Smallmouth bass in thermally heterogeneous streams may behaviourally thermoregulate during the cold period (i.e., groundwater temperature greater than river water temperature) by inhabiting warm areas in the stream that result from high groundwater influence or springs. Our objectives were to determine movement of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) that use thermal refuge and project differences in growth and consumption among smallmouth bass exhibiting different thermal-use patterns. We implanted radio transmitters in 29 smallmouth bass captured in Alley Spring on the Jacks Fork River, Missouri, USA, during the winter of 2012. Additionally, temperature archival tags were implanted in a subset of nine fish. Fish were tracked using radio telemetry monthly from January 2012 through January of 2013. The greatest upstream movement was 42.5 km, and the greatest downstream movement was 22.2 km. Most radio tagged fish (69%) departed Alley Spring when daily maximum river water temperature first exceeded that of the spring (14 °C) and during increased river discharge. Bioenergetic modelling predicted that a 350 g migrating smallmouth bass that used cold-period thermal refuge would grow 16% slower at the same consumption level as a fish that did not seek thermal refuge. Contrary to the bioenergetics models, extrapolation of growth scope results suggested migrating fish grow 29% more than fish using areas of stream with little groundwater influence. Our results contradict previous findings that smallmouth bass are relatively sedentary, provide information about potential cues for migratory behaviour, and give insight to managers regarding use and growth of smallmouth bass in thermally heterogeneous river systems.