Well-outfitted watercraft provide everything a fishing boater needs


Westlake Park at Siltcoos Lake, above, is one of the two Lane County Parks that dot the shoreline. The second is at Ada Park on the east side of Siltcoos, where camping and boat moorage are offered at Darling’s and Nightingale’s fish camps.

In my last report I highlighted the number of lakes and rivers where smallmouth and largemouth bass, introduced to Oregon waters about 100 years ago, have spread, thrived and now are among Oregon’s top angling opportunities.

Although there are modest bank-fishing opportunities for bass, particularly for river smallmouth, some form of floating craft is the best way to approach these productive fisheries. 

About an hour’s drive from the southern Willamette Valley, our region’s top smallmouth fishery is the Umpqua River. Where drift boats, rafts, canoes and kayaks all provide great access to miles of quality smallmouth fishing. At summer levels, the river is a series of long pools punctuated by short riffle sections and several small rapids. 

I’m most comfortable in my drift boat but outfit it with a small electric motor that has a modest 30 pounds of thrust and carry a small gel battery to power it. I don’t go very fast but motor past the long slow Umpqua runs with ease and spend more time fishing and less time rowing. Can’t say too much about the Umpqua; it’s a real gem.

The fish finder is an eye beneath the surface, a snapshot in time tells us I’m in 4.6 feet of water, the water temperature is 62.9 degrees, the bottom has several dips and there are fish all around the boat.

Fishing in a large lake is a little more challenging, requires an additional skill set and, for power boaters, a state permit. But safe boating skills, the permit process and productive angling experiences are well within most people’s abilities. 

In 2020, about 17% of American families owned some kind of boat; the percentages are higher on each coast, where close to one-in-four families are boating families. 

In Oregon, famous for our pristine waterways, world-class fishing abounds on sporting-class fishing boats built for our rivers, lakes and for ocean fishing. And other types of pleasure watercraft from canoes, kayaks and rafts to sailing boats; jet skis to luxury motor yachts are also popular and the ranks of the boating public grow every year. Your chances of becoming a boater in Lane County are pretty good at about one-in-four. 

Under ideal conditions a boat 12 feet or longer with a 10- to 15-HP motor will get you onto every bass (trout and kokanee) lake in the county. Any boat larger, adds a measure of “seaworthiness” for when conditions become less than ideal and makes it possible to invite a couple of friends. 

The bottom line on boats is: I always encourage my friends to buy as much boat as the budget will bear. 

I use a 17.5-foot Tracker brand aluminum boat in a deep V configuration with a 115HP motor, (there are any number of other boats, by other manufacturers that fall into the same class) manufactured in the Midwest; it was built for large lakes. 

The deep V is stable, enables me to motor confidently in diminishing conditions and gives me more time on the water. Outfitted with front and rear casting decks and primarily a bass boat, it also has a couple of live wells and a fairly sophisticated electronic set of GPS-enabled navigation controls, in addition to the fish and depth finder. 

The trolling motor is integrated into the GPS system and allows me to retrace a productive piece of water by pushing a button. It also allows me to anchor the boat using only the trolling motor in any depth of water. The system works by sending ground positioning data to the electric trolling motor and it continually adjusts to hold position within a few inches of where I set my mark. The Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor is not new technology; other trolling motor manufacturers offer a comparable product, but the “I-Troll” technology is something any fishing boater would enjoy. 

I mentioned my depth and fish finder. Simply stated, that is your eye beneath the surface of the water. It will not only help you find fish but also help you avoid subsurface logs and other debris or running up on a shallow sand bar – or worse, a rock pile. 

I fished three different lakes in the western part of the county since my last report. The effects of this terrible hovering drought were everywhere. 

All three lakes are already at late summer levels, and sadly, there is no significant relief in the forecast. Logs, normally well beneath the surface in May, were high and dry and I found an unmarked sand bar on one lake just in time to turn away to avoid grounding. In any power boat I can not imagine not having the technology on board.

There are alternatives to owning a power boat. Sit-on-top fishing kayaks have become popular over the past decade, and many are manufactured to accommodate some of the same electronic features found on powerboats. Including electric trolling motors, depth and fish finders and the I-Troll system I described above. Some can be peddled like a bike and some can be paddled like any other class of kayak.

In a future report I’ll highlight this versatile style of fishing craft and in my next and final entry on bass this spring, I’ll specifically address bass fishing gear, lures, hooks and techniques.


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