Best Bass Lakes

Best Bass Lakes 2022: Northeastern

1. St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands), New York
To be completely transparent, this fishery was basically tied with St. Clair in the Northeastern Division up until the moment the Elite Series started weighing in fish this past July. After the ninth bag over 25 pounds hit the scales, eyebrows were raised. After all 90 anglers weighed in on Day 1 and the average limit checked in at 20.90 pounds, jaws hit the floor. To put an exclamation point on the abundance of big fish swimming here now, seven of the Top 10 anglers on the final day weighed more than 25 pounds, with Cory Johnston’s 28-8 bag leading the way. And it certainly didn’t hurt the case for St. Lawrence being the best lake in the country when two anglers (Jay Przekurat and Cory Johnston) topped the 100-pound mark with solely smallmouth, a first-ever feat for the Elite Series.
2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
St. Clair almost edged out the St. Lawrence River as the top Northeastern fishery due, in part, to how it continues to produce trophy smallmouth throughout the season despite enormous fishing pressure. Of course, the St. Lawrence was not having any of that. Still, Tom Goniea, fishing tournament specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, collected data from 85 tournaments here in 2021 that averaged 36 anglers. Nearly 90% of the bass were smallmouth; the rest were largemouth. The average weight per bass was 3.13 pounds. The average big bass weighed 5.12 pounds, and 1,867 bass over 4 pounds were weighed in. An amateur team championship here in August 2021 yielded limits of more than 20 pounds for 45 of the 222 teams, with a winning weight of 24 pounds and a big bass of 6.15.
3. Lake Erie/Upper Niagara River, New York
“Fast growth and good survival continue to produce relatively high angler catch rates and lots of opportunity to catch trophy-sized fish,” states New York’s Warmwater Fisheries Unit Leader Jeffrey Loukmas. New York’s “Lake Erie 2021 Annual Report” found catch-and-release angling has reduced the smallmouth harvest to only 1% of the overall catch. It typically takes well over 20 pounds to win a one-day, five-bass-limit tournament here.
4. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont
Set between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York, this jewel of a bass fishery teems with largemouth and smallmouth bass. Winning catches often include both species. A mixed bag that totaled 78-5 carried Maryland’s Bryan Schmitt to victory here during a Bassmaster Elite Series event in July 2021. All Top 10 anglers weighed in over 73 pounds. A three-day event with 187 boats in July of that same year produced a winning weight of 61-3 and a big bass that went 5-9.
5. Burt/Mullett Lakes, Michigan 
Statistics compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources make plain that these large sister lakes in Michigan’s lower peninsula continue to produce huge smallmouth bass and good largemouth fishing. The 11 tournaments evaluated for the 2021 season averaged 62.6 anglers per event. Smallmouth comprised 80.5% of the catch. Of the eight tournaments scored by weight, the average bass weighed 4.01. The average big bass weighed 6.24. Three of the tournaments were scored by length. The average length per bass was 14.9 inches, and the average longest bass was 21.4 inches.
6. Lake Erie, Ohio
Winning weights of more than 20 pounds are commonplace in Lake Erie’s western basin. This is particularly true when anglers are allowed to cast into Canadian waters, where bass fishing is not permitted during the spring spawning season. Chunky smallmouth far outnumber the largemouth, although more green ones are beginning to be caught in the big lake, especially from aquatic grass in nearshore areas. A small team tournament in April 2021 on the Ohio side of the lake yielded a winning weight of 26.65, which included the 5.79 big bass. The top three teams all had over 25 pounds.
7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan 
Michigan’s lower peninsula is shaped like a mitten. Grand Traverse Bay is the pinky finger. Anglers claim the water is so clear you can see smallmouth bass cruising 20 feet deep on calm days. Many of those bass are bruisers, according to tournament reports compiled by the Michigan DNR. The 15 tournaments held here in 2021 averaged over 27 anglers who weighed in 100% smallmouth bass. The 13 weight-based events produced bass that averaged 3.42, with an average big bass of 5.29. The two length-based tournaments had an average length of 16.1 inches and the longest bass was 20.25 inches.
8. Bays de Noc, Michigan
With so many excellent smallmouth waters in Michigan’s lower peninsula, few bass anglers make the long trek to Bays de Noc in the state’s upper peninsula. Although these waters are renowned for walleye, bass anglers consistently tangle with heavyweight brown bass. The Michigan DNR compiled the results of five small tournaments here in 2021. The three derbies scored by weight yielded an average bass of 3.19, with an average big bass of 5.25. The two tournaments scored by length produced an average length of 15.5 inches with the longest length going 20 inches.
9. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan
Although largemouth swim in Michigan’s third-largest inland lake, smallmouth accounted for 96% of the catch in the 12 tournaments reported to the Michigan DNR in 2021. Trout and salmon are also popular with anglers who ply these pellucid waters. The tournaments drew an average of 38 anglers who caught bass that averaged 2.94 and big bass that averaged 5.22. The smallmouth here typically relate to flats and ledges.
10. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania
Although it isn’t large, this bay brims with heavy smallmouth in spring when the brown ones trek here from Lake Erie’s central basin to spawn. Most of them vacate the bay after spawning, but there are plentiful largemouth in the bay to keep you busy. “In many ways, the Bay and Erie are inseparable,” said Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Warmwater Unit Leader Robert Lorantas. “If the lake gets too riled up to fish for smallmouth, you can always make use of the Bay. Electrofishing results of lakes across the state show that Presque Isle Bay is one of the most consistent producers of largemouth.”
11. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut
Even though it receives heavy fishing pressure and recreational boat traffic, Candlewood produces big-time bass fishing. An open team tournament here in April 2022 attracted 75 boats. With a six-bass limit, the winning team weighed in 32.54, and the Top 20 teams all had over 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 8.05, with the heaviest smallmouth going 5.18. “I’ve been fishing here almost 30 years,” said Tom Reynolds, a bass addict who owns Reynolds’ Boats in Lyme, Conn. “The last 20 years, smallmouth have been the dominant fish in tournaments. The last two years, largemouth have come on strong. The fishing pressure here must be like Guntersville. It’s a small lake, but it just keeps kicking them out.”
12. Cayuga Lake, New York
Cayuga continues to reign as the best of New York’s glacial Finger Lakes in terms of heavyweight bass. Tournaments are won here with largemouth, smallmouth and mixed bags of both species. Smallmouth dominate tournaments in springtime, and largemouth typically score the heaviest limits thereafter. A boater/nonboater tournament with 125 boats had a great time here in August 2021, with the top seven anglers sacking over 19 pounds, the top four over 20 pounds and the winner weighing in 22-13. The big bass weighed 6-8.
13. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Over the past several years Smith Mountain has consistently yielded excellent fishing for quality largemouth and smallmouth bass. That this picture-perfect highland reservoir is situated near the Blue Ridge Mountains makes casting here especially joyful. A one-day, 100-boat tournament in April 2022 exhibited the potential of this fabulous bass fishery. The winner sacked 24-6; the big bass weighed 7-11; and every angler in the Top 10 had over 16 pounds.
14. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation President John Foster reports that Winnipesaukee is fishing better than it has in 20 years. He suspects that the COVID-19 shutdown two years ago allowed the bass to fatten up. “They’re running about a half-pound heavier than in the past,” he said. He added that several 7-pound bass were caught here in the fall of 2021. A team tournament with 52 boats in May 2021 had a winning weight of 20.92 with a four-bass limit. The Top 10 all had over 12 pounds, and the average weight for all the bass was 2.98. The biggest largemouth weighed 6.31, with the biggest smallmouth going 5.85.
15. China Lake, Maine
“China Lake in central Maine is the most successful lake for tournament fishing in the state,” said Tim Gratto, Maine’s B.A.S.S. Nation president. “It continuously delivers big bags of bass.” The lake’s abundant aquatic growth provides ideal habitat for largemouth and, to a lesser extent, for smallmouth. A tournament here in August 2021 attracted 77 teams that were allowed a seven-bass limit. The winning team weighed in 29.04, and 16 teams had over 20 pounds. The big bass weighed 5.91.
16. Great Pond, Maine
This lake is one of the largest bodies of water in the world classified as a pond. Its deep, rocky habitat supports a bountiful population of smallmouth bass that keep anglers coming back for more. Quality largemouth also frequent the waters of this scenic lake. It took 30.44 to win a 20-team tournament here in April 2022 that had a seven-bass limit. Every team sacked over 19 pounds, and the big bass weighed 6.45.
17. Green River Lake, Kentucky
Green River has been on a high for several years, asserted David Baker, district biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The top three to five boats typically have 20-pound bags dominated by big largemouth,” he said. “You can also catch a kicker smallmouth or Kentucky spotted bass there.” A tournament here in March 2022 that drew 43 teams reinforces Baker’s comments. The winning team sacked 24.22 which included a 6.80 largemouth. Several other heavy limits were also brought to the scales.
18. Oneida Lake, New York
Oneida continues to produce quality bass for anglers who venture here. Although tournaments are won with largemouth, smallmouth rule this roost. A few ounces typically move an angler up or down several places in major events because limits of similar-size bass are so commonplace. A Bassmaster Open in July 2021 produced a winning weight of 52-3, and the Top 9 anglers all weighed in over 40 pounds.
19. Cobbosseecontee Lake, Maine
Many of Maine’s largest bass have been caught from these waters, which are especially conducive to growing heavyweight largemouth. This picturesque lake has 62 miles of shoreline and many glacial coves, jetties and islands. An annual Special Olympics fundraising tournament in late April 2022 confirmed that Cobbosseecontee continues to yield excellent bass fishing. It took a 24.01-pound, seven-bass limit to win the event. The Top 9 teams all had over 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 6.99, with the best smallmouth going 3.72.
20. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
This tidal fishery is worth a visit whenever you can get here, but you’ll fare better with heavy largemouth in springtime. A boater/nonboater tournament in April 2021 attracted 149 boats. The winner sacked 21-5, and the Top 10 anglers all had over 17 pounds. The big bass weighed 6-11. However, the Upper Chesapeake can be feast or famine. Sixty anglers in that event failed to weigh in a bass.
21. Potomac River, Maryland/Virginia
The diverse bass habitat on this historic tidal river consistently yields limit catches for tournament anglers. Spring tournaments are especially productive, such as the single-day, boater/nonboater event in April 2022 that hosted 158 boats. A 19-6 limit took first place, and the Top 15 all had over 15 pounds. An 8-2 largemouth claimed the big bass award. Only 17 anglers failed to weigh in a bass.
22. Saginaw Bay, Michigan
With 18 tournaments reported to the Michigan DNR in 2021, the sample size for Saginaw Bay is considerably larger than in the past. Although nearly three-quarters of the bass weighed in were smallmouth, largemouth hold their own in the aquatic vegetation nearshore. The average bass weighed 2.36, with an average big bass of 4.48. However, the massive bay is capable of more impressive results. A Bassmaster High School team event here in 2021 yielded a winning limit of 23-4. Second and third place also had over 20 pounds.
23. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky
With strong populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, Cumberland provides a unique opportunity to tussle with all three on any given day. Tournaments here may be won with smallmouth, largemouth or a mixed bag of all three species. However, heavy limits and trophy bass are not typical here. An event in May 2021 that drew 154 boats produced a winning weight of 15-1 and a big bass of 4-15. Every angler in the top 10 weighed in more than 12 pounds.
24. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee
A record spawn in 2016 may have Kentucky and Barkley lakes on the path to their former glory. “It takes about five years for a bass to reach 15 inches,” said Adam Martin, sportfish biologist for western Kentucky. “[In 2021], a lot of those 2016 fish were keepers. This year, there are more 3- and some 4-pound bass. It’s good to see anglers weighing in five fish consistently.” The Asian carp invasion appears to be influencing where bass feed. The shallow bite has been more productive, even during summer, when ledge fishing had been dominant in the past, Martin added.
25. Chautauqua Lake, New York
Although Chautauqua is the biggest lake in western New York, it usually doesn’t attract tournaments with large fields. However, small events take full advantage of the lake’s excellent largemouth and smallmouth fishing. Seventeen teams competed in a Western New York Bassmasters Team Trail event in June 2021. The winning team weighed in 19.76, and the big bass, a largemouth, went 5.71. Second place dropped to 15.70, and every angler brought bass to the scales.