Christopher Smith

Black River Arizona Smallmouth

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

There are a number of great smallmouth bass fishing locations in the Western United States but Black River Arizona smallmouths may be some of the best.

The Black River is a 114-mile-long (183 km)[1] river in the White Mountains of Arizona, USA, to the west of Alpine. Along with the Whiteriver, it forms the Salt River, a major tributary of the Gila River.

The Black River has multiple forks, including the east and north fork, that hold great trout fishing. There is also a stretch called the Lower Black River that holds some of the state’s best smallmouth fishing.  Original article

We don’t read a lot about smallmouth fishing in the west but there was a great article in Game and Fish Magazine that discussed some great smallmouth fishing options in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Black River Arizona smallmouth

When it comes to smallies, don’t discount running water — or fly-fishing. When I say this I immediately think of Arizona’s Black River. Flowing out of the White Mountain region between Showlow and Globe, Ariz., it represents some of the best smallie water in the West. The upper Black creates the boundary between the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache Tribes, so fishing permits from one of these groups (depending on which side you approach from) are required, but the cost is reasonable.

The Black, like New Mexico’s Gila River, is wild, remote water where bass in the 2- to 3-pound range are extremely plentiful, and occasional 4- to 6-pound bass come to those who fish diligently. Anglers here successfully employ standard-issue spinners and ultra-light plugs and live bait such as hellgrammites gathered streamside by flipping rocks, but I’ve experienced my fastest action while fly-fishing.

Flies simply allow more natural presentations and, in the case of sighted fish — common in such clear, unspoiled waters — teasing reluctant fish into striking. I use a 6-weight rod with floating line and 9-foot, 8-pound leader (waters here are full of tree roots and rock, big bass requiring some muscle). You’ll need only two fly patterns in various shades. Crawfish patterns and Wooly Buggers in sizes 4 to 2 prove best, tossed to the whitewater at pool heads, allowed to tumble down into deeper holds before twitching them crosscurrent or crawling them along the bottom in calmer stretches. Fish all possible holding water, even the skinny stuff, but also pay special attention to undercuts beneath plunging cliff, and deep drop-offs where faster water sweeps overhead. In the latter, adding a few more split-shot allows flies to cheat current and reach more productive holds.

Again, don’t hesitate to apply what I’ve related here to waters closer to home. Hook a 5-pound bass in flowing water and you’re in for the ride of your life!  Original article here

In addition to the Black river, some of the top smallmouth fishing locations in the Rockies include Dworshack Reservoir in Idaho, New Mexico’s Elephant Butte, Lake Powell and Navajo Lake.  Standard smallmouth fishing techniques apply in these deep water lakes.

If you fish for Black River Arizona smallmouth bass, feel free to share your experiences below.  If you have a favorite Rocky Mountain smallmouth fishing location not mentioned, tell us yours!

4 Responses to Black River Arizona Smallmouth

  1. May June 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

    The answer is when do you stop? I know it’s cold but even in the witenr you can get those 3 days of sun with a high of 50-60 the last day of warm weather is good i find myself getting shallow bass that come up to warm on cover or structure( rocks, fallen trees, docks etc..) that holds heat. If it is cold then go deep, you may need a fish finder to find them. When they suspend in cold water you can use spoon, jigs, drop shot rig or jerk bait. Fish slower too If fishing n the cold is not for you then like most people wait till it warms. You can catch bass in the cold and if you can bear the elements quality fish can be caught too.

  2. Blaine Allen April 6, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I am planning a fishing trip towards the end of May and plan to head up to the West Fork of the Black River in high hopes of catching some smallmouth. I’ll be taking both of my both and if the fishing up there is as good as I anticipate, we will have the time of our lives. My boys have never hooked into a bass before so they will be in for a surprise. I used to fish for smallmouth in Illinois during the late summer and early fall in streams and small rivers. If you have any tips or information about fishing the Black River for smallmouth, I would truely be greatful. I’ve never had more fun in the outdoors than when I hooked into a nice smallmouth. I want my boys to have that same experience. Thanks Blaine!

    • Rod Richards May 1, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      Hi Blaine,
      If you are going to the Black River for smallmouth, you will need to fish the lower elevations of the river, typically the area known as the “lower Black”. The West Fork is high country trout water, and the water too cold for smallies.

      Where the West Fork and East Forks of the Black meet (in general,known as the upper Black), they form the Black River main stem and down stream from there the river flows out of the National Forest area and on to the Apache Reservations- White Mountain Apache to the North bank, and San Carlos Apache reservation on the South (The river forms the boundary between the two Reservations). It is within this general area where the smallmouth reside, starting in earnest at around the 6000 ft. elevation and below down stream. The lower Black River is where you’ll need to take you kids for excellent smallmouth action!

  3. Joe Szymanoski June 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Am planning a 1 week trip with my son to the East fork of the black on July 14th and have a question. We will start out out of Alpine and after a days fishing on Big Lake for Cutts, I want to know the best and quickest way to access the lower Black for those beautiful smallies from the upper east fork area. I will have as rental car-no 4WD. Thank you for your time and info—Joe S


Leave a Reply to May Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *