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October fishing on the John Day River in Central Oregon

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

John Day River October Smallmouth Bass, Bill Matthews Outdoors

You don't need a big variety in your tackle box for a successful smallmouth trip on the John Day in October. The fish are plentiful and they are aggressive biters. You can catch all you want in the 10" to 15" range, and there are 20" fish lurking in the river too.

Essential Tackle

Rod, Reel & Line

Med Light spring gear is what I prefer - 6'6" rods and 2000 size spinning reels.

For Line I use 20# Sufix 832 Braid for my main line and attach a 6' Sufix Advance Mono 10# leader.

Be sure to bring addition leader material as you will lose some lures and will need to update your leader.

Topwater Lures. The topwater bite is great in the morning before the sun gets too high over the canyon, and can be good all day if the clouds roll in. The fish seem to like it right next to the bank - under overhanging shrubs and trees. Big fish will be in shallow water this time of year, so don't pass up shallow banks with good overhanging brush. The bite is voracious, and they will even miss the lure a few times. This is your best opportunity to catch a big fish. Here are the three lures I prefer this tie of year - the extra noise of the propeller or tail seems to be what they want.

Rapala Skitter Prop, October Topwater, Bill Matthews Outdoors

Rapala Skitter Prop is a great lure for the John Day in October

Here are my top 3 Top Water Lures for the John Day in October

River2Sea Whopper Plopper 90 in Phanton Shad

Heddon Tiny Torpedo Bullfrog

October Smallmouth Bass John Day River - Bill Matthews Outdoors

Doubled up on Soft Plastics on the John Day River

Soft Plastics: Light jigs heads with grubs, worms or Neds work best. I like to fish 1/16oz to 1/8 oz ball head or Ned jigs tipped with curly tail grubs, worms or ned baits. If you get too heavy you will snag up a lot, and I believe the fish prefer the light presentation - you just have to be patient to let your bait get through the water column.

Dry Creek Outfitters ripple worm, Bill's Money, Bill Matthews Outdoors

Dry Creek Outfitters 5" Ripple Worm in a color that I designed called "Bill's Money"

Jig Heads

VMC "HBJ" Hard ball Jig in 1/16 & 1/8oz are great for the John Day.

Soft Plastics

Zman TRD BUGZ in Mudbug or Watermelon Red

Kailins 2" Grubs in green pumpkin or watermelon red flake

Rapala Ned BLT in Green Pumpkin Magic

Smallmouth Bass in October, John Day River, Bill Matthews outdoors

Soft Plastics are a must for the John Day in October

Pautzke Fire Gel - Crawfish scent. I am a huge believer in scent and the Pautzke Fire Gel is the best out there. I brought a jar for everyone, and I can promise you that by the end of the trip - this was the most valuable resource. The John day is a great testing ground for tackle, and the crawfish Fire Gel definitely increases your bite ratio by a big percentage.

Pautzke Fire Gel, Smallmouth Bass, Bill Matthews Outdoors

Pautzke Fire Gel in Crawfish is the secret sauce that you will need!

Bring Plenty of soft plastics and Jigs because you will lose a lot of lures, and be sure to stock up on Pautzke Fire Gel and you should have an amazing trip!

Bill Matthews Outdoors, Smallmouth Bass, October, John Day River

Another John Day River October Smallmouth!


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