[27,690 acres] What more can be said about this slice of heaven some 65 miles east of Dallas? Those familiar with Fork know it sets the table for some of the biggest catches in the U.S. each year, but look what the Elites did in the April 2021 stop on this hallowed spot. Lee Livesay (112-5 over four days) joined the Century Club and Patrick Walters (102-5) accomplished the feat on Fork for the second consecutive year. A whopping 20 ShareLunkers were caught on Fork in the first four months of 2021, with a 15.27-pound giant hooked in March. Hungry for hogs? Fork is your dream come true.
Photo: Thomas Allen
2 / 26
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
[114,000 acres] This east Texas powerhouse was No. 1 on the Top 100 Lakes list in 2018, No. 3 in 2019 and it’s shown few signs of weakening. Rayburn produced 16 ShareLunkers in the first four months of 2021, with a pair of 13-pounders kicking the big-bass parade off in January. It took 70-11 to win a three-day pro tournament earlier this year, and winners of most one-day events held recently on the reservoir have demanded limits of 24, 28 and even 30 pounds to win. In April, an 11.29 largemouth won the Sealy Outdoors’ Big Bass Splash.
Photo: Garrick Dixon
3 / 26
3. O.H. Ivie, Texas
[20,000 acres] For one 10-day stretch in February 2021, O.H. Ivie might have been the best bass fishery in the world, producing six Legacy ShareLunkers weighing more than 13 pounds. Among them was a lake record of 16.40-pounds caught by Joe McKay, which was the 16th-biggest largemouth in Texas history and the biggest bass caught statewide in 22 years. That mule anchored an astonishing 60-pound stringer McKay and fishing partner Ben Milliken caught.
4 / 26
4. Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
[104,000 acres] This big body in Oklahoma has been a beast recently, with a Future Bass Team Trail event in April having four tandems crack the 20-pound mark, including the 25.56-pound winning weight anchored by a 7.44 kicker. A 7.36 was also caught that day. It took bags of 22 and 23 pounds to win earlier stops at Eufaula this year, too.
5 / 26
5. Caney Creek Reservoir, Louisiana
[5,000 acres] Six of the Top 10 largemouth in Louisiana history have come from this small reservoir near Ruston. At a tournament there in March, the winning weight for juniors was five bass for 16.61 pounds, while the high school competition featured a 23.58-pound bag. At the same event, Connor Nimrod and Jacob Andrews of the University of Louisiana-Monroe won a 36-team college tournament with a limit that weighed a whopping 29.88 pounds. An 11-pounder anchored the bag.
6 / 26
6. Toledo Bend, Texas/Louisiana
[185,000 acres] So good that both Louisiana and Texas lay claim to it, “The Bend” is plenty good enough to share. Consider some recent 10-bass winning weights from team tournaments on the reservoir straddling the Louisiana/Texas border and you decide — 43.92 pounds, 40.86 pounds, 42.64 pounds. Heck, a high school tournament held here in early May required nearly an 18-pound limit to win. The reservoir was named Bassmaster’s Best Bass Lake in 2015 and again in 2016. It may not be the best this year, but it’s not far behind.
7 / 26
7. West Okoboji Lake, Iowa
[3,847 acres] The water here is clear and cold and grows big bass, both largemouth and smallmouth. Perhaps because it is covered in ice four months out of the year, the fish see little pressure. It gets deep, 136 feet to be precise, but the shallow areas grow grass and ample docks are placed in the summer to give bass a place to relax. One of the first tournaments of 2021 after ice-out was won with an astounding 27-pound limit. Most derbies, however, require around 23 pounds to earn the first-place check.
8 / 26
8. Lake Ray Roberts, Texas
[29,350 acres] The site of the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk held in June, this fishery was more than primed for the world’s best anglers to compete. An April qualifier for the Basspro.com U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships produced a 22.64-pound winning limit and a 9.06 lunker that was tops in the tournament. Eight amateur tandems caught more than 18 pounds of bass that day.
9 / 26
9. Bull Shoals, Arkansas/Missouri
[45,000 acres] There’s no quick way to this Ozark Mountain fishery near the Arkansas/Missouri border, but smart anglers know it’s worth the trip. Fifteen of 25 teams entered in the Joe Bass Team Trail season finale in February caught limits, including the 19.03 that won. The big bass was a largemouth tipping the scales at 6.86 pounds. A month earlier, it took 20.43 pounds to win the January Joe Bass derby.
10 / 26
10. Table Rock Lake, Arkansas/Missouri
[43,100 acres] Table Rock is the fishery upon which bass fishing in the Show Me State is built. It took a 20-3 limit in a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event in late April to win here, and single catches on the Big Bass Tour have consistently been heavier than 5 pounds apiece. That’s the kind of mid-American consistency anglers everywhere love.
Photo: Steve Bowman
11 / 26
11. Mille Lacs, Minnesota
[132,516 acres] The second-largest inland lake in Minnesota, whose name means “Thousand Lakes,” was scheduled to be the first stop on the Minnesota Tournament Trail this year. Mille Lacs was No. 1 overall on the Top 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings in 2017, and the smallmouth factory has continued to produce bags in the 20- to 25-pound range in recent years. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources unveiled a management plan for the lake earlier this year, an effort it would undertake with eight Ojibwe bands that retain fishing rights on the massive lake. The plan, a first for Mille Lacs, was introduced for public review in March.
Photo: Seigo Saito
12 / 26
12. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
[54,000 acres] Another one of the “steady as she goes” fisheries, Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks gave up a 62-1 winning haul over three days in a pro event in March. That total included the second largest bass of the tournament, a 6-6 largemouth that was eclipsed in that derby only by a competitor’s 6-7 toad. A 122-boat Anglers in Action derby on May 8 required a 21.73-pound limit to clinch victory.
Photo: Seigo Saito
13 / 26
13. Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Oklahoma
[41,779 acres] This Oklahoma bassin’ giant has hosted two Bassmaster Classics (in 2013 and 2016), and it has the results to back up its reputation. A pro event in early April resulted in a 52-13 winning weight over three days. A recent Ozark Mountain Team Trail event at Grand was won with a 20.81-pound limit, and a 7.5-pound largemouth won Big Bass money. B.A.S.S. makes a routine stop at Grand on Oct. 21-23 when the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open takes a bow.
Photo: Gettys Brannon
14 / 26
14. Lake Conroe, Texas
[19,640 acres] Conroe isn’t a big lake, but what it lacks in sheer size it more than accounts for in the number of big bass it produces each year. Site of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic, Conroe has remained in the spotlight thanks to a baker’s dozen (13) ShareLunkers coming from the lake through May 10. The biggest of the year came in February, with a 14.25-pound, 25.25-inch-long Legacy bass landed by hometown angler Scott Stephens.
Photo: Seigo Saito
15 / 26
15. Falcon Lake, Texas
[87,000 to 115,400 acres, depending on elevation] The lake that produced the heaviest four-day total weight in B.A.S.S. history (Paul Elias, 20 bass, 132-8) retains its legendary status, though there really was nowhere to go but down a bit after record production like that. Only two ShareLunkers have been caught at Falcon in 2021, but it’s nothing to catch 8-pounders in all seasons here, which speaks to the lake’s continued star status. Reading the TPWD’s weekly fishing report on Falcon in 2021 is like the conduct appraisal on the best-behaved student in class: Good. Good. Good. Good. And … yep. Good.
Photo: Gary Tramontina
16 / 26
16. Mississippi River/La Crosse, Wisconsin
[200 miles long] Many people don’t associate the Mississippi River with Wisconsin, but the Mighty Mississippi is for Cheeseheads, too. A one-day Phoenix Bass Fishing League tourney was won recently with an 18-1 total, and three other anglers were within a pound of the victorious weight.
17 / 26
17. Leech Lake, Minnesota
[111,528 acres] Biologists with Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources point to Leech Lake as one that will turn on again in 2021. It surely did in 2020 when an Amateur Bass Tournament Series derby on Leech featured 37 teams and all but two caught five-bass limits. Even more impressive was that 17 of 35 teams caught more than 17 pounds in that September event.
18 / 26
18. Lake Erling, Arkansas
[7,100 acres] This little gem in southwest Arkansas was best in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Fishing Quality Indicators (FQI) overall from 2016 to 2020. It also had the third-highest average in weight (17.93 pounds) needed to win a one-day bass tournament in Arkansas, as well as average weight per bass caught (2.93 pounds). Erling is strong again in 2021, with the AGFC reporting a young angler catching a pair of lunkers — 10-4 and 11-5 — in early May on Texas-rigged soft plastics.
Photo: James Harris
19 / 26
19. Choke Canyon, Texas
[25,670 acres] To get an idea of how good a fishery Choke can be, consider that the guys making waves at O.H. Ivie in February went to Choke Canyon first, thinking it would be the best spot to catch big bass. The blizzard earlier this year threw Choke for a loop, but it’s rebounded nicely. Seven ShareLunkers have been caught in 2021, with three in March weighing double digits. One recent tournament of 50 anglers produced 45 limits.
20 / 26
20. Lake Texoma, Texas/Oklahoma
[89,000 acres] Not only is Texoma one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S, it’s also one of its most consistent bass fisheries. Texoma gets its name from its location on the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma, and it was the leadoff location for the Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Nation state qualifiers in 2021. It took a limit of 17 1/2 pounds to win the one-day event in March. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports Texoma has been on fire over the past month, as well.
21 / 26
21. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas
[64,902 acres] Felsenthal NWR is a wetlands complex in south-central Arkansas at the confluence of the Ouachita and Saline rivers. Felsenthal ranked second in 2020 in the state’s Tournament Information Program FQI, behind only Bull Shoals in the quality of competitive catches. It also had the second-highest average winning weight in one-day events (18.49 pounds) and the third-highest average weight per bass (2.31 pounds). The Arkansas B.A.S.S. Nation showed just how much faith it had in Felsenthal when it held its state championship there in 2020.
Photo: Mike Wintroath
22 / 26
22. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana
[25,400 acres] Another one of the border lakes that both Louisiana and Texas residents love to fish, Caddo is one of the more scenic spots in America, with soaring cypress trees, plenty of lush vegetation and dozens of fish species. Bass is king on the largest freshwater lake in the South, though, and recent catches indicate the usual number of sizable bites, climbing to more than 8 pounds in some cases.
23 / 26
23. Newton Lake, Illinois
[1,755 acres] This Illinois entry may not be widely known across the U.S. like some fisheries on our list, but Newton packs a punch in the Midwest. A U.S.A. Bassin Tournament Trail event in March flashed Newton’s potential, with the winning duo catching four bass for 16.82 pounds, including a 6.12 kicker. A U.S. Angler’s Choice derby also in March was won with four bass for 16.74 pounds.
24 / 26
24. Grand Bayou Reservoir, Louisiana
[2,700 acres] This small lake is a hot spot in bass-crazy northwest Louisiana. Grand Bayou hosts regular tournaments that, though on the smaller side, produce some hefty results. Recent winning weights on the reservoir include 15.23 pounds with a 6.02 largemouth. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries completed a drawdown of the reservoir from October 2020 until late January to control vegetation in the reservoir. Just before it did, a three-bass, 20.20-pound sack was caught there, including 9.1- and 8.3-pounders.
Photo: Jason Adams
25 / 26
25. Norfork Lake, Arkansas
[22,000 acres] The 15.22-pound winning total caught in a benefit tournament on Norfork in April wasn’t especially impressive, but what did catch attention was that 37 of the Top 40 teams in the derby caught limits. Officials with the Lake Norfork Bass Fishing Club noted a 17.52-pound winning limit at a club event in March.