About 20 seconds after Jamie Robinson fires up the outboard I point to a submerged rock pile extending from a point. “Might as well start here,” I say, casting over the structure literally a stone’s throw from the outpost camp at Hastie Lake. With no sign of life in the shallows, I let the brown tube jig sink along the steep side of the drop, where it plunges quickly to 38 feet. When my slack line goes taut, I set into a good fish. It holds deep before breaking surface. “Whoa!” We both yell in unison as what turns out to be a 21-inch smallmouth is airborne.
Hastie is a small lake, a 7-minute flight from Lauzon Aviation’s base on Lauzon Lake just east of Blind River. Red and white pine grip the steeply sloping granite rock face stretching along the south shore, while the rocky points to the north surrender to bays and inlets loaded with lily pads and mats of weeds. Surrounded by pine-capped bluffs, and rich in rocky mid-lake structure, this picturesque little lake has everything required to grow plenty of big bass.
Minutes after releasing our first Hastie smallie, buddy James Stewart calls from the steep rocky shoreline, “Hey, James, you might want a shot of these,” as he and partner Matt Aarts hoist a pair of bruisers around four pounds. When Jamie Appleton and Gib Medve radio in from the east end of the lake to report a pod of large fish off a rocky hump, it’s becoming obvious that we’re in for a great few days of bass fishing.
Our home in the woods
The two-bedroom frame camp at Hastie is centred around a circular combined kitchen, living and dining room with large front windows that offer a panoramic view of the shoreline. With its fine woodwork and unique layout, the accommodations feel more like a private cottage than an outfitter’s camp. The cabin sits on a long rocky peninsula under the shade of towering pine and, although it remains hot and sunny for our entire stay, the cabin and adjoining front porch stay comfortably cool. The cedar-lined, wood-fired sauna is housed in a separate building with propane lights and a small front porch overlooking the dock. We spend several evenings roasting in the sauna before jumping off the steep granite shoreline into the cool, deep water on the north shore of the peninsula.
With the main body of the lake about two kilometres long and a north arm extending up another kilometre, Hastie’s size means we get to know the lake intimately within a few days. Following our success off the peninsula, Jamie and I join the other two boats along the steep southern shoreline where the silence of the calm evening is broken by jumping bass and the cries of anglers. By the time darkness falls we’ve all discovered sweet spots along the southern shore where bass, large and small, keep coming in waves.
Running the gamut of bass tactics
The next morning, Jamie and I continue down the south shore, lobbing 1⁄4-ounce jigs with white grubs and drop-shot rigs with purple soft-plastic worms. Again the steep drops are fruitful, but the action continues over several shallow rocky shoals extending from the shoreline, as the character of the lake changes into its eastern arm. When we find ourselves in a sandy, shallow bay adorned with sparse weeds, rock piles, and sunken wood, I can’t resist throwing out a topwater popper. As if the bass was poised and waiting, the Chug Bug is inhaled the instant it touches the surface. “There’s supposed to be buckets in here,” I say setting the hook. As Jamie lips the 2-pound fish we make a positive identification on the first of several largemouth we take from Hastie’s shallow weedy cover.
By the end of our second day, we’ve all made a cursory round of the lake and spend the rest of our time revisiting favourite areas. James and Matt work deep mid-lake humps with plastic and live nightcrawlers. Jamie and I spend a good deal of time in the north end throwing Senko-style plastic and topwater baits amongst pads and weeds for largemouth, and dragging tubes and grubs over shoals for smallmouth. Gib and Jamie settle into a pattern of slow-trolling brown rubber salamanders 12 feet below the surface in 40 feet of water. The bass are either suspended or rise from the depths for the rubber amphibian, but however they manage it, the pair boat a half dozen smallmouth over 20 inches.
A lake with a view
With the profusion of bass, we don’t feel bad about filleting enough for a shore lunch. We meet on an expanse of flat rock for a traditional feed of fried fish, beans, and coleslaw. After a suitable period of lounging in the afternoon sun and rubbing full bellies, I suggest a hike up the mountain west of the lake to help burn off our meal. Soon after we’re hiking a narrow trail through a mixed forest of pine, birch, and maple to the base of the mountain.
Slabs of flat beige rocks rise in front of us like a natural staircase. Rock piles and inukshuks mark the trail that alternates from sun-drenched rock plateaus to shaded groves of moss and oak. As we gain elevation, we see neighbouring Lauzon Lake and the island-studded north shore of Lake Huron. From the mountain summit, we have a clear view of our little piece of heaven, but we don’t linger long before heading back to the big bass of Hastie Lake.
P.O. Box 1750
Blind River, ON P0R 1B0