The above pic is a spotted bass that I caught on the St. Francois River. It was a tad over 24 inches. Using the App Fishing Scale it put the fish at 8.5 pounds. I returned it to the water only to find out later that the state record is 7 pounds 8 ounces. Yep it was one of those days. Now on to my day on the Big River.
It was just another glorious day on the Big River in Missouri. Bright blue sky with a touch of those puffy white clouds and temp in the mid 70s. I was floating a stretch of Big River that I love to fish. I put in at the Mammoth access and float to Merrill Horse access. It is a beautiful stretch of river with great smallmouth fishing. It has areas of shallow fast moving water followed by slow moving deep water and limestone bluffs. I usually see deer and there are a pair of Bald Eagles that I usually see around the bluffs. The fishing has always been pretty decent and plenty of spotted bass, largemouth bass and smallies.
That day I was having great success with a Rebel Wee Craw. I caught 6 smallies that were 13 inches and better. I had just went through a pretty narrow swift stretch of water that emptied into a shallow wider area of water but still fast moving. There was a place at the edge of a weed bed that swirled into an eddy. I maneuvered the yak where the bow was pointing upstream. I placed the Wee Craw right on the edge of the weeds when BAM! something hit it hard. I set the hook and the fight was on. I could tell it was a nice fish. It was pulling line but the bad thing was I was floating backwards downstream and couldn’t see what was behind me but on a good note I was still in the center of the river. Things were going good then it went to hell in a hand basket. I had got caught in an eddy that was pulling me into the bank and spinning the bow of the yak down river. By some miracle I got the bow headed back upstream but that was the end of the miracles. I was parallel to the bank in about three feet of water. I got it beside the yak and my heart started beating a hundred miles an hour. Hooked on the Wee Craw was the biggest smallie I had ever hooked. It dwarfed the 24 inch spotted bass I had caught. I completely blew my attempt to lip it. I was better than that. Well down under the yak it went and there in the water on the other side was a tree about 16 feet long with all its limbs. The smalli3 could its way to freedom and without hesitating the smallie began weaving through limbs until the line stopped pulling and after three tugs broke my line and disappeared into the waters of the Big River. I could hear it laughing. All I could do is sit there and slap my rod tip on the water over and over like a five year old child. I was devastated.
The image of that smallie is etched in my mind. It looked like one of those big samllies you see in the Bass Pro Shop tanks. Only if I hadn’t have blown trying to lip it. I made a rookie mistake even though I was a seasoned veteran. I had ran out of miracles. Yeah it was one of those days. One of those days I will never forget.
For those of you unfamiliar with smallmouth bass in Missouri Ozark streams it takes a samllie five years to reach 12 inches, seven years to reach 15 inches and nine to ten years to attain a length of 18 inches. Presently very few live more than seven to eight years. Missouri has a length limit of 15 inches on small mouth.
What would I have done if I had landed it? Put it on the board and took a measurement, took a picture, ok several pictures, then returned it to the water so it could finish living out its life. That’s the way I roll. I may have not landed that smallie that day but I will always cherish the memory.