IN­TER­NA­TIONAL

Columbia River Small­mouth Ad­ven­ture: Lake Bon­neville ( The Dalles, Ore­gon)

SA Bass - - Contents -

“Com­bat­ing Rough Wa­ter (Part 2)” Cold wa­ter makes bass fish­ing gen­er­ally dif­fi­cult, not just on the Columbia River, but ev­ery­where too. – Fish­ing­boy and David Swend­seid (DUO Re­alis U.S.A)

Cold wa­ter makes bass fish­ing gen­er­ally dif­fi­cult, not just on the Columbia River, but ev­ery­where too. In con­di­tions found in the North Coun­try of the U.S., how­ever, cold wa­ter makes fish­ing gen­er­ally dif­fi­cult, not just for the an­gler but for the fish liv­ing in it too.

This is a time when small­mouths and other or­gan­isms are try­ing to stay alive. Early sea­son small­mouths stay alive by re­lat­ing to en­vi­ron­ments that re­ward them with pro­tec­tion and for­age. In some en­vi­ron­ments, other fac­tors such as wa­ter clar­ity and sun­light pen­e­tra­tion are more vi­tal than wa­ter tem­per­a­ture it­self and you will see why that is so.

Clear wa­ter al­lows bet­ter pen­e­tra­tion of sun­light that brings heat. Im­proved vis­i­bil­ity also en­ables fish to po­si­tion them­selves bet­ter for the hunt. Sun­light en­er­gizes aquatic micro­organ­isms and ac­ti­vates plant mat­ter and warms the en­vi­ron­ment. There­fore, sun­light above other vi­tal fac­tors is an im­por­tant el­e­ment in both small­mouth and for­age mo­ments.

River small­mouths in the North Coun­try seek deep, slow, al­most mo­tion­less wa­ter in win­ter. Big rivers of­ten have back­wa­ter pools for win­ter­ing. How­ever, that is not the case in Lake Bon­neville where most of the con­duc­tive ar­eas are pri­mar­ily main river ar­eas.

>> Story and Im­ages by Fish­ing­boy and David Swend­seid (DUO Re­alis U.S.A)

Our strat­egy was to fo­cus on pro­tected banks, riprap banks, stone walls with bluff or slop­ing banks, and pro­tected ar­eas in and be­hind cur­rent breaks. De­spite our best ef­forts to stay out of the wind, we were fre­quently en­gaged in ‘com­bat fish­ing’ mode, a term coined by Swend­seid to de­note the way he fishes on the Columbia River. What is com­bat fish­ing?

Com­bat fish­ing for small­mouth bass

Com­bat fish­ing is a men­tal­ity and an ex­e­cu­tion of fish­ing hard and di­rect on spe­cific tar­gets. For in­stance, tar­get crank­ing and cast­ing to spe­cific sub­merge rock or grass and so forth. Com­bat fish­ing is usu­ally ex­e­cuted with the uti­liza­tion of re­ac­tion baits but can also be done with other ‘com­bat lures’ such as jigs, spin­ner­baits, swim­baits, blade baits and so forth.

Com­bat fish­ing is about get­ting your baits into cover and ex­tract­ing bass from cover, fight­ing it out in a slugfest man­ner. The way we com­bat fished for small­mouth on Lake Bon­neville in­volves more than just that. It was a twopart strat­egy that in­volves tar­get se­lec­tion and how you ap­proach those se­lected tar­gets ef­fec­tively.

When se­lect­ing and dis­sect­ing tar­gets we sought out shore­line ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties that are vis­i­ble to the naked eye that

would lit­er­ally prop­a­gate un­der­wa­ter to hone in our baits. For in­stance, breaks, cuts or even cul­verts on oth­er­wise straight cut banks and so forth.

In ad­di­tion to that, cov­er­ing wa­ter is im­per­a­tive. Most of the bites were un­com­mit­ted or sub­tle and the big small­mouths were mostly hold­ing out deep, of­ten on mud bot­tom or rocks. Some of the baits that were cru­cial to our ap­proach fish­ing deep were crankbaits, li­p­less vi­bra­tion crankbaits, sink­ing glide­baits as well as drop­shot, split­shot and light Texas-rig.

As you can see, we had to com­bine fi­nesse tac­tics with com­bat fish­ing strate­gies be­cause the re­ac­tion bites were still un­con­ducive in the pre­dom­i­nantly cold wa­ter con­di­tions.

Top baits of the day

The baits that were vi­tal to our strate­gies for early sea­son small­mouth on Lake Bon­neville’s east pool were mainly deep run­ning and bot­tom con­tact baits.

Deep wa­ter pat­terns were the deal of the day. The re­ac­tion baits that were im­per­a­tive to our ap­proach were the DUO Re­alis Crank M65 and Re­alis Vi­bra­tion. We utilised the 8A and 11A vari­ants, as well as the Vi­bra­tion 62 and 68 G-Fix vari­ants. The M65 and Vi­bra­tion cast ac­cu­rately, even in strong winds, and are ex­tremely durable from a struc­tural in­tegrity front.

In deep ar­eas where the crankbait bite is un­con­ducive, we would switch to ei­ther Vi­bra­tion 62 or 68 G-Fix. Col­ors were not re­ally the make or break deal. We were pri­mar­ily us­ing Char­treuse Blues (ACC3126), Mus­tard Seed (ACC3067) and Om­n­i­craw (CCC3014).

In ar­eas where we had to switch things up to fi­nesse fish­ing, we re­lied on the 4” Zoom Baby Brush Hog crea­ture bait for bot­tom con­tact pre­sen­ta­tion, ei­ther on split-shot or light Texas-rig. I caught one of the big­gest fish of the day on a Texas-rigged 6.5” Zoom Trick Worm but the worm bite was not as con­duc­tive as I had an­tic­i­pated.

I even caught a de­cent size fish in deep wa­ter on a Gan Craft Jointed Claw 148 glide­bait and some shal­low on 1/2oz spin­ner­bait. As you can see, there was not much of a

pre­dom­i­nant pat­tern. I ended up catch­ing all of my fish on dif­fer­ent baits, pri­mar­ily fish­ing deep.

Get­ting di­alled-in

De­spite the rough con­di­tions, my first day on the Columbia River ex­ceeded all my ex­pec­ta­tions. From an an­gling per­spec­tive, how­ever, I was amazed by how well things had panned out.

For a small­mouth bass rookie, I was grate­ful to be fish­ing un­der Swend­seid’s guid­ance and catch­ing qual­ity fish con­sis­tently in some of the rough­est con­di­tions I have seen on a fresh­wa­ter river sys­tem. Frankly speak­ing, get­ting di­alled-in to the fish­ing as early as Day-1 was the one thing I did not see com­ing.

All in all, we had an awe­some day and our tac­tics worked out pretty well. Im­por­tantly, the re­sults of the day had lit­er­ally filled me with new­found con­fi­dence for what is to come next.

Com­ing up in the next in­stal­ment

Check out next month’s in­stal­ment to find out more about early sea­son small­mouth fish­ing in rough wa­ter con­di­tions on the Columbia River’s Lake Bon­neville, where we would be headed to Hood River, Ore­gon to fish the west pool where con­di­tions are dif­fer­ent.

In the next is­sue: We look at the Day-2 high­lights of my trip to Lake Bon­neville’s west pool in Hood River, fo­cus­ing on crankbait fish­ing in the mid-depth range.

Rough wa­ter ma­noeu­vring had in­con­ve­niently be­come a rou­tine for us

The ma­jes­tic Lyle Bluffs on the Wash­ing­ton State shore­line of the Columbia River

This is an area where I caught my first of my many big small­mouths

Swend­seid works a slop­ing bank in an area where the wind is in­cred­i­bly strong. No­ticed the wind­surfers in the back­ground?

The M65 Crank 8A in Mus­tard Seed color pat­tern is a solid per­former

Swend­seid checks out some of the big small­mouths in the live-well

Climb­ing waves and ma­noeu­vring through swells looks so easy aboard the Al­li­son

Swend­seid delivers his Columbia River small­mouth one-two punch

My first small­mouth bass fish­ing trip on the Columbia River turned out to be bet­ter than I had ex­pected

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