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See the top 25 best bass fisheries of 2019 located in the Southeastern United States.
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1. Lake Guntersville, Alabama
To say the Big G is back may be an understatement. It seemed the fishing pressure had taken its toll over the past several years, and winning weights had been down. Now, not so much. A February ABA team event was won with 33.82, with two other limits topping the 28-pound mark being weighed. If you didn’t have 21 pounds that day, you didn’t crack the Top 15. The Rat-L-Trap open was won with 29.76, and a Heartland derby took 32.19 for top honors. Really, Google any circuit that has competed on the Big G the first five months of this year and it’s hard to find a winning weight less than 25 pounds — most are closer to 30. So, yes, Guntersville is back with a vengeance.
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2. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
The Tennessee fisheries agency developed a scoring system for its lakes based on a combination of angler catch rates and the number of angler trips logged on every fishery in the state. This bass factory is the best body of water wholly in the state of Tennessee, according to its data. A quick look at tournament results will verify this fact. A Tennessee Team Trail event held here in February took 31.46 pounds to win, and a 12.91-pounder was logged as the biggest fish.
Photo: James Overstreet
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3. Santee Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina
[110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively]
There aren’t many lakes that can produce a 30-pound limit, but this is one of them. An April FLW event produced a 31-2 limit, with another five limits cracking the 25-pound mark. And you don’t have to be a pro to catch them here, as the CATT team event held in May was won with 34.02 pounds. This lake is a little gray around the temples, but don’t let its age fool you. There are a lot of big largemouth lurking in this vast fishery.
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4. St. Johns River, Florida
[50-mile radius out of Palatka, Fla.]
Here are some numbers that will let you know how healthy this river is right now: 30-4, 34-9, 31-1. Oh, and let’s not forget 34-14. These are five-fish limits weighed in during the Elite Series event held here this past February. And that 34-14 limit was caught by Rick Clunn on the last day of the event, nearly vaulting him to the century mark (98-14). The parade of big fish was ridiculous; 20-pound bags were not turning heads. Limits in the 25-pound range would elicit a smattering of applause. Big ones live here … a bunch of big ones.
Photo: Andy Crawford
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5. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida
This storied fishery keeps inspiring stories. It’s awesome to fish here simply based on the role this lake has played over the decades as our sport became more popular. That said, crazy limits are being caught there right now. In a March FLW event, six limits over 23 pounds were caught, with the largest tipping the scales at 27-2. A small team event held here in May took 26.72 to win, with the Top 6 teams topping the 21-pound mark. This old girl is in great shape.
Photo: James Overstreet
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6. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee
This border fishery remains one of the best multispecies bass lakes in the country. Winning limits here always include both largemouth and smallmouth, because both grow big in this riverine reservoir. An April BFL event was won with 20-3, a mixed bag of both green and brown fish. More impressively, an Alabama Bass Trail event in May took 29 pounds to win, with the Top 15 boats weighing in more than 20 pounds. And if your personal best is in the single digits, you can break it here. The big fish of the ABT event weighed in at 10.33.
Photo: Ronnie Moore
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7. Jordan Lake, North Carolina
The state biologists rank this lake as the second-best bass fishery they manage. Based on tournament data, it’s hard to disagree. A May team event held here was won with 28.31 pounds. The second-place team had to be disheartened, as they weighed in 26.34 and had the big fish of the event (8.67 pounds). If you didn’t have over 19 pounds, the Top 10 eluded you. The undeveloped shoreline of this North Carolina beauty is icing on the cake, as you feel as though you are fishing deep in the backcountry.
Photo: Ken Thomas
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8. Rodman Reservoir, Florida
As of May 1, 34 largemouth over 8 pounds have been submitted to the Florida TrophyCatch program from this lake. Ten of those fish topped the double-digit mark, with a 12-pounder leading the pack. According to locals, this may be the hottest big-bass lake in the Sunshine State. Don’t look for a ton of bites here, but for those anglers hunting for a personal best, this lake should be your No. 1 target in the Southeast.
Photo: Vance McCullough
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9. Lake Murray, South Carolina
This seems to be the lake in South Carolina that keeps on giving. We thought last year might have been a fluke when scads of 20-pound limits were being brought to the scales. A fluke it was not, as a March CATT team event here saw a 27.89-pound limit weighed in, as well as a big fish topping 7 pounds. A March event there was almost as good, with the winning weight landing at 23.10 pounds. It is unlikely that you’ll land a
10-pounder here, but if 6-pounders get your heart racing, pack your bags.
Photo: Ron Ahle
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10. Falls Lake, North Carolina
This newcomer to the rankings is making a big splash, as giants were caught here in mid-March during a Piedmont team event. The winning duo boated five bass weighing 28.52 pounds, which included an 8.42 big fish. The second-place team had 28.12, which included the big fish of the event (10.69 pounds). A team had to weigh in more than 19 pounds to place in the Top 10.
Photo: NC Division of Parks and Recreation
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11. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida
John Cox caught 31-9 on the first day of an FLW event here in February. On the third day, he caught 8-11. That pretty much sums up Lake Toho right now. You can be a hero or a zero. Still, the likelihood of the hero day is more likely. According to the Florida TrophyCatch program, Toho offers the second-best opportunity in the state to catch a largemouth over 8 pounds, as 20 have been registered this year from this fishery through the beginning of May. An 11-14 monster is the biggest of the bunch so far.
Photo: James Overstreet
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12. Lake Eufaula, Alabama/Georgia
While overall winning weights are a little down from last year, this fishery is still cranking out impressive limits. A February Eufaula Bass Trail event was won with 27.10, with a 23-pound limit being weighed in, as well. That same trail had a March event that took 27.30 to win, with second place landing 25.66. Still, the weights drop off quickly once you get to fifth place. So, there are giants to be caught here, but you’d better know where to look.
Photo: Kirk Rundle
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13. Shearon Harris, North Carolina
There is something special in the water of this small reservoir that grows big bass. The Piedmont Bass Classic trail had an event here in early March that took 24.54 pounds to win, which included an 8.67 big fish. This lake can be stingy, but if you are looking for a giant, this lake is for you. Multiple 40-pound limits have been caught here in the past, and those double-digit bass are still swimming around.
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14. Lake Istokpoga, Florida
When you look at the most recent tournament results from the Lakeland Bassmasters at this fishery, it doesn’t look too impressive. It took 17.15 pounds to win the event. However, the perspective changes when you realize this was a three-fish limit event. That’s an average of more than 5 1/2 pounds per fish. There were two caught during that event that topped the 7-pound mark. As of this writing, 14 bass over 8 pounds have been submitted to the Florida TrophyCatch program from this fishery, with the biggest fish pulling the scales down to 12 pounds, 9 ounces. If you are looking for a personal best, this is a great place to start.
Photo: Vance McCullough
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15. Watts Barr Reservoir, Tennessee
You may not catch the biggest limit of your life here, but you will catch a limit, and you’ll have a great chance at a 5-pounder. A Tennessee Team Trail event held here in March highlights how solid this fishery is right now. It took 23.08 to win, but you wouldn’t break the Top 10 unless you had more than 16.5 pounds. A 7.49 largemouth took big-bass honors.
Photo: Tennessee Uncharted
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16. Stick Marsh/Farm 13, Florida
This body of water is too small to host a tournament. However, the reports coming from anglers in the area demand that this fishery make the rankings. Actually, according to a member of the media who lives very near there, the Stick Marsh may be the best numbers lake in Florida right now. That said, it is Florida, and big fish swim here, as well. The Florida TrophyCatch program shows that 11 fish over 8 pounds have been registered from here, with a 10-pounder being the biggest.
Photo: Dustin Everitt
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17. Lake Wateree, South Carolina
There was a lot of flooding earlier this year in the region of this fishery, but the bass didn’t seem to mind. CATT had four spring tournaments here and, despite the high water, it took nearly 20 pounds to win all of them. This place is loaded with 3- to 5-pounders, with the big fish of an event usually falling in the 6-pound range. Once the water drops to normal levels, this fishery will show out.
Photo: Discover South Carolina
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18. Lake Okeechobee, Florida
[730 square miles]
The rumors you heard about the death of the Big O are not true. No, this legendary fishery is not the best it has ever been. Most of the tournament data supports a downward swing of catch rates here, as 15 pounds per day is winning a lot of events here. That said, a February BFL event was won with 32 pounds, 10 ounces. Yep, Okeechobee still has some tricks up her sleeves. And if you are lucky enough to pull up on the right grass patch, you can still catch the biggest limit of your life here.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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19. Wheeler Lake, Alabama
The Tennessee River impoundments grow big bass. That’s all there is to it. Wheeler is no different. An Alabama Bass Trail event held in March put an exclamation point on this statement, as the winner brought 22.70 to the scales. There were no giants weighed in, but scads of 4- to 6-pounders. And you barely made the Top 20 if you only caught 15 pounds. Just like at its sister lakes of Pickwick and Wilson, you will catch smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass here, so there’s never a dull moment.
Photo: James Overstreet
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20. Cherokee Lake, Tennessee
If you are looking for a lake full of 3-pound smallies, this is your huckleberry. Yes, the smallmouth here get bigger than that, but fish an entire day on this lake and you’ll likely end with your five biggest weighing 15 pounds. That was evident at an April FLW event held here. The heaviest limit weighed was 19-7, but you have to go to 131st place before you get to anglers who didn’t catch more than 15 pounds at least one day of the event.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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21. Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia/South Carolina
Also known as Lake Strom Thurmond, this historic reservoir still shines in the Southeast. No matter the time of year, it always takes more than 20 pounds to win here. A March BFL derby required 22-10 to take the top spot. But the health of this fishery is illustrated by the number of limits brought to the scales, and you had to go down to 68th place before you found an angler who didn’t have five fish to weigh in.
Photo: Gary Tramontina
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22. Lake Jordan, Alabama
When the data from the Alabama fisheries folks arrived, it was a shock to see that they ranked this lake higher than Guntersville. The size of this fishery equals that of one creek on Big G. Still, the results from this past spring are impressive. No matter what trail you look at, it took more than 20 pounds to win, and the limits stretched down to almost last place. An Alabama Bass Trail event here in March exemplifies what an angler can expect. The winner caught 22.06 pounds, while both second and third place had over 20 pounds. But the real treasure is in how far the 15-pound limits stretched. If you didn’t average 3 pounds per bass, you didn’t crack 38th place. A great mix of spotted bass and largemouth gives anglers a lot of options here.
Photo: Gary Tramontina
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23. Fellsmere Reservoir, Florida
You likely have not heard of this fishery. The reason? There is no access with a bass boat … yet. This water management lake is the Siamese twin to the Stick Marsh, long famous for its bass fishing. The two bodies of water are very nearly connected, but you can’t access this lake unless you have a kayak or canoe. Still, the state of Florida manicured this reservoir for bass and dumped over a million fingerlings prior to 2016. Those bass grew fast. And evidently, they all survived. Anglers who make the effort to fish here chatter about 50-fish days, often averaging 3 pounds, with a random 6- or 7-pounder in the mix. If you are a kayaker, you’d best hurry to enjoy this new fishery before a ramp is built. If your boat requires gasoline, pray for the ramp to be built.
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24. Roanoke River, North Carolina
[launch out of Plymouth]
This fishery breaches the Top 100 rankings for the first time this year on the heels of two recent eye-popping events. A March Eastern NC team tournament was won here with 26.86 pounds, and a May CATT derby took over 22 pounds to win. The big fish in each event was over 6 pounds.
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25. Lake Lanier, Georgia
There is only a handful of lakes that make these rankings on the shoulders of spotted bass. This popular Georgia lake is near the top of that list. The spotted bass here are plentiful and bigger than average. The Elite Series event held here in February showed just how big these spots have become, as Paul Mueller weighed in two limits that topped 18 pounds. David Mullins wrangled a 19-6 limit of spots. If you go here in the summer, fish early and/or late, or you may fight as many Jet Skis as you do bass.