The past B.A.S.S. Columbia River tournaments have all been in early October and I believe moving the tournament up two weeks will make a big difference. I wish it could have been early September, but mid September will have to do. I believe there will be several major changes from past tournaments. The biggest change could be the weather. Normally good weather carries well into September and it can be very hot. It seems the wind picks up when the nights start to turn cool and this is normally the first part of October. On two of the past B.A.S.S. tournaments, I pre-fished on the river about this time in September and had flat water and warm conditions both times. However, you can never bank on the weather in Pacific Northwest so come prepared for all types of weather. Sunscreen to insulated raingear. Who knows.
I believe the fishing could be different as well, if clam weather prevails and allows anglers to take advantage of the huge tournament area available. If the boundaries are the same as the past tournaments, well over 100 miles of river will be available to anglers. I also believe the fishing will be much better than past tournaments if the weather holds.
I think topwater could play a bigger role in this tournament than it has in the past. Both chuggers and walking type topwater baits should catch some big smallmouth in this tournament. I like sammys and spooks worked over the flats and points early in the morning. Look for current breaks in the form of big boulders or points. In the upper pool above McNary Dam, weeds also provide current breaks and cover for big smallies to hide. I like a little chartreuse on my topwater and tend to stay with shad colors. This time of the year will see small shad everywhere and the smallmouth gorge on them. Now these may not be the type of shad that normally come to mind for most anglers. These are American Shad fry starting the migration back to the ocean. The adult shad run up the river to spawn every spring and weigh 2 to 4 pounds and are great fun on light tackle. The little fry going back to the ocean are fair game for every kind of critter in and around the river.
Shad or crawdad crank baits can be excellent this time of the year. Speed traps in both these colors are very popular and I might add chartreuse to the list also. Rattletraps are still going strong in September in the same colors. Small white or white/chartreuse spinnerbaits have produced well for me this time of the year.
In the past B.A.S.S. tournaments, I believe the #1 technique was light Carolina rigs or split shot rigs. They will still be top producers for this tournament as well. Lizards and small brushhogs in green pumpkin or watermelon are some of the top baits on all of the Columbia. I like both rigs and have a split shot rigged with 8-pound fluorocarbon with a G Loomis SJR782 rod. On the Carolina rig I use 15-pound fluorocarbon with a ½ ounce weight. Rig this on a GLoomis MBR842GLX rod and you have the ultimate smallmouth setup for fall fishing.
Dropshotting will also catch lots of fall smallmouth and is very effective for those fish that move deeper. It seems to me that the smallmouth move deeper as the tournament progresses. They seem to be very sensitive to pressure and move deeper as pressure increases.
So come on up and enjoy some of the best smallmouth action there is. The weather should still be good and the reaction bite should be much better that past tournaments. If the water stays flat, anglers will be able to run to the far reaches of the tournament water. There are few places more beautiful that the Columbia River gorge in the fall, couple that with some great smallmouth fishing, and it doesn’t get any better.