Little Things can become big things while float fishing!
Some years back, a couple of old friends of mine intended to make a one day float fishing trip in Arkansas for Smallmouth bass. Their plan was to leave one of their vehicles at a place called Marshall Ford on the Kings River. Then, both would travel in the other truck to launch their John Boat at an access point upstream near Marble, Arkansas. A fine day of fishing for Smallmouth was intended. There was just one small problem with their plan: There was no vehicle at Marshall Ford, end of the day, as they had parked the first vehicle on an entirely different stream called War Eagle Creek. Checking the highway map for directions would have prevented the mistake, of course. Fortunately, they found a friendly farmer to drive them and their boat back to the launch at Marble. Three Springs back I took a couple of guys, Rex and Bubba, both from Arkansas, on a guided float fishing trip on Missouri's Eleven point river. The 11 point begins near Willow Springs, Missouri and ends when it joins Arkansas' Spring River a few miles west of Pocahontas, Arkansas. There are a lot of river miles and many options for spending a day fishing on this river. We had decided to float the last stretch of stream in Missouri so we left Bubba's truck at the public access near the Arkansas state line. We all rode in my truck back upstream to launch the big canoe on Missouri's highway 142. When we reached our shuttle vehicle at the end of the day Bubba shuffled his feet, and his pockets, for keys finally admitting he'd left them in his coat pocket in my truck thirty miles away. I walked right at six miles before finally hitching a ride just before dark back to my vehicle. Indeed, little things can quickly become big things when float fishing. Back in June of this year I took a couple of brothers, Rob and John on a guided float trip on the Osage Fork of the Gasconade. I had fished with Rob a couple of times but had not fished with his older brother, a retired doctor from here in Springfield, Missouri. Both brothers were excited to fish together and it was one of those perfect days to be out there on the water. Sure enough, bass were biting, too. Rob soon landed a nice Kentucky bass on his spinnerbait while John missed one using an identical lure. Soon after, Rob caught another and John missed another. Meantime, I began encouraging John on setting-the-hook while also explaining that bass will often short-strike a lure. Rob landed another bass while I took his picture. This routine continued for a couple of hours and I had exhausted my coaching skills as John missed fish after fish. Later, I noticed that John, fishing from the front seat of my canoe, had quit casting and was hunkered up quietly working on his fishing equipment. Shorty, John went back to casting and he soon landed a nice Smallmouth. "There you go", I encouraged. He soon landed another and I took a photograph. Finally, John spoke up, "I hate to admit it, but I've just got to confess. Dennis, you've been encouraging me left and right and it's been my fault all along that I've not been catching fish. You know those little, plastic tube-sleeves that they sometimes put over hooks....?" I suspect that younger brother, Rob, is still poking fun at the "doctor" over that tiny detail. A little thing back in July turned into the largest Smallmouth that I've seen to hand in a very long time. John and Jim, Alabama boys, have been coming up for years to float fish our Ozark streams with me. In their seventies and friends for decades, both freely admit that there is always stiff competition between them, particularly when out fishing. These guys always take four days for the event. A day to drive up, one to drive back and two days in between with me out on the river. Bottom line, Jim kicked John's tail pretty hard the first day on fish to the boat and naturally was giving him a lot of lip about it over dinner that evening. I told John, "I've seen that situation turn around on the second day, many times!" On day two, I could tell John had his jaw set and he was focused. Right off the bat, Jim got into a dandy Smallmouth but lost it (those don't count). Shortly, John got into one, and landed it. A good start for the day according to John. Always trying to observe and to be of assistance, guides are supposed to do that, I'm told, I suggested that they both attempt to cast well ahead as the water was extra clear on Missouri's Current River. We had approached a broad, deep hole and I eased my canoe in place so that they could both cast well downstream and parallel with the stream bank. John made one long cast and immediately set the hook. This bass never moved from the spot where hooked. I could not see it but could tell it was both heavy and strong. The canoe finally came up over the bass as John fought for all he was worth to hold on. I coached John and back-peddled the canoe all I could. I had to see this SMALLMOUTH! This bass never cleared the water in a jump, it simply dove back to the logs and rocks, time after time. Finally, John was able to grab a lip. After photographs and measurements, I told John that Jim will likely never top his catch. At 22.5 inches and well over 5 lbs we released this smallmouth to be caught again another day. John held bragging rights over dinner that evening!