Best Bass Lakes 2024: Northeastern

1. St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands), New York
[50-mile stretch, plus eastern Lake Ontario]
This unrivaled smallmouth fishery appears to be getting even better. It took 105 pounds to win the four-day Bassmaster Elite Series tournament here in late August 2023. Each of the top four finishers tallied over 100 pounds. On the first two days, the 102 competitors weighed in an astounding 48 five-bass limits over 20 pounds. Day 3 saw 39 of 50 anglers sack more than 20 pounds. The final 10 all had over 20 pounds. We aren’t seeing that sort of production out of many largemouth lakes across the country right now, much less smallmouth fisheries.
2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
[430 square miles]
Shared by Ontario and the state of Michigan, this pellucid, heavily fished lake, which averages only 11 feet deep, continues to produce loads of heavyweight smallmouth bass. A Bassmaster Elite Series tournament held here in late July 2023 should whet your appetite for fishing St. Clair. A four-day tally of 91 pounds, 8 ounces topped the 102-angler field. The Top 10 anglers all had over 80 pounds. Dozens of limits over 20 pounds were brought to the scales. The event’s big bass weighed 6-2.
3. Lake Erie/Upper Niagara River, New York
[30-mile radius from Buffalo]
The deep, clear, rocky eastern basin of this Great Lake continues to produce quality smallmouth, and plenty of them, revealed Lake Erie Research Unit aquatic biologist Pascal Wilkins. “We’ve had very consistent catch rates and numbers,” Wilkins said. “The average fishing trip yields 15 bass, and it’s not uncommon for anglers to experience 50- to 60-bass days, especially in the spring. The fishing is good up the entire New York shoreline. Two tournaments out of Buffalo [in spring of 2024] produced smallmouth bass weighing more than 6 pounds.”
4. Lake Erie, Ohio
[30-mile radius of Sandusky]
The copious islands, reefs and rockpiles in Erie’s western basin provide an ideal habitat for smallmouth bass. The Lake Erie Bass Challenge, sponsored by Clemons Boats in Sandusky, Ohio, hosts five qualifying tournaments and a championship here. Thirty-two teams in mid-April 2023 fished one of these events. A five-bass limit weighing 24.91 took top honors, with the top 19 teams weighing in over 20 pounds. The top 27 teams all sacked over 18 pounds, with the big bass going 6.03.
5. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan
[17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively]
These connected waterways consistently grow some of Michigan’s biggest smallmouth bass, including brutes that weigh in excess of 7 pounds. A superb annual survey compiled by Michigan fisheries biologist Tomas Goniea provides tantalizing details. Four tournaments here in 2023 averaged 62.5 anglers per event. Smallmouth comprised 91.3% of the catch. The average weight of the 624 bass caught was 3.78 pounds. Over half of those bass topped 4 pounds. The biggest bass weighed 6.37.
6. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont
[490 square miles]
The bass habitat in this picturesque lake ranges from shallow grass to deep, rocky structure. It supports strong populations of smallmouth and largemouth bass, and either species or a mix of both may win any tournament here. The results of a 50-angler event in late August of 2023 are typical. It took 22.08 to win, and four of the competitors weighed in over 20 pounds. Twenty-seven anglers had over 15 pounds. The big bass weighed 5.22.
7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan
[32 miles long, 10 miles wide]
If you enjoy fishing pristine water for gorgeous, heavyweight smallmouth bass, schedule a visit to this impressive bay in the northwest corner of the state. The Michigan DNR compiled the mouthwatering results of 13 tournaments here in 2023. The 899 smallmouth caught averaged 3.86 pounds, with 329 of them over 4 pounds. The heaviest bass tipped the scale at 5.71 pounds. There were no largemouth.
8. Cayuga Lake, New York
[38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide]
Largemouth and smallmouth thrive in the aquatic vegetation and bottom structures that rim this deep, glacial Finger Lake. Cayuga maintains both species in size and in numbers. A tournament in mid-June 2023 is typical. It took 24.77 pounds to best a field of 72 anglers. The top 12 all had over 20 pounds, while the top 31 all sacked over 15 pounds. The big bass weighed 6.22 pounds.
9. China Lake, Maine
[3,845 acres]
“It regularly takes 28 to 30 pounds to win team tournaments here that have a seven-bass limit,” said two-time Maine B.A.S.S. Nation champion Nick Deering. “The largemouth run bigger than the smallmouth and typically win these events. China has the best of both worlds — big, deep boulders and great vegetation.” Since 2022, the removal of two dams on the Sebasticook River has allowed spawning alewives to migrate from the Atlantic Ocean to China Lake and back. This influx of baitfish bodes well for China’s future bass fishing.
10. Great Pond, Maine
[8,533 acres]
“Great Pond is loaded with smallmouth,” said Nick Deering, a two-time Maine B.A.S.S. Nation champion. “It’s not uncommon to go out and catch 100 of them.” However, it typically takes a kicker largemouth or two to win tournaments here. A seven-bass-limit tournament put on by Maine B.A.S.S. Nation drew 15 anglers in November 2023. The winner weighed in 24.56, and the top seven anglers had over 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 5.06; the biggest smallmouth went 4.22.
11. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan
[17,200 acres]
Another of Michigan’s phenomenal smallmouth lakes, Charlevoix is connected to Lake Michigan and bass move between them. Spinnerbaits do well here for trophy smallmouth, which can top 7 pounds. A study by Michigan’s DNR revealed that 11 tournaments here in 2023 drew an average of 37.5 anglers. They caught 746 bass, 92.5% of which were smallmouth. The average weight was 3.62 pounds, with 138 bass over 4 pounds. The biggest bass weighed 5.3.
12. Bays de Noc, Michigan
[Escanaba to Little Summer Island]
The walleye is the big draw on these waters, but more bass anglers are venturing to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to tap into the quality smallmouth that abound here. The average bass at tournaments weighs over 3 pounds, with nearly 100% of them being smallmouth. Fish over 4 pounds are commonplace, and smallmouth weighing nearly 7 pounds have taken big-bass honors.
13. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania
[5.8 square miles in the bay, plus 77 miles of Lake Erie’s central basin shoreline]
Pennsylvania B.A.S.S. Nation holds one annual tournament here, which has a three-bass limit. Spring events favor the bay, as smallmouth from Lake Erie move into the bay to spawn. Summer and fall tournaments favor Lake Erie. The 2023 event, held in early July, drew 42 anglers. The winner sacked 12.64 pounds, and the top six all had over 12 pounds. A 5.83-pounder claimed big-bass honors.
14. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
[20,600 acres]
An outing to picturesque Smith Mountain Lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains would be worthwhile even if the bass fishing wasn’t as good as it is. A tournament with 51 teams here in late March 2024 is telling. It took 23.61 to win the event, with the top seven teams sacking more than 20 pounds. The top 16 teams weighed in over 15 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 8.84 pounds, with the best smallmouth going 4.01 pounds.
15. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut
[5,420 acres]
Given that this 104-year-old reservoir lies in the New York metropolitan area and receives relentless angling pressure, it consistently yields excellent bass fishing. Smallmouth dominate, but quality largemouth are also commonplace. An annual April tournament put on by Reynolds’ Boats never disappoints. The 2024 event drew 77 teams. The winners boated a six-bass limit of 27.93 pounds, and the top 18 teams all caught over 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 6.13, with the best smallmouth going 5.32.
16. Oneida Lake, New York
[79.8 square miles]
This scenic Finger Lake never disappoints. Tournament limits that exceed 15 pounds are the norm. Smallmouth dominate, but quality largemouth occasionally claim the top prize. A tournament here in early September 2023 drew 50 anglers. Although September is typically a poor month for bass fishing, it took 20.82 pounds to win, with the top three anglers lugging over 20 pounds to the scales. The top 16 anglers caught over 15 pounds. Big bass weighed 4.77.
17. Cobbosseecontee Lake, Maine
[5,543 acres]
This small lake consistently grows heavyweight largemouth and smallmouth bass. It typically takes a 4-pound-or-better average to win a tournament here. Depending on the season, you’ll find the bass relating to coves, jetties, islands or docks. A 34-team tournament in May 2024 was won with a seven-bass limit weighing 28.24. The top 21 teams all weighed in over 20 pounds. The lunker largemouth weighed 7.03; the biggest smallmouth weighed 4.74.
18. Potomac River, Maryland/West Virginia/Virginia
[405 miles]
Whether you’re catching bass from lush aquatic vegetation, man-made structure, sunken ships and barges or the banks of Washington, D.C., this tidal river keeps you in touch with America’s history. Five-bass limits over 15 pounds are common, while 20-pound bags are scarce. A Pennsylvania B.A.S.S. Nation event in May 2023 was true to form. A 17.15 limit eclipsed the 42-angler field, with the top six weighing over 15 pounds. The event’s big bass weighed 5.17.
19. Saginaw Bay, Michigan
[1,143 square miles]
While the smallmouth run bigger in this mammoth bay, you typically have to make a long run over open water to reach them. Most anglers play it safe and ply the abundant nearshore aquatic vegetation for largemouth. Twenty-five tournaments in 2023 drew an average of 42.77 anglers. Of the 4,558 bass weighed in, 3,478 of them were largemouth. The average weight per bass was 2.6 pounds, with 394 of them over 4 pounds. The big bass weighed 4.6 pounds.
20. Lake Barkley, Kentucky/Tennessee
[57,820 acres]
Over the past five years, this storied reservoir has had excellent bass spawns, which have vastly improved the fishing. Strong evidence of this is a tournament in early May 2024 that drew 129 boats. The winner carried 26 pounds, 4 ounces to the scales, and the top four all had over 20 pounds. The biggest bass weighed 7-6. “We’re basically back to where we were before the lake took a downturn,” said Kentucky fisheries biologist Adam Martin. “And the smallmouth are coming on like never before.”
21. Green River Lake, Kentucky
[8,200 acres]
Tucked away in Kentucky’s Highland Rim, this winding lake continues to be one of the Bluegrass State’s most reliable fisheries for quality bass. Kentucky fisheries biologist Eric Cummins reports that Green River is as good as ever. Two team tournaments in March 2024 attest to this. They averaged 25 boats per event. It took 22.79 pounds to win the first tournament and 20.6 to win the second.
22. Barren River, Kentucky
[10,100 acres]
One of the state’s most consistent bass fisheries, Barren River snakes its way through the scenic Barrens region in western Kentucky. Fisheries biologist Eric Cummins stated that spawning success has been down the past few years, but that quality bass are still being caught here. A B.A.S.S. Nation tournament in March 2023 yielded a winning catch of 17.33. Four of the 44 anglers weighed in over 15 pounds. A 4.82 largemouth took big-bass honors.
23. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
[The entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top third.]
This fishery is kind to those who know how to deal with tidal waters, but it can be brutal to those who don’t. A tournament in early May 2024 is typical. It took 20.51 pounds to best the 57-angler field. While the top 11 teams all weighed in over 15 pounds, 18 anglers failed to bring a bass to the scale. The big bass weighed 6.18.
24. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
[20 miles long, 9 miles wide]
Good populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass frequent this lake’s numerous shallow bays, offshore reefs and islands. New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation took full advantage of this fishery when they held a 50-boat tournament here in late April 2024. It took 20.17 pounds to win, with the top five catching over 15 pounds. The big bass weighed an impressive 7.57 pounds.
25. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky
[65,530 acres]
Kentucky fisheries biologist Marcy Anderson reported that sampling studies have yielded good numbers for all three bass species at this picturesque impoundment. Largemouth comprised 58% of the bass recorded, with spotted bass at 35% and smallmouth at 7%. “We sampled more largemouth over 20 inches this year than last year,” Anderson said. A 25-boat team tournament in late March 2024 was won with 18.18 pounds, with the top four finishers weighing in over 15 pounds. The big bass weighed 4.83.