Only a handful of places in Manitoba can lay claim to being a trophy fishery for both walleye and smallmouth bass. The Quesnel Chain of Lakes can easily be ranked at the very top of that short list. Some of the largest walleye recorded every year in Manitoba are caught here out of marvelous drive-to destination Q Lake Lodge. Equally, some of the largest smallmouth bass caught each season are hooked on this body of water as well. It’s smallmouth bass fishing at its finest.
Trophy smallmouth bass fishery
We went on a trip recently to specifically target the Quesnel Chain’s hulking smallmouth bass. Well-known as a smallie hotbed, the series of lakes consisting of Quesnel, Manigotagan, and Happy are some of the best waters to catch a trophy bass in the entire province. Fish surpassing the 18-inch Master Angler benchmark are routinely boated while hooking into a bass of remarkable proportions measuring beyond the magical 20-inch marker is realistic with every cast.
No need for a game plan at Q Lake
Joining me on this late-June/early-July excursion was Ben Lang (President of the Manitoba Bass Anglers) and avid bass angler Matt Gelley (MGOutdoors). We planned a three-day fishing trip stay at Q Lake Lodge and figured this would be enough time to figure out and pattern the monster smallmouth bass that these lakes were known for.
It turned out that we were perhaps over-thinking our angling strategy just a bit as the very first promising notch in the shoreline we casted to immediately produced bass after bass in the boat.
‘End of the Road’
Located at the northernmost edge of remote Nopiming Provincial Park, Quesnel features truly pristine wilderness scenery yet is drive-to accessible complete with boat launch, camping, and resort facilities. Q Lake Lodge literally lies at the ‘end of the road’ and is a convenient gateway to experience the incredible Canadian Shield back country that Manitoba has to offer.
During our awesome stay we chatted with visitors from Iowa, Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Ontario with every group raving about the phenomenal walleye and smallmouth bass fishing.
Endless bass strucure
Typical late spring/early summer smallmouth bass can predictably be found not too far away from the areas they inhabit during the spawning period. Targeting scattered boulders adjacent to sandy bottom stretches or prominent points at the edges of small bays or eyebrows are usually good places to start. Exploring all of the areas on this surprisingly large system easily reveals endless ‘bassy’ looking targets to cast your lures at.
Awesome rental boats
We were very pleased to use one of the boats in the lodge’s fleet of newer 16ft 40hp four-stroke tiller rigs. There was ample in-floor storage, seatbacks, and a casting deck to handle three bass anglers and requisite piles of gear.
After quickly finding a couple of spots that held numerous medium-sized but very aggressive bass, and also striking out on some good-looking but nobody home structure, we narrowed down our efforts to casting at specific corners and subtle points with slower finesse baits. This proved to be the tactic to successfully hook into the first of what would be many Master Angler trophy bass on the trip.
Happy Lake walk-in option
We spent most of day two on isolated Happy Lake. The smallest lake on the chain is at the far south east arm of Manigotagan and once there is accessed via a 10-second hike up a short trail. Q Lake has a handful of camp boats with 5hp motors ready to go on the other side. Lodge staff had our boats warmed up and waiting when we arrived.
Known as a pure numbers lake for bass and walleye we were into our first double header only seconds after pushing off shore. By early afternoon we had ended up casting at superb-looking shoreline encompassing the entire western half of the lake all the while catching far too many fish to keep track of.
Long June and July days provide extended evening window
Re-charged after an early supper back at the cabin, we spent the evening having a blast catching all kinds of giant smallmouth bass on Manigotagan. As Ben excitedly proclaimed after gripping yet another 4-pound plus bass, we were literally ‘calling our shots’ as almost every likely-looking piece of structure held a huge and willing smallie on it.
Not yet having our fill come sundown, we couldn’t help but cast at some rocks in front of the lodge’s marina back at Quesnel. Not surprisingly, we set the hook on a couple more 2-lb bass to end the day.
What to use
As far as what lures we used, we experimented with everything in our tackle trays to actually try and see what wouldn’t work. The answer is every single thing we tied on caught a bass. Our extensive checked-off list covered the gamut of usual suspects for bass: swimbaits, wacky-rigged stickworms, sub-surface wakebaits, surface poppers, ned-rigged small craws, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, in-line spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, propbaits, jig and grubs, drop shot rigs, and walk-the-dog spooks.
There were periods during each day that the fish seemed to be more discerning and in these times our go-to tactic was slowing down either on bottom with a tantalizing plastic or on top with an irresistible popper lure.
Can’t avoid catching walleye too
Much to the dismay of my fishing partners we did dedicate a fraction of time each evening to catching some walleyes for the pan. We were catching plenty enough incidentally while hunting for bass that we should have been throwing a few into the livewell all day they would complain. On some loaded areas it was true that we were hooking up with all kinds of walleye, northern pike, as well as smallmouth bass. The biggest walleye we caught was a bonus 25” fish that fell for a swimbait rip jigging in slightly deeper water.
Book a trip
Whether you are planning a fishing getaway with friends, family vacation fun, or even a day excursion for some insane action, Q Lake Lodge can help you plan the trip of a lifetime. If you are a bass enthusiast especially, this is a place that needs to be on your must-visit list.
Comfortable accommodations that can house up to a dozen anglers in their largest cabins, a well-maintained marina and boat launch that can handle even the biggest bass rigs, and more bass then you can shake a shakey head at. We left already planning how we would attack these lakes once the fall seasonal movements take place. If we thought the bass fishing was good on this trip…
HuntFishMB – Eric Labaupa
For more information visit qlakelodge.com
For more information about fishing for smallmouth bass in Manitoba, visit our Smallmouth Bass page.
*Protect Manitoba’s water and resources. Stop aquatic invasive species. For more information on how to do your part visit the Sustainable Development AIS page.
*Travel Manitoba staff was hosted by Q Lake Lodge, who did not review or approve this story.