small mouth bass

Smallmouth bass are plentiful in local fisheries.

Contributed by Rob Gensorek

Howdy everyone!

The weather has still been good and the last days of summer are upon us. Salmon has been overall slow with the occasional good day thrown in just to keep us interested but I hope the rain and cooler weather will cause it to pick up.

Rockfish and lingcod in the ocean remains stellar, surfperch abound on good days, and crabbing both in the bay and in the ocean are as good as it’s ever been, ever, for real. E. V. E. R.

Another fishery that is on fire lately is smallmouth bass on the Umpqua and the Coquille. With the bite being hot and there being no bag limits on most of the fishery its game on for anglers to fill their hearts and coolers with bass fishing and fillets. I have been spending a lot of time out there lately and I’m here to tell you that there are more bass than any of us can count in a lifetime and they are easy to catch. Some of the water they reside in doesn’t even look deep enough to jump in and cool off in the summertime but don’t be fooled; there’s fish in that water.

I ’m constantly asked “Rob, where on these systems are the fish living,” well Rob says “everywhere!” Boat launches, pullouts, public access parks and beaches, wherever you can get to these systems past the tidally influenced areas you will find smallmouth bass.

I personally love to kayak fish ‘em and as far as I’m concerned it is the most undervalued and underutilized fishery in the state of Oregon. I have recently been exposed to the different factions of bass fishermen (and of course women) and have discovered there are bass fishermen that only believe in catch and release and there are bass fishermen that only want them caught and killed to protect salmon and steelhead and somewhere in the middle of this I and several others reside.

This middle ground is comprised of people that still think fishing is fun and that’s what these little green river monsters are, fun. Well fun AND tasty, can’t forget tasty. Most of the bass in these systems are small and stunted due to overpopulation. It’s not necessarily that their habitat controls or restricts their growth but rather nutrition, water conditions, temperatures and other factors. Our river systems seem to be built for bass but the living is too easy in most respects with no real natural predation, winter kill off, or extreme summer heat kill off, it’s like an all-inclusive resort for bass.

This is where we come in. I personally am doing my best to catch these critters and depopulate the stretches I fish. Does this mean “kill ‘em all”? Some of you are shouting YES YES at the top of your lungs right now including our other face of Basin Tackle Mr. Hunter M. but I personally do not subscribe to this genocidal mindset. I would like to see a lot of pressure put on these fish with most of the retention being on the small to mid-sized fish. Yes this means more filleting for your dinner but I’ve seen management programs work to a point where through selective harvesting the overall grade and quality of these fish improved enough to have bodies of water classified as “trophy lakes.”

In lieu of any current management program I think if we self-police our fishing we can drop the bass numbers so as not to be as detrimental to salmon and steelhead and still create a viable bass fishery with a much higher grade of fish. But those are just my thoughts.

No special tags are needed to fish bass in Oregon, just your regular angling license will do and yes you need one even if you are fishing an area with no bag limits (check your local regulations to make sure of your local limits). Bass also are a game fish and may not be speared, gaffed, netted, mugged, looted, counterfeited, or otherwise abused in any way except through angling. I didn’t actually have the regulations in front of me so I’m winging it.

My favorite methods of smallmouth bass fishing are pretty simple and include trolling, pitching plastics, and drop-shot. There are a ton of fishermen and a ton of methods that are all good but these are the ones I use. I can only troll in water deep enough to be free of weeds and algae and if I can run along a ledge I will pull a crawfish crankbait between 1.5 and 2.1 mph at about 3 to 5 feet down. I don’t know what it is but as soon as I get to about that 2 mph mark it seems like I get a bass hook-up nearly every time.

The pitching plastics part of this fishery is by far my favorite. I like to cast a Kytech Swing Impact in a four inch size either with a weighted Owner Twistlock or Texas rigged into the shallows and let it sink for a couple seconds. I will then retrieve with a fast recovery in an attempt to illicit an aggressive response. I will cover an area in this fashion and then cover it again, this time with a slower retrieve. Once I fish an area like this, and am satisfied that I will not get another hit, I switch to a drop-shot method using VMC Spinshot hooks or StandOut Finesse Bass hooks. Let me pause for a second here for those of you scratching your head asking if I’ve had a stroke because I’m making no sense and explain that yes, you are correct I indeed am making no sense. That is of course unless you are a bass fisherperson. But don’t worry folks either I or Hunter can walk you through any of this, it’s what we do, it’s what we trained for during countless hours reading fishing magazines and fishing between naps on the bank of countless rivers and lakes. My bait of choice for drophot fishing smallmouth is a Kytech Leech, it looks goofy, I didn’t like them at first, but they catch fish. I will cast into a shallow and hold for about 5 to 10 seconds before beginning a slow retrieve while holding my rod tip up to keep that leech off the bottom. I will use this same method to sight fish and when I spot a big one I will cast 15 or 20 feet in front of it and slowly retrieve.

It seems I have to throw it that far away otherwise I spook the target fish too much. If you feel some rapid little tugs it’s a small fish so just twitch that rod tip to pull out of its mouth and continue on but if you feel only a couple pulls, longer and steadier, put that rod tip down and give that line some slack. Sometimes I even open the bail and let the fish go for a foot or two before slamming it shut and setting that hook like there’s a hundred dollar bill on the end! The Spinshot and StandOut hooks will set positively in the roof of the mouth and prevent losing your fish and excess damage to the fish should you decide to let it go.

Well, I could talk bass for hours but I’ve got a deadline and only so much space. Remember to have fun, fish ethically, and as long as you are abiding by the law don’t ever let anyone tell you that the way you fish is wrong because it’s not. It’s your way. I hope to see you out there.

Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle www.basintackle.com in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-FISH, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or email at basin_tackle@yahoo.com. Robs fishing reports can be heard daily at 6:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. on KRSB Best Country 103 out of Roseburg and his Basin Tackle Outdoor Show can be heard Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 a.m. at kwro.com. In addition to all this he sometimes actually gets out and catches a fish or two.

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