One of my favorite parts of being a professional angler is traveling and camping with my family. When touring with the Bassmaster Elite Series, our home away from home is a fifth-wheel. Over the last few years we have experienced some of our most cherished family memories at beautiful campgrounds on some of this country’s best lakes. With that in mind, I thought I’d enter the Bassmaster.com blogosphere with our family’s five favorite destinations for camping and fishing for those who are looking to get outdoors with their family and friends.
Staying at Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama is always at the top of our list. The spacious campground, which has recently been renovated, sits right on the water.
My favorite time to go to Guntersville is in April and May because the bass are willing to accommodate just about anyway you want to fish: lipless rattlers, ChatterBaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits – you name it, they’ll bite it.
Also at that time, some of the best fishing can be had right there around the State Park. You can put a boat, canoe or even a kayak in and just start fishing right there. Our girls have even done pretty well fishing right off the bank at the park.
Our favorite part about Guntersville State Park, though, is the deer. They are like pets. Every evening they come out to greet the campers to see if they can get a free snack.
Guntersville State Park in April or May is definitely the complete package for a rich camping and fishing experience.
The funny part about Douglas Lake is we live right down the road from it, and we still love going there to camp. Anchor Down RV Resort is by far one of the most amazing campgrounds on the planet. The RV sites are lavish by campground standards. Each one features a stamped-concrete pad for the camper and a huge stand-alone outdoor fireplace for roasting marshmallows and telling stories. And to top it off, the view from the campground overlooking the lake is gorgeous.
July and August are great times for Douglas. The water in the lake is cool, clear and perfect for swimming. The bream fishing is also terrific, so it’s a great place to take kids to catch a mess of bluegills. If you want to bass fish, go at night – Douglas has some great bass fishing after hours. Texas rigged worms and spinnerbaits are the ticket for night fishing. And speaking of night, the night sky at Douglas is pretty remarkable, too – stars galore.
Anchor Down in Dandridge, Tenn., on Douglas Lake – I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong there.
Kentucky Lake is a wonderful place to camp and fish because it’s so vast and there are campgrounds strewn up one side of the lake and down the other. We have never camped on the Land Between the Lakes side of Kentucky Lake, but that is one beautiful place. We have stayed at Kentucky Dam Marina on the North end of the lake and the KOA in Paris, Tenn., and both are pretty nice.
Anytime from April through October is fair game for Kentucky Lake. There are so many types of fish to catch there – sauger, bream, crappie and of course, bass. Because so many tournaments are won on ledges on Kentucky, everybody thinks that’s the only place the bass live, but it’s simply not true. The shallows are loaded with bass that never get fished for. They’re mostly going to run 1 to 3 pounds, and you can catch them until you are tired of reeling them in. Camping and fishing at Kentucky Lake never disappoints.
If you are into the camping and fishing lifestyle, put Lake Champlain on your bucket list for sure. This is one of the most gorgeous and prolific fisheries in the country. The best time to go is August and even into September where you might get a peek at some of the leaves changing. There is something about that cool, crisp air spilling out of Canada that is so refreshing. I have stayed at Apple Island Resort and Campground on the Vermont side and Plattsburgh RV Park on the New York side, and I like them both.
Champlain fishing is phenomenal because the bass don’t get a lot of pressure, and they’ll bite literally anything that moves. If you want to catch smallmouths, it’s hard to go wrong with jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, tubes and topwaters. If you would rather catch largemouths, tow your boat down to Ticonderoga and do a little flipping and frogging in the thick, matted grass. Either way, Champlain is a blast.
Lake Toho in Central Florida is our pick to get out of the winter weather anytime from November to March. When we visit Lake Toho, we stay at Richardson’s Fish Camp. Now I’m going to warn you, Richardson’s is a bit more rustic than some of the other places I’ve mentioned, but you can’t beat the location on Toho. Plus, it’s a nice, quiet safe haven from the rest of the hustle and bustle of the Kissimmee/Orlando area. Disney World is about 25 minutes away so you can take the kids to see the big mouse and then return to the campground to fall asleep to hooting owls and croaking bullfrogs. Also, Richardson’s offers airboat rides for a look at some of the lake’s biggest gators.
As for the fishing, there is something magical about fishing on Toho in short sleeves when the rest of the country is in a deep freeze. The bass bite on Toho is so good in November and December. In my opinion, Toho offers the best chance at catching a true giant Florida bass. In fact, my three biggest bass all came from Toho.
Richardson’s Campground and Lake Toho offers the complete Florida experience.