Speaking of Smallmouth Bass

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
New River Mike

I got my new issue of "Audubon" today and darned if there isn't a little piece on smallmouth bass:

"In cool, clear, rocky lakes and streams across the United States, smallmouth bass - actually a sunfish - are easing into shallows. The males, smaller than females, come first, cutting nests in gravel with their broad tales, then herding in their mates - often more than one. The male guards the eggs, fanning them with their tail, then broods the young. When males are on their nest, they're extremely aggressive and will hit virtually any bait or lure, even if they've been caught and released the same day...Before 1869, smallmouths were largely restricted to the Lake Ontario and Ohio River drainage systems. But, toted in water tenders and tanks of the early railroads, they fanned out across the continent with their early admirers. Pound for pound, few, if any, freshwater fish are stronger. Today, thanks to the efforts of Ray Scott and the 600,000-member Bass Anglers Sportsman Society he founded, most serious bass fishermen no longer kill their catch."

As an aside, one of the saddest fishing things I've ever seen occurred one day while a friend and I were wading the New River in Virginia. Like most presumably conscientious fishermen, we knew where the bass "beds" were and steered clear when they were on their nests. We were also aware that others didn't share this ethic. In fact, it was a common fact that anything that looked like a newt (a kind of salamander) was sure to provoke a response from the fish, who will actually pick them up and carry them away to remove them from the eggs or fry.

During this day, we did notice a pair of fishermen further upriver, working the area we'd avoided, so we figured they were targetting bass on their beds.

When we returned to our vehicle above the railroad tracks, we noticed a vehicle approaching us, and as it came closer, we saw it was our upriver "companions." When we asked how they'd done, they gladly hopped out to show us a large cooler packed with about half a dozen of the very largest bass I''ve ever yet seen in person - none less than about two feet long, and all likely in the five to six pound range.

They were proud to tell us that they'd taken every one off beds, casting an imitation salamander. Who knows how many future bass were lost to that river that day by the selfishness of those two "sportsmen?" There was nothing we could say - it was perfectly legal, and even if it hadn't been, enforcement was every bit the challenge that it is out here.

That's the kind of mentality Ray Scott and company have worked to overcome in the southeast in particular and among bass fishermen in general.
Those are good words to share, Mike. But five to six pound smallies? Not in upstate New York very often anyway.
Four pounds was a huge smallmouth. And pulleezzzz, don't reply that you catch them 7 or 8 pounds all the time.
Bob, the I think anything 3 pounds or over is a damn nice smallmouth but like the Old Man, what do I know?


Active Member
I'm originally from Arkansas and cut my teeth on crappie and bass fishing and to catch a 5 lb small mouth is no big deal back home. I'll tell you something else, a 5 lb smallmouth has as big a mouth as any other fish you'll ever see and they fight like mad cats. I kind of think that one of my problems with flyfishing so far is that I am so accustomed to fish just pounding the lure whereas a trout doesn't announce its presence with anything more violent than the line stopping its swing for a moment. Totally different fishing experience.



Idiot Savant
Hey Mike, rumor has it that there are SMB's in the Okanogan River. Ive of Ione and I are looking to find out where and how...wanna tag along?

BTW, how's the call-in poll doing?


Good things come to those who wade...

Old Man

Just an Old Man
Hey Bob,that's my line.

And on another note if you want some small mouth fishing closer than the dry side. Go to Lake Whatcom.. I've heard a few good reports about that lake. But the boating laws up there are different. Different county,different laws.

And again,I'm an old man so what the hell do I know.


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
New River Mike

Good Morning All...

Bob, I'm sure you're right about New York smallmouth. Their growth is to a large degree tied to water temps and length of "season," and I've consistently heard that northern fish grow more slowly. I myself never caught one that cleared more than about 3 1/2 pounds, and was more than thrilled with anything over two pounds. The state record in Virginia at the time I left was 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and had been caught in the same (New) river. The fish I saw that day were much larger than any I'd ever seen and reinforced the disgust my companion and I felt about their legal, but unethical and unsportsmanlike methods.

I'm sure the other Mike is right about Arkansas bass. In the right waters (they do need good water) and with a milder climate, five-plus pounders are not too rare and he's dead right about the fight. Most smallmouth are now wild (if not native) to begin with and fight like the devil.


I'd like nothing more than to discover some smallmouth waters that don't involve a trip back to the Tri-Cities, though there's a great spot on the lower Yak that I'll probably have to come back to this summer at least once. Of course, I know the Okanogan may be even farther, but the scenery is more to my taste. I'd be shocked if there aren't smallmouth in the Okanogan. They seem to be in most of the Columbia and more than likely they travel into the Okanogan at some point in the year. I'm sure it's too cold for them at the moment, but yes, put me down for that experience!

I'll have to get back to you on the poll. The response has been heavier than expected and the system may have malfunctioned. Perdition was outrunning Forgiveness about 60/40 early in the day, based on exit polls, which our analysts attibute to the fact that early day voters (we'll call them the Slacker group) were largely unemployed, retired, or bored at work and wishing they were unemployed or retired, and this group seems to take a dim view of breaking promises, even if it's for a worthwhile reason.

However, there seemed to be an turn in momentum when the people (we'll call them the Soccer dads) who do the real work voted late in the day, after another hard day at the office. Those who dialed up Forgiveness were unaminous in voicing the sentiment best captured by the comment of one: "Hey, a guy's got responsibilities, you know? Who's got time to fish or hang out with friends? Now let me get out of here; I've got kids to pick up from soccer practice and then a PTA meeting."

The returns from the NASCAR dads were mixed. Some may have been confused and voted for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for President.

That's the news at this moment!


PS...Although I'm member of the former goup :rofl I went against the trend and voted Forgiveness.

Disclaimer: The above information about smallmouth bass is factual, but the balance is entirely fictional.

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
New River Mike

BS is such a harsh concept, Roper. I'd like to think of it as VERY creative writing.

One of the saddest cases I've heard in Washington was when one the student teachers I was working with said her brother had trouble catching bass at Loon Lake. He was a diver, so he saw all these big fish-- they thought they were smallmouth-- and when he couldn't catch them, he shot them with his spear gun. It turns out that while there were some smallies in the photo I saw, most were largemouth, and they were big-- over five pounds. I convinced her to work on her brother to stop that and go back to fishing.

Fortunately, smallies are available a lot closer than the Tri-Cities. Not many of the venues are fly friendly, though. On the west side, there is Whatcom as Jim mentioned, Samish, Washington, Riffe, Island (near Shelton), supposedly Cushman (but the only bass I've caught there was a largemouth-- but I've heard that Lower Cushman is the one with smallies), and the mainstem Columbia. I've also heard rumors of smallies in a couple of the big lakes in the Tacoma area-- American and Spanaway are the two that come to mind.

On the near east side, Chelan, the Columbia again, and associated rivers such as the Okanogan, lower Yakima and many of the seep lakes, the Potholes, and Banks. Did I mention Roosevelt?

As far as size goes, the Columbia system has some dandies: four and five pounders are not uncommon in certain stretches. Sixes are not that unusual, but they tend to be LDRs. In some of the seeps, hit it right and you can catch 1 to 2 pound fish all day.

I've been thinking it's time I headed back to some of those waters, but this time with a fly rod instead of gear. It certainly would beat catching stocker trout.



Lake Sammamish is popular with the gear guys on smallmouths. When I lived there years ago they'd conduct "tournaments" for them. Don't know if that's still the case, but I used to observe them being caught in front of our place on the west side of the lake.
Greg A
Bass action is great on this side of the state. The Westside has some really great spots that hold largemouth’s in the 8-9 pound range…

Roper check out Lake Howard….or Bosworth….no **** man….there are very large bass in those lakes….look for the cover, and then be patient….Dahlbergs and BIG articulated leeches….using Dahlbergs you want to plop it near the cover, and wait about 2 minutes and then a short pop…and wait for the ripples to stop….

I’m serious…Large mouth bass action is great on the Westside…even if you were talking about smallies...

Fish are everywhere...


Active Member
I have put some miles on my rig looking for good smallmouth fishing. I have driven as far south as Lake Shasta and caught smallies until my arms ached. On that trip I was stopped by a highway patrolman who-seeing my boat and out of state license-wanted to see the contents of my tackle box! He was a hard core smallmouth fisherman and gave me all kinds of tips on what and where to fish. I have fished the Umpqua in southern Oregon and spent a week on Owyhee Lake in southeastern Oregon. The river smallies out of the John Day are really rambunctious and are real tackle beaters in low water. On the John Day Arm of Lake Umatilla I have caught up to 50 a day just tossing buggers against the bank. I caught a 14" smallie there one morning that had the last 4" of a sucker sticking out of it's mouth and it still took a wooley bugger! The Snake has been kind to me as well as the Columbia near Crow Butte. But actually catching them in northeast Washington has been problematic. Supposedly the PO River below Metaline Falls has good populations but so far I have found no one willing to make the float down through the canyon. Maybe this year. Palmer Lake near Chopaka is rumored to have the best smallmouth fishery in the state but it is a hell of long way from anywhere except Roper's place. And not many of us can get as far as Palmer and not go up the hill to Chopaka. The Okanogan River is advertised as the best smallmouth stream in the state of Washington with some fish running to 5#. After runoff I think there are some good floats to be made there and I hope this is the year to make some progress on learning that fishery. I think a small group of us floating there this summer would concentrate a lot of skill and expertise on the river and perhaps shorten the learning curve a bit. I'm up for that. Ive

Old Man

Just an Old Man
I'll second the thing on Bosworth. I've seen some big one's in there but at the time I was after trout. They used to hang out by the outlet. But since they cleaned out that area they went to some other place in the lake.



New Member
I've just started fly thing and this forum has been very educational for someone who doesn't know squat about throwing a bug. Finally a subject I know something about...

I've chased both large and smallmouth all over this state and fatwhitedog has it right there are some killer lakes on this side of the mountains. I can't wait til mid-may when the water warms up to hit Beaver lake with my new flyrod and experiment with some fly patterns.

Roper, look me up sometime I know the Okanogan pretty well. I'm planning on flyrodding the river alot this year. Lake Osoyoos is outstanding for both basses as well as Palmer(smallies) and Whitestone (lrgmouth). It sounds like you have a place over there, I have a place east of Oroville.
I've also heard that Cottage lake in Woodinville holds some really big bass. One day while I was there in the fall I was out on the dock watching the lake and this HUGE bass catapults out of the water and lands on it's back. This thing was massive, a big brown ugly one that was probably at least 20" long. However, I have never seen anyone catch a large bass out of Cottage, so they must be pretty wary fish.