Bob Mitchell: Covering new territory

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

After reviewing a recent offering regarding float fishing, it was discovered that a few pertinent items had been overlooked, and some might think their trips weren't important or were not worth mentioning in the column.

So, I might digress somewhat, but at least it will be covering new territory regarding one of the most outstanding outdoor events available here in the Ozarks.


First vehicles used for floats were wooden johnboats -- some homemade, and others that might have come off an assembly line. They were sturdy, permitting one angler to stand while making his cast, most favorably with a fly rod. But, they were often not the easiest of boats to control, mainly because of their weight.

All the guides of this area used the wooden boats. Some of them had racks on which to carry more than one vessel depending on the size of the party they were going to be taking from point to point that particular day.

Elk River

There were and untold number of trips on the Elk River, some of which have been mentioned previously, and produced more memories than most people can store. Not the least would include the trips with John Starchman and Greg Turner. The latter was one of those types that made a real study of the stream and could remember where a good-sized bass might be hiding from a previous strike.

Greg was also the inventor of the Tickle Jig, a round, rubber formed bait that at times was absolutely death on smallmouth. Combined with a pork junk with the fat removed, it attracted about six lunker class brownies out of the Elk for me.

Starchman was the first to bring the composite canoe to the area. In his eagerness to make the trip more comfortable, he installed bass boat seats in his canoe. On the maiden voyage, we discovered the seats were mounted excessively high, making the canoe top heavy and would easily spill the passenger. I was the first to discover this problem.

Later trips that proved a blast included Steve Burch, who drove down from Richmond, Mo., Dennis Ledgerwood, Jim Bower and a first-time trip for the late Lavern Hilburn.

Flat bottoms

The flat bottom boats eventually converted to metal, which were lighter to transport and handle on the river. Carter Koon's gigging boat was readily available for trips once the lights were removed from the front.

Carter liked to float White River, armed with some soft shell crawfish, which he used in holes of water in fishing for catfish. On one of our trips, we poked along during the day while he drowned the bait, suddenly realizing daylight wasn't to last very long, we had cat-fished an excessive amount of time.

So, we began paddling, attempting to reach the take-out point before dark, and that was not to be a reality.

Carter was in front of the boat with a flashlight watching for rocks, and I was guiding the boat. The first shoal we hit, fish began jumping out of the water, and a few actually landed in the boat. That was Carter's first experience with this happening, and he figured that might be the way to fish in the future.

We got near the point of taking out, and Raymond Nance had his pickup lights on, being the only way we could have recognized the place in the dark.

Steel bridge

Floating Kings River was once a real experience since the launching point was down the bank at the old steel bridge at Grandview. This was before private property access, by paying a fee, was available. Cotner Ford was the usual finishing point.

It actually took all hands and the cook to get the boats down that bank and into the water since they were loaded with all the gear for the day-long cruise down river.

We learned early, by experience of another group from here (names withheld for obvious reasons), who insisted on carrying a borrowed canoe on top of their vehicle, to use a pickup instead. Their trip nearly ended in disaster when they were forced to make a quick stop, and the canoe flew off the car and onto the highway, nearly causing more than one crash.

Best equipped

The most equipment in one boat was that of the late Bill Sellers, who was at the time the county sanitarian. He had made wooden cases fitting the bottom of his boat with all utensils for overnighters on the river. Many such a trip from Trigger Gap up in Arkansas to Grandview were really good trips to remember.

Sellers always insisted in having steaks and strawberry shortcake on the first night on a gravel bar.

Our last trip caught us on the river when it rained six inches in Rogers in a few hours. The Kings was on a tear, but we got out at the Highway 62 bridge thanks to Vern Petty and some friends who anticipated our situation.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.