Best Bass Lakes

Top 10 Best Bass Lakes of 2022

All fisheries have peaks and valleys, dips and surges. Here, you will see the results  of recent data on the best fisheries in the country. 

All fisheries have peaks and valleys, dips and surges. Here, you will see the results  of recent data on the best fisheries in the country.  Yes, the rankings are in, and there are surprises in store
 
As projects for Bassmaster Magazine go, ranking the Top 100 lakes in the nation is by far our most ambitious. For over a decade now, we have sifted through the thousands of bass fisheries across the nation to bring to you the cream of the crop. We know most anglers have precious little time to pursue their favorite gamefish, so our goal is to point you to the most productive water near your home (or across the nation, if you are up for a road trip), so that your time is spent with rod bent.

This week, enjoy the Top 10 Best Bass Lakes, and in the coming weeks we will highlight each region of the country.
1. St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands) New York
To be completely transparent, this fishery was basically tied with St. Clair in the Northeastern Division up until the moment the Elite Series started weighing in fish this past July. After the ninth bag over 25 pounds hit the scales, eyebrows were raised. After all 90 anglers weighed in on Day 1 and the average limit checked in at 20.90 pounds, jaws hit the floor. To put an exclamation point on the abundance of big fish swimming here now, seven of the Top 10 anglers on the final day weighed more than 25 pounds, with Cory Johnston’s 28-8 bag leading the way. And it certainly didn’t hurt the case for St. Lawrence being the best lake in the country when two anglers (Jay Przekurat and Cory Johnston) topped the 100-pound mark with solely smallmouth, a first-ever feat for the Elite Series. 
2. O.H. Ive Lake, Texas
Oh my, O.H. Ivie! Seems like only last year (Hint: It was.) that Ivie crept into the national spotlight with a 10-day stretch in February that produced six Legacy ShareLunkers weighing more than 13 pounds and a five-bass stringer that totaled a mind-boggling 60 pounds. The central Texas reservoir hasn’t let up one bit since those eye-poppers, with 11 Legacy ShareLunkers reported through early May 2022, including beasts of 17.06 and 16.10 pounds caught within a week of one another in late February/early March. Two more ShareLunker Legends (13-pounders caught from April through December) came from Ivie this year, as well as 19 more Elite ShareLunkers (10 to 12.99 pounds) and nine more that weighed 8 to 9.99 pounds or measured 24 inches long. Make no mistake, the O.H. Ivie bass are proving things really are bigger in Texas. 
3. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
The record drought taking place in the West sadly continues to add to a long list of adverse impacts. From drinking water shortages to public health issues, the implications are far-reaching. The long-term consequences for bass anglers are unclear. In the short term, however, the resulting reduction in outflows through the California Delta’s myriad rivers, tule-lined sloughs and flooded islands are having a positive effect on the largemouth community. With the system’s already big fish getting even bigger thanks to increases in vegetation and prey, these tidal waters remain one of the best fisheries in the nation. It took five bass averaging almost 7 pounds apiece to win an early April Best Bass Tournament Trail event. Big fish at that one went 10.04. At the end of the month, at a two-day NewJen Bass contest, pros and amateurs weighed in 30 largemouth over 6 pounds. The winning pro locked up the victory by bringing 39.37 pounds to the scales on the second day of competition.
4. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
St. Clair almost edged out the St. Lawrence River as the top Northeastern fishery due, in part, to how it continues to produce trophy smallmouth throughout the season despite enormous fishing pressure. Of course, the St. Lawrence was not having any of that. Still, Tom Goniea, fishing tournament specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, collected data from 85 tournaments here in 2021 that averaged 36 anglers. Nearly 90% of the bass were smallmouth; the rest were largemouth. The average weight per bass was 3.13 pounds. The average big bass weighed 5.12 pounds, and 1,867 bass over 4 pounds were weighed in. An amateur team championship here in August 2021 yielded limits of more than 20 pounds for 45 of the 222 teams, with a winning weight of 24 pounds and a big bass of 6.15. 
5. 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.
6. Clear Lake, California
With more trophy largemouth weighed in here than at any other Western lake or reservoir, the Golden State’s largest natural body of water remains the ultimate big-bass factory. Clear Lake provides ample opportunities for not only the fish of a lifetime, but for limits of every angler’s dreams. It took an 8- to 10-pound bass to claim big-fish honors at 60% of the tournaments surveyed this year. That includes 47 bags over 20 pounds during a Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am in March. Big fish was a 10.88-pound bruiser.
7. Lake Fork, Texas
The top-ranked Central Division bass lake in 2021 falls to second-best this year, but it doesn’t fall far at all. The big-bass hot spot just east of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has produced the second-most ShareLunkers (14) in the state this year, including one that tipped the scales at 12.30 pounds. Everyone, from pros to weekend warriors, knows Lake Fork is one of America’s finest fisheries. B.A.S.S. knows Fork is where it’s at, too, with 2022 marking the fourth consecutive year the Elite Series paid a visit.
8. Lake Erie/Upper Niagara River, New York
 “Fast growth and good survival continue to produce relatively high angler catch rates and lots of opportunity to catch trophy-sized fish,” states New York’s Warmwater Fisheries Unit Leader Jeffrey Loukmas. New York’s “Lake Erie 2021 Annual Report” found catch-and-release angling has reduced the smallmouth harvest to only 1% of the overall catch. It typically takes well over 20 pounds to win a one-day, five-bass-limit tournament here. 
9. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
Don’t mess with Sam. Always among the nation’s best bass lakes (No. 1 in 2018 and No. 3 in 2019), Rayburn is enjoying a typical year in 2022, meaning it’s a bonanza compared to just about everywhere else. As of early May, eight ShareLunkers had come from the east Texas giant, including a 14.38-pound whopper largemouth hooked in early March. An 11.10 heavy won an angler $110,000 in cash and prizes at the Sealy Outdoors Big Bass Splash in late April.
10. 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 cypress trees standing sentinel throughout castable bass waters and world-class sunrises, this South Carolina jewel is a must-add atop your bucket list.