Stream Smallmouths For Beginners

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 10, 2010

all the way to the knot. Bury the hook point in the thorax of the plastic worm to make it snagless.

Instead of the bullet weight, you could simply attach split shot above the hook.

Plastic grubs can be fished the same way, but they are most effective when attached to a standup or "rocker" style jighead. This keeps the lure on the bottom while tilting its tail upward so that it looks like a skittering crawfish.

Fishing a Floating Minnow

By mastering the floating minnow - or jerkbait - you'll be able to catch smallmouths on almost every outing.

As you work a pool, look for root balls in the water, brushpiles, stickups, fallen logs or any other natural cover. Flick your jerkbait in front of the cover, to the sides and behind. Wait until the ripples from the splashdown disappear, and then gently twitch the lure on the surface.

In moving water, cast the minnow downstream. When it floats past the first major break in the current, close your bail and retrieve it upstream with a series of sharp, downward jerks. This makes the lure dart, dive and flash its sides, mimicking a minnow in distress. This can can attract fish from considerable distances.

Surface Combat

Topwater plugs are most effective in the mornings, before the water gets direct sunlight, and also in the evening.

They're also most effective when a slight chop on the surface distorts the bait's profile. A natural surface disturbance makes fish a little bolder and more willing to leave protective cover.

The most reliable place to get a topwater strike is at the outer edges of weedbeds. Cast to any major break in underwater topography, as well as around any kind of woody cover.

When using chuggers and prop baits, cast to a likely spot and wait until the ripples disappear. Then, pop the lure with an abrupt snap of your rod tip, and then let it sit until the ripples subside. Sometimes a fish will hit the lure in motion, but strikes usually come while it is motionless.

Buzzbaits, in contrast, must remain on the surface to be effective, so you must retrieve them quickly.

What's the Cost?

A high-quality, ultralight rod-and-reel combo runs between $75-$100. You can buy cheaper rigs, but expect to pay a little more for quality. A small upgrade in quality makes a big difference in your enjoyment.

For about $50, you can get a full selection of worms, grubs, jigheads, hooks and bullet sinkers, as well as all the floating minnows, crankbaits and topwater lures you need. For stream fishing, you only need what you can carry in a flat worm box. You can transport more tackle if you fish from a canoe or kayak, but you'll quickly learn that that the same few lures catch fish 90 percent of the time.

Attire for streamside smallmouth fishing is casual. In warm weather, all you need is a pair of shorts and a pair of old sneakers.

If you fish in cold weather, you'll need a pair of waders. Waders usually cost between $35 and $75.

You might also pick up a copy of "Missouri Ozark Waterways Guide." Published by the Conservation Department, this 115-page booklet highlights the floatable sections of 30 major streams. It includes public access points and mileage between landmarks. The book is available at Conservation Nature Centers and many service centers and costs $5, plus 32 cents tax.

You can also order the book from the Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or by calling, toll-free, (877) 521-8632. Missouri residents should include tax and $4.95 for shipping.

Finally, you'll need a Missouri fishing permit. It costs $11 for residents, $35 for non-residents. Purchasing a permit also serves as in investment in the continued excellence of Missouri's fishing.

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