When dogwood and redbud blooms paint the Ozark hills in purple and white, you know the smallmouth bass are biting in Missouri. Flowing nearly 300 miles from the Ozark highlands to its confluence with the Osage River, the Gasconade River is Missouri’s premier smallmouth fishery. From the highlands to the foothills, it tumbles over rocky shoals and rapids before widening out and slowing down farther north. Its habitat includes boulder-strewn pools, gravel riffles, sunken logs and weed beds to challenge an angler’s skills. To catch smallmouth bass in Missouri, all you really need is an ultralight spinning rig and a good assortment of plastic grubs and worms, as well as a generous supply of quarter-ounce and half-ounce stand-up jigheads. Anglers must immediately release all smallmouths back to the water until Memorial Day. All along the Gasconade, outfitters offer trips of varying lengths. Contact: Gasconade Hills Resort (800-869-6861); Indian Ford Resort (573-422-3484). An extensive list of outfitters is available online at