If you’re the type of bass fisherman who would rather catch a big smallmouth than a largemouth, 2017 should be a very good year.
Based on reports from fisheries biologists, guides and other fishermen, there should be many places in Missouri and Kansas where you stand a chance of catching a big smallmouth this year.
Here are my top 5 lists for both states.
- Gasconade River: With its never-ending bends, the Gasconade River is one of those most crooked rivers in the nation. That makes for great smallmouth fishing. Deep runs and pools with cover can be found where the river bends, and smallmouths love places like that. The latest survey by the Missouri Department of Conservation found the highest number of smallmouths in the Laclede County stretch since 2002.
- Table Rock Lake: Table Rock is best known for its largemouth-bass fishing. But the smallmouth population continues to grow and provide outstanding fishing, especially from the Highway 86 bridge to Campbell Point. Good-sized smallies are caught each spring in the shallows off gravel banks and points.
- Current River: Not only does the middle stretch of the Current offer breathtaking scenery, its clear water has big numbers of smallmouths. A survey by the Department of Conservation led to an estimate of 548 fish per mile in the Powder Mill-Highway 106 area. But another study indicated those smallmouths get hit hard. In a study in recent years, 57 percent of the tags on smallmouths were turned in only a year after the fish were tagged. Only 26 percent of those fish were kept, but the study still indicated that the bass see plenty of fishing pressure.
- Big Piney River: Looking for a big tug from a smallmouth? Try the Big Piney’s special management area from the Slabtown Access to the confluence with the Gasconade River. Fishermen report catching good numbers of fish from 12 to 15 inches there, with an occasional trophy up to 20 inches. Because of tight regulations in the management area, it’s mostly catch-and-release fishing, but that’s fine with most fishermen.
- Eleven Point River: The Eleven Point is another Ozarks River that provides both beautiful scenery and good smallmouth fishing. The 17 miles from Thomasville to Greer Spring offer some of the best fishing, according to the Department of Conservation.
- Coffey County Lake: This lake, more commonly known as Wolf Creek, is loaded with smallmouth bass. It has the rock that the fish like, and they prosper there. In surveys, Coffey County ranked first in the state in density and size of fish.
- Milford Lake: I’m basing this ranking on personal experience, not necessarily fisheries surveys. I fish for smallmouths with my good friend, Rick Dykstra, who guides out of Acorns Resort, several times a year, and we always find good numbers of fish – and some big ones, too. Of course, I am spoiled. Few fishermen know Milford’s smallmouths better than Rick. But from what I’ve seen, it produces consistently large numbers of smallmouths.
- Melvern Lake: This reservoir also produces impressive smallmouth fishing, especially in late April and early May. Many fish, and some big ones, are caught on everything from small plastics, crankbaits and topwater lures.
- El Dorado Lake: This reservoir ranked second in the state in densities of smallmouth bass in fisheries surveys and produced the biggest fish sampled (and released) – a 3.97-pound beauty.
- Glen Elder Reservoir: Glen Elder is another spot that produces outstanding smallmouth-bass fishing. It ranks in the top 5 in the state in densities, and it also contains some bruisers. One of them, a fish weighing 3.91 pounds, was sampled and released by fisheries crews.
This is the fourth in a series on the prospects for the 2017 fishing season in Missouri and Kansas. More species will be highlighted in the next week and one-half. Check earlier blog posts on brentfrazee.com for information on largemouth bass, crappies and walleyes.