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Early Season Bass Fishing Success in the Northwest



The present El Nino would subside in spring of 2016,.. says one source. The entire west looks for hope that El Nino will alleviate drought conditions and fill Western reservoirs this year. The Northwest has received near record precipitation, and winter temperatures have been above normal. My five acre pond located in southwest Washington at 1,200ft only froze over once for a couple of days. In normal years it freezes over several inches for a few weeks. Polar air masses descend over the region a few times every winter, but not this year.

Pond Chatterbait choke

The fishing in shallow waters west of the Cascades started early. Jigs, vibrating jigs, and swimbaits catching fish where water temperatures reached the mid 40s. ABA held their season opener on March 12th at Ten Mile Lakes on the Oregon Coast. The event was won by Darryl Burkhardt and Mike Gibney with 25.62lbs.

For smallmouth, reports of catches posted on social media have been from as far north as Lake Chelan – less than 100 miles from the Canadian border. It’s a part of the Columbia River basin and this stream’s temperature is running three degrees above it’s historical average for the time of year. Opinions vary with regards to the temperature smallmouth begin to activate. 43 degrees at Bonneville Dam is the magic number for this author. After plummeting into the high 30’s at the peak of winter.

Thursday March 10th, 2016 BHQ’s Steve Adams caught about a 15lb limit on the Oregon side of the Columbia River in the Rufus area. He reported getting the fish early from about 6:30 am to around 10am, all in one location with good current in water dropping off from about 2-3′ to maybe 15′. While the current was still moving pretty good they were eating a D&M Custom Baits 1/2oz Football Head jig in Black & Blue with a beaver trailer. Once the current slowed, he went down to a 1/4oz Frenzy Nail Shakey Head with a Sierra Slammers Tube. Both set ups were Powell Rods with ABU Garcia REVOs.

I took advantage of a break in the storms of early March. River’s temperature had reached 44 degrees on March 5th. Scrambled to get to the small launch ramp at Stevenson Washington. There, instead of the Willamette River – a choice to consider with temperatures nudging 50. The Oregon river is a major lower Columbia tributary and it always runs several degrees warmer in spring with it’s all west side drainage. Many fish are being caught between storm run-off surges.

On the Bonneville Pool the target was off shore structure where fish have reached their first stage moving up. Rock 18 to 28ft large enough to form a break in the big spring current. Tubes and jigs and one fish that surprised on a swimbait. Because it was located on a flat in 7ft- in a slack water area well away from the river’s main channel. Rigged with an open jig head 3/8 and 1/2oz is required for getting these baits to greater depths. To fish with a smaller cold water strike radius.

Early and late in the season is the best chance for a quality catch. The example on the right is over 5lbs. They all give a nice account of themselves. Especially after the gear comes out of winter storage.