Throughout the rivers and streams of the Ozarks and southern Missouri, smallmouth bass have traditionally been the most sought-after sport fish species. Cracked and faded photographs taken from the 1890s through the 1950s show anglers in old-time garb proudly displaying their daily catches. Heavy stringers of smallmouth bass attest to the success of these early anglers.
Historically, the range of smallmouth bass was confined to the center of North America. Smallmouth began expanding in the mid-1800s and their range has grown to include most of the clear, cool streams and lakes in eastern North America, from southern Nova Scotia to central Georgia and west into the Great Plains.
In Missouri, smallmouth bass occur throughout the Ozarks and sparingly in the upper Mississippi River and some of its tributaries. Smallmouth bass are generally not found in the northwest or north central portion of the state or in the Bootheel.
Today, the long stringers of smallmouth bass may be history, but the numbers of fish in some of our smallmouth bass special management areas can provide catches that come close to rivaling those of by gone days.