Due to the low water levels and unseasonably warm water, the usually great late spring/early summer smallmouth bass fishing has not been that good. In addition, we’ve had more than our fair share of windy days which has limited the fishing opportunities. Fortunately, we have one of the best smallmouth bass fishing spots in the United States about an hour up the road; the John Day River. If you can’t catch smallmouth bass on the John Day, then the end of the world is probably right around the corner.
We headed to the John Day and got out on the river early because the weather here was really, really hot. It was about 80° an hour before sunrise and the river water was in the low 80’s. Normally you would see these temperatures in late August, but it’s only the beginning of June. The John Day River is a great kayak fishing spot, the cool early morning is one of the best times of the day.
The fishing was a little slower than normal. Usually, on the John Day River, it is not unusual to catch over a hundred smallmouth bass a day. This time, we probably caught about fifty fish a day, which is not bad at all, but expectations on the John Day are pretty high. We usually use a lead head grub that looks like a small crayfish, this lure will catch all sizes of smallmouth bass, even when other lures are not working. Our favorite summer mid-day lure is a spinnerbait with a green and orange skirt. This lure may not catch as many bass, but the bigger fish tend to hit this spinnerbait more often than the smaller fish.
We stopped fishing in the early afternoon, usually about 2:00PM, not because the fish stopped biting, but because it was so hot. The hottest part of the day here is in the afternoon, by 2:00 or 3:00PM, it was 100°. Preventing sunburn was a major task, it took repeated applications of SPF 30 sunscreen to prevent being burned to a crisp. There are not a lot of trees around here, shade is hard to come by. Finding a tree to camp under is a real bonus, even though it is still blazing hot, even in the shade.
As is usually the case on the John Day, you can catch fifty pounds, or more, of smallmouth bass per day, usually a half pound to a pound at a time. If you know where to look and cast your lure in the right spot, there are bigger fish to be had. Catching one pounders that put up a great fight on light tackle while hoping for that twenty incher that will put up a fantastic fight on light tackle is what smallmouth bass fishing on the John Day River is all about.
We would have liked to stay another day, but it was just too hot. Today it was 105° on the John Day, that’s uncomfortably hot to be sitting in a kayak all day totally exposed to the sun. We’ll go back again when it cools off a bit.