“Combating Rough Water (Part 1)” The Columbia River is a worldclass fishery that needs no introduction in the world of bass and multispecies angling, from smallmouth to salmon to sturgeon, and you name it. – Fishingboy and David Swendseid
The Columbia River is a world-class fishery that needs no introduction in the world of bass and multispecies angling, from smallmouth to salmon to sturgeon, and you name it.
In spring 2017, I had the honor of fishing with the R&D Specialist of DUO Realis U.S.A, David Swendseid on the Columbia River for early season smallmouth in some of the most gruelling and intense river conditions I had ever come face-to-face with in bass fishing.
Stay tuned as I bring you the Day-1 highlights of my trip, from combating rough water while I learned to catch smallmouth on Lake Bonneville’s east pool, plus some insights into useful tips you could use to elevate your smallmouth bass fishing approach in South Africa.
Bass fishing in the U.S. Pacific Northwest
Before I talk about the fishing focuses on Lake Bonneville, let us veer onto the subject of bass fishing in the U.S. Pacific Northwestern regions of Oregon and Washington State.
The U.S.A is the world’s third largest country by land area, as well as the bass fishing capitol of the world, and a geographically diverse country. From a bass fishing perspective, however, the same holds true. Although the sport may not be as popular as the U.S. states in the West, Midwest, Southeast and Southwest, the Pacific Northwest packs lots of untapped potential, notably smallmouth whereby the species is widespread in this region of abundant rainfall with moderate, oceanic climate that is wet, windy and cool in autumn, winter and spring.
Swendseid and I are scheduled to hit the water on back-to-back days, a week in mid to late April, during the spring transitional period that is marked by highly unstable weather that sets up incredibly challenging conditions, literally on my first day on the water in the U.S.A.
My first U.S. bass fishing trip
I have been counting down the days to my first bass fishing trip in the U.S. since I was in college. Over the years, my work as a freelance columnist for angling magazines overseas has progressively enabled me to bass fish in several other countries through collaborative teamups and invitations but opportunities from the U.S. never emerged until recently.
In fact, the seeds of the opportunity finally landed in 2015 in the form of a strategic team-up between myself and the R&D Specialist of DUO Realis U.S.A for a front cover story on spybaiting for Malaysia’s Rod&Line magazine (issue #235, July 2015), as well as a short feature on DUO Realis Crank G87 deep crankbaits for Lure Magazine of South Korea.
In retrospect, even if I could afford guided bass fishing trips in the U.S., in all honesty, that is not the way I envisioned myself going forward with a trip I have yearned for since my college days, especially if it is the first trip and I want it to be a meaningful experience.
No doubt, the Columbia River has always been high on my bucket list of smallmouth waters. Though I have caught largemouths in countries such as France, China, South Africa and South Korea, I have still yet to experience smallmouth bass fishing in any shape or form but that is set to change.
The road to Lake Bonneville
My road trip to Lake Bonneville, a Columbia River reservoir in the Columbia River Gorge, from central Oregon totalled 211kms or three hours on scenic The Dalles – California Highway of Route 97 and 197, respectively.
We were headed to The Dalles Yacht Club marina for an early launch on a seemingly calm day but everything changed the moment we idled past the marina breakwall. That day, I learned not to trust the weatherman when it comes to forecasts on the Columbia River areas.
Battling rough water
Our battle with rough water began as soon as we exited the marina. For most of the day, we were climbing and evading waves as high as 3m, for which had also inconveniently become a routine of the day for us. In fact, Lake Bonneville felt more like an ocean with conditions that thrill seekers would go windsurfing instead of bass fishing. However, there is some science behind the windy weather phenomena.
Rough water conditions in the Columbia River is mainly
caused by atmospheric pressure differentials east and west of the Cascades mountain range creating a wind tunnel effect in the deep gorge that generates 60km/h winds. In addition to topological factors, rough water could also be caused by heavy current generated from flow regulation of the run-of-the-river dams.
Locating early season smallmouth
From a fishing perspective, I read that the best fishing season for smallmouth up north starts in late April or early May, ahead of the spawn. And, locating smallmouths in those conditions often depend on the temperature gauge.
Every fishery is unique and the Columbia River is no different. However, the key factors to look out for when it comes to locating high percentage fish holding areas could not be any dissimilar. I was glad that Swendseid had
no reservations in sharing his views and experience as a tournament angler on strategies for locating smallmouth in cold water.
The worst of cold water conditions is muddy water that is rising with falling temperatures. That holds true even in equatorial climate fishing conditions in Malaysia where I fish for butterfly peacock bass in the Perak River system lakes, especially during the monsoons. On the Columbia River, however, we were dealing with early season conditions where the water temperature gauge primarily reads 7°C. Now that is a whole different story.
To be continued…
The Allison BasSport Pro XB-21 in The Dalles Yacht Club boat dock launched and ready to head out to rough water
Swendseid works a deep water area beside a bluff
This is an area where I caught a big smallmouth on Texas-rig Zoom Trick Worm
A fishy looking area where the current is incredibly heavy
My two biggest smallmouths of the day came on a glidebait and straight tail worm
Swendseid’s way of summarizing his day on Lake Bonneville
The chartplotter guided us into a shallow area on the Washington State shoreline
Swendseid caught this solid fish on a DUO Realis M65 Crank 8A
The DUO Realis M65 Crank 8A is one of the top baits of the day