June 02, 2022
By Jeff Knapp
The Midwest boasts a wide variety of excellent river smallmouth fisheries.
These include the famed Menominee River along the border of Wisconsin and Michigan and the upper Mississippi River north of the Twin Cities, where smallmouth bass of lunker proportions are taken throughout the spring and early summer.
Larger rivers such as these are accessible to motorboats in many areas, though jet-driven vessels (either outboard or inboard) are appropriate in shallower sections.
In addition to these larger waters, there are many smaller rivers throughout the region that harbor excellent numbers of smallmouth bass. Although these streams generally don’t grow smallies as large as the fish in larger rivers, they usually see comparatively lighter fishing pressure.
Before fishing any river, though, be sure to check for regulations that apply specifically to bass fishing there during the spring. Here are five smaller streams to consider.
FOX RIVER, IL
The best smallie water on this Illinois river flows from the Algonquin Dam downstream to Oswego, though brown bass are found throughout. Power boats work for the stretch upriver of Algonquin Dam; kayaks, canoes and wading excel downriver. A recent survey revealed smallmouths up to 19 inches.
DRIFTWOOD RIVER, IN
Relatively short at around 16 miles, the Driftwood River is a great choice for kayak anglers. The best access area is located one mile north of the confluence of the Driftwood and Big Blue rivers.
MERAMEC RIVER, MO
Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing on this Missouri river is found in the special regulations area, which runs from the Highway 8 bridge to the railroad bridge at Bird’s Nest Access Area. Recent surveys revealed high numbers of brown bass in the 8- to 12-inch range and good numbers of fish from 12 to 15-plus inches. The creel limit in this area is one fish with a 15-inch minimum length. Largemouths and spotted bass are also present in smaller numbers.
GREEN RIVER, KY
Of the various stretches of Kentucky’s Green River, the one located below Green River Lake Dam might be the most consistent. The section below the tailwaters can offer more predictable flows during wet times especially. An access area located just below the tailwaters serves kayaks, canoes and small motorboats.
TUSCARAWAS RIVER, OH
A tributary of the Muskingum River, the Tuscarawas provides more than 100 miles of free-flowing river that smallmouth bass call home. Good access areas in the lower end of the river near Coshocton include the Charles B. Miller Boat Ramp, Orange Access and Waterworks Park in Coshocton.