Although Eastern Oregon has more waters absolutely loaded with smallmouth bass, the western half of the state is far closer to home for most of the state’s anglers and has some extremely excellent bronzeback fisheries in the lower-elevation rivers and reservoirs.
Here are a handful of the best of the west:
Columbia and Willamette Rivers
Oregon’s biggest rivers are chock full of smallmouth bass, which have displaced largemouth bass as the most pervasive non-native predatory fish.
Smallmouth bass can be found throughout the Columbia River system, including in the eastern half of the state.
Here in the western (lower) section of river, as elsewhere, smallmouth bass prefer rocky structure and will often be out in the main river.
Natural rocks, rip-rap and other structures hold bass, and that type of habitat is a little more common from Portland upriver into the Columbia River Gorge than it is in the extreme lower river.
In the Willamette, smallmouth bass are common both below and above Willamette Falls (between Oregon City and West Linn).
They are commonly found up to about the Albany and Corvallis area. Above that is primarily trout country.
Smallmouth also are found in the lower sections of tributaries, including the Santiam, Yamhill and other rivers.
There is plenty of man-made structure, including rip-rap and pilings, especially in Portland, and no shortage of natural rocky structure farther upriver.
Look for smallmouth bass in shallow water during the springtime. They usually will be found a bit deeper during the summer and fall.
Look for additional details in: Columbia River Fishing and Fishing in the Willamette River and Multnomah Channel.
Henry Hagg Lake
The past five Oregon state fishing records for smallmouth bass have come out of this reservoir near Forest Grove, including the 8-plus-pound current record landed in 2005.
Gary Galovich, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife warmwater fish biologist for the west side of the state, said Hagg Lake continues to produce some of the state’s largest smallmouth bass, even though its overall numbers of fish can’t match the state’s best bass rivers.
Hagg Lake also holds a smaller number of largemouth bass that can reach impressive size. For more information about fishing for both species of bass, see: Hagg Lake Bass Fishing.
This reservoir also has tons of undersized yellow perch, good fishing for nice-sized bullhead catfish and a growing crappie population.
If you want outrageous numbers of fish, including the occasional trophy-sized fish, the Umpqua River is the place west of Oregon’s Cascades that can hold up in comparison to many of the world’s best smallmouth bass fisheries.
Summertime anglers often catch 100 bass per day here, and 200 for someone with good skills, all day to spend and two strong arms. Fewer but bigger bass are the springtime target.
The Umpqua is loaded with bass from tidewater up to the forks, and both bank access and boat launches are plentiful in most of the reaches.
It’s not uncommon for schools of bass to follow a drift boat, just waiting for your next cast.
The South Fork of the river near Roseburg is also good for bass but is often too low to float. The North Fork is too cold for warmwater fishing.
For detailed articles developed with the help of one of the Umpqua River’s best guides, including tips that will catch smallmouth bass anywhere, see:
More Western Oregon Smallmouth Bass Fisheries
There are large numbers of not very large smallmouth bass in this big reservoir southwest of Medford and Ashland (near the California border).
There’s also a popular trout fishery here.
More: Applegate Lake Fishing.
Green Peter Reservoir
This Willamette Valley reservoir is better known for its outstanding kokanee fishing, but it’s no slouch for bass and hosts tournaments.
There is a growing smallmouth population, most of which are modest in size, but you’ll also still find a few largemouths.
Lost Creek Reservoir
This is a very large reservoir on the upper Rogue River northeast of Grants Pass.
A traditional rainbow trout fishery, there also are approximately a gazillion smallmouth bass here.
Bassers should also note efforts to recover the once-thriving largemouth bass fishery.
More: Fishing at Lost Creek Lake.