Looking to catch a largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in a single day? Well, look no further. Here are the 10 best Grand Slam fisheries in the nation.
Turkey hunters have to spend several days traveling across the country to harvest every species of turkey to complete a Grand Slam. However, bass anglers can achieve a similar slam by merely fishing one day on a lake loaded with multiple species of black bass.
Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass coexist in several reservoirs throughout the nation to provide bassmasters with the opportunity to catch a Grand Slam in a single day. Bassmaster Magazine recommends the following lakes from coast to coast for the best chance to score a slam in one day of fishing.
Center Hill Lake, Tennessee
Guide Jim Duckworth pursues his trifecta of spotted, smallmouth and largemouth bass every time he takes out clients at Center Hill. “The lake has all the types of cover that those three species like and the forage base for all three species,” Duckworth said.
The prime months to score a Center Hill slam are April and May, when all three species will be in various stages of the spawn. Duckworth suggests working Bandit 200 crankbaits (root beer hue) from the bank to 10 feet deep along spawning flats during April. “In May you want to throw a Zara Spook, especially if you are looking for that big fish.”
Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee
The Mississippi state record smallmouth, weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces, hails from this tristate lake on the TVA chain. The lake is renowned as a trophy smallmouth fishery but is also filled with quality largemouth and increasing numbers of spotted bass.
Guide Jimmy Mason picks March as the prime month to catch a Grand Slam 5-pounder of all three species in the same day. A 5-inch Yum Money Minnow on a 1/2-ounce swimbait jighead is Mason’s choice for targeting Grand Slam 5-pounders. “If I had to pick one bait to fish year-round for all of the species, it would be a 3/4-ounce Booyah Pigskin Football Jig with a Yum Mighty Craw trailer,” he said.
Lake Jocassee, South Carolina
This deep, clear reservoir fed by Appalachian Mountains rivers holds state records for spotted bass (8 pounds, 5 ounces) and smallmouth bass (9-1) and a probable world record redeye bass (5 pounds, 2.5 ounces). Former guide and TV fishing show host Monty McGuffin notes the lake also yields quality largemouth ranging from 3 to 10 pounds. He rates winter and spring as the prime seasons to catch a slam. Working drop shot rigs, shaky heads or jigging spoons through shad balls 40 to 100 feet deep tricks wintertime smallmouth, spotted and largemouth bass. McGuffin’s favorite slam tactic is to throw a Zara Spook around shallow timber during the blueback herring spawn in May.
Lake Cumberland, Kentucky
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bradley Roy grew up fishing this highland reservoir fed by the Cumberland River. The lake contains large creeks and numerous pockets for largemouth habitat and deep-water havens for smallmouth and spotted bass.
“It is not uncommon to see a 5-pound largemouth and a 5-pound smallmouth caught there, and if you catch a 2 1/2- to 3-pound spot, you have really caught a good one,” Roy said.
The Kentucky pro suggests fishing Cumberland in March for a Grand Slam. “I have caught 16- to 18-pound limits with a combination of spots, smallmouth and largemouth, all on jerkbaits.” He also recommends trying finesse jigs and crawfish crankbaits in the spring to catch all three species.
Fontana Lake, North Carolina
This remote reservoir forms part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s southern border and the northern border of part of the Nantahala National Forest, so it has only a few roads leading to the lake.
“It’s not easy to get there from anywhere, so it receives extremely low fishing pressure,” said Jason Chambers, who owns a houseboat on Fontana and frequently fishes the lake.
Chambers has noticed a shift in the bass population in the last five years. “It was dominated by numbers of smallmouth and quality largemouth, but the spots have almost taken over the lake.” Fishing a finesse jig in the shallows during March, April, October and November is the best way to complete a Fontana slam.
Lake Berryessa, California
Former Bassmaster Elite Series competitor Vince Hurtado says the abundant forage in this impoundment makes Berryessa a premium Grand Slam lake.
“It has always been a healthy lake, and because of that the bass feed and grow there very well,” Hurtado said. The California angler opts for January and February as the best months to catch a Berryessa slam with jigs or suspending jerkbaits.
Melvern Lake, Kansas
This flatland reservoir offers bass anglers of the Western Plains their best shot at catching a Grand Slam. “It has a good population of all three [bass] species,” said Joel Porter, Kansas B.A.S.S. Nation tournament director. “It is not a trophy fish lake, though — just a numbers lake.” Melvern has always contained largemouth and spots, but smallmouth were stocked in the lake in 1994. A zebra mussel infestation has cleared up the once-turbid lake, resulting in a smallmouth bass population explosion. Porter lists topwater plugs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits as the best lures to try for a Melvern slam from mid-April to early June.
Lake Texoma, Oklahoma/Texas
Bassmaster Opens competitor Andrew Upshaw has noticed that the size of all three bass species in Texoma has dramatically increased recently. “On the same day you can possibly catch a 5-pound-plus largemouth, a 4-plus smallmouth and a 3-plus spotted bass,” Upshaw said. “Texoma is a great lake for all three species because one end is really clear and has a lot of rock, so it is really conducive for smallmouth and spotted bass, and farther uplake it muddies up with a lot more shallow wood and rock for largemouth.” The Oklahoma angler rates April as the best month to catch a Grand Slam with a Rat-L-Trap Echo 1.75 square bill crankbait or a shaky head with a Gene Larew Tattle Tail worm.
Table Rock Lake, Missouri/Arkansas
The Missouri record spotted bass weighing 7-8 and Missouri record hybrid black bass (a cross between a smallmouth and spotted bass) of 5-10 came from this Ozark highland impoundment on the White River chain. “Table Rock just is a very diverse fishery, from the major creeks that have off-colored water [for largemouth] to the deep, submerged trees in the clearer lower end of the lake [for spots and smallmouth],” said Elite Series pro Brian Snowden, who guides here during the offseason. The Missouri pro favors throwing a suspending jerkbait in late March and early April to catch quantity and quality of all three bass species.
Bull Shoals, Arkansas/Missouri
This Ozark highland reservoir has produced a Grand Slam of state records: an Arkansas state record smallmouth at 7-5, Arkansas record spotted bass at 7-15 and Missouri largemouth record at 13-14. The lake’s diverse habitat makes it an ideal fishery for all three bass species. “It has a lot of creeks with off-colored water and laydowns and stuff like that for largemouth,” said Snowden, who started his career fishing tournaments at Bull Shoals and Table Rock Lake. “It also has a lot of main-lake gravel and rock changes for the smallmouth and spotted bass.” Throwing a natural green Wiggle Wart crankbait in April is the best bet for a Bull Shoals Grand Slam.
Other Bass For A B.A.S.S. Slam
Bassmasters with some vacation time can pursue the ultimate challenge of catching every species of black bass to complete a B.A.S.S. Slam.
Many fisheries throughout the country offer anglers a chance to catch the three most common species of black bass (Northern-strain largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass), but the remaining five members of the bass clan are limited to certain regions or climates. The following list includes the five remaining targets for a B.A.S.S. Slam and where to find each species.
• Florida largemouth: Of course Florida waters are the ultimate spots to catch this version of bass that grows larger than its Northern cousin. Florida-strain largemouth can also be found in states with temperate or warm climates, such as Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and California. But, a biologist would have to confirm it as a pure strain Florida bass.
• Shoal: This species is native to the subtropical waters of Florida and Georgia and is occasionally found in the rivers and streams of eastern Alabama. These bass are most common in the Apalachicola and Chipola rivers and can be found in the Chattahoochee River drainage, Flint River and Blackshear and West Point lakes.
• Redeye: A native bass to the Coosa River system of Georgia and Alabama, these fish are normally found in cool streams and rivers in the foothills of mountains. A separate species of redeye also exists in the Cahaba, Chattahoochee, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior river systems.
• Suwannee: This bass species is native to only the Suwannee and Ochlockonee drainages in Florida and Georgia. It has also been introduced to the Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, St. Marks, Aucilla and Wacissa and Wakulla systems of Florida and the Alapaha and Withlacoochee rivers of Florida and Georgia. These bass primarily inhabit shallow, rocky streams.
• Guadalupe: A rare species of bass endemic to Texas, this bass is restricted to creeks and rivers, including the Guadalupe River. Its main habitats are the San Marcos, Colorado, Llano and Guadalupe rivers, but some of these bass exist in Edward’s Plateau in central Texas and in runoff creeks, such as Barton and Onion, and the San Gabriel and Comal rivers.
Originally published in Bassmaster Magazine May 2016.