The river's Smallmouth Bass Special Management Area was expanded in 2017 to include all of the Big Piney River downstream of Slabtown Access in Texas County to the confluence with the Gasconade River in Pulaski County. The spring 2017 flood has changed portions of the river and added a significant amount of woody habitat. The Big Piney River is a clear stream, especially when low, and is best to fish slowly out of a canoe or small river johnboat. If you are not catching fish from a boat, get out and wade fish the swifter habitats; it will produce a tug on the end of the line.
Smallmouth bass fishing is expected to be good throughout the special management area year-round due to great habitat. Anglers report catching good numbers of fish from 11-15 inches during 2019. Expect most smallmouth bass to be in the 9-12-inch range in 2020, but fish up to 22 inches and 4lbs are present. Fishing near rootwads and boulders associated with the current will produce more smallmouth bass than other habitats. Do not be afraid to fish the pools in the springtime with traditional largemouth lures. Also, do not overlook the lower end of pools as they can often produce numbers and quality fish as well. Focusing on the right habitats will be the key.
Goggle-eye fishing can also be good year-round, but the 2019 population continued to decline as a result of recent flooding and its negative impacts on spawning success leading to lower population numbers. The majority of the population currently exceeds 6 inches in length and fish upwards of 10 inches are common in some areas of the river. However, limits of fish are out there to be caught. Goggle-eye can be caught in the pools around structure and on the channel edge of weed beds. Although soft plastic crayfish imitations are always a favorite for google-eye, they can also be caught on crankbaits in the rocky sections of the creek. When the instream vegetation comes back to the Big Piney, the Goggle-eye population will rebound as well.
Largemouth bass can generally be found in backwater areas and grow to over 20 inches. Largemouth have been doing well despite the flooding if the past few years. These fish are more readily caught in winter and early spring when these habitats are clear of vegetation. Try crankbaits, spinnerbaits or big soft plastic swim baits in these areas. Three pound largemouth are currently common in the Big Piney for those who fish the right habitats.