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The New Era Paper
Sweet Home, Oregon
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May 2, 2012     The New Era Paper
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May 2, 2012
 

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Page 14 le e :a - May 2, 2012 John Day River fis] brings out the masters If I didn't see it with my own eyes I may have called it just an- other fish story, or even worse. The first fish of the day: a 20- inch smallmouth bass. The second fish of the day: a 21-inch small- mouth bass. And both by the same angler. And no. it wasn't me. Steve Fleming has been fish- ing and guiding on the John Day River for many years and this was a first for him as well. When Steve Brown hooked that first fish we knew he had something good on the end of his line. When it came to the surface we knew it was a Master Angler fish - one at least 20 inches long. Shortly after Brown caught his 21-incher. I hooked into a nice fish that broke the line. We each added an 18-incher to the day's tally of about 20 fish. This time of year OUTbOORS Scott ats you don't catch a lot of fish but the ones you catch are nice-sized. I don't think we caught any bass under 14 inches and they all put up a good fight. "We had a good day on the wa- ter." said Fleming, owner of Mah- / YOUR .OUTDOOR ADVENTURE, STARTS HERE! WE HAVE VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING YOU NEED! CAMPING HU BOATING FLOATING Steve Brown holds a 21-inch smallmouth bass he caught during afloat trip Hah Outfitters in Fossil. "The first two fish being Master Angler fish before lunch was great and unusual with the early cool-water temps." Fleming said he will continue to target big fish all year. but ex- pects to catch more of them iu the early season, especially before the water hits 52 degrees, when the smaller bass that he calls "dinks" become active. The fiver flow that day was 3,850 cfs. We caught most of our fish with crankbaits, namely Rapala Shad Raps and suspended jerk baits. With the slightly off-colored water, red fire tiger and chartreuse baits were good color choices. Crawdads are m/tking a comeback again after being washed out of the fiver a few years ago by high flows and the bass appeared to have their bellies full of them. As Brown reeled in a Shad Rap (in crawdad color) he had a lit- tle tug on the line. To our surprise. attached to the lure was a nice size crawdad. It made us think about how many crawdads were actually down there on the fiver bottom. "The John Day has to be one of the premier smallmouth fisher- ies in .the country," said Brown. who lives in Bend. "I've never seen a fishery that puts out 5-pound smatlmouth so consistently." Prior to developing RodWrap fishing grips and starting his fish- ing accessories company, Better Ways Products in 2000, Brown was a B.A.S.S. tournament bass angler and won bass contests throughout the West. "You get to the point dur- ing the day that you expect your next fish to be another 20-incher or better, which is unheard of." he said. "Even more bizarre is the fact that there are no other anglers on the river, so you wind up hav- Photo by Scott Staats on the John Day River. ing 5-pound smallies and miles of them all to yourself. Wow." This time of year the fish aren't very active so you have to get their attention. To maximize our chanc- es we threw reaction baits such as crankbaits and suspending rip baits. Then we'd follow up with plastic or skirted jigs to catch some of the less aggressive fish from the same area. "I'm just blown away because I'm thinking how many of these 20-inch fish are in the river?" said Brown. "Usually an 18- or 19-inch fish is a really nice fish." He said that these pre-spawn smallmouth are the hardest-pulling bass that he's ever caught. The RodWrap grips really shined on this early spring outing with the cold and wet weather con- ditions that we encountered. Flem- See Staats, page .15