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The East Fork, Middle Fork, and West Fork form the headwaters of the Black River. All three streams produce good smallmouth fishing in a mountain stream environment. The East Fork is especially fast moving, flowing through many rocky rapids, including the famous cascade in Johnson Shut-ins State Park. This is a good stream to catch lots of small to medium sized bass in a beautiful environment. The other two forks also fish well for smaller bass, although they are a bit less gentle. The Missouri Department of Conservation provides good wading access to the three forks-they are too small and rocky to float.


The upper main stem of the Black River, from Mill Creek to Clearwater Lake fishes extremely well for smallmouth as well. This is float fishing water mainly-it can be waded but a boat is definitely helpful. The river in this area is much deeper and quite a bit slower, but it is still quite clear and has a respectable gradient. The deep pools in this area have a potential to grow some really large bass. It has some of the best habitat on any Ozark stream for smallmouth bass. There is 15 miles of water in this area of the stream, and it all fishes quite well for smallmouth bass. Access points in this area are Mill Creek, the CC Bridge, and the Highway K Bridge.


Below the Highway K Bridge, the Black slows to form Clearwater Lake. While Clearwater Lake is a beautiful mountain lake with good fishing, it appeals more to the largemouth and crappie fisherman than the smallmouth angler. However, the good fishing begins again below the dam. Below the dam, largemouth and spotted bass form most of the population, but while smallmouth are outnumbered, they tend to grow very large. This area of the river is slow and deep with only occasional riffles, so most of the smallmouth habitat comes in the form of downed trees, rock piles, and gravel bars. While you will have a difficult time finding fast water in this portion of the Black River, the smallmouth do tend to congregate in areas where there is some significant current. Smallmouth bass can be found all the way downstream to the Arkansas line, although their numbers thin out considerably the further you get below Clearwater Dam, as largemouth bass and spotted bass become increasingly dominant. The scenery remains beautiful in this area, however, and despite the river's large size in this area, it usually is fairly clear.


The best techniques to use on the Black River depend on the season and the portion of stream you are fishing. In the East Fork, West Fork, and Middle Fork, it makes since to use smaller lures and baits, because the fish are generally smaller. Small spinners, crankbaits, and jigs work well. In the main stem above the lake, slightly larger crankbaits, tube baits, and poppers work very well. Below the dam, spinnerbait work quite well.


You can tailor your fishing experience on the Black River by choosing one of the many stretches of river. Whether you prefer to wade fish a small stream, canoe down a beautiful Ozark River, or fish out of a jet-boat on big water, you can find the experience you are looking for on the Black River. So come down and give it a try! 


Smallmouth Bass Fishing Lures and Baits on the Black River


  • Rebel Crawdad, deep diving

  • Spinnerbaits, 3/8 ounce to 1/8 ounce

  • Marabou Jigs (olive, White, and Black), 1/32 ounce to 1/8 ounce

  • 3 inch green tube baits, texas rigged*

  • Rooster Tail Spinner 1/24 ounce through 1/8 ounce

  • Rebel Pop-er

  • 5" Zoom Curly Tail Worms (Green Pumpkin), Texas Rigged

  • Nightcrawlers

  • Minnows and Crayfish* (they work well, but you'll have to catch them yourself using a minnow trap)

  • Curly Tail Jigs

  • Beetle Spins


Flies for Smallmouth Bass Fishing on the Black River


  • Don's Crawdad #4-#10

  • Woolly Bugger (Olive, Black, or White) #4-#10

  • Clouser Minnow #2- #8

  • Deer Hair Bass bugs #2-#8

  • Muddler Minnow #4-#10

Black River Map
Smallmouth Bass
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