Best places for boat fishing in Oregon

Bass with a lure in it's mouth
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As the weather gets warmer, the call of the outdoors grows louder. When the sun dangles irresistibly in the sky like a great shining lure, where will you go?

For the 46 million Americans who are hooked on fishing, sunny days mean hitting the water to enjoy the nation’s second most popular outdoor activity. And if you’re lucky enough to belong to one of the 17 percent of households that own a boat, Oregon offers endless opportunities for relaxing with a line and hauling in a great catch.

More than 11 percent of the nation’s fishing occurs in the Pacific region, and for good reason. Our state alone is home to some of the world’s most stunning—and abundant—places to fish. If you’re itching to get out on the water, April and May are ideal for bass fishing in Oregon, says professional angler and UO fishing team member Ryan Habenicht, who works at Oregon Community Credit Union’s Downtown branch. He offered the following pro tips for catching bass this year.

Smallmouth bass: Head for the river

Looking for a heart-racing battle and thrilling catch? The smallmouth bass is known as one of the toughest grapplers in North America. Seasoned anglers respect its fighting abilities when hooked, and old fishing journals describe it as “ounce for ounce and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims.”

The smallmouth bass is a wary fish, though not as skittish as trout. Use a 4.3-inch Keitech swimbait on a ½-ounce jig, or a green pumpkin tube on a ¼-ounce jig (photos below), and Habenicht promises you’ll catch them any day of the year.

One of the best smallmouth bass fishing spots lies along the Columbia River—head for the stretch between Hood River and Cascade Locks, and start reeling them in. The Umpqua River is the second best place to catch this fish, followed by the Willamette.

Largemouth bass: Stick to coastal lakes

With a maximum recorded weight of 22 pounds, this fish is a real bruiser. Like its smallmouth cousin, it can put up a fight—largemouth bass often become airborne in their effort to escape the hook. Anglers tend to target it as a trophy fish, though they usually catch-and-release the larger specimens.

Largemouth bass are opportunistic foragers, which means a variety of baits and lures can do the trick. Habenicht recommends a weightless 5-inch Senko lure in green pumpkin with a 2/0 size hook, or throw a ½-ounce jig with a crawdad trailer in green pumpkin. Green pumpkin is “awesome everywhere,” he says.

To catch this sought-after fish, hang out at coastal lakes such as Ten Mile Lake, Oregon’s best largemouth bass fishing spot and the site of the state’s top fishing tournaments. Siltcoos and Takenitch lakes are also great spots. Near Eugene, check out Triangle Lake and Dorena Lake near Cottage Grove. Farther south, Lake Selmac near Grants Pass is a good largemouth spot, while Emigrant Lake in the Medford area contains both smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Expert bass fishing tips 

Legendary bass angler Buck Perry swore that any bass would strike any lure that had the right depth, speed and color. But researchers have found some bass are more gullible than others. Some get caught more than a dozen times in a year, while others stubbornly resist the lure. To increase your chances of a great catch, keep a few things in mind:

  • Bass stick mostly to the shallows in spring and fall, then spread throughout the lake in summer.
  • In hot weather they often congregate near shady structures, such as docks.
  • Look for eddies and places where the current changes speed, which is where bass like to hang out.

With such great fishing opportunities right in our backyard, it’s no wonder anglers enjoy an average of 19 outings a year. Want to be one of them? Applying for a boat loan is the first step!

Lure photos

Keitech swimbait
Keitech swimbait on 1/2-ounce jig






Green pumpkin tube on 1/4-ounce jig









Weightless Senko lure in green
Weightless Senko lures
1/2-ounce jig with crawdad trailer
1/2-ounce jig with crawdad trailer