The 8 Best Bass Fishing Lakes in the USA
A whopping 6 million Americans see themselves as fishermen or anglers. Although they are all united in a shared love for the sport, there’s a heated debate about the best places to fish in the U.S. And this is especially true for bass fishing. Sport bass angling has become something of a trend, which has spread the nation.
With competitions opening up, showcasing different lakes and bodies of water to fish on as much as they do the biggest catch that day, the argument for the best bass fishing lakes is even tighter. To let you decide for yourself, we will recommend for you some of our favorite tried and tested locations.
Lake Lanier, Georgia
Lake Lanier, or Lake Sidney Lanier, is a reservoir in Northern Georgia. It was made through the building of a dam on the Chattahoochee river to provide hydroelectricity, navigation, and flood control of the Chattahoochee River, and constant water supply for the city of Atlanta. It covers a whopping 38,000 acres and has 59 square miles of water.
It’s a great place to go fishing, with 700 miles of shoreline, and lots of beautiful little islands you can fish on. And with this much shoreline, there’s also plenty of options for angling at Lake Lanier. You can fish jerkbaits in the spring or underspins in the winter, and topwater in the summer months if you’re looking to tempt bass out from their shelters. If you’re going fishing in winter, consider investing in some ice fishing boots.
Lake Lanier has opportunities to fish for multiple species of fish, including flathead catfish, black crappie, walleye, channel catfish, rainbow trout, bluegill, green sunfish, redbreast sunfish. But most importantly for us: largemouth bass and spotted bass, and a big bass population. It’s famous amongst anglers as an excellent place to go striped bass fishing. There are lots of areas for public access for fishing from the bank of the clear lake, so this is an ideal place to go out in a bass boat.
Lake Lanier is one of the best-spotted bass fisheries east of the Mississippi, and here the bass tend to really fight when they have bitten. If you’re looking for a thrill in your game angling, then Lake Lanier might be for you. Another benefit of this location is that it’s really accessible.
Being close to Atlanta, you might even be able to fish here as a day trip. And there are also lots of amenities around the lake to make your day more enjoyable: marinas, bait stores, camping, and restaurant options abound. However, because it’s so accessible, it can get quite busy. Aim for weekday fishing if you want to avoid the rush.
Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina
The Santee Cooper Lakes in South Carolina is made up of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. Here you’ll find some of the best freshwater fishing in the entire of the state. This is a great place to head to if you’re looking to catch yourself a largemouth bass. It’s also a stunning environment to fish in: you’re surrounded by wild, mossy trees and stunning sunsets. This is especially important considering that dusk is the perfect time to catch largemouth bass, as they’re more likely to come out from their shelters in the fading light.
Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina and is even referred to by some as South Carolina’s inland sea. It’s situated in 110,000 acres of stunning river valley landscapes and former marshes. Not only is this a great place to catch a largemouth bass: you can also try your hand at catching striped bass, and white bass.
This is a great place to head to if you’re looking for really big bass. People have caught the beasts here weighing up to 20lbs! Even on a normal day, you’ll be able to catch a 5-7 pound bass, which should be more than enough to impress with your catch.
Because the waters here can be quite clear, and largemouth bass prefer murky waters or shade, you might have to downsize your gear, using floating lures of example, to tempt them from their hiding spots. For your best chance at success, we would recommend using square bill crankbaits, or floating worms and stick worms, on the Santee Cooper Lakes.
Lake Champlain, New York, and Vermont
Lake Champlain is a huge natural freshwater lake, located in the states of New York and Vermont, and heads up across the Canadian border into Quebec. Lake Champlain is situated in the Champlain Valley, which is the northernmost part of the Great Appalachian Valley, which goes down all the way to the south of the United States. Lake Champlain is the thirteenth largest lake in the US, measuring a whopping 490 square miles in area.
People flock to Lake Champlain to catch a variety of species, including lake trout, Atlantic salmon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and rock bass. This vast lake holds too many fishing possibilities to count. The Bassmaster Tournament Series consistently ranks Lake Champlain in its top 100 bass fisheries, where quantity, quality, and even scenery are important factors. And, lanked to the west by the Adirondack Mountains of New York and to the east by the Green Mountains of Vermont, you’re going to be spoilt for choice for scenery.
If you’re planning on fishing Lake Champlain, make sure you have all of the necessary documentation. Depending on which part of the lake you plan to fish, you’ll need an angler’s fishing license, from Vermont or New York. A New York State Fishing license is required to fish in South Bay, for example, and A Vermont Fishing License is required to fish in the Inland Sea, Mallett’s Bay, Missisquoi Bay and “The Gut”.
In the area, you’re bound to find largemouth and smallmouth bass. This is a great lake to head to if you’re a beginner, and want instant rewards, as you can catch a four-pound largemouth bass here with regularity. But even pro anglers find themselves flocking back here time and again. There are many spots you can target too. Anglers can fish offshore for smallmouth bass, or rock bass, or can target shallow vegetation or other potential hiding places for largemouth bass.
Lake Berryessa, California
Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County, California, located in the Vaca Mountains. It is home to a variety of fish, including catfish, Chinook and kokanee salmon, brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass and spotted bass. And the bass grow really big here! The largemouth bass in Lake Berryessa range from about 15-20 inches, and the smallmouth and spotted bass about 12-18 inches.
Depending on the time of year, use different approaches for angling bass. In the Spring, it’s best to find bass here in the shallows, as they feed here when they are spawning. In the summer, head out at dawn or dusk, as bass are more likely to move out to the shallows in the morning and evening to feed. These shallow waters are often close to the deep, dark waters where largemouth bass rest, so many anglers choose to fish here to target both big and little bass.
For those fishing from the shore of Lake Berryessa, we would recommend starting in the inlets, like Capell Cove and Steel Canyon Inlet, and the areas next to Big and Small Islands. There aren’t many lakes where you can successfully catch three types of bass in one day, but at Lake Berryessa, there’s plenty of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass to catch.
Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida
Lake Tohopekaliga, or Lake Toho, West Lake, or just Toho to locals, is the biggest lake in Osceola County, Florida. It’s smaller than some of the other bass lakes we’ve recommended at 22,700 acres and is the primary inflow of Single Creek, which originates in Orlando. It’s famous for both it’s bass catching and it’s bird watching.
It’s not just a great bass fishing spot: it’s also a beautiful location, filled with hydrilla, lily pads, other grasses, and many bird watching opportunities abound. This is one of the main reasons we’d recommend it, so you can be surrounded by beautiful, scenic nature while you fish, and really make a day of it. Not only will it be a lovely, peaceful day out fishing, it’s also not as popular amongst bass anglers, so you won’t have to be dodging the crowds. That’s especially important considering the size of the catch that you can get at Lake Toho. They regularly record catches of 10-12 pound bass. So if you want to catch yourself a biggun’, and have some quiet and reflection too, then Lake Toho could be the perfect option for you.
Lake Erie, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania
Lake Erie is the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes in North America and boasts some of the best fishing. It’s a huge lake that traverses 4 US states and even goes up to Ontario in Canada. It’s the eleventh largest lake in the world, and one of the best lakes for fishing. The name of the body of water originates from the Erie people, who were a Native American people who used to live on its southern shore. It’s from the trial name which roughly means “long tail”. It has a fascinating history, which you can delve into on your fishing trip.
Because Lake Erie is so shallow, the weather conditions can rapidly change from calm to stormy. This is actually a benefit for you when you’re fishing for bass. Although it might leave you a big soggy and grumpy, fishing just before a storm is perfectly timed, as fish are likely to feel it coming and become more active. The actively changing weather can sometimes get a bit dangerous though. Watch out if you’re going boat fishing. A very thick fog can appear quickly over Lake Erie, and you don’t want to be caught out in it as this can be fatal. Make sure you take a Loran or GPS system with you.
If you’re looking to catch smallmouth bass on Lake Erie, then you’re in luck. Along most of the lake, the bottom drops off fairly quickly to a depth of about 30 feet. Here, where there are some rocky bottom areas, and drop-offs and ledges, is where most of the smallmouth bass are caught. On the east side of the City of Erie, there are more rocky areas, so this is the best area to fish for smallmouth bass. Also aim for the “cribs” off the Hammermill plant to the New York State line, and the mouths of Twelve, Fourteen and Sixteen Mile creeks.
One thing that you need to take note of when considering fishing Lake Erie, is that this isn’t the best place to go if you want to take all your catch home. Lake Erie is now classified as a “big bass” water, meaning you can only take one smallmouth bass from the waters, and it must be over 20 inches. You should check out the rules and regulations before you plan your trip, to avoid disappointment.
Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
Mille Lacs is Minnesota’s second-largest inland lake and covers a whopping 132,516 acres. However, it’s all pretty shallow, with the maximum depth being just 42 feet. This can make perfect conditions for catching bass, as you can catch their attention with floating lures in the shallows, and tempt them to bite. There are two beautiful little islands in the center, comprising the Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge.
There are a couple of different options for angling for bass on Mille Lacs Lake. On all sides of the lake, you can go shallow reef top fishing for bass, which is especially useful in Spring. There’s also some deep water angling on the southern deep gravel and rocks and lots of mudflats in the north half of the lake. This is perfect for catching big bass, who like to lurk in the shadows.
Mille Lacs Lake is a great option for you if you want to catch some really gargantuan smallmouth. It’s probably the best smallmouth fishery in the states at the moment, and anglers have a really good chance of catching big fish, a 6 or 7-pound smallmouth. But if the bigger ones don’t bite, you’re more than likely to go home with a few smaller 3 or 4-pound fish.
Mille Lacs is just going to continue growing in popularity with smallmouth anglers, what with the bass tournament Elite Series smallmouth beatdown airing on television. In 2016, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship was held there, with people the winner catching a mind-boggling 76 pounder!
Table Rock Lake, Missouri
There are great places to fish for bass all over the country. We’ve showed you options from Georgia, South Carolina, New York and Vermont, California, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, there are also great lakes for fishing bass elsewhere (for example Lake Fork) in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, for example. In general, you’ll be able to find some of the best bass fishing in the world, all over the United States.
One lake that we haven’t reviewed here, that we would definitely recommend for beginners, is Table Rock Lake in Missouri and Arkansas. This is one of the best bass lakes for beginners, because of all the types of fishing for bass you can do, and practice here. Because it’s a very deep and clear lake, it’s the perfect spot to practice drop shots, topwater techniques and various swimbait applications. We would recommend trying out a few jigs and spinnerbaits here, to get your technique perfected.
It’s also one of the best lakes for fishing bass, because of the sheer number of bass here, making it more likely you’re going to get a good catch. This can be especially good for beginners, to motivate you to come back and learn more skills, due to the instant reward. It’s also one of the best bass fishing lakes because you can catch smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass here.
This brings us on to the considerations you should be making when you’re planning your ideal bass fishing trip. Firstly, do you want to be able to angle for a variety of bass? If so, there aren’t many lakes where you can easily catch smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass in one day, so do your research, and make sure you pick an option like Table Rock Lake. Or if you really want to fight for the catch, make sure to head to the lakes that have a high number of big, strong, healthy fish.
Another consideration should be the landscape. Although you might solely be motivated by game fishing and impressing with the size of your catch, it never hurts to be surrounded by beautiful scenery as you’re doing it. All of the lakes we have reviewed are surrounded by stunning scenery, but take your pick depending on your tastes. Do you want to go for a mountain river basin, or a lilypad covered calm lake?
So there we have it, our recommendations for the best bass fishing lakes in America. We hope you find the perfect catch.
Bonus tip: For some more useful information on how to catch bass on any type of lake, check out this video below!