The Fish Sniffer - Cousins Tackle Rod Testing Adventure To Bass Lake Produces Big Numbers Of Rainbow Trout!
Cousins Tackle Rod Testing Adventure To Bass Lake Produces Big Numbers Of Rainbow Trout!

Written By: Cal Kellogg, April 16, 2014
Species: Trout
Location: Bass Lake,

Cousins Tackle Rod Testing Adventure To Bass Lake Produces Big Numbers Of Rainbow Trout!
Cousins Tackle Rod Testing Adventure To Bass Lake Produces Big Numbers Of Rainbow Trout! Cousins Tackle Rod Testing Adventure To Bass Lake Produces Big Numbers Of Rainbow Trout!

As midnight approached, the Willow Cove campsite took on an air of bedlam. People with glazed eyes wandered into the lake and sat down. Others fell against bikes or shouted meaningless abuse at friends they couldn’t recognize. Rather than mix in the deranged traffic around the bonfire, I drifted back to my car, on the edge or darkness, and joined a group of Gypsy Jokers. They were still holding back, letting the Hells Angels put on the show,î- Hunter S. Thompson, describing the scene at Bass Lake during the 4th of July weekend 1965.

From the middle of the ‘60s through the end of the 70s central California’s Bass Lake was the scene of the Hells Angel’s annual 4th of July run. The notorious run spawned blood curdling newspaper headlines, restraining orders, curfews and roadblocks and local vigilantes even patrolled the streets at times sporting clubs and wearing sidearms…

Time rolls forward and the scene at Bass Lake has changed quite a bit over the past 50 years. By the early ‘80s the Angels had all but disappeared, replaced by big numbers of tourists, boaters and anglers. These days Bass Lake is known as one the central state’s premier freshwater fishing destinations.

Folks residing in Norcal might be unfamiliar with Bass Lake, so here’s the low down. The lake is situated in the Sierra National Forest in Madera Country about 14 miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park.

The lake was formed in 1910 when the 145 foot Crane Valley Dam was constructed by PG&E to impound the waters of Willow Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin.

Bass Lake is small with only 14 miles or shoreline, a length of 4 miles and a maximum depth of 98 feet.

The lake is located very near the geographic center of the state. The lion’s share of visitors to Bass Lake are from southern and central California, but there is a loyal constituent of north state anglers that make the trek south to ply the lake’s rich waters.

Set at an elevation of 3,376 feet the lake features both cold water fish in the form of rainbow trout and kokanee salmon as well as warm water species such as spotted bass, largemouth bass, crappie and catfish.

Bass Lake is heavily stocked with rainbow trout that average 13 inches and range up to 24 inches and 5 pounds. The lake produces some of the largest kokanee in California. The average fish runs 16 to 17 inches, but fish over 20 inches have been common for the past several years.

With so many great fishing opportunities to sample here in the North State, I’d never made the trip down to Bass Lake, but that all changed on March 28 when Fish Sniffer Publisher Paul Kneeland and I headed down to the lake for two days of fishing and rod testing with Ron Ballanti of Strike Zone Communications.

Ron’s company represents several major players in today’s fishing scene including Grundens and Counsins Tackle. Ron has a cabin at Bass Lake and has been fishing the lake for many years.

Wade Cunningham and Bill Buchanan, the “cousins” and brain trust behind Cousins Tackle, have been itching to get some trout and kokanee rods in my hands for quite a while for field testing. Bass Lake seemed to be a perfect location to catch a bunch of trout and put some Cousins rods through their paces.

Paul and I left the Sacramento area at around 7 o’clock on the morning of March 28 and arrived at Ron’s cabin before noon. Ron had his boat hitched up and within an hour we were out on the lake. Ron’s go to offering for Bass Lake ‘bows is either a Gulp! minnow or a Gulp! worm slow trolled behind a Sep’s Side Kick dodger.

We ran this gear on Cousins baitcasting/downrigger rods. When we spotted trout breaking on the surface we used Cousins fiberglass and graphite spinning rods to toss spoons such as Kastmasters, Thomas Buoyants and Little Cleos.

The trout action was outstanding for rainbows ranging from 12 to 17 inches. We hooked, landed and released at least two dozen trout and had at least twice that many strikes. The majority of the fish came on the troll, but Paul and Ron hooked a good number while casting to boils.

After fishing until dusk, we destroyed an extra large pizza and turned in for the night…The next day Ron had arranged for us to fish with a guide and we were pretty excited.

The next morning after a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee we were off to meet our guide Todd Wittwer of Guide Service at Wishon Cove Marina.

We found Todd already aboard his 22 foot patio boat ready to spank some trout and perhaps a kokanee or two. After introductions we stashed our gear and Todd headed for open water.

Todd has guided at Bass Lake exclusively since 2000. He enjoys trout fishing, but his true passion is targeting the lake’s big kokanee.

“Bass Lake produces some of the largest kokanee salmon in California every year. Last season due to repairs on the dam the kokanee fishery declined a bit, but we expect it to bounce right back now that the work is done,” related Todd.

Once we’d cleared the marina Todd put out four rods. One rod featured a Gulp! Worm teamed with a Side Kick and another was armed with a Side Kick/Power Grub combo. These rods were toplined. The other two Cousins downrigger rods were armed for kokanee with corn tipped hoochies behind Rocky Mountain Tackle dodgers. These rods worked off downriggers positioned at 18 to 20 feet deep.

With a big storm front moving in the fishing was a bit slower on day two, but we still managed to hook well over a dozen rainbows in a few hours of fishing. The downrigger rods went off a couple times. Those strikes likely came from kokanee, but we lost both fish before we could see them.

At around 1 o’clock with the wind picking up we decided to call it a day and Paul and I got going on the drive back to Norcal. All in all it had been an exciting a productive adventure. We’d landed a bunch of fish at a lake neither of us had visited before and we got our first introduction to fishing with Cousins rods.


About The Cousins Rods

Since I’m running out of space, I won’t go into a detailed description of the rods. I’ll do that in an upcoming edition of the Fish Sniffer. What I can say is that both the casting and spinning rods I used were of the highest quality. The downrigger rods were soft and forgiving, but they still had enough backbone to control big hard fighting trout.

In terms of spinning rods we had the pleasure of trying out both graphite and fiberglass models. They worked great for casting trout size lures and jigs and I can’t wait to utilize the fiberglass rods for bait fishing for trout.

I’ve long thought that anglers that enjoy tossing dough bait, salmon eggs and inflated worms should have access to top end fiberglass spinning rods and Cousins fiberglass spinning rods are everything I envisioned and more…Superbly balanced, the right mix of softness and power, premium components and the finest cork grips I’ve ever wrapped my hands around, Cousins spinning rods have got it all. Watch the pages of The Fish Sniffer for more!

If you’d like to explore Bass Lake with expert trout and kokanee guide Todd Wittwer you can contact him via his website at

For more information about Cousins entire line of rods including their outstanding trout and kokanee rods go to

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