Northern Smallmouth Bass Delivers Light Fun on the Sacramento River

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RIO VISTA – When most anglers target black bass in the Delta, they typically prey on the abundant largemouth bass that is chased in dozens of tournaments each year. But there is another species of black bass, smallmouth bass, which offers plenty of light tackling action on the Sacramento River and adjacent swamps.

According to Don Paganelli of Paganelli’s Bass Fishing Experience, the main area for chasing these “bronzebacks” is the Sacramento River from Freeport to Isleton and Steamboat, Miner and Elk Sloughs. Paganelli took a trip with two clients to the North Delta last week which produced a top notch catch.

“We caught and released around 30 fish,” Paganelli said. “In addition to small mouths up to 2 ½ pounds, we have landed largemouth bass up to 3 pounds.”

They caught the fish by fishing for upper water lures and wacky rigged Robo Worms on rip-rap and weed lines on ebb tide.

“Look for rockfill shorelines – get away from mud banks,” Paganelli said. “The little mouths attack the crawdads. Late spring through summer is a great time to fish for smallmouth bass; the bite slows down during the winter.

Paganelli recommends casting medium diving crankbaits and superior water lures such as Pop-Rs in crawdad models at this time of year.

“The fish usually bite right off the shore,” Paganelli said. “They often hit the decoy as soon as they hit the water.”

When fishing for salmon from the Sacramento shore, anglers often catch smallmouth bass just as they are about to pull a top out of the water.

“There are a lot of rip-rap shorelines in these swamps for the crayfish to live on,” Paganelli added. “Small mouths also prey on baitfish like shad, as well as large and small mouth fry. I like to use 3.5 Keitech swimbaits on 1/8 oz. jig heads when they feed on these fry.

Paganelli said more and more large mouths are appearing in these swamps with the prolonged weed growth that takes place during the drought. The average size of small mouths is 1 to 1 ½ pounds, but I have heard of fish up to 6 pounds caught in the river. The biggest little mouth that Paganelli has sailed is 3 pounds.

He said the tides aren’t as important for catching these fish as they are for striped bass, but he finds the best action on a ebb tide. Information: (916) 502-3474.

Large mouths of the central delta: While fishing recently at Paradise Point Marina in Stockton, Paganelli experienced Largemouth Bass fishing at Mildred Island, White Slough and Connection Slough. One of Paganelli’s clients grabbed and released a dozen large mouths ranging from 1 ½ to 4 pounds on his last trip.

“We fished with top quality bait including Zara Spooks and large Pop-Rs in shadow patterns at the end of the ebb tide in the morning and the ebb tide the rest of the day,” t -he declares.

West Delta plotters: Striped bass fishing is doing well on the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers in the West Delta, reported Craig Newton of Will Fish Tackle in Auburn.

“Ron Retzlaff of Orangevale and his friends caught a lot of strippers while fishing on the west side of Sacramento and over the Antioch Bridge on the San Joaquin,” Newton said. “They’ve been hanging out with Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows in deep diving at the end of the ebb tide, the dead tide and the start of the rising tide for the last few days.” Information: (530) 887-0839.

The Kings of the Golden Gate: The Bass Tub at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco was checked on August 23, with salmon limits at 36 pounds at 1 p.m. after fishing for anchovies off the coast of Marin County. Information: (415) 456-9055.

Contact Record correspondent Dan Bacher at [email protected]


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