Columbia River Bass and Walleye Techniques
Rob Phillips, August 05, 2019
With the Columbia River pretty much closed to steelhead fishing, and with the fall salmon runs just starting to migrate upriver, many Eastern Washington anglers are looking for other species to target to help keep them out on the water.
Luckily there are some other options, and some pretty good ones to boot.
The Columbia River is packed full of walleye and bass, and both have been giving anglers some really good fishing this summer.
Reports of anglers catching dozens and dozens of walleye running from 14 to 20 inches are pretty common. Perfect eating size for sure.
Standard walleye gear is worm harness rigs run behind bottom walkers. I have had really good luck using Walleye Magic rigs run behind a Spin-N-Glo bottom walker. The rigs are built with a spinner ahead of a foam floatation body painted in several good colors including chartreuse, orange, red and others. Try different colors until you figure out what the fish want on that particular day.
Best depths have been between 12 and 30 feet deep.
Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are also very common in the mid-Columbia. Anywhere there is rocky shorelines, or some structure, including buoy markers, in the river, you can find bass.
For largemouth, anglers should concentrate on the backwater areas of the river like Villard Pond and Casey Pond. Here, big bass will fall for crawdad colored crankbaits or Carolina rigged 6-inch worms or lizards in smoke or oil colors. The mid-Columbia is much better known for smallmouth bass however The fish average two to three pounds and can run anywhere up to five and six pounds.
One of the very best spots to try for smallmouth is at the mouth of the Yakima River where it meets the Columbia. Fish are moving back out of the Yakima and are holding in and around structure at the mouth and just downstream from the mouth. Anything that resembles forage food will work this time of the year as the bass feed more actively. Four and six inch worms, smaller curly-tailed grubs or crankbaits in crawdad, baby bass or perch colors all will catch fish.
Another excellent area of the Columbia to try for bass this time of the year is the stretch between Plymouth and Crow Butte near Paterson. There are some large smallmouth in this portion of the river with a five pounder being a real possibility on any given day.
In this area not only are fish found in and around shoreline structure, they are also found holding along the rip-rap out in the river itself. There are a number of these gravel bars located just off shore on both the Washington and Oregon sides of the river and out in the Columbia itself. A good depth finder will help locate these gravel bars that can run anywhere from 8 to 20 feet deep and can stretch for a couple hundred yards or more.
One easy and productive way to fish these areas is to actually troll a diving crankbait along all sides of these mid-river structures. There are a number of good crankbaits out there but use one that will get right down into the gravel, kicking up silt as it moves through the water. Good late summer crankbait colors include red crawdad, brown crawdad, metallic perch and metallic red. Once a fish or two is caught in an area while trolling, then you can come back through and work a small grub or worm along the same areas many times picking up more fish.
And don’t overlook the big channel marker buoys in the middle of the river. These are usually located on or near the edge of the shipping channels and will almost always hold a few fish. An effective way to fish these is to motor upstream of the buoy and allow the current to take the boat slowly by while you pitch a grub, worm or spinner on all sides of the marker. An electric motor can also be used to help you work all angles and sides of the buoys.
The limits on both walleye and bass have been removed on the Columbia, so you can catch as many as you would like. But please only take as many as you can eat and leave a few for the next time.
(Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has been fishing all over the Northwest and writing about it for over 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected]