River fishing for smallmouth bass is all about fast action on medium or light tackle, and the Mississippi between St. Cloud and Anoka, Minn., is a great place to find it. Slot limits (12- to 20-inchers must be released) protect aggressive smallies that charge topwater baits with gusto. Boat access is plentiful, and you can wade-fish some areas. And bring a fly rod—casting gaudy surface patterns at bronzebacks with an 8-weight is a highly underrated flyfishing experience. Here's the per-angler cost for a party of two, for a three-day, two-night trip, from Minneapolis.
TRANSPORT: Plan on gas for 90 miles roundtrip, and another 50 local miles scouting. $14
FOOD: Get groceries at Coborn's Superstore in Elk River ($40). For dinner, hit VFW Post 8731 in Monticello. $35
LODGING: Try the Best Western Chelsea in Monticello (763-271-8880). $100
GUIDE FEES: Rates are $300–$350 for a full-day, two-person float through Thorne Bros. Custom Rod & Tackle (763-572-3782; thornebros.com). $175
LICENSES: For nonresidents, the best option is seven days for $25. A resident annual license is $18. Buy them through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (888-646-6367; dnr.state.mn.us). $25
TOTAL PER ANGLER: $349