Best Bass Lakes 2024: Southeastern

1. Orange Lake, Florida
[12,550 acres]
There’s a new king in the Sunshine State … and of the Southeast! This lake made the Top 10 in the nation last year but appears to have improved … something we thought impossible. Since January of this year (not even the past 12 months), 33 bass over 8 pounds have been reported to the TrophyCatch program, 14 of which topped double digits. Leading the pack is the second-biggest fish posted to TrophyCatch so far this year — a 13-4 swamp donkey. As for recent tournament results, an Xtreme Bass Series event held here in April took 33.93 pounds to win, which included a 10.32-pound big bass. Second place landed a mere 28.53, which included an 8.61 kicker. In all, there were nine bass weighed for big-bass honors that topped 8 pounds! So, feel free to think of this lake as a largemouth Disneyland.
2. Lake Murray, South Carolina
[50,000 acres]
If you were lucky enough to watch the live coverage of the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite event held here in May, you probably already have hotel reservations booked in Columbia. The cameramen could not keep up with all the fish catches … many of which were topwater strikes. Winner Patrick Walters averaged well over 23 pounds per day (his final-day limit of 26-12 was the heaviest of the event). And this derby was a postspawn event. Murray was the No. 1 lake in the Southeast last year … and some could make the argument that it should remain in the top spot.
3. Jordan Lake, North Carolina
[14,000 acres]
Also known as B. Everett Jordan Reservoir, this pristine fishery in the shadows of Chapel Hill continues to pump out magnum limits. A May CATT event was won with a 26.03 limit, while second place landed 24.49. Four bass in that event weighed over 7 pounds, with the heaviest landing at 7.71. We couldn’t find a 30-pound limit weighed this year, which has been fairly standard over the past several years, but the jumbos are obviously still here. If you need more evidence that this is a must-visit fishery, know that the state fisheries biologists rank it as the No. 1 lake in their state … by a large margin.
4. Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion/Moultrie), South Carolina
[110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively]
These sister lakes took a dip in the rankings last year based on the quantity of fish caught per outing. This year, things are looking up. A quick glance at the results of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open presented by SEVIIN held here in March shows nearly 80 limits topping the 20-pound mark, with winner Kyle Austin weighing in a 31-8 bag. That’s not an anomaly right now, as an April CATT Team trail event took 30.19 pounds to win and included a 7.57-pound big fish. That said, these lakes have room to improve based on historic catch rates. But, if you’re looking for the opportunity for a limit of a lifetime, go ahead and plan your trip here.
5. Lake Guntersville, Alabama
[69,000 acres]
This fishery continues to defy logic. Although it has slight downturns, never is it not good, no matter how much pressure it receives. And, it likely receives as much intelligent fishing pressure as any lake in the U.S. A look at an Angler’s Choice event held here in March proves the point. Limits of 27.96, 25.56, 24.02, 24.01, 23.76 and 23.72 were brought to the scales. Big bass of the event was a hair under 8 pounds, but 12 over 6 pounds were weighed for the prize. The Big G is not only alive right now, but very well.
6. Fellsmere Reservoir/Stick Marsh/Lake Egan, Florida
[10,000 acres, 6,500 acres and 2,500 acres, respectively]
These triplets made the Top 5 in the nation the past two years, and for good reason: They have been producing the biggest bass of any fishery within a state full of big-bass fisheries. That said, the fishing pressure has created tougher sledding for anglers trying to land their personal best. According to the Florida TrophyCatch program, 36 bass over 8 pounds have been landed at Fellsmere and Egan, compared to 73 last year. Still, one of those was a whopping 13-2. Stick Marsh only accounted for one 8-3, compared to producing two TrophyCatch fish last year. Still, compared to most bodies of water in the U.S., you have as good a chance at landing an 8-pounder here as anywhere.
7. Falls Lake, North Carolina
[12,410 acres]
There’s something in the water in this little Tar Heel fishery. What this lake lacks in size, it more than makes up for in size … of largemouth. A March CATT team trail event here saw a 24.64-pound limit win … second place. A staggering limit of 27.02 took the gold medal. The top eight teams out of the 44-boat field had over 20 pounds. More impressive, if you are into big fish (and who isn’t?), was an 8.07 that took big-fish honors, followed by an 8.04, 7.96 and 7.92. If you have yet to catch an 8-pounder, push this lake to the top of the bucket list.
8. Withlacoochee River/Lake Rousseau, Florida
[20-mile radius of Dunnellon]
This fishery made its debut on the rankings last year and continues to impress. From the river, 19 TrophyCatch bass have been logged this year, including the biggest in the state at 14-8! The lake has been responsible for an additional 16 fish over 8 pounds, only two of which broke the double-digit mark. A recent Lake Rousseau Open derby featuring 24 teams was won with 24.07, and the big-fish prize was won with an 8.05. The lake spans a little under 4,000 acres, so it’s a great option for those anglers who love to fish out of a kayak or canoe … and the river, edged with cypress and palms draped in Spanish moss, is textbook Old Florida.
9. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi
[43,100 acres]
This lake is fishing a little tougher than usual, but even so, it ranks as one of the best fisheries on the planet where you can land a trophy largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass on three consecutive casts. And monster limits are still being brought to the weigh-in stage. A March event here saw a 28-7 limit take the top spot, with a 26-pound limit falling to second. And the big bass of this particular event only tipped the scales at 6-13, so there are a lot of really solid fish swimming in livewells.
10. Lake Lanier, Georgia
[38,000 acres]
If you have never caught a spotted bass and you don’t live near Atlanta, don’t come to this lake. When you hook a spot here, it may well be the biggest one you’ve ever caught or ever will catch. That shouldn’t be your first spotted bass experience … the bar will simply be too high. This past winter, if you didn’t have 22 pounds for five spots, there was no need to weigh in. An April event here took over 22 pounds to win, with a 6.79 earning the big-bass check. Lanier spotted bass are built like footballs and fight like bluefin tuna. If there is a better spot lake in the country right now, that particular secret remains safe.
11. Lake Panasoffkee, Florida
[4,460 acres]
According to the state fisheries biologists, this is the third most productive lake in the state … and that’s saying something. This idyllic little lake situated to the west of the Harris Chain is remote and holds few tournaments. Still, the TrophyCatch results are impressive. Since January, 13 bass over 8 pounds have been submitted. More impressive, five of these have been over 9 pounds. If you want to get away from pressured fish and the pressures of life, this is your huckleberry.
12. Roanoke Rapids Lake, North Carolina
[4,600 acres]
For the third year in a row this little gem slides into the Top 25 lakes of the Southeast Division. We simply can’t ignore a body of water that consistently requires well over 20 pounds to win … every event. An early March CATT event was won with 23.32 pounds (7.22-pound big bass). A mid-March event was won with 23.36 (there was a tie for big bass at 5.72 pounds). And an April event was won with 21.08 (5.74 was big fish). Plus, anglers get the bonus of landing giant spotted bass … 4- and 5-pounders are not uncommon here.
13. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida
[22,700 acres]
While many of the tried-and-true lakes in this state are cyclical based on water levels, presence of grass or fishing pressure, this stalwart fishery remains Steady Eddy. And by steady, we mean steadily kicking out monster limits and double-digit largemouth. An American Bass Anglers event held here in April was won with a two-day total of 58.97 pounds, which included an 8.02 kicker. The big-bass award went to an 11.17-pound tank. According to the Florida TrophyCatch program, only 12 fish over 8 pounds have been registered from here this year. There’s little doubt a ton more have been caught.
14. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida
[37,500 acres]
There’s something special about the Florida/Georgia line, and it has nothing to do with country music. This historic fishery has been the star of the border since it was impounded in the early ’50s. An American Bass Anglers event held in March took right at 20 pounds to win. A 6.58 took home the lunker award. An April Florida B.A.S.S. Nation event was even more impressive, as it took 23.86 to hoist the winner’s trophy, and a 7.69 largemouth was big bass. This body of water is old, but she still shines.
15. Kentucky Lake, Tennessee/Kentucky
[160,300 acres]
She’s baaaaack! It’s been a minute since this behemoth on the Tennessee River made the rankings. Asian carp did quite a number on this lake, negatively affecting the bass fishing. However, that issue is now under control and the bass are responding, putting Kentucky Lake back on the pedestal where she traditionally sat as one of the best bass fisheries in the nation. A March event here included four limits over 20 pounds, the biggest weighing 24-2. Big bass of that derby was 7-13. A Bassmaster College Series event held in April was won with an average of 21 pounds per day. And, although most events are won with largemouth, there is a nice population of smallies here, as well.
16. Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee/Kentucky
[27,700 acres]
This historic fishery (the world-record smallmouth was caught here) has become a gold standard in the Volunteer State the past three years. After not making the rankings for nearly half a decade, this fishery has been climbing toward the top since 2022 on the strength of its largemouth population. Sure, smallies still swim here with reckless abandon and are big, but the green fish are winning big-bass checks. A March tournament took 22-12 to win, but the top nine anglers all had over 20 pounds.
17. Lake Istokpoga, Florida
[26,762 acres]
Another historic Florida big-fish factory, Istokpoga has tallied more than 630 fish over 8 pounds since the start of the Florida TrophyCatch program. Just this year, 21 bass made the cut. It seems you want to plan your vacation here in February, as eight of the trophies were landed that month, including the biggest all year, an 11-11.
18. Wheeler Lake, Alabama
[67,100 acres]
Perhaps because this lake plays third fiddle to Guntersville and Pickwick, its sister lakes on the Tennessee River, it remains a shadowed star. Anglers certainly should not ignore it, though, because the fishing here seems to get more attention each year (perhaps as more tournament organizations realize how good it is). Take, for example, a late April event held here, during the postspawn. The winning weight was 24.28 pounds, with everyone in the Top 5 weighing in more than 19 pounds. This is not the place to find a personal best, as a 5.65 took big-fish honors. However, if you want to avoid traffic jams at boat ramps and average 4-pounders, this is a great bet.
19. High Rock Lake, North Carolina
[15,180 acres]
When you ask this state’s wildlife agency to list the best bass fisheries in their care, this one is named just behind Jordan Lake. Now, don’t expect to catch your personal best here … or even your biggest limit to date. This lake is not about trophies as much as it is about getting bit by bigger-than-average fish. You will not get skunked here. Most events are won with a limit in the low 20s. For example, a recent CATT event took 22.05 for the top honors. But, you weren’t in the Top 10 if you didn’t have more than 15 pounds. The biologists in North Carolina put a premium on abundance of fish and overall health of the fishery … and this lake is as healthy as they come.
20. Clarks Hill Reservoir, Georgia/South Carolina
[71,000 acres]
It has been a minute since this border fishery has cracked the Top 100 rankings (2019). However, the old girl is back! The Clarks Hill Classic held this past April required about 21 pounds per day to hoist the champion’s trophy. The big fish of that event cracked the 7-pound mark. Equally as impressive, the top 46 anglers weighed limits both days of the event. So, lots of fish to chase around here, with the potential of a dandy.
21. Douglas Reservoir, Tennessee
[30,600 acres]
When we polled this state’s fisheries biologists as to the best bass fishing lakes in their state, this fishery was their top choice. That’s interesting, because they have some incredible bass fisheries … and because Douglas didn’t make the rankings last year. That said, research shows this fishery is certainly holding its own. In an April event, 20.43 pounds took the top spot … but the next five highest weights were all in the 16-pound range. Big fish of the derby was a tad over 5 pounds. Expectations when visiting this fishery should be a 3.5-pound average bass, but there are a ton of these better-than-average fish swimming around.
22. Lake Hartwell, South Carolina/Georgia
[56,000 acres]
Although this is a border lake, you’ll want to launch out of Anderson, S.C. This is the facility used by Bassmaster Classic anglers during the Greenville Classics, and it is world class. The fishing is pretty dandy, as well. A February South Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation event held here is typical of what you can expect. Almost all the anglers had limits (tons of bass in this lake are in the 3-pound range) and the winner had about 17 pounds, including a 6-pounder that won big-fish honors.
23. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
[36,240 acres]
This may be the most frustrating lake to fish within these rankings. When it’s good, it’s sooooo good. During an April event held here, a 29-7 limit was weighed. However, the median weight of a March event held here was just 11 pounds. So, know that when you launch on this Tennessee River impoundment, you will likely be a hero or a zero … there are very few opportunities in between.
24. Bogue Homa Lake, Mississippi
[882 acres]
In a state known more for its incredible crappie fishing, this lake stands out for the finned opponent we prefer. A perfect option for kayakers or anglers with small boats, Bogue Homa is remote and very fishable with smaller craft. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality of fish. The lake-record largemouth is 13.6 pounds. A Fishers of Men event held here in March took 20.69 pounds to win, which included a 5.63 big bass. And, if you are interested in testing the crappie, they grow to almost 3 pounds here.
25. Lake Russell, Georgia/South Carolina
[26,650 acres]
This little gem has been overlooked for too long, perhaps because it is sandwiched between Clarks Hill and Lake Hartwell on the Savannah River. However, if you ask the state fisheries biologists which lake is the healthiest of the three, their vote is little Lake Russell. Research supports this opinion. In a 40-boat Fishers of Men derby held in March, 100% of the field weighed in a limit, and 11 teams weighed in at least one bass over 4 pounds, with the biggest being a 6-pounder. Events here are typically won with 18 pounds. And perhaps the best news: You don’t have to worry about crowds.