Smallmouth Bass fishing takes place on the Yakima River just above the confluence into the Columbia River. For the most part bass are located on the Columbia River. As smolt come down the Yakima River, bass push up into the Yakima chasing these smolt. These bass get amped keying in on these smolt.
Just about any white streamer about 3-6 inches in length works very well down there. Crayfish patterns, poppers, and divers also work really well.
Typically, the second half of the season we have better success on top water. An intermediate line with split shot or a slow sinking sink tip is all you need to fish for them. We try fishing aggressively in order to trigger the bass instinctual hunting abilities. A hard smack on the water will send vibrations through the lateral lines of the fish and get their attention. With shorter aggressive strips, will typically get them to eat.
Early and late in the season we can get bass that are being a little lazier so a big downstream mend to get your fly swimming downstream to mimic a smolt just casually swimming out to the ocean can also get them to eat.
Often, bass get keyed in on the weak or injured smolt, so fishing aggressively isn’t always the best method.
Why would a bass go out of its way to chase down a smolt swimming away from it when they can pick off the wounded?
Fishing poppers down here typically catch the bigger fish. Throwing them up in likely spots and stripping on an even cadence where females are nesting will often get them to strike. The females don’t want anything in their nesting area so a slow to even retrieve seems to work best.
These bass sit in water surprisingly the same as trout. Deep slow runs with a good seam and foam line to eddies and even up on shelves. Don’t be afraid to throw your flies in the current and pull them out.
Smallmouth bass are bulldog fighters and never seem to give up until you get a thumb in their lip.
They are a ton of fun on a fly rod and it is one of my favorite fisheries that I look forward to every year.
Our average fish down there is about .5-1 LB. with a decent number of chances at fish 1.5-3 LBS. and even some fish ranging from 4-5 LBS. Although, the average fish down there is pretty small there are plenty of fish caught a day with an average catch rate 20-30 fish.
Unfortunately, this fishery is only about 6 weeks long as the lower river starts getting really low because they are drawing out water for irrigation and the weeds grow up and make it impossible to fish.
The season typically starts in May and goes through June. We always go down to make sure the river is fish-able and the bass have moved up before we take any trips down there.
You need a WDFW freshwater fishing license for smallmouth bass fishing.