Willamette River

bass

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We decided to meet at Newberg at 6am (at my suggestion). I got there a little first and saw a sign saying "Ramp closed for boat races". I could not believe it. I was just texting @portlandrain to let him know when he showed up. We decided that we would head to Willamette Park in West Linn where the Tualatin dumps in. On the drive there we crossed the Willamette and it was glassy looking and inviting. It was a real shock to get to the ramp at Willamette Park and be met with a pretty stiff breeze. It was like night and day. I decided that the goal for the day was to cover water, learn about the area and hopefully grind out some fish.

Nothing like fishing new water in the kayak in tough boat control conditions. We got unpacked and launched and headed upriver. Since I was still not sure what phase the bass were in I started by fishing near the weeds that start just upstream from the boat ramp. I was tossing a light jerkbait and it was a little challenging in that wind. In the first hour I picked up 5 dinks (one was largemouth which was cool) but this was clearly not the winning spot nor pattern.

@portlandrain suggested that we head up to the rock island area but since I wanted to learn the area I stupidly suggested that we head across the river and work the bank on the way up. Turns out most of that bank is not all that interesting. We finally found a relatively isolated rock formation and I was really excited since often an isolated structure like that is a magnet for fish. The rocks went from close to shore out to at least 20'. It really looked pretty good. I may have had one bite, but I think that was wishful thinking and @portlandraincaught a couple of smallies fishing shallower than me. I am not sure what depth he was in but I was targeting 10-15' and he was inshore from me casting near a barge/dock.

After that round of disappointment, we continued to fish our way up towards rock island and maybe we caught a fish or two, but that was big waste of time. I did not learn anything all that useful and we wasted a couple of hours.

Once we got up to rock island we started fishing what turned out to be the least productive arm (which I again suggested, definitely a pattern here). After putting in a lot of effort for very little fish we went to the arm @portlandrain had suggested and that was the deal. We both started catching fish. He was throwing a small tube and I was throwing a square bill. At first, I was throwing towards visible rocks and that was just an exercise in lure cleaning so instead of tossing towards the bank I moved a little deeper (4-6') and made parallel casts to the shore. That started to produce for me and I picked up a half a dozen fish by going over a rocky point/reef that was really only a couple of feet shallower than the surrounding water. These fish were better sized than the dinks I was catching earlier and @portlandrain caught a 2.5lb beauty!

However, since I did want to learn more about the area I thought I would head to the other side of the river to check it out. I am impressed with the amount of current in that area! I made it across to what I thought was a cove, but it turns out that it is just a side channel for an island. I had not looked at any maps for this area since we were going to Newberg :)

I fished a little bit and then just went back and forth across the river a bit in my kayak to map out some of the bottom. I have to say that I am a huge fan of Garmin's quickdraw (I assume the other vendors live mapping are equally compelling). Finally, I decided to get back to fishing in earnest. I fished the seem of a few huge boulders that were out in the current and started to catch some fish on a slider jig head with a 4" zoom dead ringer (one of my favorite pieces of plastic).

At that point, I decided to head back into the arm that we found productive (and where @portlandrain caught his nice fish). I had only fished close to the mouth earlier. While I was exploring the other side my friend worked his way up the arm. I caught up with him at the end of the day and he stayed productive with his tube. By the time I started fishing that arm I knew I was fishing water that had been fished hard by at least 3 or 4 other people.

I thought about the success I had on the reef-like structure earlier. That section had no visible indication of there being anything interesting there but the rocks that stuck up there were both a little shallower and rougher looking on the sonar. So thinking on that I just started working my way trying to keep my lure in 4-6' of water. That worked for me. I had very few bites on obvious structures but would occasionally find mini-reef/points what had more texture to them and those were my productive spots. I could usually catch a couple of fish off each one. I was basically covering seemingly uninteresting with the slider head and dead ringer and letting the fish tell me when I was getting to something interesting and then slowing down and fishing thoroughly. More of these fish were in the 1lb range.

I still occasionally picked up the squarebill and jerkbait but it was definitely a finesse show for me.

So, while not a great day for quality of fish and a day with some long periods of no fish, I feel like I did learn something about that area and was able to, by copying my friend, end up with a pretty fun day. The other cool thing for the day is that 4 of the bass that I caught were largemouth. They all came on the jerkbait. Biggest one was probably 11 or 12" but still fun to catch them out of the Willamette. I think I have only caught one or two largemouth in the lower Willamette.

Overall, I ended up with 28 bass, but that is a bit misleading since well over half of them were dinks. My biggest of the day was maybe 15" and that fish stood out from the rest of mine for its size. The 2.5lber @portlandrain caught was probably feeding on the ones I was catching.

Anyway it is always great to be on the water and I made a new fishing friend and you can't do better than that!
 
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EOBOY

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Bass:

I always read your stuff. My first house was in the Ardenwald area of Milwaukie and I used to fish Rock Is. all the time from the bank. Learned all the hidden trails to the ponds in the middle of the main Is. Don't know if some of them are there anymore. The arm nearest the Tracks was the best, although there were many spots back then and not much pressure. I haven't been there in about 5 years, took my Grand kids there. Looked pretty beat up. I have been thinking of putting in at the same boat launch with my DB and doing it from the water for a change.
 

bass

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@EOBOY If you want any detailed information check with @portlandrain . He knew the area well, I was just a tourist :)

FYI, there were 3 groups of bank fishing folks there by the time I made it towards the back.
 
Nice write up, as usual, @bass! That was a fun day. It started pretty slow but it seems the air temps were directly tied to the bite after a chilly night. As the afternoon warmed up the fish became much more willing. What I noticed was that the bite was very soft while fishing my tube jig. The one big girl I caught just picked it up and sat there. I didn't realize I had anything until I picked up my line to hop it and actually thought I was snagged. I tugged a bit and she took off, pulling out a decent bit of drag on a few short runs. She had the jig down pretty deep, so she definitely wanted to eat it, but she was gonna take her time!

@EOBOY that arm is the one I've had success in several times, but it was heavily pressured on Monday. We caught plenty of fish there but only the one was of any size. I saw a boat with two guys and a canoe with two guys back up in there, as well as plenty of foot prints on the bank. Overall I think that area gets a lot of pressure, but the beauty of a kayak is that the boats can't get in all the little spots. The one big girl was tucked away in a corner where you'd have to cross rocks only about a foot deep. A drift boat may be able to get at some of those spots too.
 

bass

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Definitely great fishing with you @portlandrain

I am not sure if the slow bite was due to the chilly night or just fishing in the wrong place at first. I was going to stop and fish the bay where the big T dumps in again on the way back, but by the time I got back the wind had picked back up and I was too whooped to fight that again :)

I definitely agree with the softness of the bite. For the most part I felt the fish on the line when I went to move the bait rather than being able to see the line jump when they picked it up. I think it was exacerbated by the wind, which even when it died down was still there to some degree.
 

bass

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I fished the upper Willamette out of Willamette park again on Sunday. They put the flashboards in at the falls on Thursday and the river was up 3' by Sunday (really by Saturday). It was like fishing a completely different river from the week before. In thinking about where to fish I was going back and forth as whether to fish there or below the falls. I figured the fishing would be great below the falls but the boat traffic would be really insane given the nice forecast. Above the falls at Willamette park most of the boats stay to the East side and the West side has a lot of good structure that is relatively pleasure boater free so I decided to hit the upper river.

When I got there I was worried. There was a ton of crap floating in the water and not much current (the complete opposite of the week before). There were some fish breaking the surface out from the ramp and where I started but I could not buy a topwater bite. I talked with a guy in a bass boat and he had not had any luck yet and said that the fishing was really slow the day before too. I was toying with the idea of packing up heading below the falls.

After about an hour of growing self-doubt and battling inner demons telling me to leave I finally caught a decent smallie on a jerkbait.

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I kept fishing that lure but I decided to toss it to the bank rather than fish the humps as I had the week before. I went up the Tualatin side. Not much action but after a bit, I caught a 2lb 6oz fish and a 1lb fish off a spot where deep water pushed up against the bank.

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I thought I had figured out a pattern but that was not the case. I kept working my way up the bank and every once in a while a fish would smash the jerkbait. The ones that bit, hit it hard, but there just were not a ton of them. I would get bit just often enough to keep me fishing that pattern. After about 4 hours I only had 6 fish. There were a couple of nice ones but really slow compared to the week before.

When I got to one of my favorite humps I dusted it off with the jerkbait and missed one fish. I then went over it with a crankbait but got nothing. I thought that maybe the fish were not active enough for those lures so I tied on a 1/4oz jighead and Bass Pro Shops rage tail looking swimbait. I had not tried those before but they have really nice action on the retrieve and on the drop.

On my first cast, a bass hit it as it was sinking to the bottom. I was in about 25' casting up towards the hump. My lure was landing in water anywhere from 6-15'. The action was incredible. I was getting bit on probably a 1/3 of my casts and lots of nice fish mixed in. Almost no dinks. Often the hooked fish would have other fish with it. I only got it to work one time, but I unhooked the bass, left in the bottom of the kayak and dropped down to watch another one grab it. Really cool.

I caught 18 fish off of a pretty small area in about an hour and a half. Some of the bass were suspended about 12' deep over the deeper 25-30' water nearthe hump. When I would see one on my graph I would drop a ned rig straight down and usually catch them. On average these fish were smaller than the ones on the swimbait that were on the edge of the hump.

When the bite eventually slowed I thought I would rest that spot and run all the way up to the narrows to see if that spot would produce. I figured with the reduced current down where I was fishing that the narrows section would have a nice amount of current and that seemed to be the case. I fished in around 6-15' and picked up 2 more bass and missed some but it was tough fishing because the wind was picking up some and there was a lot of boat traffic wake bouncing me around.

I quickly decided that was not fun went go fish for panfish for a bit to just get away from all the boats. I pulled up along the shoreline (on the Tualatin side) below the island and started working my way downstream. That area is nice mix of spotty weeds, rocks on a shallow shelf and I had done well for panfish up there last time out. I started fishing with white trout magnet and caught a couple of bluegill right off the bat. Things were going well when I got a big wind knot in my line. Bad enough that I had to cut off about 20' of line. This was key because that line was old I meant to replace it before the trip but I did not get to it.

About 10 casts later I felt a thud-like hit on my trout magnet. You know how you can just tell when a big fish hits. That thud you feel is like nothing else I swear you can feel it in your very soul. I set the hook and saw a big flash. I thought, man I hooked a 10lb pikieminnow. Seconds later a steelhead jumped several feet out of the water!!!

I fought that thing for what felt like a lifetime on my ultralight and 4lb test. I will say I got a not rod this year because I thought my old UL was a little stiff. The new rod is 6'6" and almost parabolic in action. That steelhead mad run after run. Each time I would get it close it would just take off. I took some pictures of it while I was fighting it because I figured there was no way I would land this fish without a net.

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The battle wore on and the fish was tiring. I was getting it all the way to the kayak now but could not get a hold of it with the boca-grip type lip gripper I had with me. That soft rod saved me again and again because it absorbed every lunge.

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Finally, I made a decision. I had seen its mouth a few times now and could see that it had some serious teeth but I knew the only way to get that fish was going to be to lip it. I splashed a bunch of water on the floor my kayak to make the best landing spot possible, I put the boca-style grips on my lap and worked the fish close once again. This time I lipped like a bass. I could feel its teeth ripping into my thumb. I dropped the rod and grab the lip grips and got them on the fish and hauled it aboard.

8lb 3oz summer steelhead. The fish was in beautiful shape. I quickly got the hook out snapped a couple of pics, weighed and got it back in the water. I held that fish for 5 minutes, at least, helping it to recover. It went from me having to hold it upright, to struggling a little, to thrashing out of my grip. I think it will survive.

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I just sat there trembling. I looked down and there was a pool of blood in the kayak - my blood. Not what we mean when we say get some blood in the kayak :

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My line was so twisted from all the drag pulling that I spent a bit of time just pedaling around dragging it behind me to let it untwist. I went back to panfishing but the wind had picked up even more by then to the point of small whitecaps. That coupled with a ton of boat wakes mad it hard to fish.

I decided to pedal back and make a few casts along the way for bass. I hit a few empty humps and then caught on and lost one off of a new to me hump. I eventually made it back to "the spot". The wind and waves from the wakes were really bad. I had a hard time fishing the swim bait so I switched to the Ned rig.

I would cast it out and wait for about 10 seconds. Sometimes I would have a fish on and sometimes not. I picked up 4 fish doing this when I decided to call it a day. They were biting pretty good when I left, not as good as the morning but it was a lot of work to get in position to cast to the best spot.

I got tired of fighting the wind and the wakes and was off the water around 3pm (early day for me). That day was a really cathartic experience from the early struggle to find a bite to that huge steelhead. I am not sure if that is considered big for a summer or not, but it was huge to me. I ended the day with 31 bass. a few panfish, another big pikieminnow and that beautiful steelhead.

Definitely a day to remember!
 

bass

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Thanks guys! I still can't believe I hooked that steelhead and I am even more amazed that I landed it. In the words of Satchel Paige, "It is better to be lucky than good on any given day"
 

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I got to George Rogers park around 5:15 and was fishing by 5:45. I rolled my kayak down to the ramp and say some bass splashing and chasing bait. I picked up my topwater rod and quickly caught 3 bass before I even got the kayak in the water. Small but still fun and a good omen for the day ahead.

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I definitely recommend getting there at 0'dark 30. The topwater bite lasted pretty long. It sprinkled a little bit and the wind came up and when that happened I switched to a jerkbait and they like that as much or better than the topwater. When the wind died down I picked up the topwater and the bass kept cooperating.
I fished around the ramp and the rocks and island near the ramp for probably two to three hours. The bite eventually slowed from hectic to steady and I decided I wanted to do some exploring.
I moved across the river and started fishing every little point I could find. There was a family out tubing at one point and they were stopped. I picked up fish on back to back casts and the dad note that and his little girl shouted "good job". Really mad me smile.
Later I ended up fishing in front of his dock when they came in. I moved out of there way as he pulled the tube up to the dock. It was a few feet off so I nudged it in with my kayak. It was just one of those days where the world just felt right.
From there I quickly worked my way upstream picking up bass here and there on little spots when I got to a good sized point/shelf that is about 12-20' deep. I was marking fish with my finder so I would just drop straight down and catch them. It was pretty fun using my FF to actually find fish.
After a bit that got old (that is the kind of day it was) so I decided to move upstream to a hump that I really like. It was really deep water on one side and less deep on the other. It also has a lot of big boulders on top which create a ton of ambush points. It was probably a little after noon when I got there.
The fishing had been fantastic up to that point but it was terrible compared to that point once I figured out how to set up and fish it. Typically I fish the top of it and the drop on the shallower side and below it. I probably spent an hour doing that with only a couple of fish. I was kind of shocked.
I was thinking about heading upstream to the next point when I decided to try one last thing and fish it from the deeper outside edge. I kept my kayak in 30-45' of water and tossed towards the hump.
On the first cast I hooked up and when I got the fish to the kayak there were several other bass with it. That is always a good sign. From there the action was frenetic. I think the longest stretch I had was 14 consecutive bass on 14 casts and every time there were other bass with the one I caught.
If a bass came off during the fight within a turn or two of the handle I would have another on. I was mostly fishing a Ned rig at this point and I would toss up quartering upstream and it drifted down dragging and ticking the bottom. If I did not get a bite when it was a quarter downstream I would reel it in for another cast. I can't count how many bass I caught when I was speed reeling it back in. Just crazy. No monsters but a lot of fun. This was a typical fish.
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I kept at it and finally hooked a good fish. Probably about 2.5lbs. I got it into the kayak, dropped my rod to the bottom, unhooked the fish, tossed my lure over the side and went to get my camera out of my PFD. Throwing the lure overboard in those waters was a mistake. A bass grabbed it while I was reaching for my camera and the rod started to flip over the side. I tossed the bass and barely saved my rod! They weren't jumping in the boat, but it was close.

At the peak of the insanity I got another normal sized bass and the wind was dead and the sun (what little there was) was at just the right angle. It looked like there were 20 bass with the one I had hooked. It was actually a little unnerving. They looked like an angry swarm of yellowjackets trying to grab the little piece of plastic sticking out of my fishes mouth.

Eventually, the bite slowed to where I had to make a couple of casts to get a bite so I moved on to my favorite hump which is above Hogg island. There were a ton of fish on it as well, but it was hard to fish with the crazy amount of river traffic. Mostly it was OK but when I guy in a wakeboat with towing is kid on a board passed within 20-30' of me (no reason to do that), I decided it was time to pack it in.

I took my time making a few casts and mapping parts of the river I had missed in the past as I made my way back. When I got to the magic hump I said to myself that it seems dumb to not fish it at least a little bit more. I put on some lures I have not really used much and had never caught a fish on. Well they all have caught fish now. Mostly some weird off brand cranks and some deep jerkbaits.

When the tide was running hard (from about 9am till about 3pm) the bite and the fish were just insane. During the slacker periods the fish still bit, but it was noticeably slower.

My best lure was a 1/10oz Ned rig. I mostly used green pumpkin, but I tried a few other colors and they any one seemed to work as well as the others.

Probably my second best lure was a 1/4oz jig head with a Bass Pro Shops version of Rage Swimmer. I only had a whitish color so I could not experiment. I swam it in and then would let it drop. Some hit on the drop and some on the retrieve.

I fished a bunch of jerkbaits and they all worked well. They were all more or less minnow or shad colored..

I tried a Carolina rig with a 4" dead ringer and that worked well but was not as fun to fish as the Ned rig (CR rod is heavier) so I did not fish it as much.

The topwater lure I used was a Lucky Craft Sammy. I am almost embarrassed to admitting I spent that much on a topwater but I have wanted one for years. A few years back I was launching my kayak and someone was shore fishing and some guy was fishing a Sammy. A seagull kept swooping down and almost grabbing it. Ever since that day I wanted one. This was its maiden voyage and it was a good one, but perhaps not an acid test. I am not sure if it really is more realistic looking. I will have to run some tests one of these days pitting it against a Zara Spook.

Well, other than the painful pull up the hill at the end (GR is a bit of a tough launch) it was a magical day.
 

bass

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Thanks @Aervax. No big ones, but when they are that aggressive it is still a ton of fun. Plus, I did not lose my rod! I keep trying an 8lb leader on my spinning rod and I keep breaking it. I am going to give up and stick with 10lb test. I think my rod is a little to stiff for 8lb even with the drag backed off.
 
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