Columbia smallmouth Spring 2019


Aervax

Active member
Columbia smallmouth bass bite is on the verge of busting wide open. 3 of us went fishing for smallmouth on the Columbia Saturday. We were catching them here and there, about 20 fish each over the course of the day. For the most part they made us work pretty hard for it. Big fish for each of us went 2.75 - 4 pounds. My big fish of the day in the pic was the smallest big guy from our crew. We all started fishing at different times and places, then joined forces in Hood River for a couple hours, and migrated down river from there. Fish are still on the prespawn with the colder than usual water. They were biting spring finesse and reaction baits. I fished straight up Senko all day, from noon till 8:30 PM. The Hood River area bite finished nicely from 7:45 - 8:15 PM with 7 fish in 30 minutes after the water had all day to warm in the sun, and the wind finally started to subside. I will not disclose particulars of my pal's fishing techniques, but partners both used different methods and colors that were just as effective as my Senkos if not more so. I was fishing a 4" bi-color senko weightless on 8 pound test nylon mono with a 3/0 offset shank hook. My most effective color on Saturday was watermelon over cream laminate. Each spot we hit had surface temp in the low 50s in the morning, but warmed 5-8 degrees by the end of the day. Most of the fish that I caught were grouped up in very specific spots. There could be long dry spells between bites, then several take downs in a row - sometimes on consecutive casts. In one spot at around 2:30 PM two of us caught about 15 fish tossing Senko in a prespawn structure that was maybe 30X20 feet. The majority of the fish came out of the dead center of that spot. I did not see any sign of spawning beds today. The next full moon should change that. This year's spawn has some serious pent up energy. I am accustomed to seeing a few smallmouth spawning in April with numbers building to a peak in mid May, then tapering off over the next 2 or 3 weeks. I covered tons of ground wet wading 7 hours yesterday without seeing a single bed. The last time I saw similar conditions it completely exploded all at the same time after a couple days of 80 degree weather. Pay close attention to Columbia water temp and weather as we approach the next full moon phase. The bigger 4 pound plus females will begin to move shallow cruising and looking for beds. When that happens if you're in the right place at the right time those big bass can sometimes be caught walking the bank, though I catch most of my biggest smallies while wading waist deep or so and casting parallel to the shore near small drop offs as they.are setting up for the spawn. Please share your stories and pics when you catch them!
 

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Aervax

Active member
FRIDAY NIGHT, 5/10 ON COLUMBIA SLOUGHS: The golden poppies are blooming in the gorge. That is the official alarm clock for local smallmouth anglers. When the poppies are blooming the bass move into prespawn staging zones. As the water temp has been increasing the bite is evolving from finesse, to reaction, to aggressive and topwater. Scouted one slough with temp of 62F at 5:00 and caught 5 bass up to 3.5 pounds in 30 minutes. Moved over to another slough where the fish trend bigger, but water temp was 58F there and wind was howling. Caught 2 in an hour at the second spot. Fishing partner showed up with his flyrod, and we went back to the first spot where he proceeded to out-fish me and my traditional tackle by a ratio of 2:1 over the next hour and a half. He and those damn flies conquered the Senko. I caught another 9 with several in the 3.5 pound range. My compadre roughly doubled that quantity. We toasted the start of our fishing weekend with fresh beer and pub food at Pfriem Brewing on the Hood River waterfront. An evening Trifecta with an all around taste for living. What could be better than that?
 

Aervax

Active member
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Saturday was a blood bath. 70+ Smallmouth between 2 of us on Saturday 5/20. Several 3+ pounds and one 5 pounder. We were fishing a newly discovered spot for the first time. The slough opened directly into the Columbia and was 100 yards wide X 300 yards long. Water temp at the front half was 57F. Perfect gravel, rocks and depth for spawning, but could not buy a single bite at the front end of it. Water temp at the dead end was 64F. All the take downs came from the back half. Bites were more aggressive than last weekend. Senko was the hot ticket. Prior to this weekend nearly all bites were picked up at a dead stop from the bottom. Now some takes are on the drop, and most are on the twitch and glide. Had to try topwater with the bite picking up, and gave it half an hour. Had 3 blowups and landed one of them, a 3 pound female. 50+ fish between us from late morning til 5:00. Evening bite we hit one of our known honey holes with the fly rods for an hour or so and caught another 20 between us. Lots of bluegills kept slamming our bass lures all day long with a few really big ones hooking up. Big enough to fillet. I might be going back with them as primary target. Epic fishing day that will be remembered for a long time.
 

bass

Well-known member
You are killing it!

I drove back and forth to Walla Walla this weekend. I kept looking at the river during the drive with longing. I need to hit the big C with my yak one of these days!
 

Aervax

Active member
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I got out and fished, yesterday afternoon. I have been off the water for a little over 2 weeks. It felt good to get wet and fishy.

I tried a new spot that looked really promising. It seemed fishless except for carp and bluegill. I was really surprised not to be catching bass there. It looked perfect in every other way. Anyway, I made lemonade and fished for what was there with my fly rod. Bluegill were fat and sassy. I landed a carp on the fly thanks to applying some new knowledge shared by SciFly. Fish pic attached.

The afternoon gorge wind picked up and made fly fishing for carp a losing battle, so I changed over to a bass honey hole. The bite there was definitely on.

Water temp in the slough was close to 70F. Water depth is way up. No complaint there. Makes wading tougher, less competition, and fishing better. Every submerged boulder and sheltered gravel area had beds around it. Heading into the new moon phase over the next couple days I anticipate bass activity to pick up a little bit. This was a scouting trip of sorts for that as the bite bumps up over the weekend.

Over the first couple of hours lots of fish in the 3/4 - 1.5 pound range were biting. Given the numbers I was a little surprised that at least one or two of the big girls were not coming out to play.

Then I reached a spot where everything was bigger. Over the next hour all biters went 2 - 3.75 pounds. Top 5 fish total weight was 14.25 pounds. Then I passed through that spot and everything went small again, around a pound.

It was overall a great day. I have book marked that sweet spot in the slough for future use of course. I am thinking about it, trying to decipher why that piece of real estate was prime in the bass world and being dominated so heavily by the bigger fish.

In higher water like it is now that stretch of shoreline has the deepest interface between open water with a gravel bottom and shore grass. There were unoccupied beds all along the grass line in there. There were also tall trees hanging over the water offering cover from predators like osprey when fish are shallower than is safe. Finally, there were large boulders 2-4 feet across intermittently strewn at the perfect depth for spawning, 3-6 feet; and the boulders were also surrounded by unoccupied beds. I think water depth and temperature are ideal for that spot right now.

All of the above conditions are easy to find in small patches in our waters. It is just unusual to find them clustered, so densely and perfectly in such a large area.

I fished that same spot at almost the same time in similar conditions 2 years ago. I had an old school friend with me that I had not seen in a few years and his adult sons along for the ride. I caught a 4.5 pound fish there that day literally on the first cast probing the grass line while I was still on the trail 20 feet back from the waters edge. We veered off to the right and caught lots of small smallies. Then we veered back left through that same stretch of shore for the evening bite. My pals sons had never been bass fishing before, yet multiple 3 pound fish were caught that evening. His son in laws caught a 5.5 and a 6.5. One of those things where they had a great time, but have no idea how lucky they really were. Haha.
 

Aervax

Active member
You are killing it!

I drove back and forth to Walla Walla this weekend. I kept looking at the river during the drive with longing. I need to hit the big C with my yak one of these days!
I am sure a lot of spots you ogled from the highway are the same places I am fishing. Not really any secrets when good water is on open display to serious anglers like that. I look forward to meeting up to kayak fish together one of these days when our schedules click.
 

Aervax

Active member
SUNDAY JUNE 9:

BASS and I finally got to fish together. A day spent on the water in kayaks, 2 guys, 8 rods, and a fishing dog. BASS knows how to sling tackle, work the angles and catch fish. We had a good day. I would fish with that guy anytime, anyplace. My kind of fisherman.

Without revealing exact GPS coordinates 😉, I'll just say we were fishing a slough along the Big C where smallmouth like to spawn.

After last week's outings I was expecting a bigger day with at least a couple really big fish. We did catch plenty, but they also made us work for it. Not the overall size or numbers I hoped for. Sunday, we were on the tail end of a cold snap in the gorge. The prevailing west winds had turned 180 degrees and were now coming from the east. Areas that were littered with spawn beds a week ago were already abandoned and algae covered. There was only a handful of beds that were still being tended and they were the few in the primest locations.

Looks like the spawn in that particular slough that is warmer than most is winding down. It is time to focus on spawning grounds closer to the main river where the water is warming up slower.

Out of the gate we both noted a likely spot to try before paddling into the prime areas, and landed a half dozen each in the 1-1.5 pound range. We hit that spot again on the way out. BASS had it dialed in the second round and cleaned up with a bunch just before taking out.

The catching came in spurts off and on all day long. Most of my fish came on the 4" Senko rigged Texas style, with the bite coming after touching down on the bottom. A few came on the old fashioned jig head with plastic worm and a few on a clouser fly.

We were fishing shallow water on a calm day. No wind driven ripples to give fish overhead cover from Osprey and Eagles. I think that contributed to the sporadic bite. Fish may have been hunkered down and reluctant to move aggressively toward our baits. And with the spawn tailing off there may have been fewer fish in the shallow slough than in previous weeks.

Late afternoon the breeze picked up and created a little riffle. The bite immediately turned on and fish started hammering everything we threw at them for a half hour or so. That bite was on the swim and on the drop, no longer had to be resting on the bottom. These fish were bigger too, up to 2.5 pounds. I think we doubled up a couple times during that little frenzy.

Overall, a really fun day, with fish caught here and there all day long. I guess BASS and I are both fish counters. For me it is sort of a way to measure how well I cracked the fishing puzzle on any given day. End of day I think he said he'd landed 42 and I had 28. Big fish was around 2.5 pounds. We lost many fish too, a couple fought long and felt considerably larger, then got off and away. And so goes fishing.

I guess 70 smallies between us wasn't bad; but as hard as we fished and where we did it, on the right day we could double that. Next time, right? Haha.
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bass

Well-known member
Thanks for inviting me along @Aervax !

That was a really fun day on the water. We put in a long day and fished hard the whole time. I love being out there with someone who is as passionate and stubborn as I am. We caught a lot of fish (I will add some pictures when I get them off the camera) and we each caught fish up to about 2.5lbs and a handful of 2lbers each. It would have been icing on the cake to each have caught a 4 or 5 lber, but we had cake without icing, More of a "pound" cake kind of day. I will say that @Aervax did hook a beast at one point but the hook came out during the fight. That fish looked to be quite a bit bigger than our best fish of the day.

It was just a ton of fun fishing close by @Aervax we stayed close but far just far enough apart all day long. He is clearly a master of his craft and it was great getting to pick his brain and share stories, information, techniques, etc throughout the day. Best kind of day there is, catch a lot of fish and learn a lot as well.

We did not discuss what we were going to fish with but we both ended up throwing soft plastics for the majority of the day. We had slightly different riggings but they behaved and produced in a similar manner. For most of the day I was throwing a 4" dead ringer on a slider head or a crayfish looking creature bait on a shaky head. As @Aervax said, while it was calm the fishing was a lot tougher. However, even then we would hit a stretch that looked pretty good and not get a bite, then in the next seemingly similar stretch we would bang out some fish.

I tried throwing hard baits periodically throughout the day - crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and I did not get a sniff until the wind came up. I really wanted to catch a fish on an action bait. At one point in the afternnon, I was throwing a crankbait and complaining that I kept getting weeds. @Aervax said, "throw your spinnerbait" and boom. I picked up 3 fish on it in about 10 minutes before the bite stopped. Thanks man!!

We definitely caught a lot of fish under what were tougher conditions than anticipated. I would definitely love to go out there again and try and double those numbers and double our biggest as well! Thanks again for a fantastic day!!


HIghlights of the day for me:

- It was a blast watching @Aervax pick up a nice fish on a Clouser!

- The crazy bite we had on the shallow structure once the wind picked up a little.

- Saw a mink twice (same one I am sure) poking around the rip rap.

- Looking over and seeing @Aervax's dog (forget the name) in the back of the kayak. It was especially fun each time he caught a fish and his dog was like, "let me see, let me see" :)

- I caught my first fish ever on a Ned rig (second time I tried to fish one). I not only caught my first fish, but I caught 10 fish on it! Those are the fish I caught at the end. I think Ned rigs may be the salted peanuts of the smallmouth world. Only time will tell.

- Relaxing at the end of the day and just shooting the breeze for a bit before the long drive home.

Lowlights of the day for me:

- Forgetting my cooler at home (doh!). Luckily I remembered my thermos of water and thermos of coffee and @Aervax generously shared what he had with me.

- Having to hear @Aervax say, "you are dragging a rod". I guess I knocked it out of the holder with my paddle without noticing. That is why I leash all my rods. I can't prevent stupidity but I can at least plan for it :) Also, you notice how he was so polite and kind as to omit that detail in his write up.
 

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