SA Bass

INTERNATIO­NAL

Columbia River Smallmouth Adventure: Lake Bonneville (Hood River, Oregon)

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

(Part 1)” In spring 2017, I had the honor of fishing with David Swendseid, the R&D Manager of DUO Realis U.S.A, on the Columbia River – Fishingboy and David Swendseid (DUO Realis U.S.A)

In spring 2017, I had the honor of fishing with David Swendseid, the R&D Manager of DUO Realis U.S.A, on the Columbia River for early season smallmouth in some of the toughest and extreme river conditions I have ever come face-to-face with in bass fishing.

In this two-part instalment, let us look at the day-two highlights of my trip to Lake Bonneville’s west pool in Hood River, focusing on crankbait fishing in the mid-depth range.

Endurance fishing

The Columbia River is an immense fishery that is dominated by heavy current. It is also the largest body of freshwater I have fished to date. More importantl­y, when river conditions turn rough on the Columbia, it literally puts a whole new meaning to the term ‘endurance fishing’.

Bass fishing on the Columbia River also demands endurance because when the wind blows it transforms the river into an ocean of waves where you will routinely be spending most of your energy battling rough water to keep yourself balanced while you fish. You may be the most skilful angler out there but if you lack the stamina to endure the crashing waves, you will literally get beaten to pieces.

Though I made it through the conditions on Lake Bonneville’s east pool on day-one, what I am about to experience on the west pool was something I did not see coming on day-two.

Lake Bonneville gets rough

Launching at the Hood River marina, we ran downriver and pulled up to fish a protected cove to get things started. Besides the heavy current, wind and waves, conditions out on the east pool where we fished on day-one were immensely different to those in the west pool.

The rough water conditions we encountere­d during our twenty mile (32km) run downriver was a challenge in its own right. Likewise, conditions in most of the protected areas were not better either. The strong winds and choppy water made it impossible for us to access certain areas.

We were constantly on the lookout for areas with conditions that would enable us to reach out to those high percentage areas while staying clear of the wind and heavy current. In all, it was a fine line between getting bit and getting blown out of your fishing areas so to speak.

Though you can always work your way back to your spot, manoeuvrin­g against the heavy current is tough, not even on a 120lb thrust trolling motor on maximum power. Safety is the top priority on the Columbia River, whether you are on fast runs or on the trolling motor.

The mid-depth deal

We adopted the run-and-gun approach, either utilizing the trolling motor or the wind to drift into areas adjacent to heavy current. We caught fish off protected banks with points, bars and other features, in 2.4m to 4.2m of water. Some anglers call that the mid-depth zone.

We often read about deep or shallow water cranking because the large majority of anglers believe bass live either in deep or shallow. On the Columbia however, we can pretty much rule out the shallow deal during the early season but cranking in the mid-depth zone can be loaded with potential, especially in areas that exhibit signs of warming.

Early season smallmouth­s are by instincts creatures in survival mode. Cold water conditions in winter suppress their metabolism, basically shutting them down. In winter, bass can eat once and it can take as long as two weeks to break down the meal. However, when a warming trend is present due to prolonged periods of sunlight, the mid-depth zone can be productive but stability in conditions is what dictates fish activity.

As a case in point, do not limit yourself to transition waters in the 12m to 15m depth range during the early seasons. If water temperatur­es keep rising in the 7.7°C range, even minutely and remain stable for prolonged periods, the mid-depth zone is the deal.

Factors to consider

Although mid-depth cranking can be highly effective on early season smallmouth­s, do not assume you can aimlessly crank around anywhere in 2.5m to 4m of water and catch fish all day. It is not that simple. Some of the primary factors to consider are water clarity, current, vegetation, channel intersecti­ons, sunlight, temperatur­e and so forth.

 ??  ?? I caught my first smallmouth of the day on a Daiwa RPM Crank
I caught my first smallmouth of the day on a Daiwa RPM Crank
 ??  ?? River conditions were still calm and slick near Hood River marina
River conditions were still calm and slick near Hood River marina
 ??  ?? The scenic view of the Columbia River Gorge in Lake Bonneville’s west pool
The scenic view of the Columbia River Gorge in Lake Bonneville’s west pool
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? A nice keeper size smallmouth on DUO Realis Vibration 62
A nice keeper size smallmouth on DUO Realis Vibration 62

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