By Marc Rogers
Fishing the Courtois Creek
The middle of March is the beginning of some of the best smallmouth bass fishing Missouri has to offer on the often overlooked Courtois creek. Several outfitters service the Courtois Creek (commonly pronounced “Codeaway”) and some of the best areas to fish are between the access at Berryman Road and the confluence of the Courtois and Huzzah Creeks.
The Courtois Creek is floatable above the Berryman access but not a lot of water is available during the dry seasons. I have floated from Brazil access to Berryman in one day in January several years ago. It is a long float for this time of year due to limited daylight hours and my partner and I did finish the last mile in the dark. If you float during the cold season, you must be prepared for the conditions. In case you get wet, a dry change of clothes and the ability to build a fire are essential.
Through trial and error, I have found the best float fishing on the Courtois Creek is from the Berryman access to Bass River Resort. If you rent a canoe from the resort, they will take you to Berryman and you can float back to your vehicle parked at the resort. This float is approximately 11 miles of stream but if you would like a shorter trip they is another access they will put in that is approximately 6 miles of stream. The shorter trip access is called Blunt Road Access – sometimes called Misty Valley due to an old outfitter that is no longer in business here.
From Berryman Road Access to the confluence of Huzzah Creek there are miles of clear water filled with Smallmouth Bass, Goggle-eye, Largemouth Bass and Spotted bass that do not receive a lot of fishing pressure. The best time to fish this water is during the spring and fall – before and after the traditional float trip season. The Courtois Creek receives a lot of float trip traffic and the waterway can get crowded on the weekends. If you do fish the creek in the summer months try to do so during the middle of the week for less traffic.
The water flow in the creek is gentle and suitable for most people regardless of experience in operating a canoe. As the creek meanders through the valley there are a few places along the way that can be tricky to navigate. A couple of sharp turns and narrow passages create some faster moving water but still things a novice can handle. The beauty of this area is the water is clear and only is stained during rainy conditions. There majority of the stream is not much deeper that five feet with a several deep holes along the way.
Recommended fishing tackle for an outing on this stream is light to medium action rod and reels. Rod length is best at no greater than six feet due to tight cover requiring short casts. My choice is a five and one half foot pistol grip casting rod with a high-speed reel. In addition, I do carry a medium action-spinning outfit for ease of casting lighter offerings.
When floating a stream always keep your rods stored inside and below the top of your watercraft. Many times, you will travel under low-lying overhead cover that can snag your rods and pull them from the canoe or boat. If not pulled from the boat, rods may hit the occupants when the pull loose from the snag or hit an occupant.
A small tackle box filled with soft-plastic lures, weedless jigs, spinnerbaits, topwater (including buzzbaits) and shallow-running crankbaits complete the ideal lure assortment for a day-long outing on the Courtois Creek. Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits with a chartreuse skirt are very effective on smallmouth bass. The other lures are best in natural colors with jigs and soft-plastics in green pumpkin and crawfish. My choice for topwater and crankbaits is natural shad colors.
Soft-plastic lures presented with a football shaky head offer anglers a snag resistant, very effective lure. The screw lock keeper holds plastic lures securely to the head as well as covering the hook point creating a weedless offering. Football shaped jig heads reduce the chance of your lure to become wedged in the rock bottom of the stream. Most soft plastic lures work well on this type of jig head but the stream bass generally prefer a crawfish imitator in natural colors. The football jig head also helps keep a crawfish lure in a “pinchers up” position; this is the defensive position of a crawfish. Bottom bouncing lures are effective any time of year and water temperature.
Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices from mid-spring until late fall. Chartreuse skirts are always my color choice with nickle, willowleaf blades. Chartreuse, it seems, attracts violent stirkes from smallmouth bass. Willowleaf spinnerbaits blades create less lift when retreived and lift is something not necessary in these shallow water streams.
Topwater poppers and chuggers in natural color patterns generate intense stirkes from all three species of bass during the warmer seasons. Your assortment of these lures should include the Storm Chug-Bug, Storm Baby Chug-Bug and the Rebel Pop-R in shad color patterns.
Shallow running crankbaits can be effective at times but are more difficult to present in the smaller streams. If used, I suggest it done so in the deeper and slower moving waters. Deep water is relative to the surrounding water and 5 feet is deep in the Courtois Creek. A shad imitating crankbait running 1-2 feet below the surface will entice bass to come up from deeper water to attack the offering.
After you set out on your fishing adventure floating a small stream remember to let the fish tell you what they want that day. Use this as a guide for lure choices but do not be afraid to experiment with other lures and presentations. The bass in the Courtois Creek are generally willing to entertain you all day, but I have had days when it seems nothing could make them bite.