Having cut my teeth wading creeks as a kid, fishing moving water has always held a special place in my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love fishing our Ozark lakes as much as the next guy, but there’s something special about river fishing. The current, downed trees, shade, water color and other variables preset a different set of challenges than fishing a lake. Casting accuracy is imperative for success when you trying to whip your lure under overhanging limbs and right into that shady spot that’s likely holding a nice smallmouth.

We have so many great fishing opportunities here in southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas! The area lakes get most of the publicity but the regions rivers offer some world-class fishing! It’s a fishery that’s often overlooked too and a lot closer than you think. The Gasconade River is only about an hour or so from Springfield.

I recently had the opportunity to hop in the boat with Tommy Bench, owner-operator of the Gasconade River Guide Service. Tommy was a recent guest on my Ozarks Outdoors podcast and our conversation about catching those Gasconade smallmouth got me fired up to hit the river! When he said he an afternoon free for a few hours, I jumped at the chance! Most days, Tommy is busy guiding on the Gasconade and Big Piney Rivers.


Having success on the river starts with the right boat. We jumped in Tommy’s flat bottom with a 40hp jet drive and up the river we went! And talk about beautiful! Winding up the river taking in scenery, the wildlife, and we spotted an eagle flying overhead! Getting to the fishing hole and back was half the fun!

After a few miles run up the river we started slinging flukes in hopes of catching some big bronzebacks! Most of the fish were in some phase of the spawning process in the stretch of river we were fishing. We spotted several beds, some with fish on, or around some of them. Of course, it didn’t take long before Tommy had a nice one or two in the boat!

I managed to sling a few over the side as well. I started out with a couple smaller fish. I had a couple come unbuttoned on me too, but hey, that’s fishing.

The fishing picked up once the sun slid behind the bluff. When the shadows stared getting longer it was time to switch to a topwater bait. And if I’m being completely honest, it was seeing one of those big smallies come up and smack a topwater was what I came to see! Fortunately, towards the end of our afternoon, a nice smallmouth busted my Rapala Skitter-Pop!

All of this was just enough get me fired up and I can’t wait to get back on the Gasconade! Take it from me, there’s nothing like fishing a river and especially when you’re in a boat with someone that knows the river like the back of his hand! Reach out to Tommy Bench, owner-operator of Gasconade River Guide Service. Get yourself and friend or two together and hit the river with Tommy! There’s truly nothing quite like it, and it’s right here in our backyard! Again, check out our conversation on my Ozarks Outdoors podcast and “Happy Fishing, everyone!”