Think of the North Fork of the White River, and you probably picture a fast, rocky, and cold trout stream. And the North Fork of the White certainly is that in it's lower reaches, from Rainbow Spring to where it meets Norfork Lake. But the upper portions of the North Fork of the White offers excellent smallmouth bass fishing, and you are not likely to see much competition.
The North Fork of the White is among the most beautiful Ozark streams. It flows through rugged, mountainous country, and there are many large bluffs and cliffs along the river. The North Fork is spring-fed, so the water runs extremely clear throughout the year. Add on to this an excellent population of smallmouth bass, and you are looking at something very special.
The North Fork of the White offers about 30 miles of excellent smallmouth bass habitat, and another 15 miles of fair smallmouth habitat. From the Highway 76 Bridge near the rivers headwaters to the Hammond Camp Access, the river is a relatively slow, rocky, and warm stream, and is perfect habitat for smallmouth bass. Crayfish and bait fish populations are excellent in this part of the river, and the fish can grow very large. Since the North Fork of the White is known almost solely for its trout fishing, this upper part of the river that does not contain trout recieves relatively little fishing pressure. While wade-fishing is certainly a possibility in this area of the river, floating is generally more productive. One good float is from the SH 14 Bridge access to the Hammond Camp access. This float offers five miles of excellent smallmouth bass fishing. For a two day float, we reccomend the stretch from the Hale Ford Access to the Hammond Camp Access, a distance of 15 miles. Along both of these stretch, an angler will find plentiful smallmouth bass, as well as other typical Ozark species such as goggle-eye and sunfish. Rebel Crawdad crankbaits are extremely effective in this portion of the river.
Several miles below the Hammond Camp Access, Rainbow Spring enters the river and changes the dynamic of the fishery. Rainbow Spring doubles the size of the river, and lowers the water temperature significantly. From this point on to its junction with Norfork Lake, the river is primarily a trout stream. Still, the slower pools hold some good sized smallmouth bass alongside the trout. In this fast, cold section of river, the bass feed primarily on stonefly nymphs and sculpins. Keep in mind that in the Blue Ribbon trout area from Rainbow Spring to Patrick Bridge that live bait and soft plastics are not allowed when fishing for any species. If you fish for smallies between Rainbow Spring and Dawt Mill Dam, expect to catch a lot of accidental trout, as trout are considerably more numerous than bass in this stretch.
There is only about 2 river miles below the Dawt Mill Dam to Norfork Lake. But this short stretch of water can provide some surprising smallmouth bass fishing. By this time, the river has warmed and slowed somewhat, making it better smallmouth bass habitat. Good smallmouth bass fishing continues to Norfork Lake, and Norfork Lake itself even offers good smallmouth bass fishing opportunities.
Fishing methods vary along the course of the North Fork of the White. In the upper river between the headwaters and Rainbow Spring, traditional smallmouth bass methods apply. Crayfish crankbaits, minnow crankbaits, tube baits, plastic worms, jigs, and topwaters all work well. In the lower river after Rainbow Spring, Stonefly Nymphs and crayfish imitating flies work well for both the trout and smallmouth bass.
Lures for the North Fork of the White River
Rebel Crawdad, deep diving
1/4 ounce Spinnerbait (white)
Black and Olive Marabou jigs
1/8 Ounce Rooster tail spinners
5" Zoom Plastic worms
Bass Pro Shops Enticer Pro Series Smallmouth Jig - 1/8 oz
Baits for the North Fork of the White River
Flies for the North Fork of the White River