The River Bassin’ Trail is making its way to Logan, Ohio to kick off the first event in the Midwest Region on Saturday, April 30th! Did you know that the name “Ohio” comes from an Iroquoian word meaning “great river”? I’d like to think they were talking about the fishing being great! Anyways, last year the Columbus regional had a pretty big turnout, so let’s keep that trend rolling and get excited about some beautiful Ohio rivers!
The event host for this tournament is the Hocking Hills Canoe Livery in Logan. If you’re planning on checking out the area early and need a place to stay, I’d highly recommend getting a cabin in Hocking Hills. Hocking Hills is a uniquely beautiful part of Ohio which features a series of cliffs and caves created from deposited bedrock and erosion dating back 350 million years when Ohio was a large shallow sea. If you’re in to history and nature, put Hocking Hills on your list!
For this event the boundary map will be a 50 mile radius as a crow flies from Hocking Hills Canoe Livery. Be sure to check out the map to make sure you’re fishing within bounds, as some of the rivers are cut off by the boundary. Also, there are other rivers and creeks in bounds that may not be mentioned in the preview, so do some research to find one of Ohio’s “great rivers” that complements your fishing style on tournament day. First off I’ll mention that last year’s Columbus Regional was won with 48.25 inches, while the Uhrichsville event was won with 49 inches, and the Miamisburg event was won with 50 inches. So it’s looking like the 50 inch range is what it takes to place high on the Ohio rivers. Well, every river or creek mentioned in this preview has the potential to hit the 50 inch mark. Okay, let’s talk Rivers!
Scioto River: At the very Northwest portion of the boundary you will see the Scioto River. The inbounds portion of the Scioto begins South of Hayden Run Rd and runs for what seems like forever before exiting the boundary in the Southwest corner of the map, a little North of Wakefield. That’s a ton of available water on one of the better smallmouth rivers in Ohio when it comes to size. The Scioto is a medium to large river that varies greatly in composition depending on where you access it. It’s pretty large right through the heart of Columbus where it meets the Olentangy River. In 2015 there were 7 Fish Ohio (angler recognition program/citation) smallmouth bass submitted from the Scioto, so that tells you there are 20 inch smallies lurking in this river. There are big largemouth here too for anglers to target. So it’s easy to see that a winning 3 fish limit could come out of the Scioto under the right conditions. There are a lot of notable tributaries of the Scioto that all produce quality fish. I’ll discuss the Big Darby Creek and Paint Creek in more detail, but that doesn’t mean you should count Big Walnut Creek, Deer Creek and other smaller tributaries out, especially when the 2015 Columbus Regional was won up in the creeks, not the big name rivers.
Big Darby Creek: The 84 mile long Big Darby Creek resembles a typical Ohio river. The bottom composition is quite rocky in most areas, there are small riffles, long runs, and deep pools. The fishing however can be better than typical! This creek is actually one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the Midwest, and held the only known population of Scioto Madtoms, a small catfish-like species believed to be extinct now, as they have not been seen since 1957. Now if you follow the Scioto down the map from Columbus, you should be able to see that the Big Darby comes in a little North of Circleville. A very large portion of the Big Darby is in bounds, and even a smaller section of the Little Darby near the Battelle Darby MetroPark. Which Darby is better? Well the numbers say the Big Darby, which had 9 smallmouth over 20 inches submitted to the state in 2015. I also have to add that 5 out of the 9 citation bass came within a week of April, 30th last year, HMMM. Keep an eye on the Darby system.
Paint Creek: This is a really fun creek that you can rack up numbers quickly on. It takes a lot to flood this smaller creek, so pay attention to the weather and river levels when tournament time draws closer because this could be a really good option if the larger rivers are blown out, and even if they’re not. This creek features lots of rocks and clear to slightly stained water. There are a lot of deeper holes on Paint Creek that can hold a surprising number of feisty smallmouth, with a few largemouth mixed in as well. Size wise it’s pretty tough to crack 18 inches here, but a winning stringer could definitely come from this creek under any conditions. Paint creek gets little fishing pressure and is surrounded by farmland in most areas. You can have a 3 fish limit before your first paddle stroke at whatever bridge you put in at. Take a look at the boundaries, as the upper reaches of Paint Creek are not in bounds. This is another Scioto River tributary, you’ll find the mouth of Paint Creek Southeast of Chillicothe.
Salt Creek: Salt Creek is pretty similar to Paint Creek. You can access the upper reach not far from Logan in a small town called Laurelville. This is another Scioto tributary and is entirely inbounds. Salt Creek does get pretty shallow for some stretches, but dragging from hole to hole may not be a bad idea because the fish will be stacked on top of each other. It’s another small option for anglers who prefer the creeks to larger rivers, as well as a safety net if things are flooded. Just because Salt Creek is small doesn’t mean she can’t hang with the big dogs. This tournament can be won on this creek. This creek is typically a series of riffles followed by deeper pools. Here you’ll tangle with a mixture of smallmouth and largemouth. I’ve taken multiple friends who don’t fish out to Salt and they hammered them. This is another one where you can have your 3 fish limit before you start paddling, and I think there’s a prize for the first fish submitted on tournament day! Give it a shot on a creek I often refer to as a “bronze mine”.
Hocking River: We’ve covered some of what the Columbus area has to offer, now let’s talk about the host river, the Hocking! The Entirety of the Hocking River is in bounds from its headwaters near Lancaster all the way down to where it runs into the mighty Ohio River. It’s a medium sized river that generally runs clear BUT turns brown very quickly with rain. It’s a unique fishery and can be tough er to figure out then most rivers, but if you can figure out the Hocking on tournament day you can guarantee yourself a spot near the top of the leaderboard. Structure wise the Hocking has less rocks and more logs than your typical Ohio river. Although there are a few rocky sections through Logan and Nelsonville. The Hocking above Athens is more of a smallmouth fishery with a few very chunky spotted bass mixed in. One cool thing you may find is the HockHocking Adena Bikeway, a bike path that follows the Hocking River through Athens and upstream into Nelsonville and Logan. This bike path can be very useful if you have a kayak cart or a wheel on your yak. I’ve pushed my kayak on a rolling desk chair for miles down that bike path! So right around Ohio University campus in Athens there is a low head dam/ mini waterfall called Whites Mill (pictured left). I would not recommend anyone try floating over it, but there are large eddies here that hold fish. In person you’ll see that besides those initial eddies, the stretch below Whites Mill looks strange and not fish friendly. That’s because the University decided to reroute the river back in the late 60’s and early 70’s which left the river bottom to be mostly sand and silt around campus. Strangely enough, this section has produced several quality bass throughout the past 5 years, but only during certain conditions. Going downstream past Athens, the Hocking returns to its natural state of a steady winding river riddled with logs. There’s a lot of wood to fish on this river. The Hocking south of Athens is a trophy flathead fishery, but you can expect to catch smallmouth with some largemouth mixed in. The Hocking is usually not a river to have 50 fish days on. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality, and hey, you only need three! Be careful looking into tributaries of the Hocking, both Sunday and Monday Creek have bad acid mine drainage resulting in the inability to support aquatic life.
Ohio River: If fishing large rivers is your specialty then you will welcome the Ohio River. Here you’re sure to see more people out boating and fishing but don’t let that stop you from pulling some big bass out of one of the largest rivers in the Midwest. There are some bass boat tournaments on the Ohio and the weigh-ins can be impressive. There are a bunch of tributaries feeding this massive system that drains much of Ohio, so if the size of the Ohio River intimidates you there are plenty of other options here, most notably the Muskingum River. Anglers fishing the Ohio can encounter a mixture of smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass. However, you’re most likely to catch largemouth here. They say big waters hold big bass, so fishing the largest river available on tournament day sounds like winning gameplan!
There are plenty of other options not mentioned in this preview. The winning stringer could come out of some river or creek I don’t even know about! Here are some other options that could be worth looking into and I am sure I am missing a few.
Best of luck to everyone taking part- levels are looking great and there’s still time to sign up HERE!