The Future of Bass Fishing

Drake Ofsthun is a senior at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, Washington.  He recently qualified with his brother, Reed, for the Bassmaster High School Championship June 22-24 on Kentucky Lake.  Last fall, Drake and Reed weighed in over 21 lbs. of smallmouth on the Columbia River in a Bass Nation High School event.  
What follows is a first-hand account of a recent tournament outing and a look at one of the up an coming bass anglers in the northwest today.  

Recap of the Columbia Basin Bass Club – Phil and Barb Moore Memorial Derby

Irrigon, Oregon. April 1, 2017

Unfortunately, I was unable to prefish for this event due to issues with my boat. However my partner, Jake Anderson, put in a great amount of time and effort to find quality fish for this event. With the brutal winter we had, the fish were delayed on their traditional spawning times. In this case looking for backwaters off the main river would be key to finding warmer water with active fish. Jake did find quality fish in Crow Butte on shallow rock shoals. Instead of sitting at home twirling my thumbs, I contributed my part by finding other areas fish could possibly be staging on with Google Earth.
With the weather calling for an afternoon wind, we knew that finding fish first thing that morning would be key down at Crow Butte before the wind picked up around 10:00. Once we found them, we could slow down and pick areas apart. Then we would run back to work areas in Paterson to hide from the wind for the remainder of the day.
Our run to Crow Butte didn’t quite go as planned. Only picking up one good-sized fish each, we had a hunch that the rest of the day could be a grind in the wind unless we stumbled across a big group of fish, which is exactly what happened. We left Crow Butte at the last possible minute, to avoid the rogue waves. But we still battled big rollers at the beginning and I have to say thank you to Jake for handling them perfectly and not destroying my back in the process. About halfway back to Paterson, the river was glass once again. We began fishing a road-bed in Paterson and not even 5 casts in Jake was hooked up with a nice smallmouth. As I grabbed the net and was scooping up the fish I heard this banging sound from the back of the boat.  My rod was being dragged into the river by another fish. I panicked and practically dove across the boat performing a circus act to save it and pulling up a measly one pounder. After the chaos settled we felt that we had something going on here and decided to set up camp on this section of road bed. With a 48 degree water temp, a slower presentation would turn out to be key on getting more fish to commit. All our bites came in small time frames of 3-5 minutes with multiple double hookups. As hard as we worked this area, we couldn’t seem to whither our way through all the 3 pound clones to upgrade. Little did we know I would hook into the biggest smallmouth either one of has ever seen! This fish made multiple strong runs and made for a longer fight on my spinning outfit and seemed to keep growing in size as it neared the boat. Once Jake lifted this mammoth out the water our jaws dropped…6.58 pounds! This left us shaking our heads for the remainder of the day in disbelief. Then we were back to culling by ounces with very pale fish signifying they had just moved up from their winter holes. We spent a little bit of time back in the Paterson Slough trying find a kicker largemouth but never could find a bite. Overall, we made all the right decisions to be the most efficient with our time, and ended with a memorable day on the water!
There were times that we felt as if this section of road bed had gone dry. But we figured out that those fish were lethargic and once you triggered one to bite, the rest followed suit. By being patient and waiting for those fish to start feeding again was necessary to our success.
This smallmouth, weighing over 6.5 lbs, helped land Drake in 2nd place at the event, beating many seasoned Columbia River veterans in the process.


Key baits we utilized were crankbaits in red/orange tones to search for where the fish were. Once we found them, slowly dragging a 3/8 oz. football head with a green pumpkin plastic was a big factor to maintain bottom contact in the stronger wind. Choosing light braid and fluorocarbon on spinning outfits was important to get the most sensitivity for those subtle bites.
When Jake offered to take me I knew it was going to be more of a learning experience for me, regardless of how I placed. By simply analyzing what we were doing in certain situations really opened my eyes on how to better myself in certain aspects. Jake taught me quite a bit about the power fishing side of this sport which helped strengthen my confidence and understanding of the concept.
Jake Anderson provided the boat and some much appreciated mentorship, even though this was not a team event.
One thing I’d like to add is fishing from the back deck can really teach you a lot if you’re paying attention to the smallest details and analyzing what’s occurring at the moment. The amount of information I soaked in from this event was overwhelming. I also want to thank Jake one final time for giving me the opportunity to fish with him in this event and putting me on my personal best smallmouth. Truly an enjoyable day on the water for both of us!
If you would like to help the Ofsthun boys on their once in a lifetime opportunity at the Bassmaster High School Championship this June, a GoFundMe account has been established to help pay for their expenses.  Click HERE to donate.

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