Need-to-Know Oregon Bass Fishing Basics

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By Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (commonwealth_lake_swart_odfw) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Check out these bass fishing basics for fishing bass in Oregon.

Large vs Smallmouth Bass

Largemouth bass can be up to about nine pounds, are relatively solitary and are more tolerant of warm, murky water than smallmouth bass.

“Smallies,” are, as the name would suggest, slightly smaller than the largemouth. They travel in schools, and prefer cooler, clearer water. Smallmouth bass are found in deeper lakes and reservoirs where water temperatures stay cooler, and in moving waters such as the Columbia, Willamette, South Umpqua and John Day rivers.

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When it comes to strength, fight and acrobatics, smallmouth bass are considered top tier, behind only steelhead and Atlantic salmon. While other fish may fight harder, largemouth bass will leap and dive as much or more than many.

Both types of bass are very opportunistic and can do well in a variety of lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and sloughs.

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When to Fish Bass:

  • SPRING: Pre-spawn typically begins in April when water temperatures are near 60 degrees. Fish tend to school up in shallow waters and feed heavily. This can be the best time of year to catch larger bass that normally inhabit the deepest waters. Once spawning ends, bass are not as aggressive and can be more difficult to catch.
  • SUMMER: Summer of course brings warmer water temperatures, and the fish move into deeper, cooler waters. As long as water temperatures stay below 80 degrees, bass will remain feisty and receptive to a well-presented lure. Anglers can tempt bass with surface lures during early morning and late evening when the sun is not directly on the water, while deeper water presentations are best during the day.
  • LATE SUMMER/EARLY FALL: This time of year can trigger a burst of feeding activity with bass, who sense the coming cold weather. This can be the best bass fishing of the year, next to spring/pre-spawn period. Once a lake turns over and water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, bass become lethargic and difficult to catch.

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For the beginning bass angler, a good all-purpose rod to start with is a 6- to 61/2-foot baitcasting or spinning rod, with medium action and rated for an 8- to 12-pound line and 1/4- to ¾- ounce lure. As with other kinds of fishing, bass rods and reels can be highly specialized depending on the type and size of the lure you will be casting.

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Baits & Techniques:

  • Crankbaits – These lures got their name because they are designed to cast out and then “crank” back in. Hollow plastic or wooden lures designed to dive to varying depths, they come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes to imitate bait fish.
  • Spinnerbaits – These lures combine a lead head with one or more flashing spinner blades, a sharp hook and a rubber skirt to hide the hook. These are very versatile lures that can be fished year-round in almost any conditions.
  • Top-water lures – Available in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors to imitate frogs, mice, prey fish and other foods, these can be the most exciting lures to fish because you see the fish come to the surface of the water and take the lure in an aggressive, splashy take. Bass are sun shy, as mentioned above, so fish top-water lures early or late in the day when the sun is off the water.
  • Jigs – These are heavy, lead-headed lures with a single hook often masked with a rubber skirt, hair or other materials. Designed to ride hook side up, these are good lures to fish around wood and docks throughout the season.
  • Swimbaits – These are large (up to 8 inches) soft rubber or plastic lures with a jig head that resemble prey fish. Once used mostly during the pre-spawn season, these lures are becoming more popular among anglers targeting trophy bass throughout the year. These lures will not catch large numbers of fish, but when they work they will catch trophy-sized fish.
  • Worms – Perhaps the most popular and effective bass lures, rubber worms come in a variety of sizes and colors, and can be fished using many techniques. Bass will often hit a worm as it is dropping through the water. A very, very slow “dragging” retrieve along the bottom can entice inactive or non-receptive fish, while the use of a more animated curly-tailed worm can attract more active fish in warmer waters.

Click here to download a pdf of the Oregon bass fishing flyer