Growing up in Spokane, Wash., I have been fortunate to live around some excellent fishing. We have great opportunities available to us year-round, and we also have the pick of species to target. From walleye to sturgeon and pike to bass, we have it all. That isn’t even including the species that our region is best known for, the salmon, trout and steelhead. We are lucky to have options, and I feel that this has greatly helped my career as a professional bass fisherman.
The abundance of salmon and steelhead has helped me learn how to better fish river systems and allowed me to apply that to bass. We also have excellent walleye fishing and many northwest anglers fish for them in the winter months. This has made me a better cold-water angler and given me confidence with lures like blade baits for bass when the water is in the 30s. There are countless other examples, but all of them together have shaped my bass fishing for the better.
Since there are plenty of opportunities for whatever species you prefer, the angling community can do what they please and the number of anglers is split. You may see 20 boat trailers at the ramp and have several different types of anglers represented. Some of them may be trolling for salmon, some chasing perch, a few after trout, some targeting pike and then the others are after bass.
Besides the diversity of species, we have a wide range of waters available to us. From the Columbia River that is full of big smallmouth to Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho with both giant largemouth and smallmouth, we have choices. There are countless other lakes and rivers in the region that hold big bass and each of them is very different.
We can finesse fish for big smallmouth in deep, clear water and then shift to largemouth by pitching docks, throwing a frog around lily pads or catch them on a ChatterBait in shallow grass. We can do it all on the same day, and this is something that really helps if you want to learn new techniques. Best of all, we have the chance at big bass doing each of those.
Living here also works out great for me if one of my sponsors is coming out with a new style of bait. We have the diversity where chances are I can think of a lake where that style of lure would work in order to get the best feedback to relay to my sponsors.
Does Washington even have bass?
It is amazing to me how many times I have had a Marshal ask me how I got into bass fishing since I am from the Northwest. “Do they even have bass up there?” is something I have heard countless times.
Of course we do, and big ones. Take Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho for example, spring (and the rest of the year for that matter) tournaments regularly take weights of 25 to 28 pounds to win with five fish. It is not out of the ordinary for 8-pound largemouth to be brought to the scales followed by someone with a 6-pound smallmouth. Even lesser known lakes and rivers still require 20-pound bags to win most tournaments.
That’s not to say the fishing here is easy, or the fish are uneducated. There is a large group of bass anglers throughout the Northwest and many are very good anglers. If they fish tournaments, all of them have had to prove their skills at a variety of different fisheries. It is something I learned as I was coming up through the ranks, fishing club tournaments and then team tournaments. In order to do well here, you have to be willing to adapt and that has translated to my career on the Elite Series as no two bodies of water we visit are the same.
It makes sense that fellow northwest bass angler Brandon Palaniuk has done so well in his career. He grew up about 30 minutes from where I did, and I am sure that he would agree with me when I say the fishing here is diverse and underrated. In 2017 he won the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, something that requires diversity and skill across a wide variety of waters, and I would like to think that where he came from had some impact on that.
I hope that one day the Bassmaster Elite Series takes a trip to our region. For one, it would be nice to have all of my friends and family at the weigh-ins, but it would also help to showcase the region I call home. It may upset some of the locals though, who quietly have some of the best bass fishing in America.