Missouri Stream Bassin’


The Show Me State offers anglers some of the very best creeks and rivers to target bass. While two of North Americas largest rivers meander through, the Mississippi and the Missouri—and certainly can produce good fishing for a variety of species—in this article, we are going to focus on the best of the best in the state for bass. These are the larger creeks and smaller rivers that are typically clear, swift and rocky—the state’s premier waters for smallmouth bass fishing. They can also offer up some hot action for largemouth and spotted bass in some places too.

Ways to fish

Portions of these waters are commonly fished from the bank, by anglers accessing good stretches of stream shoreline. Waders are required equipment in the cooler months of the year, but in summer, wet wading in a pair of aqua socks or old tennis shoes is a favorite way to wade for stream bass. These best areas to reach by foot have some gradually tapering or flat, shallow shelves with cover, but a close access to one or more deep holes. On the smaller creeks, anglers can sometimes wade for miles without the need of a boat.

Fishing by boat is preferred in the rivers and larger creeks, though. In the lower portions of some of these rivers, smaller john boats with prop-driven outboards can cover significant stretches. Even large fiberglass bass boats can be utilized here and there, especially in the reaches of the rivers near the locations where they empty into lakes and reservoirs or flow into a larger river. Bass boats can be fished is surprisingly shallow waters, as long as an angler knows the water and its hazards. Jet boats are a top option for much of the more popular bass streams in Missouri. The popularity of these craft has always been high for Show Me State river hunters. Flat bottom or semi-flat john boats and aluminum, bass-style boats are outfitted with outboard motors with jet drive propulsion systems. These boats run at high speeds through just inches of water, and allow for the greatest advantage to serious bass anglers.

Still, sometimes the most peaceful and relaxing experience that you’ll ever take in, is to paddle one of these beautiful and pristine waterways. Missouri anglers catch loads of bass from canoes and kayaks. It’s certainly a serene way to explore these magical bass haunts. Pairs of paddlers can leave one vehicle at the take-out spot and drive upstream with a canoe or a couple of kayaks. A number of rentals and outfitters operate on many of Missouri’s popular streams, as well, and this is a top option. This is my favorite way to fish the offseason before Memorial Day weekend and after Labor Day. You often will have the entire stream all to yourself. While day trips are great, packing some camping gear and spending several nights on the river is glorious—especially with some of the day’s catch fried up on shore as evening sets in.

Top waters

Some of Missouri’s best options for stream bass fishing are those places where the smallmouth bass are plentiful and of good size. Some of these stretches will also offer good fishing for either largemouth bass, spotted bass, or both, in addition to the hard-fighting bronzebacks. Top options include Big River, the Current River, Black River, the Upper Meramec River, the upper Saline Creek, the Saint Francis River, the Jacks Fork River, the Courtois Creek, Huzzah Creek, the Big Piney Creek and the Niangua River.

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Flowing water bassin’

There’s just something about flowing water. Watching a stream move constantly downward, listening to the flowing, gurgling waters, and watching the movements of creatures in a world that could often be described as crystal clear, is something special. One of the greatest things about stream fishing as opposed to lakes and still waters, is that negative weather changes like the dreaded cold front seems to affect the fish far less in moving waters. Fishing remains a little more consistent as long as water levels don’t fluctuate too much.

Still, the fishing is quite different. Anglers must always consider how these fish live and hunt in this environment. Stream fish expect the current to carry food to them, and they use it to hunt. They’ll often tuck just outside the heavy current flow, conserving energy, and then rush out to ambush unsuspecting baitfish, crawfish and other prey as it comes by. Always looks for current seams, boulders, logs and similar things that cut the current and allow bass to hold and hunt most effectively.

Top tactics

While small lures and spinning equipment do work well in a variety of stream fishing situations, the biggest mistake I’ve seen anglers make, is not also packing some baitcasting gear, heavier line and big lures, as these underfished tackle options produce plenty of fish, and, often, the biggest bass of a trip. Choose lures in styles and color patterns that mimic crawfish and baitfish to fool stream bass. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzz baits and bladed jigs are top options when fish are active—especially in the warmer half of the year. Jigs and soft plastics are sometimes a better choice when fishing is a bit slower, or when water temperatures are very cold early and late in the season. Cast these lures around the edges of eddies and current seams, as well as any cover objects jutting into the stream from shore or up from the stream bottom.

Get out there

Venturing onto flowing waters in search of fish is a tradition seemingly as old as time itself. What a way to spend our days and nights. What a way to experience life, to experience the real world—the natural world—and feel it flowing inside of us as the waters flow ever downstream.