The Big River is ranked 3rd in the state of Missouri for number of Master Angler Awards, given out by the Missouri Department of Conservation. This only proves just how terrific this fishery is for both smallmouth and largemouth bass.

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Nice float, but what might have been…

Posted by Phil Lilley on June 22nd, 2017

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I want to really thank Brian Jones for hooking me up with a landowner who has an access in the absolute perfect spot, first of all.  Because there’s this section of Big River with otherwise very inconvenient access points, making for floats that are either too short or too long.  But this private access is right at the end of the “good water”, and cuts off about 4 miles of “bad water” off the float.  I used it for the first time today. read more…


Posted by Phil Lilley on June 9th, 2017


As I’ve written in a couple of other posts, I’ve been in a bad slump of losing big fish.  I didn’t really expect to break the slump today, because I had chosen to float what is my least favorite stretch of upper Big River.  I’ve caught a few big fish in this stretch over the years, but not nearly the number I’ve gotten in my other stretches.  But I’d already floated every other stretch of the river above Washington Park this year, and besides, this is the easiest shuttle for Mary to help me with, especially since she had to do the shuttle before driving to St. Louis. read more…

three hour tour on 6/2/17

Posted by Phil Lilley on June 6th, 2017

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Fished down in the “jet boat water” for a few hours yesterday and had a pretty decent trip.  This was only my second trip since February with the other being last Friday on the same stretch of water.  Life threw the Jones family a pretty nasty change up at the end of March when my wife and youngest daughter were involved in a head on accident on the way to school on a county road that runs between Bonne Terre and Desloge.  Though our daughter walked away unscathed, my wife suffered a dislocated hip and also broke off the upper part of her acetabulum which required surgery to repair.  The recovery from this kind of surgery is pretty lengthy so there hasn’t been a lot of extra time for hobbies.   read more…

Bad fishing, good memories, great day

Posted by Phil Lilley on December 28th, 2016

Wednesday…forecast for very little wind, sunny skies, highs in the mid 70s.  How many days in the middle of November do you get like this?  I was going fishing no matter what.  Mary wanted to get on the river.  I suggested somewhere on the Meramec in the jetboat.  No, Mary would prefer a canoe float.  That sounded okay to me…but where to go?  I asked her if she wanted to float Big River.  “Someplace I haven’t been.”  I thought, and thought some more, and suggested the Blackwell to Hwy. 21 float.  It’s about six miles, maybe a little less, which not only would suit Mary because she usually thinks every one of our floats is about a mile too long, and because I didn’t think I’d ever taken her on that one, but also because since I know a guy, both put-in and take-out would be easy (If you don’t know the guy, the put-in at Blackwell is worthy of several dirty words.)  As for the fishing…well, the guy I know said that his son had fished around Blackwell the week before and “tore ‘em up”.  And I remembered a warm day during deer season years ago when I definitely tore ‘em up.  So I was pumped to do the float. read more…

Been a long time

Posted by Phil Lilley on June 18th, 2016


Around the time I graduated from high school, so it was around 1970, I joined a local bass club.  One of the guys in the club was “old” (probably in his 40s at the time).  He was the one who first turned me on to the Midge-oreno with the skirt on the belly hook, which is the basis for my homemade shallow running crankbait.  He caught big smallmouth on them, and his favorite stretch of Big River was from Brown’s Ford to Hwy. Y (Pine Ford).  He was the first person to take me on that stretch, which was where I learned how he fished the Midge.  I’d grown up on upper Big River, and had fished the stretch from Mammoth Bridge to Brown’s Ford, the stretch that would become one of the first smallmouth special management areas, a number of times.  But even back then, long before the new bridge was built, the old Hwy. Y bridge was a real pain to use as a take-out, so I’d never bothered to float that stretch until he took me.  He told me he almost never fished the stretch above Brown’s Ford because he thought the Brown’s to Pine Ford stretch was better water. read more…

Stream Smallies On The ‘Real’ Big River

Posted by Phil Lilley on June 17th, 2016


by Doug Smith, Fish and Game Magazine ~ It’s said that Philippe-François de Renault first found Big River in 1720 while he was stumbling around the big woods, which were still under French ownership at the time. He reportedly named the stream “la Grande Rivière,” which English-speakers later simply translated literally. I suspect that ol’ Renault based his moniker for the stream not so much on the size of the flow as on the smallmouth population that already called it home. read more…