I had not been on the Willamette for 6 weeks but had received some good fishing reports from friends so I was pretty excited to be on the water by about 7:15 yesterday morning. After about 5 minutes I make a long cast towards a rock wall and bam, something smacks the spinnerbait just as I engage the reel. I missed that strike but a few turns later bam, this time it sticks. Only a 10" fish, but a nice way to start what was looking to be an outstanding day.
3 hours go by without a strike. I fished topwater, spinnerbait, crankbaits. The sky was overcast I figured the fish would have to be shallow and active. I was definitely wrong, but I am still not sure where they were. Eventually I scratched out two more dinks by working every rockpile and hump that I knew about. What made this worse was that I had chatted with a couple of guys soon after I started fishing and they had already picked up 10 bass on topwaters. Perhaps I was late to the party.
By now it was about 3:00. Man, almost 8 hours for 3 dinks I thought about calling it a day. Instead I decided to anchor up for sturgeon at one of my favorite spots even though I knew the bite would be poor. I figured I could at least rest a bit before the long pedal back to the ramp. Much to my delight after about 1/2 hour and moving my cast several times I started to get some bites. After the poor bass fishing just getting some bites was pretty thrilling.
After a few good tugs I tighten up and felt that old familiar head shake. Then it just seemed to stop. I reeled in not sure if I had the fish or a just a stick. It turned out to be a tiny little shaker about 2 feet long. Still better than nothing.
I threw back out and got bit immediately but missed that fish. I dropped back again and after a few minutes I started getting that tap, tap, tap. I tightened up and it was a twin shaker to the first. Not big fish, but catching something is always a whole lot better than catching nothing.
I dropped back down and this time the bait soaked for a while. I was just thinking that the flurry was over when something started chomping on my bait. After letting it take the bait a bit I tightened up and fish on again. This one felt different as I brought it in, more twisting and jerking and less of a pull. When I got it up to the kayak I was blown away to see a fat 18" channel cat!
That is the first channel cat I have ever caught in the Willamette. Perhaps right now while the sturgeon bite is off is a good time to target these guys, or perhaps it was just dumb luck. After releasing that guy I dropped back down a few more times and kept getting bites but did not hook up again. The baits would come in chewed up. Perhaps more catfish, or maybe just sculpin. Might be worth going back to that spot with some smaller hooks.
Anyway it was about 5:00 and I did not want to get home too late so I decided to pull anchor and give the bass one more quick try before calling it a day. I pulled up to one of my favorite spots: a shallow rocky shelf with some current that drops into some deep water. I dusted it off with my crankbait and spinnerbait without a sniff. As I was working the with the crankbait and spinnerbait I marked some fishing in 12-18' of water.
So before I quit I rigged up a drop shot and made a short cast to keep from snagging in the boulders. I shook it just a couple of times after it hit the bottom and thunk, I felt a bass grab the senko. I set the hook and hey my 4th bass. In the next hour I landed 6 more bass on the drop shot. No monsters, but the fish were pound to pound and a half fish. On the light spinning rod they gave a good account of themselves with about 1/2 of them giving me some nice jumps. Most looked like this guy:
So, after spending about 8 hours for 3 dinks I end up catching 7 fun sized bass in an hour. Perhaps my tactics were just wrong earlier in the day. With the cloud cover I did not even think about using a drop shot in deeper water. Perhaps the fish were waiting for me all day. I will never know.
Tired after a long day, I pedaled the mile and a half back to the ramp and wearily pulled my overloaded kayak up the steep hill happy that I had stuck it out when I had felt like quitting earlier.
Fish tremble when they hear my name
A ship in harbor is safe -- but that is not what ships are built for.
--John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928