There's Bronze in Our Streams

I think 5:45 in the morning is a great time to be standing ankle deep in your favorite smallmouth stream. The fog clings to the water, the first morning bird songs echo through the trees, a bullfrog makes his last call to his mates.

Armed with my ultra-light rod and reel with a 1/8th ounce jig-n-pig I quietly whisper to myself, "my gosh, if God made anything better than smallmouth bass he kept it for himself."

You might call me a creek freak or a river rat, but I absolutely love to fish for smallmouth bass in small streams and creeks. There's nothing that compares to a subtle little tap on a jig-n-pig or an earth shattering explosion of water on a slowly worked buzzbait.

Fortunately, Missouri is rich in small streams, and it is easy to find them. County maps provide excellent information about rivers, creeks and streams in Missouri. You can buy individual county maps from the Department of Transportation, or purchase Missouri's Conservation Atlas from the Conservation Department.

On your maps, study and highlight major rivers and the streams that feed them. Next, get in your car and go what I call "creeking," which means looking for roads that lead to creeks and bridges that cross creeks with easy access to them. Remember, though, many of these streams meander through private land. It's best to check first with surrounding landowners to get permission to use their land.

Unless you're an early spring or late fall fisherman, you won't need any waders. All you need are old tennis shoes, a pair of cut-offs and a light colored short-sleeved shirt. Don't forget sun screen.

As far as tackle is concerned, go light. An ultra-light spinning reel with a 4 1/2- to 5-foot ultra-light rod is perfect. Tackle boxes are a no-no when it comes to creek fishing because you're going to need both hands to fight the smallmouth bass you hope will tear up your equipment. I prefer to use an around-the-waist, canvas fanny bag. It holds all of the lures and extra fishing line that I need for a day.

When it comes to lures, go light. Four inch plastic worms, crawdad-colored crankbaits, small in-line spinners, floating Rapalas, and my two all-time favorites--a 1/8th-ounce brown rubber skirted jig with a brown pig and a 1/4-ounce chartreuse buzz bait with a white grub trailer.

When fishing small rivers, creeks and streams, always fish upstream. The fish will have