The results have been tabulated after several months of research and the 2015 rankings for the 100 Best Bass Lakes in America have been revealed. For the first time since the inaugural rankings in 2012 when Falcon Lake in Texas was No. 1, a southern fishery has claimed the title of best lake in the country. As you can see from the picture above, not only is it the best bass lake in the nation, it's also one of the most beautiful places to see a sunrise.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
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The rankings were created by first polling the fishery agencies of each state to produce a current list of bass-rich waters. Next, the B.A.S.S. Nation was employed to chime in on the best fisheries they compete on across the country. All 630,000 B.A.S.S. Facebook fans were polled to make sure non-tournament lakes were considered, and then the B.A.S.S. Council, a 3,500-member panel of super-avid bass fishermen, helped put the lakes in order. Finally, after scouring tournament data from hundreds of bass fishing clubs and tournament organizers, the rankings were finalized by a 15-member blue-ribbon panel from the fishing industry.
Photo: James Overstreet
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You can read more about the list and how it was created here. Without further delay, here are Bassmaster's 100 Best Bass Lakes of 2015.
Welcome to the biggest lake this state has to offer! Its crystal-clear waters and lack of vegetation stupefy many bass anglers. But, if you are OK with light line, finesse tactics and a bunch of smallmouth, you’ll like it here.
Walleye is the species of choice on this fishery. Bass anglers should be happy with that, because the impressive largemouth population is hardly targeted. Youth events are being won here with more than 15 pounds.
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Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A 260,000 acres, but only 30 percent is fishable
If chucking a square bill at cypress trees gets you going, this is the destination for you. This is the largest wetlands/swamp in the U.S. You’ll likely only catch 15 pounds a day, but you are also likely to catch that weight just about every time you come here.
This lake really showed out during a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open in March. It took 55.14 for Gene Bishop to win the three-day tournament, which included a 26.1 bag. This lake is old but is showing signs of new life and a bright future.
Although this is one of the oldest man-made lakes in the state, it doesn’t get as much attention as some of the bigger reservoirs. That said, it seems to be outperforming its bigger brothers so far this year. A Carolinas Bass Challenge on March 7 took 25 pounds to win. There were 18 other limits weighed in over 20 pounds.
Surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, this lake boasts the most beautiful country in the Tennessee River watershed — which is saying something. What also says something is the 21.90 pounds it took to win a team tourney here on April 25. Beautiful and bassy? Sounds like the perfect combination.
The dam cracked on this Kentucky fishery in 2011, but now it’s back to full pool, and it seems to be brimming with bass. One gander at the Lake Cumberland Bass Club Facebook page shows that winning weights this year hover around 20 pounds. An April event here took 24.60 to win.
Aaron Martens says this is one of the best spotted bass lakes in the country right now. A May FLW event proves him accurate, as it took 18-5 to win the one-day event, with 10 limits exceeding 15 pounds.
Most fish this lake for trout. Those coldwater fish may be the reason the largemouth here get so big. You won’t catch the numbers here that you do from the bigger lakes, but you are likely to catch a Maine trophy from this fishery.
This Cumberland River reservoir has seen its ups and downs. Like at some other venerable fisheries on this list, anglers are seeing an upswing in production this year. The Old Hickory Bass Anglers Club had a March 14 event that took 22.91 pounds to win.
The spotted bass on this fishery are legendary, because there seem to be a billion of them. Now, though, they are big. An FLW event was won with 19-7 this past March, and several other events have taken more than 18 pounds to earn the first-place prize.
Based on the recent tournament results from this Ouachita River impoundment, it should be ranked higher — maybe much higher. A late-January Arkansas Bass Team Trail event took 22.6 to win here, with 19 other anglers weighing more than 15 pounds each. That said, our panelists from the Natural State want to see this type of result consistently before getting too excited.
This year’s Bassmaster Classic venue illustrated just how good this lake can be even under the toughest of conditions. Casey Ashley won on the strength of his final-day 20.3 limit, giving him 50.1 over three days. And remember, this was in brutally cold conditions. The spotted bass here have all grown up, and 3-pounders abound.
This little impoundment was built to cool a nuclear power plant and was closed for several years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It reopened to the public several years back, and bass anglers across the Lone Star State celebrated. A Bud Light Trail event held on Jan. 18 was won with 25.90 pounds.
If you are looking for a trophy Florida-strain largemouth, this lake is your second-best bet in the state. Looking at the TrophyCatch submissions, there were 60 fish over 8 pounds landed here this year (through May 15), with the biggest topping out at 12.5.
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Noxon Rapids Reservoir
Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A 30 miles long, 2 miles wide
There is little doubt this is the best lake in the state. But, why would that make it good enough to be one of the best 100 in the country? A new record largemouth was caught this year (8.8 pounds), and very few times will less than 15 pounds win a derby here.
This little canyon lake formed by the Salt River reappears in the rankings this year. During a March B.A.S.S. Nation event, 21.87 pounds took top honors, although 15-pound limits are more the norm. The scenery here is breathtaking, though — an oasis in the desert.
Photo: Bernard Gagnon
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Stonewall Jackson Lake
Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: #68 | 2012: N/A 2,630 acres
Until last year, this was a catch-and-release-only lake. Now, though, the lake has become overrun with spotted bass, which negatively affect the trophy potential of largemouth, which are the priority here. Too many spotted bass, plus trophy largemouth? Sounds like an awesome fishing trip, eh?
We’d like to welcome back to the rankings the lake that produced the current world record smallmouth (David Hayes, 11.93 pounds)! This lake has cycles of good and average fishing, and it seems we are now on an upswing. The Dale Hollow Bass Classic was held May 14 and was won with 23.65 pounds.
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Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A 30-mile stretch below Lake Moultrie dam
There is not a ton of data on this little stretch of river that widens into an estuary of the Charleston Harbor. That said, B.A.S.S. Nation angler Brian Tyler weighed in a five-fish limit of 42.3 pounds on March 14. His big fish was 10.87 pounds. Several other limits in the 25-pound range were also brought to the scales. Seems like the South Carolina natives are keeping a very big bass fishing secret from the rest of us!
Photo: Wikipedia user Spiderman (Frank)
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #86 | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A 13,156 acres
According to the New York fisheries folks, this may be one of the healthiest lakes in the state. Both largemouth and smallmouth thrive here, and anglers can focus on shallow grass or deep structure to catch them. Don’t expect the fish of a lifetime from this fishery; instead, expect a whole bunch of fish in the 2- to 3-pound range.
The state fisheries folks here say that largemouth populations are way up and the smallmouth here are “abundant.” If you simply want your string stretched, go for the smallies, which will be on the small side (less than 18 inches). For the big bite, head to the shallows and target the larger green cousins.
Photo: Wikipedia user Jake DeGroot
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #25 | 2013: #79 | 2012: #47 125-mile stretch from Shreveport to Alexandria
Bass fishing beauty is in the eye of the angler, and if stained water and backwater stumpfields trip your trigger, this is a Louisiana masterpiece. A late-April team trail event was won here with 18.24, and an FLW event held a week later took 18-10 to win.
Photo: Shaye Baker
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #40 | 2013: #49 | 2012: #43 20 miles long, 9 miles wide
This lake is cool. It was formed by glaciers and features 258 islands. To say it is a pretty place to fish is a miserable understatement. Anglers plying these waters will catch both smallmouth and largemouth bass. Average fish will be in the 2-pound range, but there are piles of them.
This little Okie lake carries a big punch. Although there have been limits over 40 pounds weighed in the past several years, the big fish have eluded anglers thus far. That said, it still took 19.54 pounds to win a recent team tourney — and the big ones still live here.
Yes, a 9.72-pound smallmouth was caught here in 2006 that broke the Idaho state record. And yes, the Dwor can shut down on you in a hurry, as it’s a fickle beast. But this is the lake where the next Idaho smallmouth record will be caught. Just hope you are the one setting the hook.
This is a bass lake that turned into a striper lake that is now becoming a great bass lake again. A JC Outdoors team event held here in the spring took 19.34 pounds to win. The cool part: A 5.8-pound largemouth and a 4.66-pound smallmouth were weighed in for big fish.
When you catch 23.51 pounds of bass on any Arkansas fishery, you expect to win. Not here. That was just shy of the 23.72 it took to win a Bud Light Team event here in April. If you are looking for trophy bass in this state, this lake’s for you.
This pristine little drinking water lake is cuddled by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in northern California. You’ll not see swimmers, skiers or Jet Skis here; human body contact with the water is forbidden. What you will see are giant largemouth and smallmouth, both of which eat trout that have been stocked in the lake. A 9-13 smallie was landed here in 2007.
Attention small-boat crowd: This one’s for you! There is a 25-horsepower limit on boats here, and an 18-inch limit on bass. Twenty-pound sacks are common, and the occasional 30-pound limit is not unusual. Some believe it’s the best lake in Illinois, if you are willing to downsize your boat to upsize your catch.
This monster bay of Lake Huron in eastern Michigan may be the sleeper of the state’s many incredible fisheries. Because there are so many options for smallmouth anglers, this very obvious body of water has been overlooked, and the brown bass have grown giant because of it.
A February UCO Bass Fishing Club event took 19.26 to win on this tiny reservoir in Seminole County. It has taken up to 35 pounds to win prespawn derbies here. And three-fish summer events oftentimes have 15-pound limits.
As its name implies, there is a lot of bird watching done here. Most of the feathered critters can be found on the lake’s 100 islands. It seems there are 37 different species of fish here, too. But bass anglers likely will only be concerned with one: smallmouth. You will catch a good number of 2- to 3-pounders with a 4 or 5 mixed in.
Like many small lakes in the Northeast, do not expect to catch monster bass here. But between each yodel of the nesting loons you will get bit and reel in a feisty smallmouth or big-headed green fish. Come here for lots of fish and to be surrounded by the glory of New Hampshire’s wilderness.
The wildlife department for this state releases an annual report summarizing tournament data from each lake in the state. Although the 2014 report hadn’t been published as of this writing, the 2013 version ranks this lake in second place, above Grand Lake, for average first-place weight, average weight per bass and average number of bass weighed per angler. A July 2014 Future Bass Team Trail event here took 18.68 to win — and this was lower than normal.
This Shenango River impoundment has become a favorite for bass anglers near the Pennsylvania and Ohio border. You aren’t likely to catch a double-digit bass here, but 15 pounds for five fish is usually an easy chore. A Keystone Buddy Circuit event held here May 2 took 18.84 to win.
This is a hot lake — literally. It was built as a cooling pond for an electrical generation plant. Winter fishing here is off-the-hook good. A small South Houston Bass Club tournament held in February was won with 20-10, and the Top 5 of a tiny field had more than 15 pounds each.
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Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: #98 | 2012: N/A 38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide
This is the longest of New York’s famed Finger Lakes. It’s also the best for targeting trophy largemouth. Ask Greg Hackney how good it can be; he won the 2014 Elite Series event here with a four-day total of 85 pounds.
Although the Bassmaster Classic has not visited this lake since 1998 (the world championship was held here in 1994 and 1995, as well), local anglers know it is still a world-class fishery. During an Angler’s Choice Team Tournament held here on March 21, it took 25.10 to win. Perhaps more impressive, though, was the fact that the average bass in that event weighed 3.19 pounds.
The 2015 IBM Open held here in late March showed very impressive smallmouth — both numbers and size. The winner caught 28.63 pounds, and the big fish was 6.85 pounds (yes, this was a smallie). And when you get weary of fighting smallmouth, head to the shallow weeds for a little green fish action.
Photo: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives
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Bays de Noc
Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A Escanaba to Little Summer Island
Because walleye is the target species for this portion of Lake Michigan, the bass fishing is underestimated and largely under-fished in these two bays. Although 90 percent of the bass here are of the smallmouth variety, largemouth can be caught. Scads of 2- to 4-pound smallmouth are ripe for the catching, and the occasional 6-pounder will be had.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
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Upper Chesapeake Bay
Previous Rankings - 2014: #93 | 2013: #58 | 2012: N/A the entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top one-third
Just a few years ago, a nearly 30-pound limit was caught here in April. A June event last year showed that the health of the fishery is strong, with 22.80 taking first place. The average fish weighed in here is over 3 pounds now, which is impossible to ignore.
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St. Johns River
Previous Rankings - 2014: #48 | 2013: #14 | 2012: N/A 310 miles long
The stretch out of Palatka is always good, but sometimes it can be great. A May 3 Team Fishing Series here took 24.74 to win and didn’t include any big fish. So, unless you go during the spawn, expect good numbers of solid largemouth.
Photo: St. Johns
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Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: #37 | 2012: N/A 16 miles long
As of this writing, this spotted bass factory was at 61 percent of pool, which makes it one of the small California lakes that remains fishable. On Feb. 21, the new world record spotted bass was caught here by Lou Ferrante: a 10.95-pound behemoth. Some on the West Coast believe this lake is one of California’s best kept secrets — until now.
This Coosa River fishery makes a big jump in the rankings this year (from 99th in 2014). It has been less pressured as of late, and the tournament results are showing how this improves catch rates. An Airport Marine event in March took 23.18 to win, and eight other limits over 20 pounds were brought to the scales.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #14 | 2013: #21 | 2012: #20 15-mile stretch between the Dalles and Hood rivers
As big-river smallmouth haunts go, this is one of the best. That said, weights have been down for the past couple of years. Still, there are a lot of brown fish (and a handful of green ones, too) to be caught here. It can take as much as 20 pounds to win derbies here now, but usually 15 pounds does the trick. The bonus: Fishing within the Cascade mountain range is spectacular.
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Mississippi River Pools 4-10
Previous Rankings - 2014: #35 | 2013: #17 | 2012: N/A Hager City, Wis., to Harpers Ferry, Iowa
Yes, this is a pretty long stretch of the Ole Miss, but it’s impossible to declare which of these pools is the best at any given time, when all of them can be tremendous. Although it only took 17-14 to win an April team tourney here, all but four teams weighed in a five-fish limit. It’s chock-full of bass.
Drought has taken its toll on this Sacramento River fishery. As of this writing, it’s at 70 percent of capacity. That said, it is better off than many other lakes and still very fishable. Actually, the giant spotted bass here may be even easier to target. It took 21.98 to win this year’s Shasta Cascade Bass Anglers Spring Open.
This lake was a surprise. Of all the lakes in Texas, this one has the reputation for having the most non-fishing recreational traffic, which can be a nuisance for those fishing. Grass carp were introduced many years back and did too good a job. Now, though, the grass is coming back, and so are the bass. A Feb. 7 Bud Light Trail event was won with 22.39 pounds. Plus, one of just six Toyota ShareLunkers came from Conroe over the past 12 months: a 13.14 caught by David Perciful on April 7 of this year.
This Roanoke River impoundment is already good. It took 19-11 to win an FLW event here in March. But, anglers here are wanting to make it even better by stocking F1 hybrid largemouth in the lake. Once they take hold, expect to see a quick rise in the rankings.
There is something in the water of the Saluda River that is growing bass big these days in this fishery. Where it used to take about 20 pounds to win a derby here, it took 23.91 to win Carolina’s Bass Challenge this year. Eleven teams weighed bags over 20 pounds.
This little gem in the central part of the state was created just 11 years ago to satisfy water demands for nearby Greensboro. Anglers, however, are the ones with a thirst quenched — for big bass — when they cast into these waters. A March 21 Big Bass Splash derby held here saw 15 bass over 5 pounds weighed in within seven hours.
This giant lake has some bass almost equally as big. A May 25 team tournament was won with 25.16 pounds. You didn’t make the Top 5 if you didn’t have at least 20 pounds of smallies in your weigh-in bag.
The fishing on these twin lakes has been a little slower than in past years, but it is still taking 20 pounds to win spring events here. Once the water warms, the giant smallmouth that live here no doubt will wake up and illustrate why these lakes are two of the best in the area.
Although this White River impoundment has had better years (and rankings, reaching 18th in 2013), it remains a slice of bass fishing heaven. Smallmouth and largemouth ply these waters, and anglers are surrounded by the glory of the Ozark Mountains while casting for these fish. The Winter Bass-o-Thon was won with 17.34 pounds, and six anglers weighed in more than 15 pounds during the early March event.
The 2015 Potholes Open Bass Tournament this past April showed how good this reservoir remains. During the two-day derby, 1,068 bass were weighed in by 103 anglers. Largemouth reigned supreme, as 907 hit the scales vs. 161 smallies. The winning two-day weight was 47.21 pounds, and the Top 7 teams all averaged more than 20 pounds per day.
Just about any other lake in the country would be proud to be ranked 42nd, but this fishery isn’t one of them. In 2012, Falcon was the best lake in the country, bar none. It slipped to seventh in 2013, and then to 12th last year. Now, it seems it is a shadow of its former self. Still, a Feb. 21 Bass Champs event here took 26.12 to win. But, only 15 pounds was needed to be in the Top 16.
This Tennessee River impoundment can make you feel like a hero — or a zero. When it’s good here, very few lakes in the country can rival its big-fish potential. For example, a team event held here March 21 was won with 37.20 pounds! Second place was 29.95, and that team had to be mad. And then you have a weekend tourney on April 20 that took only 15-9 to win, with eighth place needing just 10 pounds. This is a fickle Chick; but if you catch her in a good mood, she will change your life.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #41 | 2013: #38 | 2012: #14 79.8 square miles
Although this historically awesome lake has not yet returned to its best form, it’s headed that way. Ice-out was a few days later this year than it was last, so bass fishing hadn’t really revved up as of this writing. That said, looking at summer through fall tournaments here last year, weights are climbing back to glory levels for this lake. A mid-July derby took 18.40 to win, and the Top 37 teams had more than 14 pounds. And remember, the smallmouth and largemouth get equal billing here; you can win with either species.
Sometimes you want to go out and catch a big bass; other times you just want to catch ’em until your arms fall off. Well, if you’re in the mood for the latter, this place will represent. During a 2014 tournament here, Aaron Martens reported 100-fish days. And the better news: You get to choose between largemouth and smallies.
When this lake opened in 1957, it was a bass haven. Things haven’t changed much. Some years have been better for the old girl than what anglers are experiencing now. However, a May BFL tournament required 15 pounds to be in the Top 10, and the winning limit was 23.72 pounds. The big ones are still here, and there may be no more storied bass fishery in the South. Plan a trip here, and you become part of that tradition.
This may be the most diverse lake on the West Coast, as far as anglers are concerned. You can catch trophy largemouth, spotted bass and smallmouth here. A California Tournament Trail Pro/Am in March proved just how fertile this lake is. One 31.24-pound limit was weighed in, and big bass was a 12.08 largemouth. Plus, you’re fishing in the heart of Napa Valley, so a celebratory glass of vino is easy to find after a grand day of fishing.
This Tennessee River fishery may be the best smallmouth lake in the South. That said, largemouth in the double-digits are caught, as well. A TBF event last March took 23.34 pounds to win. There were three limits over 20 pounds weighed in during the event.
Photo: George Green, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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Alexandria Chain of Lakes
Previous Rankings - 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A 417 acres to 2,520 acres, depending on the lake
This chain includes 11 small bodies of water that brim with bass. Don’t come here looking for a trophy. But, if you want a 50- to 60-fish day with bass ranging from 2 to 3 pounds, this is your spot. Oh, and it is not ugly!
This is currently the hottest lake in Arkansas. An Arkansas Bass Team Trail derby in late February was won with 22.5 pounds, and nine other anglers weighed in more than 15 pounds. The fertile Arkansas River is the lifeblood of this fishery, and it’s pumping strong right now.
This is considered not only the best bass lake in Maine, but also the best in the Northeast. Like some of the smaller lakes in the state, you’ll catch a ton of largemouth and smallmouth. What separates this lake from the others, though, is the trophy potential. A benefit derby for the Special Olympics on this lake usually takes 28 pounds (eight fish) to win. Recently, it’s been taking well over 30.
This Osage River impoundment has been called the “Magic Dragon” because of its serpentine shape. Anglers will call it that because the bass fishing has been on fire as of late. An April 12 Bass World tourney was won with 22.49 pounds. Plus, you might catch both largemouth and spotted bass — oftentimes on back-to-back casts.
This Trinity River impoundment is overshadowed by many of the Lone Star State’s better-known fisheries. That said, the production here is spectacular. One of the six ShareLunkers for the 2014-2015 season came from here, a 15.18 landed this past March. A Texas Team Trail event here later the same month required 25.03 to win, with 10 teams bringing in more than 20 pounds. (Five fish over 8 pounds were weighed; a 10.64 took big fish honors.)
There is a battle to save this lake. If anglers need to be convinced it’s worth saving, they can simply look at the results of the 19th annual Save Rodman Open Bass Tournament, held this past April. It took 28.31 pounds to win, and 24 anglers weighed in more than 15 pounds. Plus, Rodman has kicked out 26 Florida TrophyCatch fish this year, with an 11-6 taking top honors so far.
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Santee Cooper lakes (Marion and Moultrie)
Previous Rankings - 2014: #94 | 2013: #48 | 2012: N/A 110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively
When the fishing is good on these sister lakes, they rival the best in the country. An April 11 Carolina’s Bass Challenge event was won with 28.35 pounds. There were 24 limits over 20 pounds and 59 limits over 15 pounds. Big fish for the derby was an 11-pounder. Big fish live here; the trick is figuring them out when you arrive, which can prove difficult for the non-native.
Kevin VanDam says this is one of the finest smallmouth fisheries in the country. That is likely enough to earn this ranking. Although 2015 tourneys had not started in northern Michigan as of this writing, late 2014 events show that 20 pounds of smallmouth is easy to get here. You have to whittle through a ton of 2-pounders to make that mark, but that isn’t an intolerable situation for a bass angler.
This northwestern Louisiana lake bursts onto the rankings by way of a five-fish limit going 34.09 pounds that won a Bud Light Team Trail event here in the spring. The average bass in the derby weighed 3.69 pounds, and a 10.9 earned big-fish honors. Keep your eye on this unknown, bayou-fed waterway; it could become the best in Cajun country.
By mid-May, there had been 36 bass submitted through Florida’s TrophyCatch program from this lake this year. To qualify, a fish has to be over 8 pounds. The biggest reported from the Big O was a 12-9. Other lakes in the state have more impressive TrophyCatch numbers, and honestly, tournament results have not been impressive this year on Okeechobee. Out of four B.A.S.S. Nation qualifiers on the lake, the biggest limit weighed in was 33.06. The Big O is having a down year but is still capable of producing life-changing days on the lake.
This section of Lake Erie is still ignored by bass fishermen for some reason. The actual bay is a haven for largemouth, and just outside is a Great Lake full of trophy smallies. The Old Milwaukee Bass Slam event here last year saw trophy fish (over 5 pounds) of both varieties caught. And if the wind is blowing, making navigation on Erie impossible, anglers can still get their fill, and several limits of bass, within the confines of the protected area.
Not many anglers think of bass fishing when this state is mentioned. But, the fishermen of Connecticut have a very special place in their hearts for Candlewood. A May 17 B.A.S.S. Nation derby here was won with 18.39 pounds. Property owners on the lake complain about milfoil and eelgrass, but this vegetation is what keeps this lake tops in the state.
Although this lake may be best known for bikini-clad spring breakers, anglers will find the bass fishing here much more titillating. An Elite Series event here in May took almost 70 pounds to win, but the anglers hit immediate postspawn conditions. Winner Aaron Martens says weights likely would have been 10 pounds heavier had the tournament been earlier or later. Plus, both smallmouth and largemouth abound in the Evian-clear waters of this desert beauty.
This section of Lake Erie spits out 20-pound sacks of smallmouth like they were chewing tobacco. A Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open here in 2013 saw 31 such limits. And the fact that many competitors will run the Detroit River’s Miracle Mile from St. Clair for just a couple of hours of casting these waters puts an exclamation point on how big the bass grow here.
Also known as Walter F. George Lake, this border fishery is really shining right now. During an Alabama Bass Team trail event in April this year, it took 29.09 pounds to win, and 21.28 pounds to finish in the Top 10. Many referred to this lake as the “Bass Capital of the World” 30 years ago, and it looks as though it is again living up to the billing.
The ancient civilization of Mound Builders that lived on the shores of this lake were likely smallmouth anglers, and we will assume they were inspired by the many humps within the lake. Fishermen who angle these submerged mounds now are loading the boat. A late May tourney took 32-11 to win. The Top 5 anglers had more than 28 pounds!
Photo: Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #3 | 2013: #5 | 2012: #4 30-mile radius from Buffalo
It seemed ice would never melt from this section of the Great Lake this year. But, once it did, the smallmouth fishing heated up in a hurry. No tournament results are available yet, but a writer’s event here in May yielded scads of 4-pound-class fish, with a handful topping 5 pounds, and two exceeding 6. (Not bad for outdoor writers.)
If ever you wanted to fish the legendary smallmouth waters of Canada without having to actually go to Canada, this lake is your ticket. The water that separates Minnesota from our neighbors to the north is pristine and loaded with some of the world’s biggest smallmouth; 30-pound limits are not unusual. Want to catch the biggest smallie of your life? There are Canadian-accented whispers of 9-pounders coming from here.
Photo: Paul Stafford
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Grand Traverse Bay (Lake Michigan)
Previous Rankings - 2014: #9 | 2013: #29 | 2012: #34 32 miles long, 10 miles wide
This section of Lake Michigan may just harbor the biggest smallmouth in the Great Lakes. Tournament data here is mostly nonexistent, so we relied on Elite Series pros and area guides to rank this body of water. Almost all we talked to raved about the likelihood of catching a 7-pound brown bass. Epic days of smallmouth fishing have been had here — frequently. And with ice coming off late, these fish have had a long time to get dumb.
This is the crown jewel of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in central Florida, and it offers the best angling in the state right now. There have been at least 40 TrophyCatch submissions from here, with the biggest being a 12-2. Perhaps more interesting are the results from a March 3 FLW event, where 29-14 and 28-1 limits were weighed in on the same day.
This lake and giant largemouth are synonymous. There’s something about this stump-filled impoundment that grows giants. And like Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, it somehow holds up to tremendous pressure. You will likely be in line with another dozen boats in the best creek arms here, but you may just catch the biggest bass of your life on any cast. David Roulson did just that by landing the first Toyota ShareLunker of the 2014/2015 season (13.88 pounds).
Photo: James Hall
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #27 | 2013: #16 | 2012: #5 490 square miles
The smallmouth in this giant body of water are almost as big as Champ, the lake monster that supposedly lives here. It’s now taking 20 pounds of brown bass to win derbies here. That said, some anglers are starting to mix in some largemouth, which are thriving in the shallows of this beast.
No matter which tournament organization database you search, it’s easy to see why this lake remains one of the best in the country. Take an April tournament held by the Grand Lake Anglers for Christ as an example. It took 22.9 to win, and the Top 22 anglers had more than 15 pounds. The average bass weighed in this 65-boat derby was 3.27 pounds. It’s fitting that the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro will return to Grand Lake in March 2016.
There are lakes on this list that offer bigger fish potential to anglers than these sister lakes. There are lakes on this list that offer more fish per day. That said, these two connected bodies of water may be the most consistent producers of 5-pounders on the continent. Just look at the March 14-15 Big Bass Bash presented by Berkley. Of the 80 big-fish prizes given over three days, the smallest winning bass was a 4.51-pounder. There were 51 fish weighed in over 5 pounds, with an 8.58 being the biggest. And unlike on a lot of other lakes, you can have the best day of your fishing career here during every season.
An April 12 Panhandle Bass Anglers event on this lake was won with 27.29 pounds of largemouth. If you prefer the brown fish, it’s not unusual to catch a 20-pound sack of them; 23 pounds would be a great day. Not many lakes can boast largemouth and smallmouth of rival sizes. And the bonus: Catch ’em the way you want to catch ’em. This lake has it all: shallow cover, deep structure — it’s here. Plus, you are floating on the most scenic natural lake in the Spokane Valley.
When a 28.05-pound limit of smallmouth is weighed, anglers listen. This is what happened on this fishery during an event held May 16 this year. If you didn’t average 4 pounds per fish, you were not in the Top 12. In the Dakota language, Mille Lacs is known as “Spiritual/Mystic Lake.” Anglers agree with this title.
As goes the hitch (a native baitfish here), so goes the bass. And, luckily for anglers, the hitch have exploded this spring. Proof? A two-day event held in March was won with 62.74 pounds — and the winning angler didn’t catch the big fish (10.59 pounds). There were four 30-plus-pound limits and four bass over 10 pounds. The 15th-place angler weighed in almost 23 pounds a day — and didn’t earn a check.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River)
Previous Rankings - 2014: #11 | 2013: #13 | 2012: #53 50-mile stretch
A more picturesque fishing destination you will not find. It seems for each of the islands poking out of this section of the St. Lawrence River, a dozen 5-pound smallies exist. It took 50-10 to win a September 2014 BFL event here, and you had to average more than 18 pounds over the two days to be in the Top 10. And this is more than a trophy fishery, as you likely will be tired of setting the hook and fighting better-than-average brown bass at the end of a fishing day.
Photo: Gary Tramontina
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Green Bay (Lake Michigan)
Previous Rankings - 2014: #31 | 2013: #29 | 2012: #34 [up to Little Sturgeon Bay]
It seems the monsters of Sturgeon are drifting south, making the waters close to Packer Central even better. Anglers who catch less than 17 pounds dump their smallies back into the Great Lake and don’t weigh in, because winning weights will be in the low 20s, and half the field will have 17 pounds or better.
This lake defies logic. There may be more tournaments and more “educated” fishing pressure on this Tennessee River impoundment than on any other lake in the country, but it keeps producing. Know that when you go here, you’ll have plenty of company. A recent Elite Series event in April took 92-11 to win (Skeet Reese), and there were more than a dozen limits over the four-day derby that bested 24 pounds. From all the polling we did to compile this list, no other lake received as many divided opinions. Many believe the Big G is the best fishery in the country (on some days, it most definitely is); others believe it is over-pressured, and therefore, overrated. That said, you can’t deny the fertility of Lake Guntersville.
This is the largest lake located wholly in the state of Texas, where everything is big. What swims within the waters of the reservoir is pretty big, too. A May 3 Bud Light Trail event here took 29.3 pounds to win. Look back a little further to a BassChamps event on Jan. 17, and you find a first-place weight of 35.95, with a 9.78-pound largemouth earning big-fish honors. There may not be as many double-digit fish swimming here as in nearby Toledo Bend, but who can complain about a limit of 7-pounders?
Photo: Gary Tramontina
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Previous Rankings - 2014: #13 | 2013: #9 | 2012: #8 1,100 square miles
The entire West Coast fishing scene is under duress because of the ongoing drought there. Many lakes that would have traditionally been a shoo-in on this list didn’t make it because they are mostly empty. Yet, the Delta is less affected by the lack of rain and remains one of the best largemouth destinations in the country. Chris Zaldain recently weighed in five fish that went 30-7, one of which was a 12-pounder. You didn’t make the final cut in that tournament unless you had more than 54-7. And Justin Lucas won with 82-14, maintaining almost 20 pounds per day throughout the event.
After the 2013 rankings came out and this lake was ranked No. 1 in the nation, America’s anglers responded by flocking to it. Perhaps it was the added pressure (although some say the fish became ill), but its production really declined last year. Consequently, the lake fell to 16th. Now, though, the St. Clair of old is rearing her beautiful head. It is again taking 20 pounds of smallmouth to win, and you’ll catch scads of them just about any way you want to — unless, of course, you prefer to target the ever-growing largemouth population here. “There is no doubt this is the best lake in Michigan right now,” says Bassmaster Senior Writer Louie Stout. “And this is saying a lot, because there are some awesome lakes in this state.”
Photo: James Overstreet
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Sturgeon Bay (Lake Michigan)
Previous Rankings - 2014: #1 | 2013: N/A | 2012: N/A from Little Sturgeon Bay to Fish Creek
It was ranked No. 1 last year, and it’s hard to find a reason to drop this fishery even one place. But, its production so far this year is slower than last, mainly due to an extended winter and a late spring. That considered, the Cabela’s North American Bass Circuit hosted a May 10 event here, and the results were world class. Five fish weighing 26-9 won the derby, and you were not in the Top 28 if you didn’t have more than 20 pounds. Big fish for the event was a 6-9 smallmouth — and it hardly turned a head at the weigh-in.
There is a reason this renowned fishery has never ranked below No. 15 in Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes, and Elite Series pro Mark Davis probably puts it best: “There are fish in this lake that will be born and then die of old age and never see a lure. I guarantee it!” the Arkansas pro promises. Yes, this lake is a giant, but what keeps the bass fishing so strong here is the fact that almost every acre of it looks fishy — and many of these acres are not easy to access because of the tremendous amount of submerged timber that not only penetrates but hides just beneath the water’s surface.
Photo: Seigo Saito
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You can look back at recent tournament history and see that the lake is as healthy as any lake in the country. A Feb. 14 BassChamps team derby was won with 26.64 pounds. The Top 14 teams had over 20 pounds. Plus, the big bass of the day was an 11.39-pound monster.
But the real tale of the tape for the new best bass lake in America comes from the 2014-15 Toledo Bend Lake Association Lunker Bass Program data. This group gives a bass replica to any angler who brings a live bass over 10 pounds to an official weigh station on either the Texas or Louisiana side of the lake. Between May 18, 2014, and April 24, 2015, 79 bass in the double digits were certified. Yes, you read that correctly: 79. Although there were three different fish that topped the 12-pound mark, Brent Kegley’s 12.61, caught last November, earned the top spot.
“There’s not another lake in the nation kicking out 10-pounders like Toledo right now,” says bass fishing legend Harold Allen. “And it’s not like there’s just one hole holding big fish. You can anticipate a giant on any cast here — anywhere on the lake.”
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It is likely you have some different opinions about this list. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.