No gold or silver but I did take the bronze...

bass
...as in bronzeback :)

I hit the Columbia river on Saturday the 31st of July out of Stevenson, WA and had just a dynamite day. Despite all the burn bans in the area I went ahead and set the river on fire (OK, no more puns for a while).

It was a perfect day to fish for smallmouth in the gorge. It was cloudy with little to light wind throughout the day. Water temp was around 72 and the smallmouth were really active and in a chasing mood. Right off the get go I saw some fish chasing bait just upstream from the ramp. I pedaled up to within casting distance and let my topwater (Berkley Choppo) fly. I hooked and missed a fish on my first cast (since it is supposed to be bad luck to catch one on the first cast losing one must be good luck!). Within a couple more casts I had my first fish of the day. It was a solid pound and a quarter smallmouth.

I just kept working that same spot and was rewarded with several more blowups when I hooked and landed a nice 2lb 4oz smallie. That is a better fish than I had caught in my previous two trips to the Willamette. The day continued like that.

Tons of bites on the topwater and tons of fish. My best topwater fish was a beautiful smallmouth that completely destroyed my Choppo about 15' from the kayak. There is just a deeper "chug" sound when a really big fish sucks down a topwater. I did a slo-mo of that bite in the video. That was a fantastic fight. I could tell right away that it was a big fish (which I kept yelling in the video). It put up a great fight and I nearly lost it in some weeds but I was able to wrench it up (fortunately without snapping my rod) and get it to the surface and into my net.

I was so excited I felt like I was vibrating when I put that beauty on the scales and saw that it went 3lb 4oz. Just a beastly fish to catch on a topwater!!



I kept throwing the topwater and catching fish for most of the day. Tons of fish in the 1.5 to 2.5lb range. They were just smacking the heck out of that Choppo. I did go through one period with any bites and reallized my Choppo was not really plopping right. I had some weeds gunking it up and I spent a few minutes cleaning it. On the first cast with the restored bait I smacked a nice 2lber.

Now, the fish were not everywhere, but when I found one there was usually a bunch in that area. My approach was to cover water quickly but then when I got a fish (or just a hit) I would really make a lot of casts to that area. That strategy worked like a charm. I would catch the dumbest one first and then make repeated casts to tease the smarter (or maybe just lazier) fish to bite. A lot of times I would reel one in and there would be a whole school of smallmouth with it. I just love it when that happens. I was surprised that I never caught a double on the Choppo. There were plenty of times when I saw a second fish swiping at the lure in the hooked fish.

However, the topwater was not always the answer. One spot that I really like (chunk rock tumbling from the shore into 15-20' of water) did not produce a bite on the topwater but I was able to wrangle some fish out of that spot on a drop shot. I could have stayed on that spot and done well for quite a while on the drop shot but I thought, "Why spend time doing this when I could be getting topwater bites!"

I left that spot and started fishing all the islands downstream from Stevenson. I did not fish every one since there were a handful of boats and kayaks fishing that area. I just kept moving away from people so I could fish in relative solitude. That ended up being a great strategy for me. It kept me moving and the bite just stayed fantastic. At one point (maybe around noon) it got a little brighter out.

At that point I had several casts where I had fish splash at the lure and then follow it to the kayak. I figured it was just bright enough to make them wary - which they should have been since I did watch an osprey snatch a nice smallmouth from one of the spots I was fishing. Rather than be stubborn I quickly switched over to tossing a swimbait. That ended up being another great (well ok, lucky) call. The fish that were following the topwater were just out and out hammering the swimbait.

That is how I spent the rest of the day. Switching it up between the Choppo and the swimbait (with an occasional cast or two with the dropshot). The bite just never slowed down. I would throw the Choppo and then the swimbait and those smallmouth just kept slamming both. So many of the fish I caught were puking up bait - either in the water when I got them close or once I had them in the kayak. The cool thing is that often other bass would grab the puked out bait while I was fighting the hooked fish.

The stomachs of all the fish were just so full of bait that I could not believe that they were still feeding. A bunch of the fish that did not puke had the tails of bait sticking out of their gullets - and yet they were still feeding. IT seems crazy but I guess it is not different than me with the big Costco sized bag of Doritos :)

Befittingly, the storybook day had a storybook ending. It was not even very late but my buddy and I were pretty worn out. We decided to leave the bite and head back (we were a long way downstream by then). On the way back I told him I wanted to re-fish the one spot where I had caught a ton earlier and where they had been chasing bait like crazy. We got to the spot and I offered him the first pass but he politely declined and told me to go ahead.

It was not the proverbial "last cast" but it was close. I cast the swimbait across a rocky flat upstream from hotspot island. I was reeling in when the lure just stopped. Now this was the proverbial "and the snag started swimming". I was not sure if I had a big smallmouth or a huge pikieminnow. The fish just kept digging deep. I would pull the fish up a few feet and then it would tear my drag out. I just could not gain line on that fish. Eventually I worked the fish up high enough to see that it was a really nice smallmouth and my heart almost jumped out of my chest!!

I grabbed my little net and worked the fish close. I kept worrying that every headshake was going to be the end since the fight had been going on for a while and I was sure the hook was wearing a hole in its mouth. However, since this was a storybook day (for me, not for the smallmouth) everything worked out and I was able to scoop that fish up in the net. It was a 4lb 1oz, 20" toad of a smallmouth. That is a special fish to catch any time but even more so in the middle of the summer.



Here is a picture of that beauty!

That was definitely one of the most fun days I have ever spent fishing. Topwater action all day. Plenty of big fish and good numbers as well. I ended up with 43 smallmouth and one big pikieminnow on the day. There were plenty of dinks in the 43 but so many fish were good-sized that it was just ridiculous. Thanks for reading and here is some footage from the day:

 
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troutdude
What fun! I hadn't been smallie in MANY years. However I recently got connected with a new coworker, who ONLY fishes for bass (primarily smallies). He lives in Sweet Home and we have now been to GP twice, and Foster once. We will be hitting Foster again this Saturday and I can hardly wait! Topwater chuggers/poppers have been working there too! While I have some Lucky 13's, Jitterbugs, Zara Spooks, etc. I'm now planning to add a couple of those Choppo's to my arsenal too. So thanks for the tip @bass!
 
bass
Cool that you all are banging the smallies down South! Glad that the video was helpful @troutdude ! Whopper Ploppers and Choppos are really similar. I use them both but like the Choppos a little bit better since they seem to start spinning (plopping) more quickly at the start of the retrieve.

My old standby in the propeller category were a tiny torpedo or a baby torpedo (I like the bigger of the two but don't recall which is which). The plopper styles have a bit deeper and slower plopping sound which generally seems a bit more effective but there are days when that little torpedo is the deal.

I don't think I ever owned a Luck 13 but I used to fish with Jitterbugs when night fishing in PA and NC. For daytime it was almost always a rebel pop'R or a torpedo.

Zara spooks (or any stickbait) are my usual go to for topwater when it the forecast is for calm. I fished the Choppo on Saturday because the wind was supposed to pick up and my hookup ratio is way better on the less erratic plopper styles in those conditions. The plopper styles obviously work when it is calm as well but I usually throw a stick bait in calm conditions since I think they often generate a few more bites.
 
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troutdude
bass said:
Cool that you all are banging the smallies down South! Glad that the video was helpful @troutdude ! Whopper Ploppers and Choppos are really similar. I use them both but like the Choppos a little bit better since they seem to start spinning (plopping) more quickly at the start of the retrieve.

My old standby in the propeller category were a tiny torpedo or a baby torpedo (I like the bigger of the two but don't recall which is which). The plopper styles have a bit deeper and slower plopping sound which generally seems a bit more effective but there are days when that little torpedo is the deal.

I don't think I ever owned a Luck 13 but I used to fish with Jitterbugs when night fishing in PA and NC. For daytime it was almost always a rebel pop'R or a torpedo.

Zara spooks (or any stickbait) are my usual go to for topwater when it the forecast is for calm. I fished the Choppo on Saturday because the wind was supposed to pick up and my hookup ratio is way better on the less erratic plopper styles in those conditions. The plopper styles obviously work when it is calm as well but I usually throw a stick bait in calm conditions since I think they often generate a few more bites.
Thank you kindly for all of those tips! I've been having a blast doing what I can to increase my odds and up my game.
 
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