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Columbia River Smallmouth Bass Fishing Report
Category : BASS FISHING REPORTS
Celilo Pool Hot August Bites
That’s the title of my post after the other day on Celilo pool of the Columbia River. Actually it was a much more important launch,.. I’ve got a club tournament Aug 30th and I’m in contention for AOY. My schedule won’t allow any throw outs. My best five have to be enough! Then a TBF Qualifier there on September 12th. Both scheduled during the most stable weather of the year, but the winds can always blow hard any day there. The club will move the event if it’s too bad. TBF won’t move for high winds.
So I set out to establish some new spots close to the ramp in case the wind and waves are up. This will hopefully minimize the beating to get to productive water.
The Celilo pool was flat as a pancake, the water clarity high so I could see in shallow water locations and I took advantage of the conditions. I found sand bars at the mouth of the Deschutes, a huge gravel bar that extended for two hundred yards off a mid river island. I even found a flat strewn with bathtub size boulders that won’t be of any use for the upcoming tournaments, too far from the main channel in slack water. But, will be ideal for spring and won’t be visible when the water is up and it’s murky but I marked several of them on the GPS for future outings.
Current is key I’m finding this year,.. I can pick off fish up on calm flats, but locations near current seams are the ones that produce consistently.
After all these years it occurred to me the first time this week to fish the mouth of the Deschutes river. It’s a cool water tributary that was 6 or 7 degrees cooler than the Columbia. The flows late summer are low enough now not to be too disruptive and fish were boiling everywhere along the current seam where the rivers came together. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them to go.
Then while I was up looking on a featureless sand flat about 2ft deep with ripples the current created, I spotted a good size fish with a square tail cruising, a big smallmouth! So I made a cast just to the side over the drop-off in open water. As she headed in the direction of my bait I twitched it, and I thought I saw her accelerate just as she disappeared out of sight. I held my breath. Five seconds later, BAM! She went ballistic! She bolted sideways across the flat then leaped in the air splashed down and made a 180 for the channel. One of the longest smallmouth I have ever seen. Her tail was as big as your hand. She was a marvel specimen. I put her in the well.
It was the only bite I got in that area, but I marked it on the GPS. I continued searching around and found the Deschutes area had more gravel/sand bars and scattered weed clumps and various channels. My first three spots including the new flat with boulders only produced two 2lbers. I spent the early morning on these and I might have waited too long before coming to the Deschutes.
Down stream from the Deschutes as the river turns north is a rip rap bank along the freeway that is shielded from west winds by high bluffs,.. It has been a few years since I had fished the section, but one summer it produced quality fish. I was surprised how much current ran along this bank and thought it might be a great opportunity to try some new Trigger X swimbaits I wanted to test, bigger baits 4.5″ instead of skinny 4″. That’s big bait in the river in late summer. It didn’t take long and I had a couple nice 2.5lb fish in the boat.
This spot was also great for dragging a tube down where the rip rap lies on the river bed. I pulled out a 4.25″ Gitzit slim tube and rigged it on a 1/4 oz thin wire wide gap tube head made by Cabelas, It looked just like the sculpins the fish spit up sometimes it seemed ideal. Drifting down with the current dragging and shaking, the bait stopped and the rod loaded up. Big surges. Another smallie pushing 5lbs! I put her in the well with the first one. Too big for a selfie! I was fishing alone.
In the middle of the river out from this bank sits an island, low brushy gravel hump about the size of a basketball court with shallow water all around it. The bar on the tip extends upstream several hundred yards and it forms somewhat of a dam for that half of the main channel but there is usually too much current in the spring, but I was always intrigued by it. It’s a steady flow over it in summer, gravel bottom, and I didn’t know that it was only about 3ft of water. Summer smallmouth sometimes cruise skinny water like this, and these fish are aggressive.
I was trying to hold in the current off to the side and casting up and on top of the bar using a Sammy 105, American Shad. (this bait has a reflective finish and it looks like the bait in the pool). The surface rippled a bit from the current and breeze,.. I think it made fish less weary and the strikes that followed were acrobatic attempts to slaughter the bait. I was able to hook up with several nice fish! Then two club members came by and stopped to see how I was doing,.. I pulled these out of the well and they snapped a few pics for me.
After that bite went away I went down river to some familiar rock piles and flats. Current was the key and there were two spots that had a little flowing around them. I stopped upstream of one location were a point jutted out from the freeway rip rap and current was flowing around it about 50 feet offshore,.. As I float by I look down in the water and underneath topping out at four feet under were two rock piles,.. Since I floated right over them I marked them on the GPS. (Rocks I’ll bang crankbaits off of or fish top water in the future).
I pulled off and circled back, swimbait rod in my hand and made my cast,.. The outside of the rocks was 16 to 18ft deep so I let the bait get down and WHAM! I caught four fish this way, the largest going about 3lbs. I also caught one more shaking a Texas rig tube. (too snaggy for the Gitzit). In the known rock piles nearby I also caught several more on the swimbait. I love these new ones made by Trigger X, very durable baits; I could catch about five fish before I had to replace the bait.
I usually don’t get this excited about a day on the Columbia, but what a day! I discovered several new locations and baits, none I had ever fished before. Even a new spinnerbait produced a couple. Or the old spot along the freeway riprap I revisited.
Best part of this trip? A lot of what I fished is close to the ramp so I’m prepared for minimal running if it’s a huge windy day. The Deschutes, the rip rap bank, and the bar off the island are within a mile from the ramp and they are a half mile from each other.
I have to admit, I’ve now set high expectations for the tournaments coming up. Pool height and wind are the two variables for conditions. The bar or the riprap shouldn’t be affected much by either.
See ya out on the water,