Columbia Gorge makes top 100 bass list

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Bassmaster Magazine’s third annual ranking of America’s best bass fishing spots is out and surprisingly an Idaho locale is No. 4 on the list.

Lake Coeur d’Alene jumped from No. 9 in 2013 and No. 11 in 2012 based on an improving fishery for smallmouth bass, according to the magazine.

Editors of the magazine say they are trying to be as empirical as possible in compiling the list of the most productive waters in the United States.

Each state’s fish and wildlife agency is asked to suggest their state’s best waters, then catch data is examined along with tournament results and polling of the B.A.S.S. membership.

Once 100 lakes were identified, a panel of bass-fishing professionals, outdoor writers and fishing industry insiders did the ranking.

Ranked No. 14 is the Columbia River between Hood River and The Dalles and Washington’s Potholes Reservoir near Moses Lake came in at No. 66.

Here’s what the rankings say about each of the three Northwest locations:

Lake Coeur d’Alene — “This lake makes a big move up this year on the strength of its trophy smallmouth fishery. The smallies have always been a rowdy group on this lake, but now they are rowdy and big. It is no longer unusual to land one over 6 pounds here. And don’t forget about the largemouth fishery. The lake record largemouth is 10-15, with average bass weighing in between 2 and 3 pounds.”

Columbia River — “This is a bucket-list smallmouth fishery for anyone who loves catching brown bass. The surroundings are breathtaking, and the fish are not only plentiful, but get big. Although 6-pounders aren’t common, 5-pounders are.”

Again this year, the magazine illustrated the Columbia with a photograph of the river at the Astoria Bridge, which is definitely not bass water.

Potholes Reservoir — “Be sure to bring your depthfinder here. You’ll see how glaciers carved out potholes before the water level was raised to cover most of them. Oh, and you’ll see plenty of smallmouth using these humps and depressions as ambush points.”

To see the list, go online on to

Columbia Gorge thoughts

Not mentioned by Bassmaster is that the Columbia River between Hood River and The Dalles is a windsurfing mecca because it blows so hard through much of the Gorge.

So while there may be lot of bass in this stretch, good luck in finding much time to fish for them in the May-through-September time period when the water is calm enough for angling to be enjoyable.

Bass fishing in the Gorge was my thing in the 1980s, particularly.

One year, I made 10 trips to the boat ramp on Rock Creek on the John Day pool on Friday nights, then slept in the back of truck in order to be on the water at daylight.

Seven of those trips I never even launched the boat because it was so windy in the morning.

Smallmouth fishing was decent to good in the John Day pool around Rock Creek, Sundale, Roosevelt and Crow Butte on the rare days when it is not windy in the summer.

From my experience, John Day is a better reservoir than the upper part of Bonneville pool mentioned by Bassmaster.

But in the end, I gave up on the Gorge for bass fishing.

I’d rather fish for salmon or steelhead or kokanee in Southwest Washington where a day set aside for fishing actually means time on the water rather than a long drive on a too windy day.