Best Bass Lakes 2022: Southeastern

1. Fellsmere Reservoir/Stick Marsh/Kenansville Lake, Florida
 If you ask bass fishing legend Roland Martin to tell you the best bass lake in his home state of Florida, he will quickly answer “Headwaters.” If you aren’t a local, you may not know that Headwaters is another name for Fellsmere Reservoir (some even call it Lake Egan). The confusion is likely purposeful, as Floridians want to keep this fishery a secret for as long as possible. But, the secret is most definitely out. If you add up the number of bass over 8 pounds caught on this man-made bass paradise this year, it will almost triple every other fishery in the state (if you don’t include Rodman). This lake was designed by the state of Florida to be an ultimate destination for bass anglers, and they succeeded. And because it is just a long cast away from Stick Marsh (seven bass over 10 pounds in 2022) and Kenansville (three bass over 8 pounds in 2022), you could spend a very fruitful vacation week plying these waters for the bass of a lifetime.
2. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina
There is something special in the water at these sister lakes. Seldom do they fall out of the Top 10 in the nation in these rankings, and for good reason. At a May Carolina Anglers Team Tournament Trail (CATT) event this year, it took 29.07 to win a one-day derby. That is impressive. However, the April CATT derby was even better, as 31.12 took the top prize while 29.93 settled for second. An 8.33 took big-bass honors. Of the dozen events we considered when looking at the data on this lake, never did it take less than 25 pounds to win a one-day derby. When you add the ancient
3. Lake Istokpoga, Florida
If Fellsmere wasn’t on absolute fire this year, a case could be made for this lake to be one of the best in the Sunshine State. A February event here held by Xtreme Bass Series saw 30.04 take home the trophy. And an April event required 29.16 to capture the first-place check. In that event, an 8.33-pounder took big-fish honors. Most recently, a May derby here took 28.38 to win (20-man field, five teams brought in over 20 pounds) with a 9.39 big bass. According to Florida TrophyCatch data, 22 fish over 8 pounds have been registered from here, with an 11-4 being the biggest. The name of this lake references “a lake where someone was killed in the water.” Right now, it’s the bass anglers who are killing it.
4. Harris Chain of Lakes, Florida
We normally look at results from adult tournaments when trying to identify the quality of a fishery. However, the 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College Series event held here in January was mind-blowing. The team from Stephen F. Austin State University brought 29 pounds to the scales on Day 2. Then the team from Emmanuel College brought 29-11 to the scales. Then the team from Kentucky Christian University brought 36-7 on stage! This was certainly a better-than-normal day for this chain of lakes, but it shows you the incredible potential.
5. Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee/Kentucky
It has been a hot minute since this historic fishery has made the rankings. The site of the world record smallmouth catch last broke the Top 100 in 2016. Something has sparked the growth of bass in this border lake, as results from a three-day Toyota Series event held here in March were impressive. It took over 21 pounds a day to win; 18 limits topped 20 pounds; and a 25-3 limit was brought to the scales. Although most of the fish brought to the scales were largemouth, a couple of stud smallies were in the mix. I don’t think the world record brown bass still swims there, but you could certainly catch your personal best.
6. Rodman Reservoir, Florida
In looking at tournament data, this lake has been either amazing or above average. An Xtreme Bass Series derby held here in February saw a winning weight of 34.04, while a June event took only 23.09 to grab the top spot. However, if you look at the Florida TrophyCatch data, more than 50 fish over 8 pounds have been caught and released here. The biggest (and biggest fish recorded that we could find in the entire state) was 13-8. So, if you are trophy hunting, this should be your huckleberry.
7. Lake Guntersville, Alabama 
An average day here is typically a great day anywhere else. No, the Big G is not as good as it once was, but it is heading that way. After a few lackluster years, this historically awesome lake is looking like itself again. A June Alabama Bass Trail event saw 24.57 take the top spot, but the Top 11 teams all had over 20 pounds. A 7.35 won big-bass honors. Another event held here in May also saw 25 pounds win the day, with the Top 11 having over 20 pounds. So, Guntersville is healthy and appears to be getting healthier.
8. Jordan Reservoir, North Carolina
If you ask the state fisheries biologists for the best lake in this state, this is the one they’d point you to. This lake has been left in its natural state, with an undeveloped shoreline and pristine natural surroundings. This fishery really showed out last year, cracking the Top 10 in the nation in these rankings. The data wasn’t there to support that this year, but Jordan is still producing impressive limits. In a March CATT event, it took 24.66 to win, while 19 pounds claimed second place. However, big bass was a 9.12, which is a fish of a lifetime for North Carolinians. Plus three other bass over 7 pounds were weighed in.
9. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida
Although this central Florida fishery has put up more impressive numbers in years past, it still continues to produce incredible limits and big fish. An Xtreme Bass Series event held here in April (well after the spawn) was won with 26.09, and three fish over 7 pounds were caught. A look at the Florida TrophyCatch program shows only six bass over 10 pounds coming from this fishery this year, but the biggest topped the 11-pound mark.
10. Falls Lake, North Carolina
Also referred to as “Falls of the Neuse” due to the fact that it extends up the Neuse River by 28 miles, this lake is ranked second in the state for bass fishing, according to the North Carolina DNR. When looking at some of the winning weights, it’s easy to see why. An April CATT derby here took 26.63 to win, and a Piedmont Bass Classics event required 23 pounds to take first place. In that event, three fish over 7 pounds were weighed. This isn’t a big lake, but the surroundings are heavenly and the fishing is stellar.

11. Lake Okeechobee, Florida
The Big O is back! Now, it’s not kicking out giant limits like it was a decade ago. However, 25-pound limits are again common. An American Bass Anglers event held here in May saw 25.52 pounds win, which included a 7-pound kicker. The organization’s January event required 25.03 to win. According to Florida’s TrophyCatch data, only one fish over 10 pounds has been landed this year, but it seems this storied lake is on the verge of busting wide open.
12. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida
If you didn’t bring 21 pounds to the scales this year at this legendary fishery, you were not going to win. In a Reel Money Team Trail event held in May, 21 pounds wouldn’t have even put you on the podium. It took 26.14 to win that derby, which included a 7.31 big bass. Georgia DNR still ranks Seminole as the best fishery in the state. If you plan a trip here, be sure to swing by Jack Wingate’s lodge for a little taste of bass fishing history.
13. High Rock Lake, North Carolina
We just thought this ancient fishery was showing out last year when it secured the 18th spot in these rankings. However, weights were even more impressive this year! At a Carolina Bass Challenge event held this past March, nine limits surpassed the 20-pound mark, with 23.45 taking home the gold. Even more impressive, a 9.24-pound fish won the big bass award, a monster for a North Carolina largemouth. Unlike most fisheries, this lake seems to be getting better with age.
14. Lake Lanier, Georgia
Missing the rankings in 2021, this popular recreational lake outside of Atlanta acted like it had something to prove this year. It has always been an impressive spotted bass fishery, but it may be the best spotted bass lake in the country right now. At an American Bass Anglers Open Series event held here in February, the winning bag, all spotted bass, weighed 24.86 pounds! Yes, all spots. The big fish was a 6.13-pounder. If you are looking to break your personal best spot, this is the lake to visit, and you will likely have a bend in your rod more often than not.
15. Wheeler Lake, Alabama
This Tennessee River fishery is just as fertile as two other lakes on this list that get a lot more attention (Guntersville and Pickwick). For some reason, it doesn’t get the press. Well, press or not, it delivers big bass to anglers willing to forego the better-known lakes. An Alabama Bass Trail event held here in May was won with 24.27 pounds, with five other teams topping the 20-pound mark. Forty-two teams weighed in more than 15 pounds. A 6.25 took big-fish honors.
16. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee 
During the June Elite Series event held on this border lake, 17 limits exceeding 20 pounds hit the scales, with Brandon Lester’s 22-14 on the final day leading the pack. Actually, Lester led the pack almost all four days, as he caught more than 20 pounds every day of competition, winning with 86-1. The amazing thing is that some 20-pound limits included giant smallmouth right alongside bruiser largemouth. Although the data from Pickwick is not quite as eye-popping as it was last year, the Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation still ranks it as the best lake in the state.
17. Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi
We didn’t have to look far for data supporting the inclusion of this Magnolia State fishery. A Bassmaster Central Open held here in April featured five-fish limits weighing 25-12 and 26-9! Of the lakes monitored by the Mississippi Bass Tournament Program, Ross Barnett is second only to Pickwick for the number of bass caught during tournament days (4,497 fish during 37 events). Of the 10 heaviest bass limits caught in the state, five came from Pickwick and four came from Ross Barnett. The largest of them all was from Ross Barnett (29.28 pounds). So, yes, this body of water is a serious player!
18. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
The weather was a little funky when the Elite Series visited this big-bass factory in April. Still, 16 limits topped the 20-pound mark over the four-day event. Chick is a fickle beast, though, as can be seen by the efforts of Elite angler Matty Wong. He brought only 10-9 to the scales on Day 1 but then caught the event’s biggest limit, 25-13, on Day 2. But, giants swim in this lake. Elite pro Pat Schlapper heaved a 10-5 onto the scales on Day 1, and several other double-digit fish were caught during practice. This fishery can be feast or famine, but the feast times could be life-altering.
19. Lake Hartwell, South Carolina
If you were one of the 155,000 attendees at the recent Bassmaster Classic, you already know this lake is full of bass. While only two anglers cracked the 20-pound barrier during the world championship, winner Jason Christie averaged over 18 pounds a day. A 5 Alive event held here last November took 26.43 to take the trophy, so a better-than-5-pound average is doable. For a little icing on this bass fishing cake, be sure to launch out of Green Pond Landing, which may be the best facility on the face of the earth for bass anglers.
20. Lake Murray, South Carolina
Just about every tournament record we could find showed that it takes no less than 21 pounds to win a one-day derby here, no matter the time of year. The data also showed that you don’t need much more than that, either. Topping the list of five-fish limits was a CATT event here in April won with 23.20 pounds. Scads of 4- and 5-pound fish were weighed. This is not the land of giants, but it is ripe with better-than-average largemouth.
21. Lake Ferguson, Mississippi
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife does an amazing study every year to quantify the health of its bass fisheries. The annual report of this Bass Tournament Program boiled down data from 297 derbies held in the state last year. Of the 37 lakes reported on, this fishery earned the highest marks in several categories. The average first-place weight out of the six events held here was 20.47 pounds, ranking first. The average weight of all bass caught (895) was 2.65 pounds. This oxbow lake off the Mississippi River offers a unique angling experience and is chock-full of fish.
22. Roanoke Rapids Lake, North Carolina
A hearty welcome to this newcomer on the rankings! This little gem situated in the northeast corner of the state has been showing out for the CATT competitors. A June event held here took 21.82 to win, but seven other teams out of the 17 entered brought more than 18 pounds to the scales. Five bass over 4 1/2 pounds were weighed. This lake is best known for its striper fishing in the fall, which somehow overshadows the incredible largemouth opportunities available here.
23. Bay Springs Lake, Mississippi
The state has done an amazing job turning this little reservoir on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway into an excellent bass fishery. Intense Florida largemouth stocking since 2009 (the most recent being in 2019) has boosted the trophy potential immensely. A Fishers of Men derby held this past April saw multiple fish over 5 pounds weighed in, and it took almost 20 pounds to win the tournament. Because there are also smallmouth and spotted bass here, you never know exactly what species you are setting the hook on.
24. Lake Eufaula, Alabama/Georgia
There have been years when this lake produced some whopper limits. This is not that year. Still, average winning weights have been between 19 and 23 pounds. According to the Georgia DNR, Eufaula is considered the second-best bass fishing lake in the state behind Seminole. Although catch rates are down a little, the big-fish average is still over 6 pounds. So, on any given cast you can expect a stud largemouth.
25. Douglas Lake, Tennessee
When asked to rank the lakes in their state, we found it interesting that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency named this fishery as the state’s best. When looking at tournament results, it doesn’t match up to Chick or Pickwick. Most of the one-day winning weights hover around the 17-pound mark. But, Douglas is very fertile, and the population of bass here is tremendous. So, if you want to catch a bunch, including a few smallmouth, with your surroundings being very easy on the eyes, this is the place for you.