JAMES RIVER SMALLMOUTH BASS FISHING
The James River is one of the few fine White River Basin smallmouth bass streams that remains. While the lower end of the river is flooded by Table Rock Lake, there are still many miles of the river that offer fine smallmouth fishing. The James River is very well known as one of the finest trophy smallmouth fisheries in the Ozark region, and indeed in the entire midwest region.
The James River is a relatively gentle stream as Ozark rivers go. While the stream has its fair share of riffles, it winds relatively slowly from its headwaters north of Springfield to where it flows into Table Rock Lake. This means that there are many deep, rocky, woody pools that are prime smallmouth bass habitat. The river is also very fertile, and has an excellent foodbase for its smallmouth bass population.
The first good access on the James River is the Joe Crighton Access. This access is located just a few miles upstream from Springfield Lake, so long floats downstream are not possible from this access. However, one good short float is from the Crighton Access two miles downstream to the Southwood Access. This portion of the river above the town of Springfield has some decent smallmouth bass fishing, but it is not among the most famous waters on the river.
Floaters can start there first good float at the Tailwaters Access, below Springfield Dam. One good float is from this point six miles downstream to the Owens Bridge. This float has some of the finest smallmouth bass fishing on the river, along with many other warm-water species that thrive in this tailwater environment. There are several other good floats on the river, but the distances between accesses usually dictates that the trips be at least overnighters. The one problem with the James River is that the accesses do not tend to be good one day floating distances apart. They are either too close for a good one day float, or too far to make in one day. This makes the river somewhat of a challenge to anglers, considering that it is too large to be much of a wading river. But for those willing to deal with these challenges, the rewards can be great.
The smallmouth on the James River bite on fairly normal offerings. Tube baits, plastic worms, crawfish crankbaits, small spinnerbaits, and topwaters are all very successful. The James River can at times be off color, so often visible baits tend to be more successful than subtle offerings. The James River is not always the easiest river to fish, but it offers much to the dedicated smallmouth bass angler.