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Targeting Smallies in the Columbia River, G.Loomis Style (continued)


The Willamette is a major tributary of the Columbia River and is located completely within Oregon and runs right through Portland, the state’s largest city. We launched just a few miles from downtown Portland and head up the river where we had to navigate through a gauntlet of salmon fisherman. There were a ton of boats on the Willamette, many of them trolling, some fishing plugs. While the Salmon were getting pressured we saw very few bass boats on the water and had many of the best spots to ourselves.


A smallmouth taken in shallow water on the Speed Trap


To mix things up Jeff fished with Bruce and I rode shotgun with Renauld. I continued to fish the same Strike King crankbaits I tossed yesterday but the Willamette only yielded one smallmouth to this particular lure. As the sun came out the weather proved to be much nicer on the Willamette and we started experimenting with other baits including my favorite Delta patterned Speed Traps which was money. “The Willamette has some nice smallmouth but typically they don’t get as big as the Columbia where we were fishing yesterday,” Renaud explained.


These fish may not be as big as largemouth but they are mean hard fighters


The tubes and jigs were definitely working and we landed a number of fish quickly with a little finesse. Without so much wind I could finally appreciate the NRX rods that I had been fishing with all trip long. It was very easy to discern just what was hard and soft cover and I could tell the second my tube came in contact with rocks. While feel was impressive the best way I could describe these rods is that they have a very different “personality” to other G.Loomis rods.


Renaud lands a pretty brown colored smallie


The NRX rods are very light but seem to be more flexible, especially when there is a fish on the line. This additional flex doesn’t deaden the rod and while you might think these rods are underpowered the minute you set into a fish the rod responds with confidence. The feel of these rods and the static deflection can be deceiving, and at times they feel like they have less power but they really don’t. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the coming weeks fishing these rods on my home water in the Delta and comparing notes with what I learned here in Oregon. 


Bruce fishes a tube near some bridge pilings with a NRX spinning rod


Throughout the day Renaud showed me a number of his most productive spots on the river, places that had made a difference for him in previous tournaments. In one rocky spot we pulled out 12 two-three pound smallies one after another using jigs, it was a slaughter. Then just as we thought there were no more fish in that honey hole Renaud hooked into one that he immediately knew was bigger. As it neared the boat we caught glimpse of a 4-5lb. smallie. “That’s a really good fish for the Willamette!” Renaud exclaimed. “Do you want me to grab the net?” I responded. “No I’m good, I’ve got it….” and with that the fish shook his head and popped off the jig and swam away hastily. Renaud hung his head down and just laughed. “Guess we should have got the net after all!”


The Columbia and surrounding tributaries offers anglers some excellent smallmouth fishing opportunities


The Willamette delivered just as many numbers for us as the Columbia but not as good quality. It was interesting to fish right through the urban setting and the pleasant weather helped make our second day of fishing a lot more relaxing. Jeff caught quite a few fish with paddletail swimbaits and lightning struck again as Bruce hooked into another Salmon, this time with a tube, but it broke off the ultralight line on the first run.


Bruce shows us two reasons why the Columbia River is a top destination for smallmouth fishing and it is a very good thing to have a very sensitive rod for fishing tubes and jigs


Over the course of two days I learned a lot about G.Loomis from Bruce, and the inside look into the company’s manufacturing operation was very informative. The Columbia River proved to be a challenge but an excellent test for both the NRX and Deep Flex crankbait rods, as well as our rain gear. Heavy wind, rain, even some hail could do little to mess up this trip with company as good I had. Between the stories Bruce and Renaud shared with me and the opportunity to just learn about fishing these two rivers it is a surprise we even caught as many fish as we did. Rain or shine the Columbia River offers truly world class smallmouth and salmon fishing and you can be sure that I’ll be heading back there again sometime soon.










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