Smallmouth on a blustery day, Columbia River, 08 May 2021



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Aug 4, 2008
Cedar Mill area of Portland, OR
I hit the Columbia out of Stevenson, WA with a friend on Saturday. The forecast was for brisk winds by lunchtime and the forecast did not disappoint.

The day started out nice but the wind quickly picked up and made it tough to fish out of a plastic sail commonly known as a kayak. To make things even a bit tougher, there was a bass tournament (maybe launched at Cascade Locks?) and there were often bass boats on spots that we were hoping to fish.

The thing that worked in our favor though is that the Columbia is such a big river and there are definitely more good places to fish than there are bass boats in in the PNW :)

The water temp was 55 (the Willamette was about 60 when I fished it the previous week). With that water temp and the wind we figured that the bass would be super active and feeding like crazy.

I started the day fishing moving baits, mostly throwing my favorite 3" swimbait but mixing in a crankbait, spinnerbait, chatterbait and jerkbait. I was catching fish here and there on the swimbait but there was not much size. More like Willamette-sized fish than Columbia-sized fish, many fish under a pound and the "good ones" were up around a pound and a half or a little bigger.

The problem in that situation is of course that are having some success (not great success but some success) so it is hard to give other approaches a real fair shot. That was the case for me for the first 3 or 4 hours. I would occasionally make a cast or two with a Ned rig or a drop shot, but for the most part I did not give them much of a shot. Partly due to the success on the moving baits and party because the wind made fishing soft plastics kind of tough.

As the morning wore on I found myself on a sweet little spot that was both somewhat protected from the wind and seemed to have a lot of smallmouth on it. I hammered the area with the swimbait and was steadily catching fish, but once again nothing really close to 2lbs.

At some point the swimbait bite slowed so I decided to give the Ned rig a shot. I started catching nicer fish, including a 2lb 10oz bass. The hard thing was keeping contact with the bait as the kayak moving around the wind blowing slack in my line. The result was that the bass kept taking the Ned rig really deep by the time I could detect a bite. I decided after a bit that perhaps a drop shot with a decent amount of lead might be easier to fish and easier on the fish.

That ended up being a fortunate call. I kept catching mostly nicer fish and it was a lot easier to maintain good contact with the lure. The result was that I was hooking fish in the lips instead of deep in the mouth. I stayed on that spot for several hours. Partly because it was out of the wind and partly because it kept replenishing with fish.

When the drop shot bite would stop I would throw something else for a bit. Eventually, I found that a Rapala DT10 made a good alternate presentation. The crankbait fish were never as big but it was fun (and a nice break) to throw something active where I did not have to be so fussy about controlling the kayak.

Eventually, I got tired of fishing that spot and left it when some bass boat guys came over and chatted for a bit. I had worked the spot over pretty but I figured it would replenish for them if they fished it for a bit. I don't know if they did any good there or not.

After that I fished a variety of spots and hooked and lost a handful of fish, but I did not land a fish for the last several hours of the day. I will say that I did not throw a drop shot much after I left that spot. At that point I was hoping to find fish feeding on bait pushed against rocks by the wind. That did not really happen for me but my friend did pretty well with that pattern throughout the day.

Overall it was a good day of fishing in some tough conditions. I ended up with 26 smallmouth with the biggest being a 2lb 12oz on the drop shot. Another handful were over 2lbs. Not a great day of fishing on the Columbia, especially for size, but a good day nonetheless in the somewhat challenging conditions.

Here is some video from the day.

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