When it comes to fishing, Oregon may be best known for it’s wild steelhead and pacific salmon runs.
While these are some of the best runs of these fish in the lower forty-eight states, there is another fish swimming the beautiful rivers in Oregon that deserves a tip of the hat, the smallmouth bass. Here are three of the best rivers to find and catch hardest fighting of the black bass species.
The Columbia River
With 1,243 miles of river stretching from the Canadian Rocky Mountains to where the river finally empties into the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia is the fourth largest river in America. Most local guides say the best place on the river for smallies is the Yakima Delta area where the Yakima River empties into the Columbia.
It’s not uncommon for an angler to put a 20-pound five-fish limit in the boat and catch well over 75 bass. The reason the Columbia is such an amazing smallmouth fishery is the abundance of forage. Salmon and steelhead smolt, shad and the jumbo signal crayfish all make up the diet of bass on the river.
The John Day River
Flowing right through the heart of Central Oregon before finally emptying into the Columbia, the John Day River boats impressive numbers of smallmouth and even has a few big largemouth. The river is unimpeded by dams for its full 284 miles. 147 miles of this flow is designated as “wild and scenic” by the U.S. Congress, giving the bass angler a peaceful experience.
The John Day has much of the same forage as the Columbia creating a smaller utopia for smallmouth. Many anglers take advantage of the smaller and shallower river and fly fish it. It is not unheard to pull out 22-inch and bigger smallies while fly rodding.
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The Owyhee River
Sometimes called “Oregon’s Grand Canyon,” the Owyhee River runs it’s 346-mile course from Wildhorse Reservoir in Nevada snaking into Oregon then finally emptying into the Snake River. It may be one of the best kept secrets in western smallmouth angling. The Owyhee River is so full of smallmouth bass that many anglers floating from Rome, OR to the southern end of Lake Owyhee report 100 plus fish days on the seven day trip.
Along with it being filled to the top with brown bass it may be one of the most scenic float trips in Oregon with 1,000-foot tall canyon walls, mule deer lining the banks, and bighorn sheep in the rocks above. Another river that congress designated as “wild and scenic,” you may have the entire river to yourself all seven days of your float trip.
As you can see, Oregon may be one of the most overlooked states for smallmouth bass rivers. These three rivers may be some of the best back country bass fishing in the west.