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Umpqua River Smallmouth

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Bill Matthews Outdoors Smallmouth Bass
Umpqua River bass fishing with Todd Harrington

In July I had the opportunity to fish the Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. The Umpqua is a beautiful river, with fantastic runs of Salmon and Steelhead, and also an incredible population of Smallmouth Bass. On this day we would be targeting Smallmouth with professional guide Todd Harrington of Living Waters Guide Service. I was joined by good friend and Eagle Claw Hook legend, Tenny Mount, Greg Zash and my new best fishing friend, Ned. We would be fishing a secluded stretch of the river with very limited access that has some of the most incredible smallmouth action on the planet.

I left my house under a huge full moon at 3:30AM and headed south to pick up Tenny and Greg. We arrived in Elkton, Oregon at around 7:00 AM and stopped at Tomaselli’s Pastry Mill & Cafe for breakfast.

Tomaselli's in Elkton Oregon

I ordered my usual of two eggs over easy, bacon, sourdough toast, coffee and a water. Our waitress was super friendly, and while we waiting on our order, she brought by a deli menu for us to order lunch for the trip. They have a great deli and can make anything to order. I ordered a turkey sandwich with cucumber, tomato, chips and a pickle. The breakfast was outstanding, and when we were finished, we paid the bill and picked up our sack lunches to eat on the river. If you ever find yourself in Elkton, I highly recommend stopping by Tomaselli’s, they have great food and are great people!

It was a beautiful day as we left Elkton and drove to Todd’s house on the Umpqua River. Todd already had his new Clackacraft drift boat in the water so all we had to do was load our gear and we were on our way.

I have to note that Todd’s boat is one of the nicest drift boats I have ever fished in. He has it laid out perfectly to fish three people and has made several custom adjustments to it, including a padded floor that makes it an absolute pleasure to spend a day fishing. When shoved off under clear blue skies and it was a pleasant 75 degrees - headed to the 90s.

To start the day, I had on a top water lure. Greg was fishing his favorite jig, and Tenny had on a tube. Greg and Tenny started catching fish right out of the gate. Greg caught several on his favorite jig and Tenny was doing well on his tube. I was able to get some fish to rise to the topwater, but they were not committing to it. Todd suggested that I switch over to a swim bait on a Trokar jig head and I immediately started catching fish. In the super clear water of the Umpqua you can often times see the bass attack your lure, and it was a blast watching them attack the swim bait. Todd knows every section of this river and by following his instructions, we had quickly caught over 25 fish per person within the first 45 minutes.

Beautiful Umpqua River

The fishing on the Umpqua is so amazing, that I sometimes forget to mention that the scenery is just as spectacular. This is a secluded section of the river, where we only saw a couple of other boats the entire day. The crystal clear water flows through lava rock formations along pristine forrest land. This is the Oregon that you read about in books. It is a breathtaking stretch of river, and to be catching bass like this seems somewhat surreal.

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Tenny Mount and Ned with a nice Umpqua River Smallmouth

The fishing remained consistent as we made our way down river, and a one point Todd suggested that Tenny should try a “Ned” rig. Tenny obliged and I swear he caught a fish on every single cast for at least 20 minutes. Man that thing was effective! I had switched to my tube and was catching plenty…including a 17” fish, and Greg was super consistent with his jig, and seemed to be getting the bigger fish - including the fish of the day - an 18" + fish, but neither one of us could keep up with the incredible numbers that Tenny was putting in the boat on his Ned rig

Lunch time!

We stopped for lunch along the river around noon and ate our sandwiches from Tomeselli’s. It was glorious to sit in the shade and enjoy a sandwich along the beautiful Umpqua River. As we started our second half of the day, the same trend continued. Greg and I doing well on our respective jig and tube, but Tenny was absolutely hammering them on his “Ned” rig. I had seen and read about this rig, but it just did not get me excited. The Ned rig looks like just a nothing lure, so I had never tried it. I asked Todd about it and he said that is it just amazing how it works. After watching Tenny for several hours, I finally gave in and submitted to the Ned. Todd hooked me up and I dropped it in. Almost instantly I felt the Tap Tap Tap of a SMB ( Smallmouth Bass) and I set the hook on a nice 14” fish. Wow, that was effective. After that, Ned and I became best friends. We hooked fish after fish after fish for the next two hours including my best fish of the day.

My new friend, Ned

The day went by way too fast. It seemed impossible that it was already 4:00 and we were approaching the take out. It is hard to keep count, but we conservatively figured that we easily caught over 100 fish a piece, with many in the 16 - 17” range and a couple over 18”.

Greg Zash with a beautiful 18" SMB

Fishing with Todd makes for an amazing day, and one that you will never forget. if you are a Smallmouth Bass Fisherman, you really owe it to yourself to book this trip with Todd, it is a truly unique experience that you will never forget.

Thanks for reading.



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