Columbia ranked No. 21 among top bass waters nationally

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Allen Thomas covers hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing and other outdoor recreation topics for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4555 or by email to

The Columbia River has been ranked No. 21 on Bassmaster magazine’s second annual ranking of America’s 100 best bass lakes.

No. 11 on the list is Lake Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho and No. 51 is Lake Sammamish near Seattle.

The rankings are based on catch rate and electroshocking data from state fishery agencies, a survey of B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and tournament presidents, a survey of 3,500 B.A.S.S. members, a panel of outdoor writers, and other fishing industry insiders.

Now, I don’t have problem ranking the Columbia at No. 21 in nation. At times, I’ve experienced fine smallmouth fishing in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools of the Columbia Gorge.

And I know there are tournaments and good catches around Tri-Cities and upstream.

But here’s where Bassmaster made their oops. To illustrate the Columbia River they’ve got a photo of the Astoria Bridge spanning the river.

If there’s a stretch of the Columbia where you are least likely to catch a bass, I’d guess that the estuary portion of the river is it.

No. 1 on the list is Lake St. Clair in Michigan followed by Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas as No. 2 and Clear Lake in California as No. 3.

“The process is as all-encompassing and data-driven as we can make it,” said James Hall, Bassmaster magazine editor.

Besting hunting towns?

Quail Unlimited has released a list of the 25 best bird-hunting towns in America. The only spot in Washington or Oregon is Heppner, Ore., at No. 7.

The bird-hunting list gives bonus points for areas with multiple species and communities that clearly welcome hunters.

About Heppner, the organization touts the opportunity to hunt pheasants, California quail, Huns and chukars while not too far away in the Blue Mountains there are grouse.

I suspect Heppner was put on the list as a token move to get a wider geographic representation.

No. 1 on the QU list is Pierre, S.D., followed by Lewistown, Mont. No. 6 is White Bird, Idaho, nears Hells Canyon, home to pheasants, quail, partridge and grouse.

North Dakota and South Dakota figure prominently, as expected, on the bird-hunting list.

I’ve hunted in eastern South Dakota and, especially during a good year, it can be almost beyond comprehension for a Washington hunter.

We’ve counted 35 pheasants per mile sitting on hay bales and getting gravel along the road while driving back to camp between 5 and 6 p.m.

The last afternoon I hunted in South Dakota I was in a waterfowl production area south of a little town named Miller.

I shot my three-rooster limit and had close-up opportunity to shoot another six in the time it took to walk back to the truck.

With changes in farming practices and the Conservation Reserve Program, bird hunting in South Dakota is slipping.

Still, a bad year there would be an exceptional year in Eastern Washington.

Allen Thomas covers hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing and other outdoor recreation topics for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4555 or by email to

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