See the top 25 best bass fisheries of 2019 located in the Western United States.
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1. Clear Lake, California
It’s hard to believe that California’s largest natural lake, ranked best in the state by Department of Fish and Wildlife senior environmental scientist Kyle Murphy, can be even better this year. But it is. There were 34 fish over 5 pounds weighed at the WON Bass California Open in April, indicating that it still takes limits of big fish to finish high in the standings. The winner had 15 largemouth for 89.27 pounds that included the 11.74-pound tournament big fish. What pushed Clear Lake over the top, however, were reports of a 16.07-pound monster caught by Chris Peterson that same month while pre-fishing.
Photo: Brian Sak
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2. New Melones Lake, California
New Melones has been crawling its way up our annual best of the West list and almost made it to the top spot this year. The bottom line is the state’s fourth-largest reservoir by volume continues to pump out an almost unbelievable number of massive largemouth. It often takes better than a 5-pound average to win here and a double-digit bass to claim big-fish honors. A 12.56-pound largemouth was the heaviest fish caught at an Angler’s Press Outdoors Future Pro Tour tournament in February, with five bass for 32.94 pounds winning the event.
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3. Lake Perris, California
Habitat enhancement projects conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which include brush and rock reef installations, are paying off here in terms of both numbers and size, with Perris making a big jump on this year’s list. It took five bass tipping the scales at 34.38 pounds to win an American Bass contest in March. But what was even more amazing was that almost half of the field weighed at least one 5-pound or better fish — that included 9.10 and 9.82 behemoths.
Photo: Pete Marino
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4. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
[1,100 square miles]
Anglers familiar with the miles of rivers, tule-lined sloughs and vegetation-filled flooded islands known as the California Delta have probably heard grumblings about the harmful effect that weed-control efforts and marauding sea lions may be having on the bass fishery. And although the system has dropped a few places on our list recently, the numbers don’t lie — it’s still one of the best. It took 5-pound averages to win half of the February through April tournaments we surveyed.
Photo: Ronnie Moore
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5. Diamond Valley Lake, California
Diamond Valley is one of California’s newest reservoirs, and it has been managed as a trophy lake from day one. There are smallmouth here, but it’s the numbers of big largemouth that most come for. Competitors had to weigh five-fish limits topping 25 pounds to win two American Bass and three National Bass West contests between February and April. Big bass at the five events were 9.04, 9.32, 9.51, 9.20 and 8.32 pounds. Combined, there were 57 bass over 6 pounds.
Photo: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
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6. Don Pedro Reservoir, California
Don Pedro is huge, sitting at No. 6 by volume in the state. Most of its water irrigates hundreds of square miles of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, while a significant portion goes to the Tuolumne River downstream to support salmonids. Water levels fluctuate a lot as a result — and so does the fishing. But it remains one of the best for big largemouth. There were eighteen fish over 5 pounds at a Wild West Bass team event in February, with a 10.40 the biggest of the bunch.
Photo: Brian Sak
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7. Lake Berryessa, California
This large Putah Creek watershed lake is once again full thanks to above-average rains. Fishing, however, has slid, with overall tournament averages down. Some think the lighter weights are due to the full reservoir making bass harder to find, along with plentiful baitfish making them tougher to catch. But there are still enough quality fish to keep Berryessa high on our list. One of the top limits was the 24.25 pounds weighed at a February Best Bass Tournaments contest.
Photo: James Hall
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8. Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
This naturally formed glacial lake is stunning, but it’s the trophy bass that make this destination truly special. Despite relatively cool water temperatures, both largemouth and smallmouth at Coeur d’Alene grow big, and you can win tournaments here targeting either. But you will need that kicker. The Top 3 anglers at an American Bass tournament in April had limits weighing more than 20 pounds — each had a 7- or 8-pound big fish.
Photo: Coeur d’Alene Convention & Visitor Bureau
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9. Shasta Lake, California
Shasta is the Golden State’s largest man-made reservoir. That’s great when looking for a quiet place to wet a line. On the downside, its size resulted in bass taking a hit during multiple drought years. But the fish are back and better than ever after two years of above-average precipitation. The winner of a Wild West Bass Pro-Am in January set a lake record by boating 30.22 pounds on the second day of competition that included an 8.32-pound spot and a 13.58-pound largemouth.
Photo: Tyler McCollum
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10. Lake Havasu, Arizona/California
When Havasu was filled, its relatively sterile conditions were less than ideal for bass. To remedy the problem, Arizona and California fish and wildlife agencies worked together to supplement natural habitats with artificial structure. The result has been some of the best smallmouth and largemouth opportunities in either state. The winning weight at the 39th Annual New Horizons Charity Pro-Am Bass Tournament in March was 25.90 pounds.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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11. Roosevelt Lake, Arizona
The largest lake in the state has traditionally harbored some of the biggest bass. But the fishing was heading south due to competition with gizzard shad and habitat degradation. Although they’re not there yet, Arizona Game and Fish, angler volunteers and other stakeholders are working to revitalize the fishery with stocking and habit enhancements. Their efforts have kept Roosevelt on our list. Big bass at 60 percent of the contests we surveyed ran 6 to 8 pounds.
Photo: Nick Walter
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12. Lower Colorado River, Arizona/California
[76 miles from Blythe to Imperial Dam]
This scenic reach of the Colorado is often overlooked by bass anglers heading to destinations like Havasu, Mohave, Mead, Powell or Flaming Gorge, but the fishing here holds its own. The Imperial Dam creates plenty of backwater areas and small lakes ideal for growing bass. It took better than 20 pounds to win four American Bass tournaments here earlier this year, with a 6.84-pounder taking big-fish honors during an April event.
Photo: Nick Walter/AZGFD
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13. Alamo Lake, Arizona
This Bill Williams River impoundment is known for its Sonoran Desert landscape, ultra-clear waters and an outstanding largemouth fishery. While the fishing can be tough due to water-level fluctuations, quality bass are plentiful when conditions are right. And despite fears of the negative effects of a large drawdown in 2018, there is plenty of water and fish this year. Five bass for 22.89 pounds won a Midweek Bass Anglers event in March. Big fish at that one was 6.59.
Photo: George Andrejko/AZGFD
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14. Potholes Reservoir, Washington
Quality largemouth and smallmouth are available at this irrigation impoundment, but there are more of the green variety due to an abundance of submerged willows and vegetation. Largemouth will be around the 1,000-plus submerged islands on the north and west sides of the reservoir. For smallies, fish rockpiles to the east and south. A Northwest Bass contest in April, where 32 of 96 teams weighed at least one 5-pound fish, shows just how good this place is.
Photo: Bruce Bolding
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15. Lake Washington, Washington
What’s the first thing that northwest anglers think about when someone mentions Seattle? It’s probably Chinook salmon. Local bass fishermen, however, understand that there’s more to the region than big kings. Washington’s second-largest natural lake has a lot of largemouth- and smallmouth-holding habitat, which ultimately means a ton of fish. It took 23.11 pounds to win American Bass’ Northwest Division Regional opener in March.
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16. Brownlee Reservoir, Idaho/Oregon
One of three Hells Canyon Complex reservoirs on the Snake River, Brownlee is said to provide the best bass fishing opportunities. And although there are largemouth and smallmouth here, it’s the steep, rocky banks and smallies that keep anglers coming back. Expect to catch both numbers and quality. Five 20-plus-pound bags and six bass over 5 pounds were weighed at an American Bass contest in March. Overall big fish was 6.58.
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17. Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah
The bad news is that the average largemouth at Sand Hollow remains smaller than what was being caught a few years ago. The good news, however, is there are enough trophies swimming the clear waters here to make this one of this year’s top Western destinations. Big bass during a Southern Utah Bass Anglers event held in mid-February weighed 7.25 pounds. Note that there’s a six-bass limit here, in which only one can be over 12 inches.
Photo: Joe Newman
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18. Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico
This Rio Grande reservoir, supplying water to Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, has been hit hard by drought. Water managers say 2018 was “brutal.” Conditions, however, are expected to get a bit better this year with lots of snow in the mountains. And more water should make already great bass fishing even better. Although the average bass remains at about 3 pounds, anglers are seeing larger trophies. Big fish at an April American Bass event was 8.69 pounds.
Photo: Dan Williams
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19. Lake Mohave, Nevada/Arizona
Mohave typically receives less angler pressure than nearby Lake Mead, despite the numbers of quality largemouth and smallmouth swimming its clear waters. Wildlife staff specialist Patrick Sollberger, with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, even says it’s the best bass fishery in his state. During four Ultimate Bass Team Tour events in March and April, the winners had to weigh in just over 20 pounds to win. Big fish in each contest was in the 5-pound class.
Photo: Nick Walter
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20. C.J. Strike Reservoir, Idaho
High desert reservoirs aren’t the first waters that come to mind when anglers dream of bass. And at almost 2,500 feet, that should be the case for C.J. Strike. But it’s not — there are plenty of quality fish here, with smallmouth outnumbering largemouth by more than 4-to-1. In March, only eight of 36 Snake River Bassmasters teams brought the green variety to the scales. Seven teams had one or two, while the winners blew the rest of the field away with five largemouth for 21.44 pounds.
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21. Siltcoos Lake, Oregon
Bass much bigger than 5 pounds are rare here, but Siltcoos is tough to beat when it comes to numbers of 3- and 4-pound fish. That’s unusual for coastal lakes in the northern portion of the country, but an abundance of submerged trees, aquatic vegetation and dropoffs keep bass happy. The Top 5 teams at an Umpqua Valley Bassmasters contest in April weighed 18- to 20-pound limits. The three biggest fish tipped the scales at 5.44, 6.00 and 7.56 pounds.
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22. Owyhee Reservoir, Oregon
Oregon isn’t always thought of as a bass fishing mecca thanks to its long, cold, wet winters. The southeast portion of the state is relatively arid, however, and provides great growing conditions for largemouth and smallmouth. And some consider this remote, desert canyon reservoir the best spot in the region to try for a trophy. It took 10 bass weighing 35.27 pounds to win a Mini Cassia Bassers two-day event. Big fish went 6.57 pounds.
Photo: Bruce Holt
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23. Lake Pleasant, Arizona
This place gets swamped with outdoor enthusiasts from Scottsdale and Phoenix, ranging from scuba divers to skiers. But that shouldn’t keep anglers away from some of the state’s best big-bass fishing — just be careful when there. The largest fish at the Wild West Bass Trail Surprise Ford Open in April was 7.59 pounds.
Photo: Nick Walter
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24. Lake Mead, Nevada/Arizona
Winter storms have drastically changed the water outlook for much of the West, but even with higher than average snowpack, things aren’t as bright for the Colorado River basin. There’s more water in Mead today than there has been the previous two years, but it’s still less than half full. The good news is that fishing remains great. It took 18.01 pounds to win an American Bass event in March. Big bass for most of the tournaments surveyed were right around 5 pounds.
Photo: Ronnie Moore
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25. Columbia River, Oregon/Washington
[191 miles from Portland to McNary Dam]
The Columbia is the fourth-largest river in the U.S., and it used to produce some of the biggest smallies. Although sizes are down somewhat, the numbers are not. The top team at this year’s Columbia Basin Bass Club Phil & Barb Moore Memorial derby boated 18.84 pounds to win.