Some places are notorious for producing giant fish. Some are faraway and some are close to home, but with a little research and ambition, some can be very rewarding. The last few seasons I’ve been researching and planning where to go to find big river smallmouth bass. From Iowa, Wisconsin was the closest and best option to chase smallies on a kayak.

With little to no cellular service, I had to revert back to the classic paper river maps and drive many random roads to find river access and fishing spots. In turn I found many neat places I probably never would have found using a GPS. I stopped at a few riverside bars and asked the locals if they had any tips to help in my quest for fish and sure enough many people offered me many hints as to where I could find my quarry. And much to my surprise, many people offered to help move my vehicle in order for me to float the river sections by myself. Without hesitation I took the help.

The Flambeau River was my destination and although a roller coaster of storms had hit the area in recent weeks, the river looked perfect. The red stained clear water was a giant difference from the muddy water closer to home. The stretches of river I planned on floating were full of boulders and other structure perfect for harboring smallmouth bass. This river is also a world class musky fishery and also has many giant sturgeon.

Fishing was great and the lack of knowledge of the area made exploration so much more meaningful. Fish were few and far in between but almost all the bass caught were giants! Many of the bass were 17-20” which is far bigger than smallmouth typically found back home. My trip was an instant success after landing one big bass. During the float I saw a half dozen 5-6’ sturgeon swim directly below my kayak and believe me, seeing a fish that size right beneath the kayak was a thrill.

What I learned was that all I needed was a little ambition to get out and explore and things would come together. I highly recommend chasing smallmouth in Wisconsin’s great river systems! P.S. Don’t forget the bug spray!