Best Bass Lakes 2024: Central

1. O.H. Ivie Lake, Texas
[20,000 acres]
OK, y’all. Let’s face facts — O.H. Ivie is a straight-up freak show! What more can you say about a fishery that produced 35 Toyota ShareLunkers (8 pounds or heavier) in the first four months of 2024? That haul includes an astonishing 12 Legacy Class bass, meaning they must be 13-plus pounds, caught between January and March and loaned to Texas Parks and Wildlife for its (obviously successful) selective breeding program. Another 17 of the ShareLunkers made Strike King Elite Class (10-plus pounds). This is nothing new, of course. O.H. Ivie was voted the best bassin’ spot in the U.S. in 2023 and No. 2 in 2022, behind only the St. Lawrence River. There’s absolutely no sign of this phenomenal fishery slowing down, either, which should make Ivie (only a three-hour drive from either the Dallas-Fort Worth or San Antonio-Austin metroplexes) among the most popular attractions in the Lone Star State for years to come. Giddy up!
2. Lake Fork, Texas
[27,690 acres]
This legendary lake produced 64 ShareLunker bass (weighing at least 8 pounds) in one Bassmaster Elite Series tournament held over four days in February and March. Don’t just gloss over that. Go back, reread it and let the gravity of that enormity sink in. “Spectacular” might not be adjective enough to describe how good Fork was that week (or just about any other stretch in recent memory, really). A total of 94 ShareLunker bass have been caught there in 2024 alone, the heaviest weighing 11.7 pounds. That’s a huge weight for a largemouth bass, but really, it’s the sheer volume of 8- and 9-pounders that amazes at Fork. That’s what the Elites tore into. Each of the 10 anglers who made the Sunday cut totaled more than 100 pounds in the derby, only the second time that’s happened in B.A.S.S. history. And Trey McKinney, the 19-year-old wunderkind who won the tournament with 20 bass for 130-15, was only 1-9 away from the heaviest total in Elite Series history. Anybody hungry? Grab a fork.
3. Bussey Brake Reservoir, Louisiana
[2,200 acres]
This tiny lake is so far north in Louisiana, it might as well be in Arkansas. But the Bayou State isn’t ceding Bussey Brake to anyone — no way, no how. Donated to the state in 2013 and reopened in 2020 following a complete overhaul by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Bussey Brake is considered, right now, to be the best bass fishery in Louisiana. And in a state with as much water as this one, that means volumes. Sid Wilde, of Robert, La., shut the door on the argument March 8 of this year when he caught a massive 15.78-pound largemouth at Bussey, a small lake that once supplied water to a nearby paper mill before becoming a full-time fishery. Wilde’s gigantic bass was a record for Bussey and the fourth largest in state history (trailing the No. 1 bass by only 2 ounces). Need more proof of this place’s greatness? Take a peek at the Facebook page for the Bussey Brake Lunkers. It’s like a digital trophy case. Sit there, slack-jawed, as the double-digit beauties dance before your eyes. This little place has gone big-time.
4. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
[132,500 acres]
It’s a bit more difficult to predict how Northern lakes are performing when our list is released, given the cold weather that makes for a shorter fishing window in states such as Minnesota. But no one needs to worry about Mille Lacs, really. The place will be as good as any when the smallmouth are biting. We’ll have to cast back to last September, before the Minnesota winter settled in, to get the best predictors of the lake’s health. So, how’d that go? At the third annual City Auto Glass Bass Classic, a tournament record of five smallies weighing 26.22 pounds took first prize. Second place caught 25.45 and third- through fifth-place teams were right behind at 25.12, 25.1 and 25.04. In all, 19 of the 41 teams entered caught more than 20 pounds of smallmouth bass. Mille Lacs means “Thousand Lakes.” There are, however, far more reasons to love this smallmouth wonderland.
5. Caney Creek Reservoir, Louisiana
[5,000 acres]
Historically speaking, Caney Creek is the most prodigious bass fishery in Louisiana, with five of the state’s Top 10 largemouth bass caught here through the years. No one will argue with you on this much — Caney Creek is still absolute fire. The Caney Creek Bass Club is regularly logging “3 Bass Blast” weights in the 18- to 22-pound range. A pair of teenagers caught a state record five-bass stringer in January that weighed approximately 50 pounds, anchored by a 13-5 giant. Winners of a Louisiana Team Trail tourney in March caught a 22-pound limit, and the guys who finished second had a 10.25-pound largemouth to their credit. Creek rising? Yup.
6. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Louisiana/Texas
[185,000 acres]
Call it Texas. Call it Louisiana. The Bend’s bass are big and bad all the same. Toledo Bend, a 65-mile-long Sabine River impoundment straddling the Texas-Louisiana border, has been a major player on our Best Bass Lakes list for as long as anyone can remember. And that’s not changing. Not when eight fish of 8-plus pounds were caught and entered in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Toyota ShareLunker Program in February alone. No word on how many 8-plus-pounders were caught on the Louisiana side, but among that big Texas bunch was a real mule — a 13.61-pound Legacy Class bass hooked by Tracy Adair of Hemphill, Texas. The Bassmaster Elites had a field day on Toledo Bend too earlier this year, with Kyoya Fujita cracking into the Century Club with a 100-pound, 13-ounce winning total. Big. Bad. Bend — Toledo Bend, that is.
7. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
[114,000 acres]
Big Sam has game, and Texas anglers know it. Heck, bass enthusiasts around the world know it. Through March, seven Rayburn bass had been entered into the Texas Parks and Wildlife Toyota ShareLunker Program. And sure, the Strike King Elite Class bass caught by Hemphill’s Paul Pitre (10.02) and Buna’s Erik Peveto (11.04) are monsters. Then you notice that Peru, New York’s Alec Morrison came all the way down to east Texas in February and boated a 13.82-pound, 25.5-inch behemoth. That catch alone, the 655th Legacy Class bass in the history of the ShareLunker program, proves that not only is everything bigger in Texas, but avid anglers will cross space, time and anything else for a chance to hook a legendary Rayburn bass.
8. West Okoboji Lake, Iowa
[3,850 acres]
This small lake in extreme northern Iowa slipped into the national consciousness a few years ago, and it shows no signs of becoming a memory. Okoboji shook off a long winter with a May 13 derby in which 10 of the 17 competing teams caught 15 pounds or more. Even more impressive was the 22.69-pound limit of five bass weighed by Mark Tonjum and Terry Svendsen to win the event. Bill Lemieux and Devin Knoblauch won the Iowa Classic in 2023 with 25 bass caught in five derbies for a 99.61 total (just shy of 20 pounds per limit). And Full Throttle’s early October tournament on Okoboji had a winning bag of 23.81 with a big bass of 6.21. “Don’t you … forget Okoboji.”
9. Oak Creek Reservoir, Texas
[2,375 acres]
Another shining pearl on the Texas expanse, about halfway between Abilene and San Angelo, Oak Creek packs a punch. There’s something alluring about the lake that draws anglers out this far west. Maybe it’s the 11 Toyota ShareLunkers caught on the fishery through the first three and a half months of 2024? Ask Mechelda Criswell, of Hobbs, New Mexico, who has caught four of those 11 whoppers this year. Or talk with Jeremy Martin, of nearby Andrews, Texas, who hooked a 10.6-pound Strike King Elite Class bass in January. Those kinds of magical catches have people talking about Oak Creek Reservoir. And, naturally, they like what they see.
10. Lake D’Arbonne, Louisiana
[15,250 acres]
North Louisiana’s bass fishing game really has rocketed in recent years, and Lake D’Arbonne is part of the renaissance. Look no further than a Media Bass tournament in March where the top seven teams each weighed in limits of more than 20 pounds. The group was led by Jimmy Farrar and Grady Rinehart, who weighed a whopping 26.34 pounds to win the derby. Heath Crocker and Ethan Barr were second with 25.42 pounds. Back on April 27, Craig and Taylor Kolb paced a Louisiana Team Trail tournament with a 22.63 limit of five bass (including a 7.82 heavy).
11. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Oklahoma
[41,779 acres]
The fact that B.A.S.S. held a third Bassmaster Classic here earlier this year is proof enough that Grand Lake is, indeed, among the grandest of America’s bass lakes. Justin Hamner won the sport’s biggest prize (not to mention $307,000) when he caught 58-3 over three days to clinch the 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors. The Anglers in Action Tournament Trail was on Grand a few weeks before the Classic, and the winning tandem needed 21.56 pounds in a one-day derby to take home a $10,000 check. A couple of weeks after the Classic, the winning duo in a Big Bass Bash on Grand caught 23.73 pounds to win a one-day event. Then, 21.65 was the top total on the trail in an early May event. Ain’t it grand?
12. Lake Texoma, Oklahoma
[89,000 acres]
It’s hard for Texoma to get the spotlight it deserves, what with sharing a state with Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. But this reservoir just north of the Texas border is as predictable as 100-degree temperatures there in the summer. It’s in the milder seasons, however, when Texoma’s star shines. Take, for example, the JC Outdoors event in March, which was won with a 20.95-pound limit, including a 7.40-pound kicker to anchor the bag. Then, in April, it took 25.91 pounds to win a JC derby on Texoma. The big of that bag? How about a 9.15-pound giant?
13. Caddo Lake, Louisiana/Texas border
[25,400 acres]
This spot, located on the Louisiana/Texas border west of Shreveport, is as well-known for its scenic beauty as it is bass fishing. Caddo Lake (which is one of the largest flooded cypress forests in the world) is breathtaking. That said, so is the fishing. The top seven competitors in an American Bass Anglers derby in February all caught more than 19 pounds in a day, led by the impressive 25.67 limit weighed in by Ben McCormick. Then, there was the whopping 29.96 five-bass creel weighed in by Raymond Cheek and Paul Rider in a Louisiana Team Trail tournament in March. That haul was anchored by an 8.09 big ’un that helped the duo bring home a $5,000 first prize.
14. Lake Oahe, South Dakota/North Dakota
[374,000 acres]
A great deal of America’s Great Plains remain sparsely populated and a little more than wild. So, while bass fishing afficionados around the U.S. might not hear much about Lake Oahe, there’s no doubt this leviathan of a lake sits out there in the vast open of America, consistently producing some of the very finest smallmouth fishing on the planet. We just don’t often get to see it. But the many tourists from the Central and Western states (and Canada, too) who do venture to Oahe are richly rewarded. Fisheries biologists say this impoundment of the Missouri River is as productive as ever, with smallmouth bites to be found just about anywhere along the 230-mile stretch of water between Pierre, S.D., and Bismarck, N.D.
15. Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas
[71,240 acres]
Club fishing is strong in this part of the world, so look no further than the weekend warriors to see how steady the Shoals are. The Joe Bass Team Trail started its season here last November, and it took 16.59 pounds to win that kickoff. The top two teams in December both caught in the mid 18s, and, despite a snowstorm, the winning duo in January surprised with a 20.83 total. That same tandem, Eric and Dustin Blevins, obviously had a strong winter pattern going and won again in February with a 20.98-limit.
16. Lake Nacogdoches, Texas
[2,212 acres]
It’s small by Texas standards, but the bass that come from Lake Nacogdoches are anything but. In 2024, five Toyota ShareLunkers have been caught in this east Texas jewel, including the 11.44- and 10.38-pounders hooked by Jake Broumley of Whitehouse, Texas, on April 13. It took 102.5 inches to win a Southeast Texas Kayak Bass League one-day tournament on the lake in February, including three big bass that measured more than 20 inches. Totals like that follow a recent trend at Nacogdoches, which has six Legacy Class bass (13 pounds or more) in its history, with three of the six coming in the past five years.
17. Table Rock Lake, Missouri
[42,400 acres]
Rock solid, baby! Wyatt Marler and Nick Lawler, a pair of 19-year-olds, slammed this mid-America staple for a 30.76-pound limit back in March — the heaviest one-day weight in the history of the Anglers in Action Trail. The catch included a 7.83-pound kicker that helped the duo net a $10,000 first-place check. A one-day Phoenix Bass Fishing League event in February saw four anglers catch more than 20 pounds, including the winning limit of five bass for 22-7. The Steel City Bassmasters, of Illinois, fished Table Rock in February, and 12 bass weighing 33.86 pounds took first prize. The Big Bass Tour stopped here in April and the top five anglers all had a fish at 6 1/2 pounds or more, including the 6.97 heavy that won the thing.
18. Upper Mississippi River, Wisconsin
[approximately 200 miles long]
No list of great waterways or great fisheries is complete without mention of the Mighty Mississip’. The stretch of the 2,340-mile river near La Crosse, Wis., is among the very best of the river’s offerings, with dozens of species of fish to be found — among them a mix of bass that always makes for intriguing tournaments. Take the 2023 Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series scored by Tourney X, for example. Winner Tyler Cole had 178.5 inches of bass in the two-day kayak tourney. It’s no surprise why B.A.S.S. is returning there later this year, this time for the 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Open presented by SEVIIN scheduled for Sept. 12-14.
19. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
[54,000 acres]
The Anglers in Action Tournament Trail set the tone for this fishery on March 3 when the winning tandem caught five bass for 24.26 pounds. The big bass was a 7.61-pounder — a sturdy bite, to say the least. A month later, it took 23.47 pounds to win a one-day event here. In May, 21.25 was needed for top honors. Lake of the Ozarks is one of the busiest recreational boating lakes in the U.S. each summer. When the weather cools again and the traffic dies down a smidge, this fishery is sure to offer more of the big bags that make it a perennial fixture on this list.
20. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
[66,324 acres]
You only have to ask Jeremiah Kindy how good this Hot Springs bassin’ hotbed has been to get the scoop on Ouachita. Kindy won the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Ouachita in February with a three-day total of 52 pounds, 3 ounces. The Benton, Ark., native had bags of 19-7, 16-5 and 16-7 to hold off a field of nearly 200 competitors looking for a berth in the 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors. A couple of weeks after Kindy’s win, the Phoenix Bass Fishing League stopped at Ouachita and it took an 18-12 limit to win that one-day event. Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!
21. Lake Bistineau, Louisiana
[15,000 acres]
Situated just east of the Shreveport/Bossier City metro area, Lake Bistineau is easy to reach and well worth the trip. It took 19.38 pounds to win a Louisiana Team Trail event in April, and Johnny VanArsdel needed 19.56 pounds (including a 7.66 kicker) to win an American Bass Anglers Professional League Tournament in March. Then in May, the team that won a H&W Team Trail derby weighed a 22.48 total from Bistineau. B.A.S.S. knows this is a happening spot, too, as they’ll hold the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series event at Lake Caddo/Lake Bistineau scored by TourneyX on Oct. 19-20.
22. Newton Lake, Illinois
[1,750 acres]
Sir Isaac Newton is in the history books for his work explaining the laws of gravity, or the way things with mass are held down on Earth. This 1,750-acre lake in southern Illinois, however, is going the opposite direction on the bass fishery rankings — up, up, up! Newton Lake (named after an old railroad, not Sir Isaac) had a heavy largemouth bass of 8.3 pounds in a recent tournament, with four other bass between 7 and 7 1/2 pounds rounding out the top five derby catches. Gizzard shad are the primary forage here, and Illinois DNR reports that there are plenty of big bass snacking on ’em.
23. Lake Vermilion, Minnesota
[40,000 acres]
Like Mille Lacs, you have to look back a season to see how good this fishery in extreme northern Minnesota shapes up. In a word (or three) — “Pretty dang nice.” The top 11 duos in a team tournament last July all caught more than 15 pounds of fat smallmouth bass, with the winners checking in with a five-fish limit of 18.14 pounds, or 3.63 pounds per smallie.
24. Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
[105,500 acres]
We asked anglers in Oklahoma for their top couple of bass fisheries in the Sooner State, and no one mentioned this bad boy among their first few choices. That’s reasonable, considering Grand Lake, Texoma and the like are so darn good. But, it’s also hard to understand, considering recent results at Eufaula. Consider, the top two anglers in a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event in March both caught more than 19 pounds. Once anglers catch on to how good this lake is, more data will likely prove this fishery deserves to be higher on the list.
25. Lake Hudson, Oklahoma
[12,000 acres]
This is a small lake compared to Sooner State big brothers (Grand and Texoma), but Lake Hudson has plenty of big bites for the taking. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife biologists said Hudson has been on the rise recently, and weights posted in early 2024 by the Hudson Bass Anglers Club prove it. In March, a four-fish limit of 20.31 pounds took first prize, and in late April, four bass for 18.33 pounds claimed club honors. Last year’s championship duo caught 16.39 (again, four fish). Anglers consistently need to average 4 to 5 pounds per bass to win a derby here. And that makes it worthy of our list.