Introduction to Smallmouth Bass Fishing on the Jacks Fork River
The Jacks Fork River is one of the best in the Ozarks. Flowing through beautiful Ozark canyons and hills, this stream has much to offer both in the way of smallmouth and scenery. This popular float fishing stream flows through beautiful, remote territory, and is truly a sight to see.
As Ozark streams go, the Jacks Fork is more isolated than most. Simply put, it is located in the middle of nowhere. Starting high in the Ozark hills, and floating through the beautiful Ozark plateau all the way to it's mouth at the Current River. It is a high gradient river, and is heavily spring-fed. Both of these attributes predispose the Jacks Fork to excellence as a smallmouth stream. The river has an abundance of riffles and deep pools, and has an excellent food supply. It has been largely untouched by man, especially now, due to the fact that it is protected by the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park. Add on the river's easy access, and you have a nearly perfect stream.
South Prong Access to Buck Hollow
The river begins at the South Prong Access, where the South Fork of the Jacks Fork joins in to form the main river. From that point down to Buck Hollow, the river flows through a beautiful Ozark Mountain valley. This portion of the river doesn't usually carry a lot of water. It is floatable in the spring, but is purely a wade fishing situation most of the time. The smallmouth in these far upper reaches are both abundant and unpressured. It's a good place to fish if you are willing to put in a bit of work either dragging a lot of riffles or wading through long stretches of water. Late spring, after the water has warmed, but not yet dropped, is the magical time here. You can float through easily and often catch large numbers of quality smallmouth bass.
Buck Hollow Access to Rhymers Access
The ten mile stretch from Buck Hollow to Rhymers Access is a different animal. This portion of the river flows through the "Jacks Fork Canyon." While this crack in the earth won't be giving the Grand Canyon a run for it's money, it is quite beautiful and rugged. The water through the canyon is a nice mixture of fast riffles and deep pools. This is very floatable water during the spring. During the summer, it can be done if you are willing to drag through a lot of riffles, but it's best to wade when the water is down. This is probably the best smallmouth water on the Jacks Fork. Note that the Special Smallmouth Bass Management area begins at Buck Hollow and extends to Eminence. At this writing, the daily limit is one fish, with an 18" minimum length limit.
Rhymers Access to Alley Spring
The fifteen mile portion of the river from Rhymers Access to Alley Spring also offers excellent fishing. The bass size continues to be relatively large, and there are good numbers throughout the river. The river slows down a little bit in this stretch and moves out of the canyon, but otherwise the character of the stream and the fishery remains much the same.
Alley Spring to Eminence
Alley Spring changes the river significantly. First, and possibly most important, it makes the Jacks Fork below the spring floatable year-round, a definite advantage. There is an important disadvantage however. The cold spring flow chills the water significantly, and lowers the bass numbers somewhat. Still, the fishery between Alley Spring and Eminence remains above average, if not quite as excellent as further upstream. We must say that Alley Spring is one of the most beautiful in the world, and is worth a visit in it's own right.
Eminence to Confluence with Current River
The Jacks Fork between Eminence and it's mouth at the Current River also provides good smallmouth water. By this point, there are more deep, slow pools, but there are still plenty of riffles to keep the water from stagnating. This water is popular with recreation floaters, which can complicate the fishing somewhat. Still, the lower Jacks Fork has an excellent smallmouth population and is a very worthwhile place to fish.
Fishing Methods for Smallmouth Bass on the Jacks Fork River
The methods used on the Jacks Fork are very typical of Ozark streams. Spin fishing is very popular, with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and tube baits being some of the best offerings. There is also an almost daily topwater bite in the mornings and evenings, and small Zara Spooks and Rebel Pop-rs have been known to be extremely successful. The Jacks Fork is also perfectly suited to fly fishing. Crayfish and minnow imitation flies are always a good bet, and topwater bugs work well in the mornings and evenings. However you would like to fish, the Jacks Fork is a beautiful river with an excellent smallmouth fishery!
Lures for Smallmouth on the Jacks Fork 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
5" Zoom Curly Tail Worms (Green Pumpkin), Texas Rigged
Minnows and Crayfish* (they work well, but you'll have to catch them yourself using a minnow trap)
Flies for Smallmouth on the Jacks Fork 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
Map of the Jacks Fork River