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3 Techniques for Summer Bass Fishing on the Columbia River

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Summer Smallmouth on the Columbia River!

Smallmouth Bass fishing on the Columbia River is one of my favorite fisheries in the world. Summer is the peak of this fishery for me because the river has warmed up and the fish are actively feeding on shad and crawdads. The number of bass in this fishery is staggering. It is not uncommon to catch 50 fish in a day, and this often includes a couple of fish over four pounds. Here are three techniques that I use on the Columbia River to target these fish.

1. Swim Baits

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Schooling Smallmouth caught on a Keitech Swimbait with a Trokar Head - Look at how the hook penetrated!

There is a huge migration of shad moving down the river this time of year, and Smallmouth Bass are very keyed in on them. A shad imitating swim-bait is a great choice to target bass this time of year. Fish them over flats, weed beds and anywhere you see bass chasing shad.

My favorite swim bait head is a Trokar 1/4 oz: TKSB14W-5/0

I pair the Trokar head with a Keitech FAT Swing Impact 3.8".

My thee favorite colors are; Smallmouth Magic, French Pearl or Ghost Rainbow

2. Top Water

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Another 4 plus pound Columbia River Smallmouth

Top water lures are another great choice this time of year. The bass are actively feeding on shad on top of the water so a surface lure can be a great choice. These lures usually work best in the morning, but I have had times where the bite lasts all day long. Here are three of my favorite top water lures for this time of year.

Zara Spook

I use the big Zara Spook. If the bass are biting Spooks, it will be one of the most exciting days of fishing you will ever experience. The bass will absolutely annihilate this lure. Fish these across big flats and in open water or where ever you see bass chasing shad on the surface.

Tiny Torpedo

The Tiny Torpedo has a smaller profile and sometimes this is exactly what the fish are looking for. Some of the biggest fish I have caught have come on this little lure, so be ready for some big action on the Tiny Torpedo. I fish these near islands and along the shore line.

Bagley Knocker B

The Knocker B is an awesome bait with incredible action and it is very easy to work. The loud rattles are a big bonus. Fish this the same as you would a Zara Spook.

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Top: Tiny Torpedo Middle: Bagley Knocker B Bottom: Zara Spook

3. Columbia River Crawdads

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Columbia River Smallmouth caught on a Columbia River Crawdad

You can never go wrong with a Columbia River Crawdad. Columbia River Smallmouth eat crawdads year round and this is one of the best crawdad imitations available. This lure also has the advantage of looking like a wounded shad as it sinks, so it can be used as a shad imitation. Here is a link to a post I did titled How to Make a Columbia River Crawdad They are easy to make and easy to fish.

Drag them with the current through gravel and boulder beds in 8 to 20 feet of water, or cast next to structure for a crawdad imitation. Bass usually bite these pretty hard so set the hook as soon as you feel the bite. I highly recommend using Trokar Tube Heads to help improve your hook up percentage.

When I see bass chasing shad on the surface I cast towards them and let it fall like a wounded shad. The bass will usually hit it on the fall, but if not use a slow retrieve and they will often times grab it on the way back to the boat.

Columbia River Crawdads are my most productive lures for Columbia River Smallmouth.

Here are my 3 favorite colors of Columbia river Crawdads

Bill Matthews Outdoors Columbia River Crawdad

Bill's Money

Bill Matthews Outdoors Columbia River Crawdad

Old Ugly w/ attitude

Bill Matthews Outdoors Columbia River Crawdad

Old Ugly

Thanks for reading, and good luck fishing this summer!


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