Population data for smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieui in 20,235 ha John Day Reservoir on the Columbia River were used to (1) determine whether Proportional Stock Density (PSD) and Relative Weight (Wr) varied spatially and temporally in two areas of the reservoir with established smallmouth bass fisheries; (2) explore possible causes of any observed variation; and (3) discuss some management implications and recommendations. Both PSD and Wr varied spatially and monthly in all years examined. On an annual basis, PSD varied at one area but not at the other, whereas Wr showed little variation. Possible explanations for the variation in PSD and Wr are differences in growth, mortality, recruitment, and exploitation. Our data suggested that regulations established or changed on a reservoir-wide basis may have different effects on the fishery, depending on location in the reservoir. Also, pooling data from various areas within a reservoir to yield point estimates of structural indices may not represent the variation present in the population as a whole. The significant temporal variability reflects the importance of determining the proper time to sample fish to yield representative estimates of the variable of interest. In areas with valuable fisheries or markedly different population structures, we suggest that an area-specific approach be made to reservoir fishery management, and that efforts be made toward effecting consistent harvest regulations in interstate waters.