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Hello, I am new to this forum. :) I am very interested in learning to catch Smallmouth in this Great river. What are your favorite lures? How do you work them? Any tips would be appreciated.

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Smallmouth Bass Fishing In The Ozarks

Angers in the Ozarks have a resource that is little known or over looked by the majority of the fishing public. If someone talks about Smallmouth fishing the conservation turns to Canada, Tennessee, Cumberland River, Dale Hollow, or the Great Lakes. This is an area of the United States, which is over looked as a Smallmouth fishery.

All you have to do is get a map of the Ozarks and find a blue line representing a river, and the quest for the fighting bronze back is half done. Missouri has the Big Piney, Gasconade, Lower Current River, Eleven Point River, North Fork of the Gasconade, and dozens of smaller floatable or wadeable streams which produce an abundance of 3 to 5lb smallmouth. Granted that not every smallmouth you hook will be a wall hanger, but the numbers of fish you catch will beat most any smallmouth fishery in the country. 50 to 75 bass a day, (If you are an experienced smallmouth angler.) will make your arms ache and the scenery you will float through will be some of the most beautiful in the country.

The key to catching the smallmouth in the clear Ozark streams is fish the rocks, shoal heads (Fast water running from one deep water hole to the next.) and use a bait that mimics the food fish feed on in that particular stream. The only exception to that rule is in the spring just after the spawn. Then top water is the way to go. After that it turns to Plastic worms 4” natural colors, 1/16th brown rubber skirt jig with a brown Uncle Josh Small pork frog, Silver Storm Thunder Stick, and the Rebel 1/8th Oz crayfish shallow running crankbait. No need for a vest or boat full of tackle if you have these baits.

Look for deep holes with big boulders and timber that has sank in them. Cast your bait as close to the cover as you can and let it settle to the bottom. If using a Jig the smallmouth will be in crevasse under the log or rock resting in the shade. They will see what they think is a crawfish come drifting under the cover and the bite is on. Now here is where you get the bonus in fishing the Ozark streams. If there is not a smallmouth under the cover the odds are there will be a Goggle eye (Rock Bass.) hiding in the shadows. If it is 9” you have some for the best tasting fillets you will ever have on your plate. Luckily they love the same baits as the smallmouth.

In the heat of the summer you can night fish the streams with a black jitterbug, 1/4th Oz Black Spinner Bait, or 4 to 6” black or blue plastic worm. Once you have pulled the jitterbug through the darkness and had a huge smallmouth slam it I don’t think you will change baits the rest of the night. ( PU!PU1PU!PU! PU! KUWASSSSH.) This is the time to concentrate on the fast shallow water near eddies and shoals, the bass will be feeding on the shoals.

In Arkansas there is the Spring River, Black River, Myatt Creek, Strawberry River, South Fork, and dozens of smaller streams that hold Smallmouth. The Spring River is a river where you can hook up with Rainbow Trout, Kentucky Bass, Large Mouth Bass, Smallmouth, Goggle eye, Bluegill, Muskie, Drum, Carp, White Horse Suckers, Catfish and Walleye all in the same holes of water. From Mammoth Spring AR, to Hardy AR, is the best floating areas, but below Hardy has Miles and Miles of great fishing. The stories of huge Flathead Catfish being hand caught beneath waterfalls on the river are true. Some of the locals have the skin wore off their wrist from hand grabbing the Flatheads.

Keep in mind that some of the smaller streams go through private property and you need to do some research on access’s where you can enter and leave the streams. Most folks will give you a permission to enter the streams on their property, If they have not had a bad experience earlier with the anglers before you. Just keep that in mind while you’re on the stream, and don’t mess it up for the next guy by littering or doing damage to the land or river.

Most of the smaller streams can not stand a lot of fishing pressure and maintain the quality fish they have now. To assure the resource will remain at the levels they are now practice catch and release.

Great Bait for Smallies smjigs.JPGujpt.JPG

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Spinfishing is good with rooster tails, jigs, rapalas, and crawdad crankbaits.

Flies are poppers, streamers, big nymphs, and jigs.

The time of the year and depth of the stream will determine which ones to use. They are alot of fun on a fly rod.

Fish weed beds, rocky bottoms, pools below riffles.

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I tend to go with the fly rod and size 2 and size 4 Gaine's sneaky petes, or size 4 buggers, sparkleminnows & clousers.

With my alternative tackle, I go with Sammy's, spooks, and buzzbaits on top. Rapalas, Wee Craw's, and Zoom Flukes work well in the mid depths, and its hard to beat a crawfish colored Jig n' Pig, Curly Tail Grub, or 4" finesse worm on the bottom. Cheers.

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Watcher, did you write that article? While it isn't bad as a quick, general article on Ozark smallmouth fishing, "...an abundance of 4 to 6 pound smallmouth"? "75 to 95 bass a day"? There probably isn't a dozen true 5 pound plus smallmouths total caught in all the Ozark streams put together in a year. And while it is certainly possible to catch 75 or more a day, it isn't exactly common for the average angler.

The Ozark streams just don't produce 4 pound plus smallies very often. While they are great places to fish for smallmouths, you WILL find bigger fish and more 20 inch plus fish in a lot of other areas.

Current River tips...

Fish it in the off season or during the week. Warm weather weekends are crazy on the Current.

Fish those deep, fast runs with tubes or other weighted soft plastics. Fish the margins of the pools and shallower runs with surface lures, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits.

Since the Current in many places is fairly heavily fished, it isn't as easy as some streams. Small eddies and cover in fast water are good because they are tough to fish and a lot of people skip them. I've found that Current River smallies seem to more often hang out in the middle in shallow to medium depth runs, rather than in the cover along the banks as they are in most other streams.

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Al: I wrote the reply in a few minutes for a quick answer to the anglers question, I do realize what you say is somewhat very true scents 90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the anglers. But I myself have caught 4 5# smalley's in one day on two different Ozarks streams. And if not for the giggers and otters as competition on several other streams every angler should have a chance of a 4# smallie. Stockton Lake & Bull Scholes have great opportunity's for big fish also.

On the Piney River in a 8 mile float during the early part of the year you can catch 45 to fifty bass in a day, again if you know when, where, what, and how. And if your near Duke Mo to the Fort you could very well see a 5 to 6# smally.

In a hurried way I was Just letting the angler know what the Ozarks has in the way of streams and lakes which provide an outstanding smallmouth fishery. You have been in and around fishing and anglers long enough to know an true angler stretches the truth a wee bit to make other anglers envy his catch and waters he fishes. Just think about the great paintings from wildlife artist like yourself and Bruce Bowman, the fish never appear small, and makes the angler wish he was on the other end of the line.

I wish the State Of Missouri would place 1/2 the amount of funds into Smallmouth research and stocking as they do other species. I feel the Missouri lakes and streams could rank up there with TN, AL, NC, and Canada for an abundance of trophy Smallmouth. Some people say the Bass can not grow like they do in the south because of the short growth cycle every year. How do they explain away Canada?

Sorry I won't get on the soap box here about the smallmouth fishery in Missouri, it's still great here.

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Watcher, the POTENTIAL for Ozarks streams is certainly there to grow more big fish than they do, and I agree with you about gigging being one reason they don't. I'm not sure our top end potential is as good as some other places...since our native smallies in the big Ozark impoundments just don't get as big as those in, for instance, Dale Hollow and the Tennessee River impoundments.

As for numbers, yep, for a good angler under decent conditions, a 40-50 fish day is about average. But for a guy coming in with little prior experience, those numbers are probably unrealistic.

Please don't take this wrong...I don't know of ANYBODY who has ever caught 4 legitimate, weighed on a decent scale, 5 pound smallmouths from an Ozark stream in one day, and I know some good river smallmouth anglers. I do know of lots of people who caught that many 18-20 inch smallmouths and thought they were 5 pounders. If you weighed yours, I'm impressed to say the least. I know of a FEW, maybe a half dozen, caught that were supposed to have weighed around 6 pounds...didn't see them. My personal best day for big fish was 4 from 19.5 to 21 inches, and my partner that day also caught 3 of that same size...call them 4 pounds average though I didn't weigh them. And I've caught two legitimate 5 pounders in close to 50 years of fishing Ozark streams.

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As for Canada- northern smallies live much longer than southern. Dan-o

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You've got to look at genetics too, the stream smallmouths that we have in AR, MO, & OK are different genetically from the smallmouth found in the Tennessee & Cumberland River drainage. The genetics of our smallmouths just don't allow for many 5 lbs plus fish like you see from Pickwick, Wilson, & Dale Hollow. I know AR & OK has started stocking smallmouths with Tennessee genetics in lakes, and a new OK state record smallmouth at over 8 lbs caught recently shows the difference between the two subspecies.

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