Ranking states

Did you know that the best city for being a witch is New York, closely followed by Los Angeles? I’m not sure what sort of data went into creating this list, but I do know I couldn’t care less. The most bicycle-friendly state is Massachusetts. And if you like a cold brewski, Seattle, Wash., is ranked No. 1 for beer lovers (this hits a little closer to home). If you are like me, you love a list, as long as it matters. So, this issue includes a list that matters more than anything else to B.A.S.S. members: our annual ranking of the best bass fisheries in the nation, which, as you will see (p. 16), not only has a new fishery topping the list, but also includes a ton of first-time lakes within the rankings. Like we have done for the past several years, we’ve ranked the Top 10 lakes in the nation, then broken down the Top 25 lakes for each region. What we have never done, however, is give an overall ranking of the best state for bass fishing based on the number and quality of lakes that made the rankings. So, allow me.

Traditionally, four states shine. California, Texas, Florida and New York always have at least five lakes in the Top 100. That is the case this year. California and Texas make sense, as they are the two largest states in the U.S. that have bass (Alaska, sadly, has none). Florida, of course, has more lakes than most states and seems to grow bass in every retention pond you pass on the highway. New York seems to be a surprise state, but it touches two Great Lakes, contains the Finger Lakes, plus features border fisheries that are perennial powerhouses.

This year, California has nine lakes on the list. However, when you look at the states it competes against in the West, most have very few bass fisheries, so the data is a bit slanted. That said, the Golden State is the first contender eliminated.

Of the top four states, New York has the fewest number of lakes making the rankings this year at six. Even though these six fisheries are world class and diverse, the southeast region of New York has few options for bass anglers. So, the Empire State receives the bronze medal (unless you happen to be a witch that fishes, at which point this is your huckleberry).

The battle between Florida and Texas is a fierce one. Both states put a great deal of resources and effort into their black bass programs. Texas was a pioneer on this front when it started its Toyota ShareLunker program in 1986. Since Mark Stevenson caught the very first ShareLunker entry, a 17.67-pound fish from Lake Fork, there have been 3,648 bass over 8 pounds verified through the program.

Florida saw the popularity and effectiveness of the ShareLunker program and kicked off its own version in 2013. Through the TrophyCatch program, anglers can win prizes by registering fish over 8 pounds. Through its search engine, it’s impossible to see the total number of bass that have been verified, but it is certainly in the thousands. Regardless, both of these programs are laser focused on providing bass anglers with immense opportunity.

This year, Florida has nine fisheries in the Top 100, three of which cracked the Top 10. These lakes can be found from the top of the state to the bottom, so you are never far from a great fishery. Still, by a razor-thin margin, the Sunshine State collects the silver medal.

Yes, Texas for the win. The Lone Star State features an astounding 10 lakes in the Top 100 this year, including the No. 1 lake in the country. Plus, there is a ranked fishery within an easy drive of most population centers. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department remains focused on creating the best bass fisheries in the nation. To Texas, your passion matters. As an aside, Texas also ranks as the No. 1 state for barbecue … and catching big bass can whet one’s appetite.