Wind, Whitecaps and Smallmouth Bass!!

I hit the Columbia on July 2nd with my usual partner in crime. The wind forecast was a little scary and the forecast ended up not doing justice to the wind we endured. Here is the 24 hour wind graph at Cascade Locks for the day:

That was some tough conditions to be out there in a our kayaks! Why would anyone be so stupid as to go out on the Columbia in a glorified piece of Tupperware on a day like that? We knew the smallmouth would be feeding hard in those conditions. Smallmouth love chaos, disorder and bedlam.

We got to the river at daybreak and it was already a little breezy. I headed upstream to a spot that is semi-protected because I was hoping to get some topwater action before the river turned to froth. On my second cast my Choppo was slurped down by a really nice 18", 3lb 2oz smallie. I spent a lot of time positioning the kayak just right to get the bright sky at my back and was holding up the fish - to a camera that was not recording.

On my 3rd cast I caught a nice 16" smallmouth and a few casts later I caught at 16.5" smallie both on the Choppo. I realized that I had forgotten to leash my rods so I pulled up on shore to do that. I went to stop the camera from recording when I realized that it was not recording at all. Argh!

After getting my rods all leashed up I went back to where I had my initial flurry and only lost a small bass and caught one that was probably a pound an quarter or so. Fun fish but it seems like I had used up the quality fish off that spot for the morning.

I zoomed downstream to my buddy to see how he was doing and he had nailed a 19" bass on swimbait. This was to be the start of a day of me catching nice bass and my buddy catching nicer bass :) I can't complain, I had a really good day, he just had a much better one.

We fished around the structure where he had caught the big fish for a fair bit without being able to extract another bite. That is really weird because usually this time of year if you catch a fish, especially a good one, there are quite a few fish around. That is extra true on a big structure like we were fishing. The wind was now picking up to where small whitecaps were forming and it was not quite 7am yet. We clung to the hope that the forecast indicated that the wind was supposed to be at full strength pretty early but then just hold steady there.

After giving up on that spot we tried a couple of spots quickly without a sniff. The sun was shining bright by now and with the wind was blowing hard we went to one of our favorite windy spots (my buddy found that spot a year or two ago) and started working it over. He immediately started catching really nice sized fish (15-17") while I was struggling to keep my kayak positioned in the wind. He then hooked and landed a nice pig of a smallmouth.

He wanted to weigh it on my scale so he pedaled over with the fish. I handed him the scale mid-retrieve and I hooked up! We had a double. His was a 19.75" 4lb 2oz, mine probably weighed a little over a pound. That's just not right :)

We continued to fish that spot and catch bass for quite a while. I eventually pulled a 17" bass off of it, which was nice, but still felt kind of small after seeing my buddy's beast. Eventually we wore that spot out and decided to head down to another spot that is always money.

Apparently the bass did not get the memo because as is so often the with the way of the smallmouth, they were not doing what they were supposed to. We beat that spot pretty hard but my buddy only managed a couple of dinks right next to sure. I probed deeper and did not mark a fish nor get a sniff.

We gave up on that spot and headed out to some mid-river humps and islands and these were clearly much smarter bass because they were doing what they were supposed to. My buddy and I each managed a handful of bass but he again caught the biggest fish off that spot (an 18.75"). I can't complain because I was catching some nice fish but dang you start to feel like you are doing something wrong.

We continued to fish around offshore structure. The bass seemed to want to be in 12-17' of water near a break. It was a struggle all day long to battle the current and the wind but when the fish are biting you persevere. We moved from spot to spot, sometimes fishing together and sometimes dividing a conquering. Some spots were empty and others were loaded up pretty good.

The really cool thing is how hard those fish were fighting. I think the wind blowing us upstream while the current running decently hard really accentuated the fights. Time and again I would think I had a 3-4lb bass and it would turn out to be a 2 to 2.5lb bass. I hooked one bass on a spot with a lot of current and I thought I was snagged for at least 5-10 seconds. I finally landed that fish and it was a 2lber. Such a fun day of those fish fighting like demons.

Towards the early afternoon we thought about heading upstream a ways to fish and got about 1/2 way there when I told my buddy I was feeling too tired to go further. He decided he had caught enough and so we turned around and headed back to the ramp through the waves that were now big enough to occasionally break over our bows. I am so impressed with how well both of our kayaks handle those rough conditions.

I ended the day with 17 bass with my best 3 going (18, 17.75 and 17"). I caught quite a few in the 15-16" range as well. My buddy must have caught 25-30 bass and his best 5 measured out to 93.5" which is a monster day. It is funny how some days one or the other of us consistently catches more big fish even though we are fishing fairly identically. To be fair we both caught some dinks as well but overall the fish quality was really nice.

Here is a picture of one of my nicer ones.

Here is some video from the day.

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