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I've only had two FOR SURE 20" smallies in my boat. My PB 20.5" came while fun fishing one evening on the Gasconade and my buddy Tommy caught a 20.5" 4.38 pounder on the Gasconade in a tournament last fall. We've caught several we thought would hit 20", but ended up being 19-19.5" on a Golden Rule. We didn't measure these three, but I think they were all just above or below the 19" mark. The one I am holding on the left weighed 3.59. The one is his left hand looked very similar to the one I am holding while the middle one had length, but skipped breakfast. I'm kicking myself for not measuring and weighing all three just to know for sure.

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6 hours ago, Seth said:

I've only had two FOR SURE 20" smallies in my boat. My PB 20.5" came while fun fishing one evening on the Gasconade and my buddy Tommy caught a 20.5" 4.38 pounder on the Gasconade in a tournament last fall. We've caught several we thought would hit 20", but ended up being 19-19.5" on a Golden Rule. We didn't measure these three, but I think they were all just above or below the 19" mark. The one I am holding on the left weighed 3.59. The one is his left hand looked very similar to the one I am holding while the middle one had length, but skipped breakfast. I'm kicking myself for not measuring and weighing all three just to know for sure.

61550284_2869673406406721_5707067889119395840_n.jpg

You didn’t need to, those are trophies!

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8 hours ago, Smalliebigs said:

...only about 1 legit 20+ a year since my hawg trough measuring. They all seem like 19 somethings for me, which is good.

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Beautiful Fish ! I’ll purchase a Hawg Trough for Hero Shots. I want to always be honest with myself and others about the fish I am catching 

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That’s awesome! Have gotten better at sticking big smallmouth over the years but don’t land a legit  20” every year. Think I stick at least two dozen 18-19” fish for every 20”+. A big WTD or a 1/0 popper is your friend. Top or bottom for better bass. Did land a 20 5” this year. Full sized Mann’s 1-. Great plug!

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The one I caught the other day on a very slow day otherwise...I was almost sure it was a 20 the whole time I was getting it in.  And it was a hot fish that jumped completely out of the water twice and halfway out three more times, and took longer than usual to get in.  I have a net in the boat but it was in the locker folded up and I didn't want to take my attention off the fish long enough to get it out, and the lure was a topwater with three trebles right in the thing's face, so it was pretty tense for a while.  Finally found a gap between the hooks and lipped it, lifting it quickly into the boat and then getting my hand out of the way before it shook its head again.  Anyway...once I had it actually in the boat I knew it wasn't going to make 20 inches.  I have a ruler on the front of the boat that bumps up against the edge of my trolling motor mount so it's just like a bump board as to accuracy.  I measured the fish carefully--19 1/4th inches.  Spawned out, but still thick across the back.

The one my brother caught on our float trip a few weeks back that was his personal best was measured on my paddle blade, which I now have marks on it for 18, 19, 20, and 21 inches.  I very carefully closed the fish's mouth, lined it up exactly with the edge of the blade, and squeezed the tail lobes together--the lower lobe was pretty chewed up but the upper lobe was intact.  It came exactly to the 21 inch mark, and that's the biggest smallmouth I've had in my canoe in a few years.

Yep, I bet I caught a dozen or more between 19 and 20 for every one I catch that actually makes 20 inches.  The 20 inch mark is truly the mark to shoot for on Ozark river smallies.  If you catch one well over 20, it's a real beast of a fish.  Over 21 and for a lot of good anglers that's a fish of a lifetime.

Which gets me thinking...my two biggest Ozark river smallies were 22 and 22.5 inches, though both were weighed and weighed about the same.  I saw on Facebook the other day where some young guy showed a picture of a nice largemouth, I think it was a bit under 5 pounds, and said it was his personal best.  At first I thought, well, that's not much of a fish to be your personal best.  But then I realized he's a youngster with a lot of fishing in front of him, and he can look forward to breaking that personal best mark many times if he keeps at it.  Me?  I wonder if I'll ever best those two fish, both caught many years ago.  That actually makes me a little sad.

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1 hour ago, Ham said:

Beautiful Fish ! I’ll purchase a Hawg Trough for Hero Shots. I want to always be honest with myself and others about the fish I am catching 

Where's the fun in that ?

I'm already taking 1.5" away from Smalliebigs for that open mouth.  😅

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1 hour ago, Al Agnew said:

Me?  I wonder if I'll ever best those two fish, both caught many years ago.  That actually makes me a little sad.

Switch over to fly fishing and start all over again.  😊

My biggest Smallie was caught on a 7wt. with a #4 olive lead eyed bugger.   If I've caught one over 18" on spinning/casting gear I can't remember it.   Moving water just calls for fly gear in my brain, and that's probably why I don't catch more big river Smallies.  

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Fly gear is a handicap. Big stuff on top will work. But you need someone you trust to trade duty with the boat handling while the other fishes. Gear is more efficient if solo. More fun to toss big bass bugs with a fly rod though. If you can’t cast 75’ with a 7wt you will be wasting your time.

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25 minutes ago, Gavin said:

Fly gear is a handicap. Big stuff on top will work. But you need someone you trust to trade duty with the boat handling while the other fishes. Gear is more efficient if solo. More fun to toss big bass bugs with a fly rod though. If you can’t cast 75’ with a 7wt you will be wasting your time.

A trip with Jeff Trigg would change your mind quickly. 

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I think every smallmouth I ever caught over 14" has been on fly rod.  And none of the 17"-19+" have been on casts over 30'.  No cranking between casts seems more efficient to me, as does being able to hit the exact same cast length time after time;  but I don't encourage anyone else to use flies for bass. I certainly don't encourage them  to fish deep with flies.  If anyone asks, there are green sunfish in that stream.  The few that I believe went over 20" and one that was probably over 21" happened when I had no measure with me except my eye, so, they were just "nice fish".

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