Kenora, Ontario-based guide and tournament angler Dean Howard knows a thing or two about catching bass. And his tournament record over the past several decades proves it.
Along the way, Dean has acted as a mentor to the next generation of Canadian bass hotshots—guys like Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson, the Ontario native FLW pro bass competitor who just took first at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC) on Rainy Lake for the second year in a row.
I mention this only to shed light on how Dean is truly one of the “good guys,” exactly the kind of guide most of us would pick if we could choose: Knowledgeable, laid back, plain spoken, and just a hell of a lot of fun to fish with.
Plus, he’s extremely good at deciphering difficult conditions to find the best and most active fish possible.
Like in the odd summer high- and cold-water conditions he and I recently faced on NW Lake of the Woods.
“It’s been a really interesting year,” says Howard. “We’ve got cooler than normal water temperatures and record high water. My buddy Dave Bennett found a couple smallies on beds just yesterday, which is pretty incredible for the 28th of July. It’s not that way everywhere, but there are fish in all stages right now. Makes finding them and developing a pattern difficult.”
But we—or I should say, he—found them. In fact, my guess is if we had been fishing the Bronzeback Classic Tournament happening on the same day and waters, we would have been right up there in the pack.
Dean studied his electronics, and I asked him exactly what he was looking for as we moved from spot to spot.
“Here in NW Ontario you can always find largies on wood, so that’s at the top of my list. But for the smallies this time of year, well, they should’ve been on the main lake points and rock humps already. But it’s not the case. So you start looking at other areas. I like to start with current and go from there. There’s typically food there so if the fish aren’t where they typically are, I go to the food, which could be anywhere from ledges with weed growth to vertical shelves.”
Are the smallies acting odd right now on your favorite waters?
Here’s Dean’s list of structure types to investigate. Those in bold produced the most fish for us.
- Main-lake rock piles
- Main-lake points
- Narrows or neck-down areas with current
- Weeds with rock bottom
- Ledges with weed growth
- Gravel points
- Narrows with weeds
- Points with basketball-size plus boulders*
- Vertical shelves*
- Vertical shelves with boulders and weeds*
- Shallow pencil reeds with rock and gravel
So what was our winning pattern?
Check back next week and I’ll share Dean’s cool finesse technique in a video blog!
To fish Lake of the Woods and other lakes in NW Ontario with Dean Howard, give him a call at (807) 465-4148.