Apr 212016

Early season smallmouth bass fishing can be hit and miss until the most of the fish start moving as the water gets warmer. You may only catch a couple bass, but the odds are they will be the bigger and more aggressive fish. While a trophy smallmouth can be caught any time during the year, the early season “pre-spawn” and “spawning” phases of a smallmouth bass’s life are the best time to catch a big one and can result in some great smallmouth bass fishing.

Yesterday, the forecast was for a relatively windy day so it was not even sure we’d be fishing. The wind was calm before sunrise, so we decided to take a chance and at least get a few hours of fishing in before the wind came up. The river is running high with strong currents in places so even a moderate amount of wind would make kayak fishing more difficult. With strong winds forecast for the next few days and the fishing getting better every day, it might be the last fishing for a few days, so we headed out and arrived on the river with a light east wind. Things started out slowly until I picked up a medium size bass but it was looking like we would have to cover some ground and hopefully, find the fish before the wind picked up. The fishing remained slow for the next hour or so as we tried out the spots that usually produce fish without much success. The wind picked up a little then suddenly went calm and it turned into a perfect day for kayak fishing. As the kayaking conditions improved, so did our luck in finding the bass. I got a big hit fishing a grub near a downed tree and hooked a nice sized fish that immediately took to the air.

Columbia River smallmouth bass fishing

It was a nice fish, might have been the biggest fish of the year so far. After releasing the fish, I cast the grub back in the same general vicinity and got another huge hit and had another fish on. I could tell that this fish was even bigger than the one I just caught, but this smallie headed for the bottom. I worked it to the surface and could see it was a big fish, but at that very instant, the bass threw the lure and got away! A couple more casts but the magic was gone, so I moved to another spot. I was still kind of thinking of the one that just got away when I got another big hit and I could tell that this was a really nice fish. The fish made several runs for the bottom and tried swimming into the nearby trees but I managed to get the fish to the surface and could see that this was a huge snallmouth bass. I think it tried to jump but it may have been too big. I tired it out, grabbed it and lifted it into the kayak.

Big Columbia River smallmouth bass

This smallmouth bass is easily the biggest fish of the year so far and could easily wind up being the biggest smallmouth of the year. This fish is probably in the 5-6 pound, 21 inch range. Once smallmouth bass get close to twenty inches long, they may only grow another inch or two, but they get “chunkier”; this bass was pretty chunky. Exactly what we are looking for when we get out there for early spring smallmouth bass fishing.

Big Columbia River smallmouth bass

We’ve got this great day of smallmouth bass fishing on video, so we will probably do an early spring smallmouth bass fishing video but we’ll probably go a couple more times and see if we can get more trophy bass. One of our GoPro cameras bit the dust so we have to deal with that but as soon as these windy days pass, we are back out there, for sure.

Apr 192016

The weather has been pretty nice and the wind has remained calm which has allowed us to get out early this spring to do some smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River. The water is still on the cold side and due to the spring rain and melting snow from the local mountains, the water level is very high, which is the exact opposite condition from last year’s extra dry winter. The bass fishing was relatively poor last spring so we are hoping the return of more normal water levels will result in better fishing. The high water levels mean that the flow of the river can be very fast and strong in spots and there are dangerous currents and whirlpools that kayak fishermen need to be aware of because you can get into trouble very quickly when the conditions are like this. The biggest factor this time of the year, as usual, is the wind.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River

The game plan is simple; keep looking until you find the fish. If you find where the bass are hanging out, stick around until they stop biting, then start looking again. This time of the season, you have to cover some river to find the fish. So far, we’ve had the best success and caught the biggest bass, fishing lead head grubs off the bottom. We’ve had a few hits on crankbaits, but keep going back to the plastics.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River

The bass fishing is picking up as the water gets warmer. The early moving fish are a little larger than normal size bass and are hard fighters.

Columbia River smallmouth bass

The water level in the Columbia River is going to start dropping as spring turns into summer and the wind is always a factor so you have to keep on top of the conditions to get the best fishing. Looks like a few windy days coming up so we will probably have to put the kayak fishing on hold for a while.

Apr 092016

The smallmouth bass were nowhere to be found last week, but we had much better luck this time around. It’s still pretty early in the season, so at this time of year, you may not catch many fish, might not catch any at all, but if you do find the fish, they are bigger than your average bass. The water in the Columbia River is warming up to the point where bass will start moving. The water level in the Columbia River is governed by the huge dams, the “pools” between dams is just like a big bathtub. When the water level change is sudden, the smallmouth bass don’t seem to bite as well, but it looks like the smallmouth fishing should be picking up for the spring.

Columbia River smallmouth bass kayak fishing

It was a beautiful early spring day in the Columbia River Gorge, calm wind, sunny and warm. Still plenty of snow in the nearby mountains and the river water is still cold.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River

I fished for a few hours without much success, so while I was heading in I decided to try one last stop. It was worth it because I caught the first fish of the year, a decent size smallmouth plus bass number two and bass number three were bigger! Always nice to know the fish are still there.

Columbia River smallmouth bass fishing

We think the smallmouth bass fishing will start picking up, especially in the shallow sections of the river near drop-offs. It’s a good time to try for that trophy bass.

Mar 272016

A few days ago we took a look at some of the rods and reels we use for smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River, today we’ll have a look at some of the lures we use. All the lures in this article have been used over a period of time and all have caught smallmouth bass on a regular basis, that’s why we use them. As always, we here at watermanatwork.com are not “sponsored” by anybody and pay for our own gear, so many of these lures are on the less expensive side. Besides, the Columbia River is full of rocks and submerged trees so you will lose some tackle. The inexpensive lures catch just as many fish as the more expensive ones.

The first type of lures we use are crankbaits. In the photo below, the top lure is a Rapala Countdown, a basic weighted crankbait that runs below the surface but not too deep. It also has good action due to the large plastic lip. The lure in the middle is a Rapala X-Rap, an easy to cast, suspended lure that dives when retrieved or yanked. The crankbait on the bottom is the Storm Wiggle Wart. Wiggle Warts are a big favorite here in the Columbia River Gorge because they catch all kinds of fish from big smallmouth bass to trophy steelhead and salmon. By varying retrieve speed and jerking the fishing rod during the retrieve, crankbaits can be very effective for big smallmouth bass. We use crankbaits primarily in the spring, when smallmouth bass are spawning, by casting near spawning nests. They also work well when the bigger bass start moving from deeper water into the shallows early in the season. Crankbaits are not as effective as the water warms up and the fish head to deeper water. There are crankbaits that run deep, but run the risk of being snagged on rocks and submerged trees, which is not good because these lures tend to be rather expensive. The Wiggle Warts are about $5-7.00 or so, the Rapala Countdown and X-Rap are about $9-10.00, so you can see that losing this kind of lure can get pretty expensive. Everyone has their favorite crankbait for smallmouth bass and one lure may work better than another in different locations, but these are the crankbaits we use the most.

Crankbaits for smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River

The next kind of lure we use are spinnerbaits. These lures work best when the smallmouth bass are active and swimming in shallow water or near rocky shorelines and submerged structure. Smallmouth bass are very aggressive fish and will hit these lures very quickly after they hit the water and start your retrieve. They are a lot of fun to fish with because bass of all sizes will hit them and hit them hard. Varying retrieve speed will often entice bass to bite. Trying different colors can make a big difference; we prefer the darker colors on overcast days and the brighter colored spinnerbaits on sunny days. Overall, the green and yellow spinnerbait is our favorite. Spinnerbaits cost anywhere from $4-7.00 and we have found that the cheaper lures work just as well as the brand name versions.

Spinnerbaits used for smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River

Next, we have soft baits, or plastics, as they are commonly known. This type of lure, as the name states, is a plastic version of some kind of bait with a hook in it. There are every kind of creature soft baits you can think of; worms, fish, lizards, crayfish, frogs and some things we are not sure what they are supposed to be. We are not going to cover every single type of plastic bait, just the ones we use most of the time. In the photo below, on top there are a couple Storm Wild Eye Shad swimbaits. The one on the right is unused, the one on the left was thrown into a tackle box with some other plastics and some of the color transfered(you can see the tail is about the same color as the reddish worms), so it’s a good idea to separate the colors, just like the laundry. We use these shad swimbaits in the same way we would use a crankbait. The big difference is the plastic swimbaits only cost a buck or two each so it’s a lot cheaper when you lose them. Below the swimbaits are three plastic worms with 1/8 ounce yellow lead heads. The top two worms are unused, the worm on the bottom has been well chewed by smallmouth bass and the paint has chipped off the lead head from bouncing off rocks. We fish these worms off the bottom; drop them down, wait a few seconds, reel in a little and let them drop to the bottom again. Many times, the fish will hit the bait as it falls towards the bottom. Plastic worms are some of the most popular smallmouth bass fishing lures because they catch a lot of fish and are pretty cheap; a worm and lead head is less than a dollar. They work very well in the heat of summer when the smallmouth bass have moved to the deeper parts of the river. We like the reddish or green worms best, they come in just about every color imaginable, so you have to find out which color works best for you.

Soft baits for smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River

Last, but not least, we use a soft bait called grubs. Grubs are our favorite smallmouth bass lure. We have caught more smallies on grubs than all the other types of lures put together. Not only do they catch every size of bass from six inches to twenty plus inch trophy fish, they are the cheapest lures of all. On the left in the photo below are three, three inch Kalin Lunker Grubs with 1/8 oz. lead heads. The grub on the bottom is just about chewed up by bass and the paint is chipped off the lead head from bouncing off rocks. The two grubs on the right are a different brand, but similar in color and size. We like the reddish or reddish brown colors because they look like crayfish, a smallmouth bass’s favorite food. Just like other soft baits, there are many different styles and color grubs. Fishing off the bottom, near rocky shorelines or around submerged rocks and structures, these humble grubs almost always catch fish. A grub and 1/8 oz. lead head is going to be in the two for a buck range so losing a few is not going to ruin your day.

Plastic grubs used for smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River

We don’t use swivels or clips with any of these lures, tie the lure directly to the line. There are other ways to successfully fish for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River, but these basic lures should work nearly all the time. When fishing for bass and one lure isn’t working, try another one. One lure may work in the morning and another may work later in the day. When you get some bass fishing experience, it’s pretty easy to figure out what lure will be your best shot given the conditions at hand. A kayak is the perfect vehicle to go after smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass are some of the best pound for pound fighters in fresh water and you can catch them just about anywhere on the Columbia River.

Mar 262016

It turned out to be a pretty good day for kayak fishing for the first fishing trip of 2016. A little chilly in the morning, about 40°F out the door. The wind was calm with overcast skies as we headed out on the Columbia River for the first smallmouth bass fishing trip of 2016. After chasing fish for a few hours, the fish report, including the ones we threw back, totaled exactly zero fish. We didn’t have any bites nor did we mark any fish on the fishfinder. It’s not that big of a surprise because this is the earliest we’ve gone out fishing for quite a few years, so the water in the Columbia River is still on the cold side for decent fishing. The water temps on the main river were in the high forties and the warmest water we encountered, in a shallow slough, was a bit over 50°. That’s about five degrees colder than what we would consider to be reasonable for smallmouth bass to move onto spawning beds.

First 2016 fishing trip on the Columbia River

Even though we didn’t have much luck today, now we have a good idea of exactly where we stand as far as fishing conditions go. You want to be on top of the bass when they start to move looking for spawning beds. The big fish move first and you want to be there when they do. That should only be another week or so. Because of the lack of snow and rain last winter, the spring smallmouth bass fishing last year was terrible. Many of the typical smallmouth bass spawning areas were dry land. That won’t be the case this year so we expect the next time we head out looking for bass, we are going to find them.

Mar 252016

The kayak is out of the garage, checked out and ready to go. The fishing tackle is rigged and set up for smallmouth bass. Best of all, the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate(for one day at least) so we are ready to fish. The 2016 fishing season starts tomorrow!

The kayak is ready to go. The 2016 fishing season starts tomorrow!

We’ll see how things go, very early in the season and the water is still on the cold side. We are hoping to get the first fish of 2016, but even if we don’t catch anything, it will be great to be back on the water after months of cold, gray and wet weather.

We’ll have another post on the smallmouth bass lures that have worked well for us when we get back from fishing. Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day, but rain and wind is in the forecast for the next couple days after that so it will be back indoors, hopefully for the last two days of winter.

Mar 222016

Time to start gearing up for the 2016 smallmouth bass fishing season. In the last post, we went over the licensing and permits necessary for fishing on the Columbia River, where we will be doing most of the fishing for smallmouth bass. In this post, we’ll take a look at the fishing rods and reels we use for smallmouth bass fishing. We got all of our bass fishing tackle out and had a look to see what we need to do to get ready to fish.

Smallmouth bass fishing gear

The smallmouth bass on the Columbia River where we usually fish run anywhere from a quarter pound to five or six pounds, maybe a little bigger. We consider any bass over 20″ to be a trophy sized fish. Depending on the fishing conditions, we hope to catch at least six to ten trophy bass, more if we get lucky. Usually, the bass are in the 12-16″ range. The Washington State Record is 8.75 lbs. and the Oregon State Record is 8 lb. 12 oz. The Oregon bass was taken out of Henry Hagg Lake and the Washington bass was taken out of the Columbia River. The biggest smallmouth I’ve ever caught has been about six pounds. Smallmouth bass are hard hitting, hard fighting fish, especially for their size. That’s why they are so popular with recreational fishermen. We release all the smallmouth bass we catch, so somewhere out in the Columbia is a new state record waiting to be caught.

To go after the smallmouth bass, we use light spinning tackle most of the time. You do a lot of casting so it’s easier with a spinning rod. I use two spinning rod setups. One is an ultralight 4-10 lb. rig with a Shakespeare 7′ Ultralight fishing pole and a Shakespeare MSSP20 MicroSpin reel. I bought it at WalMart for about $30 to replace a similar setup that a fish pulled in the water while I was messing around with my camera gear. The reel is spooled with 10 lb. test monofilament. In the photo below, it is on the top.

Fishing rods and reels used for smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River

The second spinning setup is a 6-12 lb. rig with a Shakespeare EXS662M Medium action rod. It used to be 6’6″ but I broke it and repaired it so now it’s more like 6′. This is about as heavy of a fishing rod as I would go for smallmouth bass, but I’m not going to go out and buy another rod right now. The reel is an Okuma Avenger AV30b. It’s a nice looking reel, got it on sale for about $30 because my old Shakespeare I was using wore out after a few seasons. This setup will be good for even the biggest smallmouth bass. The Okuma Avenger reel is also spooled with 10lb. test line. In the photo above, it is the spinning setup in the middle.

Finally, we have a 6-10 lb. setup with a Shakespeare SC 60 2M 6′ Medium action fishing rod with a Daiwa Lexa 100HL casting reel. I use this rig with a sliding sinker bait setup to fish on the bottom using worms as bait. We’ll have more details about this later, but this reel is spooled with 20 lb. test Power Pro braided Spectra line with a 20 lb. test monofilament leader. We have pretty good success with the time tested artificial lures we use, but sometimes nothing beats an old fashioned worm on a hook. After spring spawning, the big bass head for deeper water so this is a good way to go. We also catch a lot of sturgeon this way, maybe even a walleye; that’s a little extra action. The sturgeon can get 10-15 lbs. or bigger, so this is a pretty good all purpose rig for bottom fishing on the Columbia. This setup is on the bottom in the photo above.

None of the rods or reels we use are very expensive because the lower price fishing gear works just as well as the more expensive stuff. You can spend more, lots more, on high end rods and reels, but they are not going to catch any more fish than the less expensive tackle. We’ve caught plenty of trophy bass with the gear we use and you can too.

That’s it for today, next time we’ll be having a look at our smallmouth bass approved selection of lures, so check back if you want to start catching those bass!

Mar 212016

As the summer fishing season gets underway, we thought we would answer some commonly asked questions about licenses and permits so kayak fishermen can get the paperwork they need before they start fishing. There is a lot of incorrect information floating around Northwest kayak fishing forums, so we advise you check out the information here and then double check on the Washington and Oregon fishing regulations if you want to be 100% sure. Here is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. You can buy licenses online and both states have downloadable copies of fishing regulations.

For Washington and Oregon, you will need a fishing license if you are over 16 years old. If you fish on the Columbia River, either license will do, no matter which state you launch from. If you paddle up an out of state tributary of the Columbia, you will need a non-resident license. You will need to have a PFD(Personal Flotation Device, commonly known as a life jacket), a signalling device(we use whistles) and if you launch from Oregon, an Oregon Invasive Species Permit. Most of the enforcement of these regulations is done by local and state law enforcement officers. They already have their hands full and some of the regulations have “gray areas” so show some respect if you get checked out. One of those “gray areas” I have experienced first hand deals with the Oregon Invasive Species permit. I’ve been told by WDFW that the Invasive Species permit is not required if you are a Washington resident, even if you launch from Oregon. The Oregon law enforcement personnel I have encountered along the Columbia River have told me it is required. For $5, just buy the permit and avoid the issue. If you make an honest mistake or oversight, odds are they will let you slide, but they will take your drivers license info and if they catch you again, you’ll be fined. All the officers we have encountered, mostly along the Columbia River, have been understanding and totally cool.

There are a couple more permits you might consider before you head out fishing on the Columbia River. They are parking permits. Oregon has the Oregon State Parks Parking Permit. It’s $30 for an annual permit or $5 a day. You have to get the annual permit at a State Park office or online. They do check for permits so it’s a good idea to buy one. Washington has the Discover Pass, same deal as the Oregon parking permit. Some of the parks have no onsite office, so you have to pay the daily rate if you don’t already have the annual pass. The annual Discovery Pass is $35 or $10 a day. There are other places, like those managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, where these passes don’t work and you have to pay the daily parking or camping fee.

That should take care of all the legal stuff, next, we’ll be gearing up to get the smallmouth bass fishing season started.

Mar 142016

The La Jolla Kayak Fishing 1998-2006 video is online at watermanatwork.com. It’s a look at kayak fishing in the early days at one of Southern California’s best inshore fishing spots. All original footage in the old 720 x 480 video format but encoded in MP4 to play on any computer or mobile device. Original soundtrack by Andy Shonley.

Click HERE to check out the video or click on the photo below

La Jolla Kayak Fishing 1998-2006 video

Enjoy the video and keep checking back for more watermanatwork.com stuff because there is more coming soon!