What I Learned in 2019
As I think back on last year’s season I’m pretty amazed at all the new information I picked up on. Now, I’m anxious to take all this newfound ingeniousness (ha) and apply it to the 2020 season. I think that maybe I need to throw out a lot of my old mental notes I’ve collected over the last 60 years while pursuing the species and start over with fresh, new pages. So, now with these new pages, I’m feeling energized for the start of the 2020 season.
It might be kind of fun to share a few of these new techniques, experiences, observations, etc., I garnered from last season including both the good and the not-so-good:
- February can really suck! I normally don’t have too many earnest January bass fishing thoughts, right? (Although this changed in January 2020, I’ll save that for next year’s article.) But staying home and shoveling snow on a near-daily routine in the month of February defeated all my pre-season excitement I had been building and collecting. Excitedly putting gear together and getting my boat ready took an “ass over tea kettle” tumble in February 2019. As a matter of fact, a bad February might be about the cruelest thing that can happen to a bass fisherman. It just drains the enthusiasm right through the bottom of your snow shoveling double pair of wool socks and knee-high boots. The money you set aside to start your annual harvesting of rods, reels, lures and other gear instead turned to thoughts of “maybe I should invest in a snowblower”. If you had a hope and a prayer that it wouldn’t be too long before the new season would be here, your bubble took a huge beating. So, in 2019 I learned not to overlook February!
- Copper is king! The latter part of March is my traditional Columbia River seasonal kickoff. With water temperatures in the high 40s in the back parts of the Boardman area sloughs, early-season behemoth smallies start moving in. From 2019 I’ve decided that there are two major reaction type baits that I will rely on – almost totally. One is a slow-rolled copper bladed, copper skirted 3/8 oz spinnerbait. The other is a metallic copper lipless crankbait. Why copper? I not really sure why copper, but I’m going to just quit fighting it. Copper works and works better than anything else I’ve ever played with – everything! And oh, by the way, that same copper spinnerbait was so very good in the potholes.
- Rods. Like most of you, I have gone through a huge trial and error with rods… just embarrassing really. This last season I finally decided that for swim jigs, swimbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits, a 7′ to 7 1/2′ fiberglass combo lunker stik by Fenwick did everything I could possibly want in a stout yet forgiving casting rod. Found them on Amazon for sale at around $65 and I”m so happy with the way they handle. I now use them for 75% of all the fishing I do, from early spring through the fall. I’ve finally quit looking for the latest and greatest – whew!
Fenwick Lunker Stik Casting Rod
- Flukes. I’m a huge fan of Zoom Super Flukes. I use them from mid-spring through fall. However, at times they can leave me frustrated at times. Getting the right hook design, alleviating line twist, and minimizing knot tying between fluorocarbon leader and the mainline can be a challenge. I finally found a company (Varivas) that makes a 3/0 EWG hook with an attached welded ring and a swivel. Since last season I no longer worry about line twist, having too many knots or swivels getting in the rod tip guide, and also the leader to hook knot getting cut by at the hook eye. Experimenting with different types and sizes of hooks, I found that a 3/0 EWG hook is the perfect size for the super fluke. Colors? I found that if I couldn’t catch em on the silver rainbow or the green pumpkin magic, I’d better move the boat to another location or lay the fluke rod down. Trying color after color was a waste of time.
- Line. What a choice we have in all the types and colors of line available! I tried a couple of new ones last season but decided I didn’t really see anything new that I just had to have for this year. Happy with what I’m using.
- Location, location, location. I would guess that I spend about 90% of my time on the Columbia, and mostly in the Richland to Boardman areas. Naturally, I would work those areas that I’ve had my better catches the hardest and for the longest times. Aside from those traditional spawning flats and smolt running areas, I didn’t do nearly as well as I thought I should have done this last season. Why? Weeds, Bubba, weeds. My persistence and hard hardheadedness to continue fishing my old stomping grounds was my downfall. That’s a tough pattern to break. The weed growth from 2018 was in most cases anywhere from slightly different to totally different in the 2019 season and I didn’t adapt to the change soon enough. Hard weed lines with some nice bare openings in and around them will be key to being successful this coming season. Learned my lesson!
- Crank Baits. All season I used crankbaits that I had removed both sets of treble hooks and put a larger sized treble (size two, usually) only on the front split ring. It worked beautifully with fewer snags, less net tangles, and far less harm to the fish and my fingers. I might have missed a few fish because of it, but I couldn’t really tell. I’ll definitely continue this practice in 2020!Spro Aruku Shad
- Ned Rigs. This is a technique that I totally misjudged 3/4 of the season. It’s really hard for me to leave my traditional ways and glomp on to a new trend that didn’t really seem very sexy or exciting. However, I was able to witness a really good day by a guy in a nearby boat using a ned rig. After that, I armed myself with the gear and began to learn how to use it. It’s an outstanding technique that I started in 2019 and will definitely continue with this season. (click here for Ned Rigs)
- Deep Water Techniques at the Potholes. I was fortunate to learn how to use and fish the deeper water off and in the dunes this last season. Fishing 20 to 30′ depths using 10 to 12″ worms was something I had never spent any time doing. That’s all changed for me now. Makes late summer at the Potholes an exciting new adventure that I can hardly wait to do again.
Thanks, see you on the water