I had one of my best days ever on the upper Willamette on the 17th of July. It was the mix of numbers, quality and bonus fish that made the day so special.
I met up with a guy from another forum who had recently moved to the PNW from San Diego. We launched out of 10th street in West Linn.
Conditions were interesting since they were installing the flashboards a the falls and the river had risen a foot overnight. For those of you who are unaware every summer PGE installs flashboards at the summer about this time of year. The flashboards create a mini-dam that is 3' high and the water level in the upper river all they way past Newberg raises by about 3'. This was the first time fishing while the river was rising and I had some concerns about how the rising water would affect the bass and whether they would be hard to find.
I got there before him and started fishing fairly close to the ramp while waiting for him to show up. For what ended up being an epic day it started out quite slowly. The river was glass smooth and I anticipated an off the chart topwater bite. While I did catch a few fish on the Sammy (stick bait) I missed way more than I caught. Usually when it is calm the hookup rate is pretty good on that lure but not on Sunday.
After my friend got there we moved up river a bit and I put down the topwater and started switching between a jerkbait (KVD 200 series) and a small swimbait (3" white on a 1/4oz jig head). Those lures both produced well and I started picking up fish more regularly. The great thing of it was that the while there were dinks mixed in there were plenty of quality fish:
The previous week in the lower river I caught mostly dinks but on Sunday there were a lot of nice quality fish. In that clear water you would often see other bass with the one you had hooked. I love seeing that. I was doing great and the guy I was fishing with was doing great as well. We were fishing a big hump/flat in the middle of the river and the bass seemed like they were roving in schools everywhere. We had quite a few doubles during the day!
As I worked near the edge of the hump I made a cast out towards deeper water. As I brought the swimbait back to the hump. I felt a couple of thumps. I was not sure if they were weeds or bass but then there was a solid takedown and I had a really good fish on. It made a couple of really big jumps (you can see them in slow motion on the video at the end) and fought like a demon. When I got it close I saw another similar sized bass with it trying to steal the lure. Nothing warms my heart more than greedy bass
I finally landed it and it weighed in at 3lb 1oz which is a really nice summer smallmouth!!
I kept fishing and switching between the swimbait and jerkbait and they kept producing well. You would cast for a bit with no bites and then run into a flurry of action. We just kept slowly working our way up the hump and finding pod after pod of hungry bass. One kind of cool thing that happened was that on one cast with the jerkbait I had a hard hit and the fish almost immediately launched itself from the water. After another great fight I got it to the side of the kayak and it was a pikieminnow!
I think that is the first time I have had a pikieminnow jump clean out of the water. It fought as hard as a smallmouth all the way to the kayak (instead of the usual hard hit then giving up). I think it secretly wants to be a smallmouth
After a bit the breeze picked up a little and I decided to try topwater again. Instead of throwing the Sammy I put on a whopper plopper. That ended up being a winning decision. The bass were loving that whopper plopper and eating it really well. I was now hooking up with almost every bite and the bites were plentiful.
We fished the middle hump but also hit some points along the shoreline. They all held fish. Tragedy did strike briefly for me though. I cast the plopper out and bounced it off of a hard spot and the prop part broke free from the sleeve that holds it in place. I had the magic lure and now it was worthless. It was a really deflating moment.
I went back to the Sammy, jerkbait and swimbait and caught fish but not quite as fast nor as fun as with the plopper. Finally I decided to tie on a smaller whopper plopper. I bought 2 of those a long time ago, fished them once and never used them much after that. They don't come to the surface immediately (I need to raise my rod straight overhead to get them up) and are generally a pain to fish. This was another one of those really good decision. While it was more work and hurt my bad shoulders they were chomping that thing at least as well as the bigger plopper.
From that point on I mostly fished by tossing the plopper and then picking up the Ned rig when I marked a fish under the kayak. It was just such a fun day of fishing. Catch fish on the plopper. See a fish on the sonar, drop down and catch that one. A great combination of topwater and video game fishing. It just does not get more fun than that for me.
I marked some fish in the trough at the upstream end of one of the humps we were fishing and made a short cast with the Ned rig. I felt a fish pick it up and I could immediately tell that this fish had some shoulders. This fish stayed down and took drag. I would pull it up a little and then it would take the line back. After a couple of minutes of back and forth I was surprised to see a fat old channel cat on my line!
The rest of the day continued with the same patterns. Mostly throwing the plopper and Ned rig. Occasionally, I would throw the swimbait or jerkbait and even caught one a crankbait and a couple on a drop shot. As the cloud cover diminished during the day the wind grew and that seemed to make the bass bite even better (even though kayak control became a lot harder).
I had worked my way pretty far upstream by early afternoon and tried to cast beyond a rock that was sticking up out of the river. I accidentally cast over it and as I started to reel I immediately had a good sized bass grab my lure with my line being overtop of this rock. I set the hook and the rock cut the line. The fish jumped a couple of times (trying to get rid of the lure) and it looked like he threw the lure onto the shore. I spent about 15 minutes looking but I could not find it. Maybe the lure flying onto shore was my imagination.
At that point I decided it was time to head back . By now the wind was stiff and the river had whitecaps and small waves that would break over my bow as I headed into them. I still stopped when I marked fish to fish the Ned rig and the fish continued to cooperate. All day long there were plenty of quality fish even in the rough water. Here are a handful of pictures.
This one had such a cool golden color:
This guy was choking on a fish but still hit my plopper:
Another nice chunk from late in the day:
Here is some video of the day (it is long):
If you just want to jump to the 3lber:
If you want to see the jumping pikieminnow (holy leaping pikieminnows batman):
If you want to see the catfish:
It is hard to imagine a better day on the water!