Click here to continue 1 / 25 1. 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 2 / 25 2. 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 3 / 25 3. 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 4 / 25 4. Lake Erie, Ohio [30-mile radius of Sandusky] Former Bassmaster Elite Series pro Michael Simonton of Ohio says Ohio’s closed spring season for bass on Lake Erie has had a positive impact. From May through most of June, all bass must be released. “This lake is again one of the great smallmouth bass fishing holes in the country,” Simonton said. At a tournament hosted by the Bowling Green State University Bass Fishing Club on April 23, 2017, 12 of the 23 teams brought in over 20 pounds of smallmouth bass. The winning five-bass limit weighed 28.10. Photo: Shaye Baker 5 / 25 5. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont [490 square miles] “Champlain consistently produces trophy-size smallmouth and largemouth bass,” said New York’s warm-water fisheries unit leader Jeff Loukmas. A weight of 59-13 won a three-day Bassmaster Northern Open tournament here in September 2016. Three limits over 20 pounds were brought in. A four-day tournament in June 2016 saw four limits exceeding 20 pounds. Photo: James Overstreet 6 / 25 6. Saginaw Bay, Michigan [1,143 square miles] Saginaw Bay draws more walleye fishermen than bass anglers. That keeps the bass fishing pressure down and the size of the bass up. Four tournaments here in May and June 2017 yielded 177 bass. Smallmouth accounted for 153 of those fish, 53 of which weighed more than 4 pounds. The rest were largemouth. The heaviest smallmouth weighed 6.27 pounds, and the average bass weighed 3.36. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources 7 / 25 7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan [32 miles long, 10 miles wide] One of Kevin VanDam’s favorite smallmouth destinations, the water here is aquarium clear. Ten 2016 club tournaments from June through August 2016 produced 409 smallmouth, and 24 were 4 pounds or more; the average bass weighed 3.47. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources 8 / 25 8. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan [17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively] Anglers who dream of tangling with heavyweight smallmouth bass need to put these twin lakes on their hit list. A tournament in June 2016 produced 117 smallmouth bass, including 65 that weighed over 4 pounds. The biggest bass went 5.69 pounds. A tournament in September 2016 yielded 45 smallmouth bass, 26 of which weighed over 4 pounds, including a 6.3-pounder. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources 9 / 25 9. Bays de Noc, Michigan [Escanaba to Little Summer Island] This is another place where the vast majority of anglers fish for walleye. Five-bass limits over 25 pounds are possible, but there is little data to nail down just how good the smallmouth fishing is. A tournament here in late August 2016 produced 44 bass, including five over 4 pounds. The average bass brought to the scales weighed 3.20 pounds. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources 10 / 25 10. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan [17,200 acres] Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments here have weighed in limits of smallmouth bass over 25 pounds. Nine club tournaments in 2016 weighed 331 bass, with 33 smallmouth that weighed 4 pounds or more. The average bass weighed 3.14 pounds. The biggest bass was a 6.11 smallmouth. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources 11 / 25 11. Cayuga Lake, New York [38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide] A Bassmaster Elite Series tournament here in June 2016 demonstrated that Cayuga has plenty of heavyweight smallmouth and largemouth bass. VanDam won that four-day event with 71-13. His catch consisted mainly of smallmouth. His win proves that the 85-0, four-day catch of largemouth by Greg Hackney during a 2014 Elite Series event here was no fluke. Photo: Gary Tramontina 12 / 25 12. Oneida Lake, New York [79.8 square miles] Although Oneida is known for giving up good numbers of bass, more quality fish are showing up. A three-day Bassmaster Northern Open in July 2016 was won with 53-13 of smallmouth. One limit of smallmouth exceeded 20 pounds. The smallmouth may be fattening up on the round gobies that showed up at Oneida in 2013. The lake has become warmer and clearer in recent years, which benefits the largemouth. Photo: Garrick Dixon 13 / 25 13. China Lake, Maine [3,845 acres] Ken Hoehlein, who is on Maine’s Inland Fish & Wildlife Bass Advisory Committee, says Maine is bass fishing’s best-kept secret. A bass nut originally from Missouri, Hoehlein rates China Lake as the best in the state.“At China, you can see five-fish bags that weigh 25 to 30 pounds,” Hoehlein said. “It’s just that good.” Photo: Ken Hoehlein 14 / 25 14. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia [20,600 acres] The largemouth and smallmouth fishing at Smith Mountain continues to improve. A major tournament was won here in March 2016 with a five-bass limit weighing 20-14. The 10th-place angler had 17-12. Largemouth are far more abundant than smallmouth, which tend to be found mainly toward the dam. Photo: B.A.S.S. 15 / 25 15. Webber Pond, Maine [1,233 acres] Located in central Maine, this small lake has been so hot lately that Hoehlein of Maine’s Inland Fish & Wildlife Bass Advisory Committee says it is the state’s second-best bass fishery. A 15-team club tournament in April 2017 was won with a five-fish limit of largemouth that weighed over 26 pounds and included a 6.5 bass. Two other teams had over 20 pounds, and three others over 19. Photo: Ken Hoehlein 16 / 25 16. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania [5.8 square miles] Smallmouth bass from Lake Erie swarm into Presque Isle Bay every spring, which makes for a fishing bonanza. The bite falls off in the summertime after most of the smallmouth migrate back to Erie. However, the bay has a good resident population of largemouth, and there are always some smallmouth to be caught. Photo: Spring Gearhart/Pennsylvania Fish and Boat 17 / 25 17. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut [5,420 acres] The abundant milfoil and eelgrass benefit the lake’s smallmouth and largemouth. Elite Series pro Paul Mueller, who guides here, says a typical day results in good numbers of bass, with an excellent chance of one heavier than 5 pounds. It took 22.25 to win a five-bass-limit tournament here in March 2017. The big bass weighed 5.44. Photo: Andrea Repko 18 / 25 18. Great Pond, Maine [8,533 acres] Smallmouth far outnumber largemouth at Great Pond, and there are plenty of heavyweights, points out Hoehlein, of Maine’s Inland Fish & Wildlife Bass Advisory Committee.“An open tournament last year produced a few 25-pound bags with a seven-fish limit,” Hoehlein said. “That was a little low for this lake. Typically, 25 percent of the field comes in with over 20 pounds.” Photo: Ken Hoehlein 19 / 25 19. Lake Barkley, Kentucky [58,000 acres] Barkley and its sister, Kentucky Lake, are about on equal footing, says Kentucky fish biologist David Baker. “Right now for quality I would put Barkley over Kentucky,” Baker said. Tournament data collected in 2016 by the Department of Fish and Wildlife shows the average weight to win an eight-hour tournament was 16.41 and the average big fish weighed 5.75. A large, three-day tournament here in June 2016 was won with 50-12. Photo: Paul Wilkes 20 / 25 20. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee [160,309 acres] This massive lake continues to produce quality bass fishing, mainly for largemouth. Tournament data collected on Kentucky Lake by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2016 reveals the average weight to win an eight-hour tournament was 16.31. The average big fish weighed 6.13. A weight of 51-2 won a major three-day tournament here in April 2016. Photo: James Overstreet 21 / 25 21. Chautauqua Lake, New York [13,156 acres] The catch rates for largemouth and smallmouth bass are high at Chautauqua, but the trophy potential is low. A Bassmaster Open tournament in July 2016 was won with 14.20 for five bass. A club tournament a month later was won with 11.31. That said, if you want your string stretched, this is the spot. Photo: Justin Brewer 22 / 25 22. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky [65,530 acres] At Cumberland, you stand a good chance of catching largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass on the same day. The fishing has improved since the dam was repaired and the lake returned to full pool. It took 60 pounds to win a four-day major tournament here in April 2017. Tournament data collected on Lake Cumberland by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that in 2016, the average weight to win an eight-hour tournament was 13.02 and the average big fish weighed 4.52. Photo: Lee McClellan 23 / 25 23. Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia [2,630 acres] The catch-and-release regulation on this lake since 1989 is the reason Stonewall Jackson is the No. 1 bass lake in the state. A club tournament here April 8-9, 2017, produced an enormous 10.30 big bass. The winning team had 27.76 for five bass. The heaviest limit of the tournament was 18.90. The weights would have been higher, but each angler may keep only one bass per day over 18 inches in length. Photo: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources 24 / 25 24. 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 tends to be feast or famine. Winning anglers may have impressive limits, but most of the anglers at any event struggle. However, a large tournament here in May 2016 had nine limits over 20 pounds and a winning weight of 22-10. Photo: Virginia Institute of Marine Science 25 / 25 25. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire [20 miles long, 9 miles wide] Winnipesaukee is known for producing great numbers of smallmouth and largemouth in the 2-pound class, with an occasional lunker. An April 2017 tournament hosted by the New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation was typical. The winner of that four-bass-limit event had 12.49 pounds. The big bass weighed 4.07. Photo: New Hampshire Fish and Game 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 and Central regions and the Top 12.