Click here to continue 1 / 19 Pack your bags, because after reading about the best lakes in the nation this year, you’ll not want to waste a second getting on the road, boat in tow. This year’s rankings mark the sixth installment of our annual bass lake research project. And looking back on previous rankings, there has not been a more impressive year for production of quantity and quality of bass. Here are the top 12 bass lakes in the country. If you'd like to see the top 25 for each region, look for the links below. Photo: Seigo Saito / Captions: Andy Crawford, James Hall, Mark Hicks and Brian Sak 2 / 19 Many lakes benefitted from epic winter and spring rainfall, creating new-lake effects across the country. New lakes have breached the Top 100, some fell completely off the list and there was plenty of movement with fisheries that have never fallen out of the rankings. Take a look at the data gathered and prepare to be impressed. There may be no better time in our nation’s history to be a bass fisherman. Photo: Seigo Saito 3 / 19 12. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee [36,240 acres] This Tennessee River impoundment is on fire. In the late April Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, it took more than 23 pounds per day for John Cox to win the event. On Day 1 of that tournament, if you didn’t have 15 pounds, you were not in the Top 50. Plus, The Chick is still banging out giants, as an 11-5 was caught during the event to take big-fish honors. A field of 347 boats and 1,033 total participants took part in the Costa Bassmaster High School Southern Open presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods on Chickamauga Lake this year. The event broke records before the first cast was made, with the largest field in B.A.S.S. history. Photo: James Overstreet 4 / 19 11. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York [50-mile stretch] With 1,864 islands and numerous bays, this picturesque bass factory teems with smallmouth. There is also excellent largemouth fishing, but the smallmouth have the greatest trophy potential. A major two-day tournament here in June 2016 produced a 24-9 limit and seven other limits over 20 pounds. Another two-day event in September 2016 yielded 10 limits over 20 pounds, including a 25-3. Photo: Gary Tramontina 5 / 19 10. Falcon Lake, Texas [83,654 acres] This fishery is really dependent on water levels, which can fluctuate wildly. When lake levels crash, the fishery gets tough. But right now Falcon is full, and the bass have responded accordingly. The combination of ample shad and tilapia, abundant habitat and the influence of Florida largemouth bass genetics has produced a huge swell in fishing success — and the bass in this border lake get big in a hurry. 6 / 19 A Skeeter Bass Champs event in January was won with 30.98 pounds, and the Top 21 teams bested the 20-pound mark. Ten bass topped the 8-pound mark, with four reaching double-digit status. The heaviest bass weighed during that event logged in at 11.94 pounds. Those hefty weights continued for the circuit’s March stop, which was won with a 28.09-pound stringer. Six fish over 7-pounds were included in the big-bass parade going across the scales. Photo: Gary Tramontina 7 / 19 9. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles] St. Clair is back in a big way since it faltered in 2014 for some unknown reason. Not only have 20-pound limits returned, but St. Clair also continues to yield quantities of quality bass. At an annual July two-day tournament out of Mitchell’s Bay in 2016 the Top 3 teams weighed in more than 40 pounds of bass with a winning catch of 45.57. Photo: Gary Tramontina 8 / 19 8. Santee Cooper Lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina [110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively] When you weigh in 20.99 pounds and finish 10th, getting beat by almost 10 pounds, you know you have fished a special lake. That happened here this April when the Carolinas Bass Challenge tournament was held. The winners had 30.68 pounds, while second place weighed in 29.52. Photo: Gerald Crawford 9 / 19 7. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo] Given the many superb smallmouth fisheries in the Northeast region, ranking Lake Erie’s eastern basin number one in the region is quite a statement. The big lake is kicking out giant smallies this year. An early season open tournament in 2016 yielded a trophy smallmouth of 7.59 pounds. The state record was tied here in May with a 8.26 being caught. Local guides have landed more 7 pounders than in the past decade, and 6s no longer turn heads. If you are looking for a trophy brown bass, there is no surer bet right now. Photo: Shaye Baker 10 / 19 6. Lake Berryessa, California [20,700 acres] The end of the Golden State’s drought brought with it the second greatest annual increase in the history of Berryessa water levels. The photo to the right was taken during the drought. Water is overflowing into the giant drain right now. The 45-foot rise inundated fish habitat hasn’t seen water in years and is expected to boost already excellent largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fisheries. Just shy of 37 pounds won an American Bass tournament held here in April, with a 13.89-pound kicker anchoring the champion’s limit. 11 / 19 5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California [1,153 square miles] It’s been several years since largemouth in the midteens have been seen in the Delta’s maze of rivers, sloughs and flooded islands. And with the size needed for tournament big fish honors down by about a pound this year, the trend continues. The system, however, remains one of the nation’s best fisheries with 8’s and 9’s still common. It took 32.29 and 31.57 to win American Bass contests here in March and April, respectively. Photo: Seigo Saito 12 / 19 4. Shearon Harris Lake, North Carolina [4,100 acres] When one 40-plus-pound limit comes from a lake, heads turn. When two limits this size are produced two weekends in a row, it’s time to gas up the Tundra and head that way. This is precisely what happened here in March. 13 / 19 And what is even more amazing, the same pair of anglers caught both of these record-breaking sacks (41.93 and 46.89). The bigger of the two limits included both a 10.38 and 10.91. The slot limit on this lake has obviously worked (no bass between 16 and 20 inches can be kept). Look up the results of nighttime wildcat tournaments and it takes 18 pounds to win. This little lake is on fire right now. If you are looking for a personal best in the 8- to 10-pound range, this should be your next destination. Photo: Brett Collins 14 / 19 3. Clear Lake, California [43,785 acres] Flooding kept California’s largest natural lake closed to boaters for part of the year, giving bass an opportunity to take advantage of the added habitat with no pressure. When anglers could get out, five-fish limits of 25- to 30-plus pounds were found often. The champions of the 30th Annual Lake County Chamber of Commerce Clear Lake Team Tournament finished the two-day contest with 64.78. Yep, that’s an average of more than 32 pounds per day! There were 10 bass over 10 pounds caught. Photo: B.A.S.S. 15 / 19 2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas [114,500 acres] This lake is no longer playing second fiddle to its larger cousin to the east (Toledo Bend). In fact, the fishery has been on fire this year. The Bass Champs circuit stopped at Rayburn twice this spring, and it required a 30-pound sack to win both times. And every one of the Top 50 teams during the March 11 event weighed in five-fish stringers exceeding 20 pounds — with the Top 3 teams breaking the 30-pound mark. The Texas Team Trail weigh-in at the lake in January included six bass topping 7 pounds, with two of those surpassing 10 pounds. And a 31-pound bag earned the top spot during a March Bass Fishing League stop at Rayburn. Photo: Ronnie Moore 16 / 19 Most impressively, the May Elite Series event here was won by Brandon Palaniuk with 93-12, who weighed in more than 23 pounds per day. As for quantity of bass swimming here, consider that of the 281 possible limits, 280 were weighed in! The one angler that didn’t fill his limit one day of the derby had four fish. Photo: Nate Sims 17 / 19 1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota [132,516 acres] The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship was held on this great body of water, and it really shined. Each of the Top 5 anglers averaged north of 20 pounds per day, with Seth Feider topping the field with a three-day total of 76-5 (more than 25-pound per day average). There were 94 limits over 20 pounds weighed in this tournament! Research reveals that about half of the bass in this fishery measure longer than 17 inches, with 10 percent surpassing 20 inches. That means there are a lot of burly fish swimming around. Photo: Seigo Saito 18 / 19 A Cabela’s Team Tournament stop in August required 20 pounds just to make the Top 12, with the big bass weighing an ounce shy of 6 pounds — so you can average 5-pounders pretty easily. Photo: Seigo Saito 19 / 19 If ever you wanted to catch the smallmouth of a lifetime and the biggest 5-pound smallmouth limit of your life, head to Mille Lacs! Photo: James Overstreet Bassmaster Magazine ranks the top 100 Best Bass Lakes each year, split by region. Look at the Top 25 Best Bass Lakes for the Western, Southeastern, Northeastern and Central regions. 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