Bend Oregon is better known for its trout fishing but it also supports a few lakes that have good populations of Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. The bodies of water within a one hour drive from Bend that hold bass are Crane Prairie Reservoir, Wickiup Reservoir, Davis Lake, Prineville Reservoir, Haystack Reservoir and Lake Billy Chinook (Round Butte Reservoir).
Crane Prairie Reservoir is better known for its large Rainbow and Brook Trout. However it is full of stumps, standing and downed trees. It is a Largemouth Bass heaven. It is a relatively shallow body of water with reeds and lily pads as well as lots of wood cover. The deepest part near the dam is 16 to 20 feet deep depending on how much water is in the reservoir at any given time.
The reservoir sits in the Cascade Mountains southwest of Bend. It is surrounded by pine trees and supports a healthy wild life population. You can always count on seeing countless Ospreys, a few Bald Eagles and numerous water fowl. Osprey and Great Blue Herons both nest at Crane Prairie.
Crane Prairie is not a year round lake and it often freezes over in the winter. Since it is a trout lake the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife closes it to fishing at the end of October and opens it back up on the third Saturday in April. There are years where it is partially ice covered on opening day.
The belief is that Largemouth Bass no not bite until June or July,” when the water warms.” However, some of the best bass fishing on Crane is in May. The author has caught many bass over five pounds in late April and May. The place to fish is the shallow North side of the reservoir where the water temperatures can be in the low to mid fifties in 2 to 6 feet of water.
Early mornings in April and May are not the time to fish for bass. Early afternoon is the best time to start. The water in Crane is crystal clear this time of year and it is hard to get a bite if the sun is out and the wind is calm. The silt and mud bottom with plentiful amounts of wood cover soak up the heat on these cool spring days.
If it is calm and sunny you are better off to put your rod down, your trolling motor on high and start looking for fish. Often times they will be laying on top of fallen logs sunning. There are also many root balls from blown over trees that will hold fish. You will not see any small fish this time of year. It will be strictly pre-spawn females.
Once you start seeing fish slow down and start looking more closely. You will find several fish in the same area and do not want to spook them too much. Once you have found a few areas that hold fish be sure and mark them so you can come back when the wind picks up and puts a little chop on the water.
It is not necessary to mark every fish. Just keep track of the general area where you saw concentrations of fish. Go back to those areas and fish the lay down logs and the root balls. Black weedless jigs with a trailer or 6 inch black worms are the ticket this time of year. The author’s favorite jig trailer is a 5 inch black with blue flake twin tail grub.
Crane Prairie bass are big for Oregon standards. The largest bass caught by the author was 6.5 pounds. He has seen Largemouth caught and released in excess of 8 pounds in some local bass tournaments. These are not your normal run and gun bass tournaments however because there is a 10 mile an hour speed limit on Crane Prairie Reservoir.
In the early 1990s the average spring time bass was in the 3 to 5 pound range. Now the average is 2 to 4 pounds with a few 5 pounders thrown in. Crane Prairie Largemouth usually spawn around the full moon in late June. Spawn and post spawn is usually when the fish “start to bite” for the general public and anyone can catch several small males that bite aggressively.
After the spawn the large female bass drop back to deeper water around the channels and become harder to catch. Crank baits and spinner baits come into play at this time of year. The water also starts to take on some color and is not as clear. Aquatic weeds and moss also start to grow making it more difficult to fish jigs and worms.
Fall and late fall are difficult time to catch fish as the water is low from irrigation use and it starts to clear up again. Spring is definitely the best time to catch Large Mouth Bass on Crane Prairie Reservoir.