By Stan Fagerstrom
Product Review Editor
June 9, 2011
One of the most experienced Columbia River smallmouth bass anglers I know doesn’t hit the water with an approach set in stone. He’s constantly flexible in his approach.
There is, however, one rule he always does follow. It’s to let the fish tell him what they want. He does that by changing lures, colors, lure hook ups and anything else that gives the fish he’s after a choice.
If you’ve followed my last three columns you know the guy I’m talking about. He’s Bruce Holt, a long time member of the G.Loomis Rod staff and a man who has spent countless hours searching the Columbia for smallmouth bass.
In my last column I detailed how Bruce fishes Senko worms. Other baits that he says are among the very best on the Columbia are a 1/8 to ¼-ounce tubes. “Green pumpkin,” Bruce says, “or similar shades seem to work best. They mimic crawdads in their spring colors.”
If he’s fishing off major points leading to bays and flats, places where the smallmouth stage before moving into shallow water, you may see him using jigs. “I favor ¼ to ½-ounce jigs in a dark color,” he says. “I like to fish the major points and rock outcroppings on the current side and then gradually move to the softer water behind them. Then, as the water warms, we move to the banks leading to shallow water.”
Holt says jerkbaits can be extremely effective during the last stages of the pre-spawn season. “A crank/pause, jerk/pause retrieve often works well. Lures in blue, black and silver as well as clown work well. The bite when using these lures may have very little impact. You have to watch your line and be ready for anything.”
Crankbaits in crawdad colors, 4 and 5-inch swimbaits as well as spinnerbaits are among the other lures Holt uses in his Columbia River smallmouth fishing. “I’ve had especially good luck,” he says, “with a spinnerbait my friend John Hale, of Stanley Jigs, sent me a few years ago. It’s ½-ounce with a chartreuse Colorado blade. It has a small, gold colored Colorado blade up front. The skirt color is pumpkin/pepper with chartreuse tips.”
Holt says he adds a small chartreuse trailer to this already highly colorful lure. “It’s a gaudy looking thing,” he says, “but the fish love it!”
I keep getting one question over and over again. Usually it comes from anglers who’ve read one or another of the countless columns and features I’ve been doing now for more than a half century one place or another. The question asks what rod I’d recommend for this or that type of fishing.
I’ve often turned to my friend Bruce in coming up with a meaningful answer to this question. And why not? Bruce is a man who has fished over much of the world. He’s also a guy who can pick any darn G.Loomis Rod he chooses without considering the costs you and I have to deal with.
In winding up this series about the Columbia’s great smallmouth fishing I’d like to share Holt’s recommendation where rods and reels are concerned.
“I use five different rods,” he says, “for 90 percent of my Columbia River smallmouth fishing. First and most important is my tube rod. It’s a 6-foot, 10-inch spinning rod with incredible sensitivity. This rod is the GLX SMR822. I pair it with a Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel usually loaded with 6 to 8-pound line.”
When he’s fishing jerkbaits Bruce employs either a 6-foot, 2-inch Bronzeback Series jerkbait rod (it’s the SMNR752C-JB) or a 6-foot, 6-inch CBR783C medium power crankbait rod. He matches this rig up with a Shimano Core 100MG casting reel loaded with 10-pound line.
“For jigs,” Holt says, “I use our new NRX852C jig/worm rod or our GLX802XC jig/worm rod. For throwing spinnerbaits I use the SBR81C. It’s a 6-foot, 9-inch light power rod with sufficient strength in the butt section to handle any smallmouth that swims. I like the lighter tip this rod has because it allows me to better watch how my spinnerbait blades are working. I also favor the nice balance I have with it. I use the same reel and line set up with these rods as I do for my jerkbait fishing.”
Finally, for fishing swimbaits or ¼ to 3/8th-ounce Hula Grubs Bruce uses a casting model of the G.Loomis Shaky Head rod series. He again mates it up with Core 100MG casting reel and 10-pound test line.
“That rod isn’t designed for this technique,” Holt says, “but it really handles these baits perfectly. The sensitive tip of the rod tells you a lot about what is happening with your bait. The bite with either of these baits may be very subtle with just a slacking of the line or perhaps a very light line tick. This rod also gives me a perfect action for working the bait as well as setting the hook.”
That’s about the size of it. In this final column in this series I’ve told you how one of the most experienced anglers in the Pacific Northwest goes about boating Columbia River smallmouth bass.
But while these columns have dealt specifically with the Columbia River, the rods and reels as well as the techniques and tactics detailed are those you can employ wherever you encounter smallmouth bass.
You can learn from an expert angler like my good friend Bruce. I know because I have. I hope this column series has given you the same opportunity.