Spokane River Smallmouth Bass - Part 2

Sean Visintainer - 07/30/13

Small Mouth Bass from the Spokane River.

Smallmouth Bass Gear and Tactics

Catching the smallmouth on the Upper Spokane is definitely not rocket science. Probably due to the limited food sources and angling pressure, the bass are often eager to pounce on any well place fly. We find various streamers to be the most productive and during a good portion of the summer you can throw some poppers and dry flies at the bass. Typically your streamers that are retrieved in an erratic stop-go motion will elicit aggressive takes and even when swung traditional wet fly style will produce. Floating lines are sufficient, however, sink-tips at times can improve your odds. When fishing topwater, whether with trout style flies or more bass specific patterns, I would recommend twitching or popping them across the surface. While the topwater may not produce the most numbers it sure is fun to watch them crush the fly.

During the earlier parts of the summer and fall when the Spokane River is higher and colder you will find the smallmouth bass in the "tankier" and slower stretches. As summer heats up fish move into the riffles more and into the faster water at the head or tailouts of the run. Focusing on structure like the many big boulders strewn about the Spokane will be your best bet. The smallies due tend to sit on the front side (upstream side) of the boulders so try placing your flies just upstream of any likely rocks and then swim or drift them down along the edges.

Spokane River in the valley. Photo by Michael Visintainer

Smallmouth Bass Gear

  • Rods - 9' 5 or 6wt - Fast Action
  • Line - Weight Forward Tapers powerful enough to turn over streamers/poppers
  • Leader - 7'6"-9' 10-15lb test tippet

Smallmouth Bass Flies

  • Conehead Buggers... well just buggers in general work great
  • Clouser Minnows
  • Poppers
  • Mice
  • Lead Eye Marabou Leeches
  • Sculpins
  • Pat's Rubber legs
  • Hoppers / Chernobyls
  • Caddis Pupa

WTF (Where To Fish... amongst other meanings)

A good portion of your smallmouth bass population resides in the sections above Sullivan Road where the water is warmer. The water across the State Line and upstream to the dam also has lots of bass. As the water cools below the aquifer recharge just upstream of Sullivan Bridge, the smallmouth population drops off dramatically and the Redband population picks up. Typically you due tend to find some big smallmouth in this stretch. One theory my good friend and local warmwater guide Dave Dana has as to why there are smaller bass up higher is that the bigger adult fish are hanging in the cooler deeper water and move upstream to spawn, hence more small juvenile bass in the upper stretches. That right there could be a correlation to the reduction of Redbands in the upper river since the bass would be competing with the trout for spawns... just a theory though.. we are not biologist so that would have to be confirmed by the experts.

Go give it a try! You might actually have a good time!

Spokane River Smallmouth Bass.
Spokane River Smallmouth Bass - Part 1