Anglers search for the biggest walleye in the lake.
Anglers search for the biggest walleye in the lake. Field & Stream Online Editors

OZARKS: Fishing the Hills
Their names read like pages from angling history-Current, Jack’s Fork, Gasconnade, Buffalo, Crooked Creek, the White-all world-famous Ozark smallmouth bass rivers.

The 1950s brought major Corps of Engineers dams, which radically diversified the fishing. Now, in addition to those remaining smallmouth rivers, there are unbelievably fertile fisheries for tailwater trout, not to mention huge reservoirs offering major-league action for largemouth, smallmouth, and even spotted bass. Most trout fishing is tailwater-based, although the undammed North Fork White in Missouri is charming for its fly hatches and free-rising trout. The tailwaters at Taneycomo, below Bull Shoals Dam near the state border, and below Norfork Dam offer superb trout action, including the occasional record-class brown trout. Big-lake bass guys, meanwhile, find ample opportunity in major reservoirs like Bull Shoals, Norfork, and Greers Ferry.

The region’s classic fishing, however, is in its smallmouth rivers, running to this day clear and cool under leafy canopies. Crooked Creek in Arkansas remains world class, for example, with 50-bass days always possible. For more information, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation (573-751-4115; or the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (800-364-4263;