I lay on my back staring at the heavens, just as I had planned. I peered from under an overhanging rainfly from my tent, not as I had planned. Whoever packed the tent last failed to put in the poles. A tent without poles can be a disaster.
I lay on my back staring at the heavens, just as I had planned. I peered from under an overhanging rainfly from my tent, not as I had planned. Whoever packed the tent last failed to put in the poles. A tent without poles can be a disaster. Occasionally, I like to take a multi-day trip on one of our Ozark rivers all by myself. It is a great way to truly relax and leave the world of concerns behind. I really do connect with the wild environment of a flowing river and the simple living it allows me for a few days.
Paddling a canoe for days is rough on old arms and shoulders, so I often opt for my old 20-foot river jon and small motor. I like it, because I can load lots of equipment into the old boat and make a very comfortable camp on the river bank.
Anxious to get my weekend started, I threw my gear together on Friday evening, after supper, and headed to my destination. Midnight had passed before I reached the river, so I slept in the pickup for a few hours (3) before getting up at 4:30 a.m. to check the river. Raindrops and nearby lightning put me back in the truck.
Thirty minutes later, the lightning had cleared the next ridge. I felt safe enough to make a cast or two from the boat ramp, but wasn’t going to chance launching the boat just yet. I knew it would be a good trip when a 14-inch smallmouth clobbered my pearl Fluke on my first cast.
I couldn’t stand it any longer and launched, but vowed to myself to stay near the ramp until the storm cleared out. I began flipping 2-1/2-inch YUM Baby Crawbugs to rocky cover. Goggle-eye nailed the fake steadily. I actually caught eight fish on my first eight casts.
I crossed the river to cast my Fluke to logs and downed trees in search of bigger bass. Only minutes into my search, I saw a bass dart from under a log and inhale the rubber bait. Oooh, it felt sooo good to have a bass on the end of my line. Relaxation had already begun to take over. The 15-inch fish vaulted skyward, shaking its big head to throw the bait. I always gasp when a fish comes out of the water, knowing from experience that bass our masters at throwing baits. However, the hooks held ad I slung the sleek fish into the boat, admired it for a moment and slid into back into the Meramec.
I tossed the fluke to the bank between two downed sycamore trees. The lure darted and twisted, imitating a dying minnow perfectly. I felt a fish should have clobbered the lure immediately. Just as I was about to give up a big, dark form materialized behind my bait. I’ve seen a lot of big bass in my lifetime and when they have shoulders as thick as the one following my bait, they are hawgs.
I tensed. The Fluke disappeared into the fish’s mouth. I leaned back hard to set the hook. The bait flew out of the bass’s mouth. I knew there was not a chance that fish would hit again. I had missed what would have been my biggest bass of the season – six, seven pounds.
Fish of that proportion tend to haunt anglers, particularly if they missed it. I fished on down river, but returned to the scene of the big bass miss several times, hoping to stir up another encounter. I eventually had to give up on the quest and float on downriver.
The middle Meramec offers plenty of cover for big bass to hide. Rocky banks and dead falls are two of my favorite places to toss a plastic worm, tube bait, or hard crank bait. Add a little current to the situation and you have the perfect ambush point for bass to dart into the current and snatch any food items drifting by.
I keep at least two rods rigged until I figure out what the fish are doing. I sometimes rig up to 4 rods. speed Spin I carry a Lew’s Lazer Lite Speed Spin with matching reel spooled with 4-pound line. I rig it with a Yum 2.5-inch Crawbug for those hard to reach spots. Smallmouth are real suckers for a small crayfish. My second rod is a Lew’s 7-foot Wally Marshall Pro Series rod in moderate action. It is particularly adept at handling finesse worms and small baits, plus the length allows me to cast far, or dabble around rocks and logs.
My third and fourth rods are Lews’s bait casting outfits rigged with 8 and ten pound test lines for those bigger baits and areas with big rocks and logs. It takes some backbone to pull a big bass out of the rough and rubble.
The Meramec River is home to largemouth, smallmouth an spotted or Kentucky bass. The later competes with the more desirable largemouth and smallmouth for food and cover. As a result, spotted bass often wind in the frying pan at riverside camps.
Such was the case on my multi-day solo float and camp trip. Flour with a dash of salt and pepper, one egg and a dash up 7-UP made a tasty batter and came out of the hot grease with a crunchy coating.
It was definitely a meal fit for a king. However, I enjoyed the same meal numerous times, all by myself, while floating the Meramec River.