There’s a reason people travel from all over the world to fish Manitoba. Home to over 100,000 lakes, rivers and creeks and over 30 gamefish that reach trophy-qualifying size, this region in the geographical heart of Canada boasts big catches, diverse species and a variety of remote and pristine wilderness locations. Here are some popular fish to gear-up for this summer.
Nicknamed “Jackfish, Slough Sharks or Gators,” these predatory fish are known for their razor-sharp teeth, explosive strikes and aggressive tendencies. Anglers with the skill and patience to hook one of these monsters have been rewarded with 40-inch plus catches and legendary photo ops.
Pike often favour shallow waters and are usually found lurking around weed beds, rocks or sunken structure. These apex predators are always looking for their next meal, so if you can get a lure in the water around where they hunt you’ll have a good chance of hooking one. Trophy pike can be found all over Manitoba with master angler-sized specimens more prominent throughout the Esatern and Northern Region.
For pike you’ll want a reel with pinpoint casting precision and the ability to gain control of big fish that won’t come in quietly. The Cabela’s Tournament ZX LP Baitcasting Reel is perfect for making the leap into the challenging and rewarding world of bait casters. This reel offers a strong drag, a lightweight composite frame and magforce cast control for a minimal chance of backlash when casting. If a spinning reel is your preference, try the Cabela’s Pro Guide® Spinning Reel. Pair the Tournament ZX with a Cabela’s Fish Eagle Rod or the Pro Guide with a Cabela’s Whuppin’ Stick Rod for a solid pike fishing outfit.
Figure 1 - Cabela's Tournament ZX LP Baitcasting Reel
When choosing bait, remember: these hungry fish are looking for their next meal, not a light snack. A large, natural swimming lure like the Cabela’s 5-Inch Hand-Pour Shad is ideal for hooking hungry pike. These oversized lures mimic larger baitfish and are sure to draw attention. Another choice is the Cabela’s Lipless Sidekick Crankbait. These are used when casting towards shore for shallow pike, or for drift-jigging deeper shelves at the 8–15’ range. Another effective option for Pike are Cabela’s Weedless Lunker Spoons. The weedless design of the lunker spoon helps it slip through cover without snagging, making them ideal for fishing weedy bays with heavy cover.
Figure 2 - Cabela's 5-Inch Hand-Pour Shad Figure 3 - Cabela's Weedless Lunker Spoons
If you’re looking for a fish that will put up an entertaining fight every time, throw a line for smallmouth bass. These popular game fish are famous for acrobatic tail dances across the water while they battle furiously. Their sparkling bronze striped profile looks great on camera too!
Like northern pike, smallmouth bass favour shallower waters in summer with rocky bottoms and places to hide. Find them lurking around the limbs of sunken trees, or skirting through weed beds in lakes or rivers. These fish are opportunistic feeders, preying on anything that is available to them, so you’ll want to try a variety of lures to see if you can trigger a strike. Fish for “smallies” all along the Winnipeg river system, in the Whiteshell and Nopiming Provincial Park.
Your gear setup for smallmouth bass will not be that different from Pike. Combine a Cabela’s Fish Eagle Rod with a Cabela’s Tournament ZX LP Baitcasting Reel. Baitcasters are a step-up from spinning reels in terms of difficulty, but this model is an excellent one to get started with. Once you master the thumbing technique while casting, you’ll enjoy pinpoint casting accuracy and a stronger drag that will easily haul in even the scrappiest smallmouth out of heavy cover.
Figure 4 - Fish Eagle Casting Rod
For a lure, try a smaller version of the Cabela’s Hand Pour Swim Shad, either the 2 ½” or 3 ½” model or the Cabela’s Fisherman Series Go-To Swim Minnow. These baitfish-imitating lures are sure to catch the attention of hungry smallmouth bass hunting for their next meal. A time-tested favourite of bass anglers everywhere are Cabela’s Fisherman Series Go-To Salt Tubes, which can be fished in a variety of conditions by pairing with different weights of tube jigheads. Slowly drag these across the bottom to mimic crayfish, or pop and swim them through the water column to imitate a minnow.
They might win the prize for ugliest fish in Manitoba, but that doesn’t mean they don’t provide some fun fishing action. These massive channel catfish are a staple of Manitoba river anglers. From the Forks in Winnipeg to the banks of Lockport and Selkirk, catfish anglers are out all summer trying to reel-in a prize catch.
If you’re completely new to fishing, catfish are a great place to start. You can pull up a lawn chair along the river bank with a minimal assortment of simple gear and enjoy. These fish are mostly found in fast moving rivers and enjoy lurking around holes and depressions. Try using the Navionics Boating App or Humminbird FishSmart App to look for sudden 4–5 foot drop-offs and dips in the river. You can easily target catfish from May right until October, though they tend to have a lull in early July when they are spawning.
Catfish are excellent for beginners because they don’t require a costly or complicated setup. Pick yourself up a Cabela’s King Kat Spinning Rod. Constructed from ultra-tough E-glass fibreglass, these rods are built to withstand even the toughest fights with monster fish. If you’re an evening angler, you’ll enjoy the bright tip to help see night-time bites. Pair with a Cabela’s Salt Striker Bait Feeder Reel with some heavy (20lb+) monofilament line and you’ll be good to go.Figure 5 - King Kat Spinning Rod
Catfish are fiends for strong smelling bait. If you’re serious about lugging in a big one, you’ll want to pick up some shrimp from your favourite bait shop. Another great option, which requires a bit more preparation, is using chunks of fresh goldeye or sucker for bait.
Pro tip: catch your own goldeye using night crawlers on a size 4 octopus hook suspended a foot below a bobber. For suckers, try a Cabela’s 2/0 pickerel rig with night crawlers, or get out in early spring with a dip-net to catch them while they are doing their spawning migration upstream in shallow creeks and ditches.
If you have any questions about fishing for pike, bass, catfish or any of the other exciting species home to Manitoba, speak to the fishing outfitters at any Cabela’s store. They will be happy to help you get geared up for success out on the water this season. Tight Lines!
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