Since 2012 Bassmaster Magazine has published the annual 100 Best Bass Lakes, which also appears here on Bassmaster.com. Fans have loved it, and some have certainly criticized our choices. This year, we've incorporated some of that feedback and changed the formula for the Top 100. We started things off with the Top 10 Best Bass Lakes. Next we are presenting the top 25 lakes from each of the following four regions – Southeast, West, Central and Northeast. It's still 100 lakes, but now, readers can see the Top 25 lakes closest to them. This also creates four No. 1 regional fisheries. Enjoy the 25 Best Bass Lakes in the Northeast.
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25. Kezar Lake, Maine
[2,510 acres] Another northeastern picture-book lake, Kezar’s eastern shore faces New Hampshire’s White Mountains while Maine’s forests embrace its western shore.
Photo: Kezar Lake Marina
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24. Squam Lake, New Hampshire [6,791 acres] It would be hard to beat Squam in a bass lake beauty contest, as it was the setting for the 1981 movie classic On Golden Pond. Try not to let Squam’s abundant smallmouth and largemouth distract you from the tranquility. It took 24.11 pounds to win a 10-bass-limit tournament held here in late September 2015. The top 14 clubs in that event all had limits of more than 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 5.85 pounds, while the biggest smallmouth went 4.88 pounds.
Photo: Squam RIver Landing, Ashland NH
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23. Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia [2,630 acres] A catch-and-release regulation on black bass has been on this lake since the reservoir was filled in 1989. Although West Virginia Department of Natural Resources sampling data show that Stonewall Jackson is still the No. 1 bass lake in the state, it isn’t producing as many trophy bass as it has in the past. A tournament put on by the West Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation produced only two six-bass limits that weighed over 17 pounds.
Photo: James Walker WVDNR, WV Commerce
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22. Pymatuning Reservoir, Pennsylvania/Ohio [17,088 acres] Smallmouth and largemouth bass swim in these waters, but few of them grow to 5 pounds or more. A Keystone Bass Buddy Circuit tournament here in May 2015 was won with 19.19 pounds, while the second- and third-place teams each caught over 18 pounds. These are respectable weights, but you’re not likely to fare much better here.
Photo: DCNR-Pymatunig State Park
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21. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland [The entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top one-third.] This tidal fishery is capable of producing heavy limits but only in limited areas. Aaron Martens won an Elite Series tournament here in August 2015 with 70 pounds, 2 ounces. While that is impressive, most of the pros struggled to get bites. It took less than 40 pounds to nab 12th place in this four-day event.
Photo: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
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20. Chautauqua Lake, New York [13,156 acres] If you enjoy sparring with 2-to 3-pound smallmouth and largemouth bass, put Chautauqua Lake on your hit list. This healthy body of water has produced quantities of bass for many years. Heavy bass, however, are scarce. In June 2015, it took 14.8 pounds to win a tournament.
Photo: NYS DEC
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19. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky [65,530 acres] Cumberland is coming back since a crack in the dam was repaired and the lake returned to full pool. It took 20.54 pounds to win a tournament here in April 2016. However, second place dropped to 15.46 pounds. In May, four bass weighing 16-2 won another tournament.
Photo: Dave Baker, Lee McClellan
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18. China Lake, Maine [3,845 acres] Cast for largemouth or smallmouth bass at China Lake, and you should get enough bites to keep a good bow in your rod. Although China Lake is not known for trophy bass, a 20-pound limit isn’t out of the question.
Photo: Town of China, Maine
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17. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia [20,600 acres] Surveys indicate that the largemouth and smallmouth fishery is improving. The highest densities of largemouth bass are found upstream, while smallmouth tend to take up residence down toward the dam. It took 20 pounds, 4 ounces to win a tournament here in March, with three other anglers weighing in over 19 pounds.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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16. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut [5,420 acres] Candlewood has abundant vegetation, which benefits the lake’s thriving smallmouth and largemouth bass. Lakeside residents complain about the vegetation and have unsuccessfully taken steps to combat it. The grass and the bass are winning the battle. Elite Series pro Paul Mueller guides here. He says a typical day of fishing produces good numbers of 2-to 4-pound bass, with smallmouth pushing 5 pounds and largemouth over 5 pounds being common.
Photo: Mark Howarth
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15. Cobbosseecontee Lake, Maine [5,540 acres] The largest lake in the Winthrop Lakes Region, Cobbosseecontee supports smallmouth bass, but it is mainly known for its excellent largemouth fishery. You’ll catch good numbers of bass here, along with the occasional trophy fish. It usually takes more than 30 pounds to win an annual benefit tournament for the Special Olympics. That event has an eight-bass limit.
Photo: Andy Wess
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14. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire [20 miles long, 9 miles wide] You won’t be bored at Winnipesaukee. This lake is known for keeping your pole bent with 2-pound smallmouth and largemouth bass. Tournaments hosted by the New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation show that there are also enough heavier bass to keep things exciting. A May 2015 event was won with a four-bass limit that weighed 15.11 pounds. In July 2015, an eight-bass-limit tournament was won with 20.73 pounds.
Photo: NG Fish & Game/Victor Young Photo
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13. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan [17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively] The smallmouth fishing on these sister lakes has reportedly been down the last few years. Even so, a Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation tournament here in July 2015 was won with a limit weighing 21.35 pounds. The second- and third-place anglers also bagged over 20 pounds. If that’s down, how good are these lakes when they’re up?
Photo: Michigan DNR
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12. Cayuga Lake, New York [38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide] The longest of New York’s Finger Lakes, Cayuga harbors far more largemouth bass than smallmouth bass. Some of those green bigmouths are toads. Consider that Greg Hackney won a 2014 Elite Series event here with 85 pounds. In September 2015, the Clearwater Bass Club underlined Cayuga’s big-bass potential with a single-day winning weight of 20.86 pounds.
Photo: Gary Tramontina
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11. Oneida Lake, New York [79.8 square miles] Oneida offers excellent fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, and tournaments can be won here with either species. Because smallmouth abound in greater numbers, most tournament anglers target them. Oneida is not a trophy fishery, but it serves up quantities of 2- to 3-pound bass. Elite Series pro Randy Howell won a Bassmaster Open here in August 2015 with 49 pounds, 2 ounces. The second- and third-place anglers had 48 pounds or more. These weights are typical for Oneida.
Photo: Garrick Dixon
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10. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania [5.8 square miles] Presque Isle Bay deserves this high ranking for two reasons. One, heavy, eggladen smallmouth bass swarm into the bay from Lake Erie to spawn every spring. Two, although most of the smallmouth move back out to the Great Lake after spawning, you don’t have to venture far from the bay to find them. The bay also has a stable population of largemouth bass.
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9. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan [32 miles long, 10 miles wide] The clear water in Grand Traverse Bay is so transparent that you can sight fish for smallmouth bass 30 feet deep on a calm day. Although this area of the big lake can still pump out 7-pound smallmouth, the giants aren’t as prevelant as they once were. And since very few tournaments are held here, it’s difficult to find data supporting a higher ranking. Local guide Chris Noffsinger expects 20-pound daily limits for clients with a 6-pounder showing every third trip, or so.
Photo: Traverse City Tourism
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8. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont [490 square miles] Tournaments are won here with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and mixed bags of the two species. You can do well fishing grass or rocky structure. Limits weighing over 20 pounds are caught here, but they are not as common as in the Northeast lakes ranked higher. It typically takes a weight in the mid-50s to win a three-day event here.
Photo: James Overstreet
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7. Bays de Noc, Michigan [Escanaba to Little Summer Island] Smallmouth bass grow big and dumb here because they get little fishing pressure compared to other trophy bass waters. The fishing emphasis is on the walleye. Jacob Powroznik revealed how good the bass fishery is when he won the two-day, weather-shortened 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship with 47 pounds, 6 ounces.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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6. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan [17,200 acres] The Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation has held tournaments here that have yielded limits of smallmouth bass in excess of 25 pounds. At some of these events, the majority of the participants have weighed in a limit over 20 pounds. Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam has stated that Charlevoix is one of the finest smallmouth fisheries in the country. He may be onto something.
Photo: Michigan DNR
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5. Saginaw Bay, Michigan [1,143 square miles] Some anglers believe this is the best bass fishery in the state right now, which is saying a lot. The 2015 Dicks Sporting Goods Open took 26.80 pounds to win. The Top 13 anglers had over 20 pounds. And most impressively, the big fish of that derby was a 6.82 smallmouth!
Photo: Michigan DNR
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4. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York [50mile stretch] This picturesque bass fishery has 1,864 islands, teems with smallmouth bass and has excellent largemouth fishing, as well. The smallmouth have the greatest trophy potential. The Top 3 finishers in any tournament here typically have limits of smallmouth bass that weigh over 20 pounds.
Photo: NYS DEC
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3. Lake Erie, Ohio [30-mile radius from Sandusky] Limits of smallmouth bass that exceed 20 pounds are as common here as in the New York portion of Lake Erie. The difference is that you won’t catch as many bass in the 3-pound class. A Bassmaster Northern Open was won here in September 2015 with 65-1. The second- and third-place finishers caught over 64 pounds of smallies. Dozens of 20-plus-pound limits of brown bass strained the scales over the three-day event.
Photo: Shaye Baker
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2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles] St. Clair faltered in 2014 when it failed to pump out 20-pound limits of smallmouth bass as it had been doing regularly. It was obvious the lake had made a strong comeback in 2015 when Todd Faircloth won a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament with 84-7. He caught every one of his bass within the banks of St. Clair. Also, don’t forget that abundant, overlooked largemouth bass swim in the lake’s canals and shallow bays.
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1. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo] Your odds for catching a 20-plus-pound limit of five smallmouth bass may be better here than anywhere. And, you can do this in any season. You’ll also battle scads of smallies that weigh over 3 pounds while you’re at it. Who can forget the 93 pounds, 6 ounces that Kotaro Kiriyama caught when he won a Bassmaster Elite Series event here in 2008? The bite is just as good now as it was then.