Living in a Rocky Mountain state, it can be hard to believe the fish species anglers spend the most days pursuing are largemouth and smallmouth bass. Nationwide, more than twice as many days are spent casting lures to bass than all the trout species combined.
Bass are native to the eastern portion of the country. Largemouth evolved in warmer water temperatures and were historically found from Texas to Florida then north to the Canadian boarder. Smallmouth bass prefer cool clearer waters and had almost the same native range as largemouth bass but didn’t include the southern tier of states. Angler infatuation with these fish means that with translocation they can now be found in every state but Alaska, as well as other countries around the world. One reason so many anglers spend time pursuing these fish is they now live in nearly every pond, lake and reservoir in the continental United States. This is not true of trout.
Bass anglers initiated the competitive fishing industry in 1967. Anybody who spends time scrolling through TV channels will invariably run into a bass fishing tournament. These events are competitive enough that winners can pocket over $100,000 for winning a single event. Tournaments are great for anglers, not that bad for the bass (all fish are released), and good for local communities. In places such as Lake Eufaula on the border of Alabama and Georgia or Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, estimates suggest tournament anglers spend around $400 a day in the local communities. There are numerous bass fishing tournaments in Utah and Idaho, but rarely are they conducted at the highest level.
The bass fishing industry also created a proliferation of tackle. Between soft plastics, crank baits, jerk baits, jigs, topwater lures and spinner baits, it is not possible to be completely equipped when you head to the water for bass. Professional anglers often have 20 rigged rods on their boats which demonstrates the difficulty of being prepared for all situations.
This is one of the reasons people love bass fishing; there are so many techniques to master. Having the right bass lure is sort of like having the right fly — it’s not always possible. That said, I possess lots of bass lures, but 95% of them stay in their boxes as I’m fond of fishing square billed crankbaits and jigs.
In Utah and Idaho, trout remain more important to anglers than bass. In Utah, nearly five trout are caught for every bass. In Idaho there is more excitement for bass fishing. This may be explained by Bassmaster magazine rankings of the top 25 western bass fisheries, four were in Idaho and only two were in Utah. The closest highly ranked bass fishery to Cache Valley is CJ Strike Reservoir, which is an impoundment on the Snake River near Mountain Home, Idaho.
Record bass are a bit larger in Idaho than in Utah. Idaho’s largemouth bass record is 10 pounds 9 ounces, which is 7 ounces more than Utah’s record. Both these fish are less than half the world record weight of 22 pounds 4 ounces, suggesting neither state has ideal habitat for this species. Idaho’s smallmouth record of 9 pound 7 ounces is 2 pounds heavier than Utah’s record but this fish is in the realm of the 11 pound 15 ounce world record. The best systems for big smallmouth bass in Idaho are Dworshak Reservoir and Lake Coeur d’Alene — both found in the northern part of the state.
There are plenty of opportunities to catch bass in and around Cache Valley. The three best bass fisheries are likely Hyrum, Oneida Narrows and Mantua, but most of the region’s lakes, as well as the lower Bear River, support bass. Depending on how you define it, the problem or the challenge with bass fishing is figuring out how to catch these fish in different bodies of water.
One reason fewer people fish bass are boats greatly increase success. In decade’s past, this cost was beyond the reach of many anglers. These days, people can purchase cheaper kayaks and small pontoon boats. With the low water levels this year, there may be opportunities to make a few casts for bass from shore.
Although bass are not a standard target of the region’s anglers, they are a great option if you want to diversify your summer fishing experience. So, grab a fishing rod, a couple lures, and a boat (if you have one), and start exploring the region’s lakes for bass. If you are lucky enough to hook a large bass, this could be enough to hook you on bass fishing as well.