Strange but productive day on the Willamette in Portland, OR

bass
bass
Strange day. I was really worried about the cold front coming through and it affected me a lot more than the fish.

At the ramp as I was getting ready to launch I got to watch a seagull repeatedly try to swoop down and grab the topwater of a guy who was shore fishing. This happened on several casts. It was pretty funny.

For me the bite first thing was slow (or maybe I was just slow to understand what the bass were telling me). I started fishing around an island. I threw a topwater for 15 minutes without a bite. I then switched to a crankbait for 15 minutes without a bite. I switched to a spinnerbait and tossed it against a steep bank and finally got a bite, that I missed. I quickly followed up with a Zoom fluke and fish on. First bass of the day. I then went back to fishing around the island without another strike.

I started working the far bank and caught a bass of a steep bank on a spinnerbait. Then as I worked down the bank I switched over to a crankbait (I was switching back and forth) and I caught one on it near a different steep bank. I marked a few fish so I drop-shotted the spot and picked up two more. Thus, I took this as the thing to do. I was worried the fish were not active, I considered this confirmed since I was having fewer hits in my normal offshore spots, so I thought I would need to luck into finding them and then dropshot to catch them. My preconceived notion was so strong I could not see what the bass were telling me. We are near steep banks and we would really like it if you would give us a spinnerbait.

I spent the next bit throwing the crankbait a lot and the spinnerbait some in a searching pattern. I hooked a decent bass (about 16 inches) on the crankbait and while I was unhooking it he thrashed around and buried the hook in my finger. He kept thrashing and drove the hook in deep. In looking back I think he was sent by the other bass to tell me I was supposed to be fishing a spinnerbait :)

L70mU.jpg

In 40 odd years of fishing this was my first deeply sunk hook. Let me share what I learned. No surprise, but it is extremely difficult to unhook a fish that has all three hooks of the other treble buried in its mouth. The tip is to use the hooked hand to help control the fish rather than trying to protect it. Protecting it does not work nor help. All that happened as that the pliers slipped and the fish thrashed more and buried the hook even deeper. Next thing, after a minute or two you realize it hurts, but really not all that bad. The initial Oh **** had worn off and I was calmed myself. Thus, I accepted the pain and used the other fingers on the hooked hand to help unhook the fish without worrying about what was happening to the hook. Success, fish off the hook and back in the Willamette. Now, I am staring at the hook in my hand and I made my next stupid move. I tried to yank it out - I figured it works for bass. I grabbed it with the pliers and gave it a good yank. I think all I did was set the barb - do not do this. Next I tried the technique of using a piece of string around where the hook enters the skin and pulling it really tight while holding the eye of the hook. This did not work. It may have been because I yanked on it first or because it was hard to pin the eye of the treble hook down. All I accomplished was yanking on the hook really hard (again). Finally I realized I would have to push it through so that I could expose the barb. I dreaded this, but again it did not hurt as much as I thought. The amazing thing is how hard you have to push to move the hook through your flesh and how weird it is to watch the hook as it is stretching your skin right before you pop it through. Anyway I now have the hook all the way through with the barb exposed. My first thought is to try and mash the barb down and then back it out (I wanted to save the treble, probably not the best thought). Unfortunately it was very hard to see the barb and I did not actually mash it down. So when I went to back it out of course it just hung. After three tries (I am a slow learner) I decided to cut off the barb and get the hook out. I really had to rotate the hook hard to do this because the hook was rotated to about where the offending hook joined the treble. However, with a good twist I was able to snip the barbed part of the hook off and then finally free myself. That was a pretty good feeling! Last thing, hook wounds bleed a lot. In the future I will carry some bandages. Fortunately I was to just kept sticking my bleeding finger in the healing waters of the Willamette until it finally stopped (about 5 or 10 minutes). In the end, for all the yanking and pulling I did I am surprised how little it hurt when all was said and done.

Now back to the fishing. I stupidly went back to fishing humps right after this incident. The good thing is that it did make me want to throw the spinnerbait more than the crankbait. During the course of the morning I had been trying to help another fellow OFFer learn more about catching bass in the river. So I had told him I thought that the crankbait would produce better, but I had switched back to the spinnerbait out of fear. I fished the drop-shot a fair bit during this time without success but I picked up two more working the bank with the spinnerbait. The funny thing is that every time he would come over to talk I would catch a fish. It was kind of funny, but I felt a bit bad. I kept trying to give him the best spots, but the thing is the bass were not in the places I had been finding them. We finally made it up to the two humps where I have been catching a ton of fish. We fished them hard without a hit. His back was bothering him so he finally left just after a couple of other fellows I know showed up and trolled around the humps. After the one I was trying to help fellow left. I paused and thought back on the morning and realized every fish I had caught had been close to the bank. I thought, no it can't be that easy. I picked up my spinnerbait and started fishing the shoreline near the hump (I had never caught a fish there before) and it was like magic. The fish were near the shore, near steep banks and really wanted a slow rolled spinnerbait. I caught a lot of fish when I would stop the retrieve and let it drop. The line would jump I would set the hook and fish on. It seemed that some fish wanted the steady retrieve and some wanted the stop and drop.

In the first ~5 hours of the day I only caught 7 bass. In the next, 5 hours I caught 22 more for a total of 29. In all fairness I did catch 7 of those bass on nightcrawlers while trying to catch a walleye. My plan was to use my drop shot rig with a live nightcrawler. I think that this will work, but I think I was must not have been quite fishing the correct locations. I will eventually figure that out. I was fishing in 15 to 25 feet with some current but could only find bass.

Anyway, I think the thing I learned (besides dealing with a hook in ones finger) is to pay attention to what the bass are telling you. I kept fishing a bunch of points and humps even though the fish I did catch were on the bank. I should have figured this out sooner.

One other cool thing on the day. I got to see a bride and groom come down the river in a boat on the way to their wedding. I yelled out my congratulations. The bride yelled thanks and good luck. Shortly thereafter I caught one across from her wedding. I am guessing that she has some good mojo!

Here are some pics of some of the fish I caught during the course of the day.

hzciI.jpg

FjvAM.jpg

Finger hooked after last fish and before next for those keeping score. Took a picture of this little guy to mark the spot. He was the first spinnerbait fish I got when I realized I should be fishing the bank.

yvVxh.jpg

GKuCZ.jpg

I love the color on this next guy even though he was not too big.

Q2cEd.jpg

The wedding crasher (should have turned to kayak to get the wedding in the background):

AYcBK.jpg

Thanks for reading.
 
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Reactions: todd_brooks
T
todd_brooks
Good god that hurts just looking at it. Nice post, your right in my neck of the woods I'll have to use the motivation to see if I can have some fun of my own. I think I may start to carry a par of dikes in case I ever run into such a thing as you did, and hope I don't.
 
F
Finneus Polebender
Nice Smallies ,way to figure them out as well !
 
bass
bass
Thanks guys. The smallmouth fishing has been really quite good lately.

For those that are interested: I think the sturgeon bite is picking up as well. I did not do any sturgeon fishing but I saw some folks hook a monster fish that broke them off. I spoke with them briefly and they said the bite was a lot better today than in the past few weeks. They had caught 5 that were legal sized or over sized. Looks like I might have to start bringing the sturgeon rod again if the weather stays cool. It is great to live in a place where the main worry is about which good fishing opportunity one need to take advantage of!
 
J
JeannaJigs
I feel your pain! I've had to perform surgery on myself to extract trebles, one I had to go to the ER to have removed as I had two of the hooks in past the barb and couldn't get it out, and had nothing around to safely cut it out of my hand. I feel so stupid going to the ER for hook wounds though lol. Dunking it in the willamette made me cringe though, yuck!! Hope you have your hepatitis and tetanus shots!
 
bass
bass
JeannaJigs said:
I feel your pain! I've had to perform surgery on myself to extract trebles, one I had to go to the ER to have removed as I had two of the hooks in past the barb and couldn't get it out, and had nothing around to safely cut it out of my hand. I feel so stupid going to the ER for hook wounds though lol. Dunking it in the willamette made me cringe though, yuck!! Hope you have your hepatitis and tetanus shots!

Yikes, sounds like I got off easy. My shots are all up to date, my wife recently took me to the vet :)

I am definitely thinking of buying a lip gripper to use when unhooking bass. I am not sure whether to get the Boga grip type or the pliers looking type. Does anyone use one of these? Any pluses or minuses with one or the other? I saw that Dick's had a Field and Stream Boga type. I am not sure if anyone around here sells the pliers looking type. Any input would be appreciated.
 
S
Slick
Does the good smallmouth fishing hold up through Sept. or has it slacked off? Water temp at Portland shows 63° so they should still be pretty active. Further up is drops to around 58-59°. Any thoughts?
 
bass
bass
Sorry, I did not notice your question sooner, not that my reply is going to be of much use. Last year I pretty much only fished a crankbait and after one day in early October with one dink in 4 hours I switched to sturgeon and never looked back. Thus, I am not sure how Willamette smallies behave through the fall. However, in PA I used to bass fish until the lakes froze over, but this is moving water and not still water. Perhaps one of the folks who has more experience with river smallmouth can provide a better answer. FYI, water was 60.9 last Sunday when I took out.
 

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