuck in 6+ foot waves one day in practice, I started telling at least one fellow competitor the general area that I was planning on fishing that day just in case something happened they would know where to start the search.
BRING MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL NEED
When it comes to smallmouth fishing up North, it’s hard to beat the basics like a dropshot or Ned rig. I practiced for several days prior to the start of the tournament, so I was on the water a lot when it was all said and done. I thought that I brought enough dropshot weights and baits, but five days in I realized that I had to start rationing if I was going to make it through the tournament without running out. I had roughly 50 of the correct sized dropshot weights when I arrived, and I finished the tournament with just three.
RESEARCH WHERE THE RAMPS ARE
There is no such thing as a “short run” on the St.Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. There are all sorts of both public and private boat ramps scattered throughout the area and after burning through a full tank of gas each of the first three days of practice, I started trailering to ramps closer to areas that I planned on exploring. That allowed me to idle more and fish longer without worrying about fuel and it also allowed me to fish areas during windy days without putting myself or my equipment in jeopardy.