Behind the scenes of ‘100 Best Bass Lakes’

Gary Tramontina
Lake Amistad, Texas, was ranked in the Top 10 just two years ago but it fell completely off the list in 2014 due to drought.

Compiling Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes is a massive undertaking. The 2014 list is the third in this series, and the process of picking and ranking the lakes has become more involved each year.

James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine, is in charge of the Top 100 project. He attacks it with a resolve that belies his laid-back demeanor.

“It took about three months to complete the list,” Hall said. “Nick Mason, an intern from Morehead State University, worked on it fulltime and did a lot of the groundwork.”

The first phase of that groundwork was to contact the fisheries division in every state’s wildlife agency. They were asked to provide whatever data they had on their best bass lakes, such as catch rates and electric shocking surveys.

They were also requested to include all lakes, not just popular bass tournament waters, and to rank the lakes based on these criteria:

  • Quantity of Bass
  • Quality of Bass
  • Health of the Fishery
  • Access
  • Aesthetics (Scenery)

“The scenery at some lakes is so awesome that it makes for an incredible experience,” Hall said.

This data was put on a spreadsheet that provided a foundation for the Top 100 selections. The fisheries biologists were also asked how they would rank the best bass lakes in their state.

This information was then sent to every B.A.S.S. Nation President and Conservation Director to get their feedback. Some 560,000 Facebook fans were also polled for their top picks.

After this information was compiled, the list was cut to 180 lakes. It was then sent to the B.A.S.S. Council, a select group of 3,500 bass fanatics from across the nation. The country was divided into six regions. The Council members used the data from B.A.S.S. and their own experiences to rank the lakes in their region.

Further research included the results of bass tournaments, guide trips and input from Bassmaster’s Elite Series pros.

“Some of the most reliable feedback we got was from the Elite Series guys,” Hall said.

The Elite pros were especially helpful in ranking the lakes at the very top of the list. Since they’ve been to places like California’s Clear Lake, Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, they can compare these great bass fisheries on a firsthand basis.