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Bass Fishing Lakes

Best Bass Lakes: Southeastern

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Some of the Best Bass Lakes: Southeastern

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.

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.

Lake Istokpoga, Florida
If Fellsmere wasn’t on absolute fire this year, a case could be made for this lake to be one of the best in the Sunshine State. A February event here held by Xtreme Bass Series saw 30.04 take home the trophy. And an April event required 29.16 to capture the first-place check. In that event, an 8.33-pounder took big-fish honors. Most recently, a May derby here took 28.38 to win (20-man field, five teams brought in over 20 pounds) with a 9.39 big bass. According to Florida TrophyCatch data, 22 fish over 8 pounds have been registered from here, with an 11-4 being the biggest. The name of this lake references “a lake where someone was killed in the water.” Right now, it’s the bass anglers who are killing it.

Harris Chain of Lakes, Florida
We normally look at results from adult tournaments when trying to identify the quality of a fishery. However, the 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College Series event held here in January was mind-blowing. The team from Stephen F. Austin State University brought 29 pounds to the scales on Day 2. Then the team from Emmanuel College brought 29-11 to the scales. Then the team from Kentucky Christian University brought 36-7 on stage! This was certainly a better-than-normal day for this chain of lakes, but it shows you the incredible potential.

Burt/Mullett Lakes, Michigan
Statistics compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources make plain that these large sister lakes in Michigan’s lower peninsula continue to produce huge smallmouth bass and good largemouth fishing. The 11 tournaments evaluated for the 2021 season averaged 62.6 anglers per event. Smallmouth comprised 80.5% of the catch. Of the eight tournaments scored by weight, the average bass weighed 4.01. The average big bass weighed 6.24. Three of the tournaments were scored by length. The average length per bass was 14.9 inches, and the average longest bass was 21.4 inches.

Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee/Kentucky
It has been a hot minute since this historic fishery has made the rankings. The site of the world record smallmouth catch last broke the Top 100 in 2016. Something has sparked the growth of bass in this border lake, as results from a three-day Toyota Series event held here in March were impressive. It took over 21 pounds a day to win; 18 limits topped 20 pounds; and a 25-3 limit was brought to the scales. Although most of the fish brought to the scales were largemouth, a couple of stud smallies were in the mix. I don’t think the world record brown bass still swims there, but you could certainly catch your personal best.

Rodman Reservoir, Florida
In looking at tournament data, this lake has been either amazing or above average. An Xtreme Bass Series derby held here in February saw a winning weight of 34.04, while a June event took only 23.09 to grab the top spot. However, if you look at the Florida TrophyCatch data, more than 50 fish over 8 pounds have been caught and released here. The biggest (and biggest fish recorded that we could find in the entire state) was 13-8. So, if you are trophy hunting, this should be your huckleberry.

Lake Guntersville, Alabama
An average day here is typically a great day anywhere else. No, the Big G is not as good as it once was, but it is heading that way. After a few lackluster years, this historically awesome lake is looking like itself again. A June Alabama Bass Trail event saw 24.57 take the top spot, but the Top 11 teams all had over 20 pounds. A 7.35 won big-bass honors. Another event held here in May also saw 25 pounds win the day, with the Top 11 having over 20 pounds. So, Guntersville is healthy and appears to be getting healthier.

Jordan Reservoir, North Carolina
If you ask the state fisheries biologists for the best lake in this state, this is the one they’d point you to. This lake has been left in its natural state, with an undeveloped shoreline and pristine natural surroundings. This fishery really showed out last year, cracking the Top 10 in the nation in these rankings. The data wasn’t there to support that this year, but Jordan is still producing impressive limits. In a March CATT event, it took 24.66 to win, while 19 pounds claimed second place. However, big bass was a 9.12, which is a fish of a lifetime for North Carolinians. Plus three other bass over 7 pounds were weighed in.

Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida
Although this central Florida fishery has put up more impressive numbers in years past, it still continues to produce incredible limits and big fish. An Xtreme Bass Series event held here in April (well after the spawn) was won with 26.09, and three fish over 7 pounds were caught. A look at the Florida TrophyCatch program shows only six bass over 10 pounds coming from this fishery this year, but the biggest topped the 11-pound mark.

Falls Lake, North Carolina
Also referred to as “Falls of the Neuse” due to the fact that it extends up the Neuse River by 28 miles, this lake is ranked second in the state for bass fishing, according to the North Carolina DNR. When looking at some of the winning weights, it’s easy to see why. An April CATT derby here took 26.63 to win, and a Piedmont Bass Classics event required 23 pounds to take first place. In that event, three fish over 7 pounds were weighed. This isn’t a big lake, but the surroundings are heavenly and the fishing is stellar.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida
The Big O is back! Now, it’s not kicking out giant limits like it was a decade ago. However, 25-pound limits are again common. An American Bass Anglers event held here in May saw 25.52 pounds win, which included a 7-pound kicker. The organization’s January event required 25.03 to win. According to Florida’s TrophyCatch data, only one fish over 10 pounds has been landed this year, but it seems this storied lake is on the verge of busting wide open.

Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida
If you didn’t bring 21 pounds to the scales this year at this legendary fishery, you were not going to win. In a Reel Money Team Trail event held in May, 21 pounds wouldn’t have even put you on the podium. It took 26.14 to win that derby, which included a 7.31 big bass. Georgia DNR still ranks Seminole as the best fishery in the state. If you plan a trip here, be sure to swing by Jack Wingate’s lodge for a little taste of bass fishing history.

High Rock Lake, North Carolina
We just thought this ancient fishery was showing out last year when it secured the 18th spot in these rankings. However, weights were even more impressive this year! At a Carolina Bass Challenge event held this past March, nine limits surpassed the 20-pound mark, with 23.45 taking home the gold. Even more impressive, a 9.24-pound fish won the big bass award, a monster for a North Carolina largemouth. Unlike most fisheries, this lake seems to be getting better with age.

Lake Lanier, Georgia
Missing the rankings in 2021, this popular recreational lake outside of Atlanta acted like it had something to prove this year. It has always been an impressive spotted bass fishery, but it may be the best spotted bass lake in the country right now. At an American Bass Anglers Open Series event held here in February, the winning bag, all spotted bass, weighed 24.86 pounds! Yes, all spots. The big fish was a 6.13-pounder. If you are looking to break your personal best spot, this is the lake to visit, and you will likely have a bend in your rod more often than not.

Wheeler Lake, Alabama
This Tennessee River fishery is just as fertile as two other lakes on this list that get a lot more attention (Guntersville and Pickwick). For some reason, it doesn’t get the press. Well, press or not, it delivers big bass to anglers willing to forego the better-known lakes. An Alabama Bass Trail event held here in May was won with 24.27 pounds, with five other teams topping the 20-pound mark. Forty-two teams weighed in more than 15 pounds. A 6.25 took big-fish honors.


Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee
During the June Elite Series event held on this border lake, 17 limits exceeding 20 pounds hit the scales, with Brandon Lester’s 22-14 on the final day leading the pack. Actually, Lester led the pack almost all four days, as he caught more than 20 pounds every day of competition, winning with 86-1. The amazing thing is that some 20-pound limits included giant smallmouth right alongside bruiser largemouth. Although the data from Pickwick is not quite as eye-popping as it was last year, the Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation still ranks it as the best lake in the state.

Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi
We didn’t have to look far for data supporting the inclusion of this Magnolia State fishery.  Of the lakes monitored by the Mississippi Bass Tournament Program, Ross Barnett is second only to Pickwick for the number of bass caught during tournament days (4,497 fish during 37 events). Of the 10 heaviest bass limits caught in the state, five came from Pickwick and four came from Ross Barnett. The largest of them all was from Ross Barnett (29.28 pounds). So, yes, this body of water is a serious player!

Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
The weather was a little funky when the Elite Series visited this big-bass factory in April. Still, 16 limits topped the 20-pound mark over the four-day event. Chick is a fickle beast, though, as can be seen by the efforts of Elite angler Matty Wong. He brought only 10-9 to the scales on Day 1 but then caught the event’s biggest limit, 25-13, on Day 2. But, giants swim in this lake. Elite pro Pat Schlapper heaved a 10-5 onto the scales on Day 1, and several other double-digit fish were caught during practice. This fishery can be feast or famine, but the feast times could be life-altering.

Lake Hartwell, South Carolina
If you were one of the 155,000 attendees at the recent Bassmaster Classic, you already know this lake is full of bass. While only two anglers cracked the 20-pound barrier during the world championship, winner Jason Christie averaged over 18 pounds a day. A 5 Alive event held here last November took 26.43 to take the trophy, so a better-than-5-pound average is doable. For a little icing on this bass fishing cake, be sure to launch out of Green Pond Landing, which may be the best facility on the face of the earth for bass anglers.

Lake Murray, South Carolina
Just about every tournament record we could find showed that it takes no less than 21 pounds to win a one-day derby here, no matter the time of year. The data also showed that you don’t need much more than that, either. Topping the list of five-fish limits was a CATT event here in April won with 23.20 pounds. Scads of 4- and 5-pound fish were weighed. This is not the land of giants, but it is ripe with better-than-average largemouth.

Lake Ferguson, Mississippi
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife does an amazing study every year to quantify the health of its bass fisheries. The annual report of this Bass Tournament Program boiled down data from 297 derbies held in the state last year. Of the 37 lakes reported on, this fishery earned the highest marks in several categories. The average first-place weight out of the six events held here was 20.47 pounds, ranking first. The average weight of all bass caught (895) was 2.65 pounds. This oxbow lake off the Mississippi River offers a unique angling experience and is chock-full of fish.

Roanoke Rapids Lake, North Carolina
A hearty welcome to this newcomer on the rankings! This little gem situated in the northeast corner of the state has been showing out for the CATT competitors. A June event held here took 21.82 to win, but seven other teams out of the 17 entered brought more than 18 pounds to the scales. Five bass over 4 1/2 pounds were weighed. This lake is best known for its striper fishing in the fall, which somehow overshadows the incredible largemouth opportunities available here.

Bay Springs Lake, Mississippi
The state has done an amazing job turning this little reservoir on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway into an excellent bass fishery. Intense Florida largemouth stocking since 2009 (the most recent being in 2019) has boosted the trophy potential immensely. A Fishers of Men derby held this past April saw multiple fish over 5 pounds weighed in, and it took almost 20 pounds to win the tournament. Because there are also smallmouth and spotted bass here, you never know exactly what species you are setting the hook on.

Lake Eufaula, Alabama/Georgia
There have been years when this lake produced some whopper limits. This is not that year. Still, average winning weights have been between 19 and 23 pounds. According to the Georgia DNR, Eufaula is considered the second-best bass fishing lake in the state behind Seminole. Although catch rates are down a little, the big-fish average is still over 6 pounds. So, on any given cast you can expect a stud largemouth.

Bass Fishing Lakes

Best Bass Lakes: Central

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Some of the Best Bass Lakes: Central

O.H. Ivie, 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.

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.

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.

Caney Creek Reservoir, Lousiana
Caney Creek Reservoir is a small fishery that produces big bass. Strike that — REALLY big bass. Six of the top 10 largemouth in Louisiana history have come from Caney, and the first few months of 2022 have produced catches right up there with the best of them. A weekend warrior caught a stringer just shy of 38 pounds in February, with the heaviest of the bunch coming in at 10.27 pounds. Later that month, partners in a team tournament on Caney Creek Reservoir caught a pair of giants — a 13.01 and a 10.77.

Toledo Bend, Louisiana/Texas
“The Big Bend” led the B.A.S.S. Top 100 list twice in the past decade, and it continues to be quite possibly the most consistent fishery of any in the U.S. Recent winning totals include a one-day haul of five bass weighing 32.79 in an Outlaw Outdoors team tournament and a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 48.77 in the Texas Oilman Bass Invitational. Even the high schoolers are knocking ’em out at Toledo Bend. It took five-bass limits of 23.49 and 20.99 to win recent prep events on the giant reservoir straddling the central Louisiana/Texas border.

West Okoboji Lake, Iowa
Okoboji is part of the Iowa Great Lakes system, one of six water bodies that total 12,000 acres in northwest Iowa. The chain produces solid fishing throughout, but West Okoboji — clear and cold — is considered by most to offer the best bassin’. That’s hard to argue, considering the 23.91 limit that won the final tournament of the Full Throttle Team Tournament late last year, with a 7.15 anchoring the bag. The 26th Annual Okoboji Open Fishing Tournament on May 1 had even better numbers, with a 27.28 limit leading the team totals and 7.29 taking big-bass honors.

Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
This powerhouse lake would like to have a word with every other bass fishery in America. “I lead. You folla’.” OK, maybe that’s a bad pun on the Eufaula name, but there’s no badmouthing this place when it comes to catching bass. Winning totals for one-day events this year have included sacks of 23-6, 22-4 and 22-8, as well as big-bass catches of 9-6 and 6-4.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
This central Missouri playground is listed by many as the Show Me State’s top bass lake of 2022, and there’s reason to believe they’re on target. The winner of a three-day MLF Toyota Series event in March needed 59-13 to hold off a talented field. A month later, at the AFTCO Spring Big Bass Bash presented by Phoenix Boats, a 7.58-pound largemouth netted a big-bass prize of $100,000 for 20-year-old Kaleb Allison of nearby Lincoln, Mo. Those are figures that catch eyes across the country, but they’re ones the bass fishing faithful have come to expect from Lake of the Ozarks.

Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
Mille Lacs, or “Thousand Lakes” in French, previously topped our 100 Best Bass Lakes list in 2017, and it remains productive today. In the catch-and-release Champions Tour Championship in September 2021, the winner caught 21 bass in one day totaling 62-12, the heaviest weighing 5-5. The second-place angler finished more than 10 pounds behind but had a higher average weight than the winner (3-4 to 2-15). Because the Minnesota bass fishing season is limited to basically the summer months, Mille Lacs anglers can endure some boating pressure, despite the lake’s size. Still, it’s a worthwhile venture for some of the best smallmouth fishing in the U.S.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Sturgeon Bay is another Northern fishery with a fantastic smallmouth bite. In the annual Fall Sturgeon Bay Open held last September, the top seven teams all caught limits of smallies that weighed more than 20 pounds, and the winning sack tipped the scales at 22-3. And in the 31st Annual Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament held a few months earlier, it took 53-4 to win a two-day team event (with smallmouth limits of 26 and 27-4). The 2022 event held this past May was won with a two-day total of 52-12. Most impressive, however, is that a giant 7-12 took big-bass honors.

Oak Creek Reservoir, Texas
It’s by no means a big fishery, but Oak Creek certainly has fished big in recent months, staking its claim among the best bass factories in a state filled with them. Eight ShareLunkers have been caught at Oak Creek through early May 2022, including two that were Elite class: an 11.88 in early March and an 11.1 in late February. That’s up from the two ShareLunker bass that came from the reservoir in all of 2021. In fact, both of those bass came in the fourth quarter of last year, meaning this little west Texas treasure could be an up-and-comer.

Few places in the country have been as consistent as Choke Canyon in recent months, making the reservoir northwest of Corpus Christi a riser on this list. Take for instance the Texas Team Trail tournament held in March. The Top 5 teams in the derby each had five-bass limits of at least 20 pounds, including the 26.57 that won the event. The big bass in that event weighed 7.06 pounds, and that wasn’t enough to get the tandem that caught it into the Top 30 boats competing that day.

Table Rock Lake, Missouri
Steady as it gets, “The Rock” is on a roll again in 2022. Anglers from the Joe Bass Team Trail frequent the southern Missouri fishery and have needed five-bass limits of 21.26 and 18.78 to win early-season events this year. Those bags were anchored by 6.94 and 6.21 bass, respectively. In a Big Bass Tour stop in early April, the Top 5 fish all weighed more than 6 pounds, including an 8.02 that was the heavy of the event. That’s solid — as a rock.

Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas
Forget the funny name — this place is all business when it comes to bass fishing. Need proof? How about three ShareLunkers in February to the tune of 13.38, 13.2 and 13.06 pounds? Those were the first Legacy class fish to come from Possum Kingdom in 31 years, which could be a sign that the lake just west of the DFW skyline ain’t playing possum at all. It’s wide awake.

Bussey Brake Reservoir, Louisiana
No doubt about it: The Bayou State’s newest WMA is a big-bass beast. Once an emergency water supply for a now-defunct paper mill, the property was donated in 2013 to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which began stocking the lake in 2017. Five years later, record-setting fish are being caught, including a 12-14 caught by Randy Howell in an MLF event in February. Bradley Roy had a 26-2 limit the same day. Pro angler Tyler Stewart caught a 12.74-pounder in mid-2021 on Bussey, another in a line of buzzworthy bass coming from this pearl tucked away in Louisiana’s northeast corner.

Lake Conroe, Texas 
The site of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic has quietly ticked along as one of the better bass lakes in a state filled with some real treasures. Through early May, the lake just north of Houston had given up eight ShareLunker bass of more than 8 pounds, including one Elite class catch that weighed an even 10 pounds. In a Big Bass Tour stop in February, the top three catches weighed double digits, led by a 10.33 mule.

Grand has hosted two Bassmaster Classics and remains a favorite of B.A.S.S. and bass anglers. There’s good reason for that, too. Consider some recent results from the lake in the northeast corner of the Sooner State. It took 42-7 over three days in May to win the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional on Grand Lake. A Future Bass Team Trail event in March was won with a 23.34 one-day total, and the big bass of the day weighed 6.88.

Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas/Missouri 
This historic fishery is near the tiny town of Flippin, Ark. — ground zero for bass boat manufacturers like Ranger, Vexus and Double XX. Boats, sure. But how about bass? Well, Ozark anglers are bullish on Bull Shoals, and rightfully so. Consider that it took more than 22 pounds to win a Joe Bass Team Trail event in January and 20 pounds to win a one-day event on the circuit a month later. In April, 22 1/2 pounds were needed to claim a Big Johns team tourney, with a 6.32 heavy taking big-bass honors.

Lake Texoma, Oklahoma/Texas
The sprawling lake produces quality bass bites as regularly as its location on the Texas/Oklahoma border registers triple-digit temperatures. So, what’s Texoma been up to lately? Try a 21-13 one-day winning weight in a recent Toyota Series event and 19.68 in a Texas Team Trail event, with the big bass of the day clocking in just shy of 7 pounds. The winner of a Spring Series event on Texoma earlier this year checked in with 18 pounds, as well.

Falcon Lake, Texas
Falcon continues to produce, however quietly, tucked away on the Rio Grande at the U.S./Mexico border. A January BassChamps event here took 27.88 to win, which included a 8.37 big fish. Interesting enough, the second-place team had 19.86, but the third-place team only landed three fish … but one of them weighed 9.21 pounds. So, Falcon is not back to crushing records like it did a decade ago, but it sure seems like it’s close.

Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
It might not be as well-known as some of the powerhouse fisheries down South, but Minnesotans rave about this bass haven, which happens to be the largest lake in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. In the season-ending Denny’s Super 30 Bass Tournament last September, a six-bass limit of 24-6 was the winning weight. And in the Champions Tour stop at Minnetonka last year before the long, cold winter settled in, a field of 51 anglers hooked a total of 1,120 largemouth bass, the heaviest weighing a respectable 4-13.

Lake O’ The Pines (Big Cypress Creek), Texas
Another Texas lake, you say? You bet. It’s impossible to ignore the numbers that have been coming out of the Lone Star State over the past 12 months, and Lake O’ the Pines is among the most productive of the lot. Highlights include a Media Bass team tournament on March 19 where the winners weighed five bass for 31.6 pounds, and another on March 5 where the winning limit was 28.07. There have been three ShareLunkers caught on Lake O’ the Pines in 2022, as well, including an Elite class fish of 11.80.

Lake Erling, Arkansas 
The little lake in southeast Arkansas just across the border from Louisiana has been referred to as a “hidden gem,” meaning the place is great, just not many people have found out about it yet. Social media buzzed last spring when a young angler caught a pair of bucket-mouthed bass, both of the double-digit variety. Reports surfaced online soon after of other anglers who were making similar catches. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reports Erling to be among the two leading lakes in the Natural State right now, along with Bull Shoals.

Lake D’Arbonne, Louisiana
Another north Louisiana jewel, D’Arbonne has been on the rise thanks to the success of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ stocking program in recent years. A pair of Media Bass team tournaments in March tell the tale, with winning limits of 22.85 and 22.35. Also, victors in an ARKLA Team Trail event earlier this year caught a 22.63 limit, including a 7.28 largemouth heavy.

Upper Mississippi River, Wisconsin
“The Big Muddy” isn’t nearly as muddy in the La Crosse, Wis., area as it is way down yonder in New Orleans (or Jackson, Memphis or St. Louis, for that matter). The sprawling watershed is a beautiful sight in its upper stretches, and the quality bass that come from the Mississippi in these parts make it particularly intriguing for anglers. A recent Phoenix Bass Fishing derby in La Crosse was further proof of the river’s productivity. The Top 12 anglers each had at least 15 pounds in a one-day event (3-pound bass on average), with the winner bagging a 17-8 limit.

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Bass Fishing Lakes

Best Bass Lakes: Western

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Some of the Best Bass Lakes: Western

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.

 

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.

 

New Bullards Bar Reservior, California
The bass lurking in the turquoise waters of this Tahoe National Forest reservoir can be finicky, but their selective eating habits are part of the reason they grow to monstrous sizes. Spots are the name of the game here, with multiple state and world records broken over the years. And it happened once again this past February when Nathaniel Hilligoss claimed the new record with an 11-pound, 5-ounce fish, beating the previous benchmark set in 2017 by Nick Dulleck by a single ounce.

 

Pyramid Lake, California
Not to be confused with Nevada’s Truckee River impoundment of the same name, this California State Water Project reservoir is a popular recreational destination. That means anglers can expect lots of company given that it’s less than 1 1/2 hours from Los Angeles. Although most of Pyramid’s bass are average, its trophies are huge. It took only 20 pounds to win Best Bass Tournament Trail contests here in February and April, but big fish at the events tipped the scale at 10.43 and 12.61 pounds, respectively.
Diamond Valley Lake, California
Diamond Valley is southern California’s largest reservoir and part of the drinking water supply for the region’s 19 million people. The average weight of a five-bass limit here is down some but still noteworthy at 24.6 pounds (compared to almost 28 pounds last year). Massive fish, however, are still common. It took a largemouth over 6 pounds to claim the big-bass prize at all but one of the tournaments we surveyed. The biggest of the bunch, caught during a National Bass West team event, was 9.02.
Trinity Lake, California
Trinity is one of California’s largest reservoirs, but it doesn’t get much attention as a bass angler’s mecca. That may be due to the 90-minute drive along a windy mountain road that is necessary to get to the ramp. It may also be the outcome of the destination’s tight-lipped regulars who don’t want others to know about the quality fishing available here. The champion at a Wild West Bass Trail Apex Pro Tour event in April won with 33.29 pounds during the final round of competition and said that he landed 25 fish over 5 pounds that day.
  
Roosevelt Lake, Arizona
Theodore Roosevelt Lake is central Arizona’s largest body of water, and the fishing has been up and down since a 14-pound largemouth and the state record smallie were recorded in 1988. But with better management, the fishery has been improving. Anglers won’t find the heaviest averages here, but there is still a decent chance of hooking into a trophy fish. Big bass at a Wild West Bass Trail team contest in early April was 8.01 pounds. There were also 7.97- and 7.04-pound fish brought to the scales.
  
Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
While the frigid waters at this glacial lake aren’t for faint-of-heart swimmers, they are ideal for its monster northern pike, trout and landlocked salmon. But according to Martin Koenig, sportfishing program coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, it also suits bass. Even with peak August temperatures barely touching 70 degrees, CDA’s smallmouth and largemouth get big. A Montana Bass Federation event in April was won with 23.08, with an 8.17-pound big fish indicating what an anomaly this place is.
  
Siltcoos Lake, Oregon
Siltcoos is a low-elevation coastal lake, sitting a mere 3 miles from the ocean and only 13 feet above sea level. And Northern waters like this are typically void of productive structure and cover, resulting in below-par bass in terms of size. This place, however, challenges the norm with an abundance of steep dropoffs, fallen timber and submerged vegetation. The result is this year’s top Pacific Northwest pick. It took 44.23 pounds to win a two-day Emerald Bass Club tournament here in April. Big bass went 8.61.
  
Dworshak Reservoir, Idaho
This has always been the place to go for huge bronzebacks. Sadly, fewer trophies have been the result of recent decreases in kokanee, one of their favorite meals. Things, however, are changing. And the title of a March 28, 2022, Idaho Fish and Game paper says it all: “Kokanee numbers high in Dworshak Reservoir; expect high catch rates of small kokanee, improved growth of smallmouth bass.” The effect is already evident. The Clearwater Bass Anglers of Idaho held a tournament in April; big fish were 7.56 and 7.48 monster smallies.
  
Osoyoos Lake, Washington
Osoyoos is a long, narrow lake spanning the border between Washington and British Columbia. It may seem like a long way to travel to fish a far North body of water that is unlikely to produce trophy bass, but anglers make the trip because they know there are indeed lots of chunky smallmouth and largemouth in the 5-pound class. In 2021, Shane Hoelzle took the fly tackle 2-pound tippet world record here with a 7.6-pound largemouth. And it took a 5.16-pound average to win an Okanogan Valley Club event this past April.
  
Lake Havasu, Arizona/California
Havasu is a big body of water, but with an average depth of 33 feet, it’s relatively shallow by Western reservoir standards. That, combined with mild winters and lots of artificial habitat, is good news for bass anglers. Equal numbers of smallmouth and largemouth can be taken year-round here, including some trophies, with the key to catching a particular species simply changing areas. A three-day total of 47.25 secured the win at the 2022 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional this year. Big fish was 8.81.
  
Columbia River, Oregon/Washington
Salmon and steelhead have always been the stars here. Unfortunately, due to stock declines, there have been efforts to reduce predatory non-native fish populations. It will take years to evaluate the effects of the removal of bass creel and size limits. But for now the Columbia remains a top Western fishery. Smallies dominate the flowing waters, while quality largemouth are common in backwater areas. It took 24.44 to win an Oregon B.A.S.S. Federation Nation tournament in April.
  
Potholes Reservoir, Washington
More than 11,700 years ago Glacial Lake Missoula floodwaters carved out depressions in the Washington landscape. And thousands of tiny islands, surrounded by these natural potholes, were created with the building of O’Sullivan Dam. Water level fluctuations allowed the establishment of willows on the islands, creating perfect largemouth habitat when submerged. There are smallies in rocky areas, too. The top team at a March American Bass contest weighed 24.85, anchored by a 6.24-pound fish.
  
Moses Lake, Washington
Named after the leader of a local Native American tribe, Moses Lake sits in Washington’s Southern Cascades. With only three months of warm weather, you wouldn’t think that bass would put on much weight here. But for a Pacific Northwest fishery, they do. Smallmouth dominate at Moses, with fish often exceeding 5 pounds. Largemouth, which get even bigger, can be found in select areas, too. Big fish at a Spokane Bass Club event in March tipped the scales at 6.14 pounds. The largest smallie of the tournament was 5.42.
  
Lake Mead, Arizona/Nevada
The current mega-drought in the West is having one of the largest negative impacts on the country’s biggest reservoir. Parts of the lake never seen since its filling are being revealed, including the original water intake valve. But even at only 30% full, it appears that Mead will remain open to recreation, although more dangerous for boaters, with its quality bass available to anglers. The first-place duo at an Ultimate Bass Team Tour event in April weighed 18.75 pounds. Big fish at this one was 6.16.
  
Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah
This relatively young reservoir is the key to providing drinking water to Utah residents during the ongoing drought. It also remains one of the best places to catch big largemouth thanks to a six-fish limit, with only one over 12 inches allowed. The bad news is that bass weights continue along a declining trend again this year. It has typically taken well over 15 pounds to win here, but the 2022 contests we surveyed were won with only 11 to just over 15 pounds. Big-fish weights ranged from 4.5 to 6.1 pounds.
  
Lake Mohave, Arizona/Nevada
The mixing of cold, nutrient-rich waters with warmer lake waters in Eldorado Canyon is a textbook recipe for high productivity. And that equates to a healthy food chain. Earl Conway, New Mexico B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director, says that Mohave remains one of the region’s top lakes in terms of bass quality despite a few smaller waters in the northern part of the state fishing better. It took better than 20 pounds to make the Top 6 on the pro side at the WON Bass Laughlin Open in March.
  
Apache Lake, Arizona
It’s a long trip to the Superstition Wilderness and Apache that includes an 11-mile unpaved section of State Highway 88. But its remoteness leads to less fishing pressure than at other Arizona waters. The end results are excellent largemouth and smallmouth fisheries. Bass average only 2 to 3 pounds here, but those who go say it’s the number of fish caught that makes the trip worthwhile. And there are some larger fish, too. Big bass at a Bass Federation tournament in March weighed 7.4 pounds.
  
C.J. Strike Reservoir, Idaho
The damming of the Snake and Bruneau rivers created the narrow arms of this elongated reservoir. And its relatively stable water levels lead to consistent fishing. Smallmouth are the most abundant species swimming C.J. Strike’s cold waters, but anglers often need to find one or two largemouth to win tournaments here. The winning team at a Mountain Home Hawg Hunters event in April had 23.51 pounds, with six smallies and four chunky largemouth that included the 5.70 second-biggest fish.
  
Lake Washington, Washington
This is the second-largest natural lake in the state, and that’s fortunate considering it’s just over 2 miles from Seattle as the crow flies. There are smallmouth and largemouth here, with the former dominating. And both get big, with tournament anglers winning with a limit of either. The Washington Bass Association’s Mike Albertson Open was won with five smallies weighing 19.74 pounds. The second-place team had a limit of largemouth for 19.56.
  
Alamo Lake, Arizona
Located 40 miles southeast of Lake Havasu City, Alamo’s quality largemouth are sometimes overlooked by anglers heading to bigger and better-known reservoirs. But the anglers who fish here regularly know that its crystal-clear waters shouldn’t be overlooked. The lake’s one downside is its abrupt water level fluctuations that can make catching bass tough. So, try to go when things are stable. A Midweek Bass Anglers tournament in March was won with 18.77, with the seventh-place team weighing in the 5.64 big fish.
  
Lower Colorado River, Arizona/California
The importance of the Colorado is well known, delivering drinking water to over 30 million people, irrigating 5.6 million acres of prime agricultural lands and providing critical habitat to six threatened and endangered species. But it’s also one of the few river-fishing opportunities bass anglers will find in the West. The Imperial Dam creates a bounty of backwaters and small lakes ideal for growing quality fish. It took 17.85 to win an American Bass tournament out of Fisher’s Landing in January.
  
Tenmile Lake, Oregon
Tenmile was originally known for its steelhead and salmon. But the removal of wetlands and increased sedimentation have turned it into a warm-water lake ideal for growing bass. Lonnie Johnson, Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director, says Tenmile is his pick for the state’s top fishery. And although tournament landings at Siltcoos and on the Columbia have been better this year, it remains one of the best thanks to a 5.7-pound big fish landed at a Tenmile Bass Club event in February.
  
Brownlee Reservoir, Idaho/Oregon
Fly over Brownlee and you’ll likely be asking the pilot where the reservoir is. That’s because this long, narrow impoundment looks like nothing more than a wide reach of the Snake River. Its main feature is the steep, rocky banks that flank each side. And although both largemouth and smallmouth can be found here, the habitat favors the smallies that almost always dominate catches.

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Bass Fishing Lakes

Best Bass Lakes: Northeastern

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Some of the Best Bass Lakes: Northeastern

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.

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.

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.

Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont
Set between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York, this jewel of a bass fishery teems with largemouth and smallmouth bass. Winning catches often include both species. A mixed bag that totaled 78-5 carried Maryland’s Bryan Schmitt to victory here during an Elite Series event in July 2021. All Top 10 anglers weighed in over 73 pounds. A three-day event with 187 boats in July of that same year produced a winning weight of 61-3 and a big bass that went 5-9.

Burt/Mullett Lakes, Michigan
Statistics compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources make plain that these large sister lakes in Michigan’s lower peninsula continue to produce huge smallmouth bass and good largemouth fishing. The 11 tournaments evaluated for the 2021 season averaged 62.6 anglers per event. Smallmouth comprised 80.5% of the catch. Of the eight tournaments scored by weight, the average bass weighed 4.01. The average big bass weighed 6.24. Three of the tournaments were scored by length. The average length per bass was 14.9 inches, and the average longest bass was 21.4 inches.

Lake Erie, Ohio
Winning weights of more than 20 pounds are commonplace in Lake Erie’s western basin. This is particularly true when anglers are allowed to cast into Canadian waters, where bass fishing is not permitted during the spring spawning season. Chunky smallmouth far outnumber the largemouth, although more green ones are beginning to be caught in the big lake, especially from aquatic grass in nearshore areas. A small team tournament in April 2021 on the Ohio side of the lake yielded a winning weight of 26.65, which included the 5.79 big bass. The top three teams all had over 25 pounds.

Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan
Michigan’s lower peninsula is shaped like a mitten. Grand Traverse Bay is the pinky finger. Anglers claim the water is so clear you can see smallmouth bass cruising 20 feet deep on calm days. Many of those bass are bruisers, according to tournament reports compiled by the Michigan DNR. The 15 tournaments held here in 2021 averaged over 27 anglers who weighed in 100% smallmouth bass. The 13 weight-based events produced bass that averaged 3.42, with an average big bass of 5.29. The two length-based tournaments had an average length of 16.1 inches and the longest bass was 20.25 inches.

Bays de Noc, Michigan
With so many excellent smallmouth waters in Michigan’s lower peninsula, few bass anglers make the long trek to Bays de Noc in the state’s upper peninsula. Although these waters are renowned for walleye, bass anglers consistently tangle with heavyweight brown bass. The Michigan DNR compiled the results of five small tournaments here in 2021. The three derbies scored by weight yielded an average bass of 3.19, with an average big bass of 5.25. The two tournaments scored by length produced an average length of 15.5 inches with the longest length going 20 inches.

Lake Charlevoix, Michigan
Although largemouth swim in Michigan’s third-largest inland lake, smallmouth accounted for 96% of the catch in the 12 tournaments reported to the Michigan DNR in 2021. Trout and salmon are also popular with anglers who ply these pellucid waters. The tournaments drew an average of 38 anglers who caught bass that averaged 2.94 and big bass that averaged 5.22. The smallmouth here typically relate to flats and ledges.

Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania
Although it isn’t large, this bay brims with heavy smallmouth in spring when the brown ones trek here from Lake Erie’s central basin to spawn. Most of them vacate the bay after spawning, but there are plentiful largemouth in the bay to keep you busy. “In many ways, the Bay and Erie are inseparable,” said Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Warmwater Unit Leader Robert Lorantas. “If the lake gets too riled up to fish for smallmouth, you can always make use of the Bay. Electrofishing results of lakes across the state show that Presque Isle Bay is one of the most consistent producers of largemouth.”

Candlewood Lake, Connecticut
Even though it receives heavy fishing pressure and recreational boat traffic, Candlewood produces big-time bass fishing. An open team tournament here in April 2022 attracted 75 boats. With a six-bass limit, the winning team weighed in 32.54, and the Top 20 teams all had over 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 8.05, with the heaviest smallmouth going 5.18. “I’ve been fishing here almost 30 years,” said Tom Reynolds, a bass addict who owns Reynolds’ Boats in Lyme, Conn. “The last 20 years, smallmouth have been the dominant fish in tournaments. The last two years, largemouth have come on strong. The fishing pressure here must be like Guntersville. It’s a small lake, but it just keeps kicking them out.”


Cayuga Lake, New York
Cayuga continues to reign as the best of New York’s glacial Finger Lakes in terms of heavyweight bass. Tournaments are won here with largemouth, smallmouth and mixed bags of both species. Smallmouth dominate tournaments in springtime, and largemouth typically score the heaviest limits thereafter. A boater/nonboater tournament with 125 boats had a great time here in August 2021, with the top seven anglers sacking over 19 pounds, the top four over 20 pounds and the winner weighing in 22-13. The big bass weighed 6-8.

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Over the past several years Smith Mountain has consistently yielded excellent fishing for quality largemouth and smallmouth bass. That this picture-perfect highland reservoir is situated near the Blue Ridge Mountains makes casting here especially joyful. A one-day, 100-boat tournament in April 2022 exhibited the potential of this fabulous bass fishery. The winner sacked 24-6; the big bass weighed 7-11; and every angler in the Top 10 had over 16 pounds.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation President John Foster reports that Winnipesaukee is fishing better than it has in 20 years. He suspects that the COVID-19 shutdown two years ago allowed the bass to fatten up. “They’re running about a half-pound heavier than in the past,” he said. He added that several 7-pound bass were caught here in the fall of 2021. A team tournament with 52 boats in May 2021 had a winning weight of 20.92 with a four-bass limit. The Top 10 all had over 12 pounds, and the average weight for all the bass was 2.98. The biggest largemouth weighed 6.31, with the biggest smallmouth going 5.85.

China Lake, Maine
“China Lake in central Maine is the most successful lake for tournament fishing in the state,” said Tim Gratto, Maine’s B.A.S.S. Nation president. “It continuously delivers big bags of bass.” The lake’s abundant aquatic growth provides ideal habitat for largemouth and, to a lesser extent, for smallmouth. A tournament here in August 2021 attracted 77 teams that were allowed a seven-bass limit. The winning team weighed in 29.04, and 16 teams had over 20 pounds. The big bass weighed 5.91.

Great Pond, Maine
This lake is one of the largest bodies of water in the world classified as a pond. Its deep, rocky habitat supports a bountiful population of smallmouth bass that keep anglers coming back for more. Quality largemouth also frequent the waters of this scenic lake. It took 30.44 to win a 20-team tournament here in April 2022 that had a seven-bass limit. Every team sacked over 19 pounds, and the big bass weighed 6.45.


Green River Lake, Kentucky
Green River has been on a high for several years, asserted David Baker, district biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The top three to five boats typically have 20-pound bags dominated by big largemouth,” he said. “You can also catch a kicker smallmouth or Kentucky spotted bass there.” A tournament here in March 2022 that drew 43 teams reinforces Baker’s comments. The winning team sacked 24.22 which included a 6.80 largemouth. Several other heavy limits were also brought to the scales.

Oneida Lake, New York
Oneida continues to produce quality bass for anglers who venture here. Although tournaments are won with largemouth, smallmouth rule this roost. A few ounces typically move an angler up or down several places in major events because limits of similar-size bass are so commonplace.

Cobbosseecontee Lake, Maine
Many of Maine’s largest bass have been caught from these waters, which are especially conducive to growing heavyweight largemouth. This picturesque lake has 62 miles of shoreline and many glacial coves, jetties and islands. An annual Special Olympics fundraising tournament in late April 2022 confirmed that Cobbosseecontee continues to yield excellent bass fishing. It took a 24.01-pound, seven-bass limit to win the event. The Top 9 teams all had over 20 pounds. The biggest largemouth weighed 6.99, with the best smallmouth going 3.72.

Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
This tidal fishery is worth a visit whenever you can get here, but you’ll fare better with heavy largemouth in springtime. A boater/nonboater tournament in April 2021 attracted 149 boats. The winner sacked 21-5, and the Top 10 anglers all had over 17 pounds. The big bass weighed 6-11. However, the Upper Chesapeake can be feast or famine. Sixty anglers in that event failed to weigh in a bass.

Potomac River, Maryland/Virginia
The diverse bass habitat on this historic tidal river consistently yields limit catches for tournament anglers. Spring tournaments are especially productive, such as the single-day, boater/nonboater event in April 2022 that hosted 158 boats. A 19-6 limit took first place, and the Top 15 all had over 15 pounds. An 8-2 largemouth claimed the big bass award. Only 17 anglers failed to weigh in a bass.

Saginaw Bay, Michigan
With 18 tournaments reported to the Michigan DNR in 2021, the sample size for Saginaw Bay is considerably larger than in the past. Although nearly three-quarters of the bass weighed in were smallmouth, largemouth hold their own in the aquatic vegetation nearshore. The average bass weighed 2.36, with an average big bass of 4.48. However, the massive bay is capable of more impressive results.

Lake Cumberland, Kentucky
With strong populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, Cumberland provides a unique opportunity to tussle with all three on any given day. Tournaments here may be won with smallmouth, largemouth or a mixed bag of all three species. However, heavy limits and trophy bass are not typical here. An event in May 2021 that drew 154 boats produced a winning weight of 15-1 and a big bass of 4-15. Every angler in the top 10 weighed in more than 12 pounds.

Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee
A record spawn in 2016 may have Kentucky and Barkley lakes on the path to their former glory. “It takes about five years for a bass to reach 15 inches,” said Adam Martin, sportfish biologist for western Kentucky. “[In 2021], a lot of those 2016 fish were keepers. This year, there are more 3- and some 4-pound bass. It’s good to see anglers weighing in five fish consistently.” The Asian carp invasion appears to be influencing where bass feed. The shallow bite has been more productive, even during summer, when ledge fishing had been dominant in the past, Martin added.

Chautauqua Lake, New York
Although Chautauqua is the biggest lake in western New York, it usually doesn’t attract tournaments with large fields. However, small events take full advantage of the lake’s excellent largemouth and smallmouth fishing.

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