California Smallmouth Bass: There’s Bronze In Them There Hills!

Cali smallie Jody Swaggie Icasiano
Pyramid Lake, CA by Jody Swaggie Icasiano

It is thought that smallmouth bass originated in the upper Great Lakes Region of North America. During the 1800s, with the spread of the railroad, smallmouth bass were introduced to many parts of North America and beyond.

Some of these transplants survived and thrived, some didn’t.

California is famous for its gold and in recent years for it’s gigantic largemouth bass but there’s a hidden treasure in many of California’s lakes and rivers called smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth bass were first introduced into California in the Napa River in 1874 from Lake Champlain, New York. Historical records indicate that anglers “fished out” the first plant and the introduction was considered unsuccessful. An introduction a few years later into Crystal Springs Reservoir, a water supply reservoir south of the city of San Francisco, was successful and provided an abundant source of smallmouth bass for additional stockings throughout the state. Most trophy-sized smallmouth bass from California have been caught in northern California waters. The California state record smallmouth bass is 9 lbs 13 oz and was caught from Pardee Reservoir in 2007.    Source

There are too many great smallmouth fisheries in California to mention here but we’ll pick a few from various parts of the state. Due to the climate in California, it is not unusual to catch pigs larger than 5 pounds. 6 and 7+ pounders are not uncommon either.

Pardee Reservoir

Covering nearly 2,300 surface acres, Pardee Lake recently produced the new state record smallie of nine pounds 13.5 ounces and has produced a number of jumbo smallmouths in recent years. Contains lots of other fish species and the smallmouths are pretty much overlooked, but available to the relatively few anglers that actually target them. When Harold Hardin caught his state record smallmouth in 2007, he claims that he hooked and lost a much larger fish. Several other anglers have landed Pardee Lake smallmouths weighing more than nine pounds in reent years, yet nearly ninety percent of the anglers that fish Pardee do so for trout and kokanee.  Source

Trinity Lake

Trinity Lake (California) – No longer the state record holder for California smallmouths, it remains one of the few places that has produced a smallmouth weighing more than nine pounds. Covering about 17,000 surface acres, Trinity’s smallmouth can be difficult to keep track of when water levels fluctuate. It seems that all the fish species in Trinity reach impressive size for their species and the lake still gives up plenty of smallmouths in the five pound class.  Source

Russian River

Looking for a lot of action and aren’t too concerned about setting any records? Try the Russian River, where quantity, rather than quality, is the name of the game. The average fish here will go 1.5 to 2 pounds, but there are also some big smallies over 5 pounds available as well.  Source

There are many other large and small bodies of water in California where amazing bronzebacks can be found. The California Delta East of San Francisco is one of these areas as well as others notheast of Los Angeles. Since the focus of many California anglers is big largemouth bass, trout, Salmon, etc, it would be great for you to focus on smallmouth bass, especially in the northern half of the state.

If you fish for California smallies, I’d appreciate it if you would leave a few comments below and share your successes here!

Tight lines!

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