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Let’s be clear: There is no shortage of great bass fishing lakes in the United States.
In fact, did you know you can locate the species in every state except Alaska? Yes, even Hawaii has bass.
Every bass angler has his or her favorite lake in which to pursue this popular pastime. Here are 10 of our favorites (plus a bonus lake at the end because we just couldn’t resist).
- 1 – Lake Guntersville, Alabama
- 2 – Diamond Valley Lake, California
- 3 – Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
- 4 – Lake Okeechobee, Florida
- 5 – Lake Lanier, Georgia
- 6 – Lake Champlain, New York and Vermont
- 7 – Lake Saint Clair, Michigan
- 8 – Lake Marion & Lake Moultrie, South Carolina
- 9 – Lake Fork, Texas
- 10 – Lake Erie
- Bonus! Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
1 – Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Lake Guntersville stretches out over 75 miles and covers 69,100 acres along the Tennessee River, making it Alabama’s largest lake. Lake Guntersville was chosen by Relocate America as one of “The 100 Best Places to Live in America.”
ESPN fishing tournaments and other pro competitions have been held here, primarily for the lake’s largemouth bass population. Bluegill, catfish, crappie, longear sunfish, redear sunfish, and sauger also attract their share of anglers.
Aside from fishing tournaments, year-round events promise plenty of fun and R&R: triathlons, cook-offs, the annual Alabama Songwriters Competition, boating races, and fireworks.
Lake Guntersville State Park, a 6,000-acre wildlife haven, offers an 18-hole championship golf course, miles of hiking and biking trails, a sandy beach, incredible views, and accommodations.
Other notable Alabama bass fishing lakes include Pickwick Lake and Wheeler Lake, both popular for trophy size smallmouth and largemouth bass.
2 – Diamond Valley Lake, California
Diamond Valley Lake is Southern California’s largest reservoir, covering 4,500 acres. The department of Game and Fish began stocking it with largemouth bass as soon as the lake was deep enough to support them.
Opened to public fishing in October 2003, Diamond Valley Lake has quickly become a premier fishing spot for bass and trout in Southern California. The lake is also home to bluegill, catfish, crappie, pan fish, smallmouth bass, and striped bass.
In addition to fishing, Diamond Valley Lake is a prime venue for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and biking. The six-mile North Hills Trail is open to hikers and equestrians, offering breathtaking views of the San Jacinto Valley.
For serious hikers, the 21.8-mile Lake View Trail loops around the lake and over three dams.
Another highly touted Southern California fishing lake is Castaic Lake, which holds the state record for largemouth bass – a monster at 21 pounds, 2 ounces.
3 – Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
Lake Minnetonka has a long history as a popular resort destination and has been mentioned many times in history. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, “The Song of Hiawatha,” refers to landmarks in the Minnetonka area. Thurlow Lieurance wrote the song, “By the Waters of Minnetonka,” based on a Native American legend. And, this 14,000-acre lake has been the prized spot for summer homes for a number of famous people, including President William Howard Taft.
Today, Lake Minnetonka is a prized largemouth bass fishery, with many bass tournaments held on the lake every year. Bassmaster described Lake Minnetonka as “one of the nation’s finest all-around bass lakes throughout the last decade.”
The lake is also popular with anglers looking to hook walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, and yellow perch.
For visitors not smitten with the fishing bug, Lake Minnetonka provides plenty of room for sailing, pontoon boating, jet skiing, or cruising the lake aboard the restored antique steamboat, the Minnehaha.
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4 – Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Shallow Lake Okeechobee has several nicknames, owing to its massive 451,000 acres: Florida’s Inland Sea, Lake O, and The Big Lake. The lake is part of the 154-mile Okeechobee Waterway that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
Lake O hosts several fishing tournaments each year, and you can look forward to year-round angling enjoyment for world-class largemouth bass, plus crappie, bluegill, catfish, and speckled perch.
Cruise boat passengers ogle Lake Okeechobee’s spectacular scenery while learning about Lake O’s natural history. The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail offers 110 miles of hiking trails with front-row views of Florida’s diverse flora and fauna.
Other renowned Florida bass fishing lakes include Lake Tohopekaliga, Lake Kissimmee, and Lake George, all boasting trophy size largemouth bass.
And for a unique experience, hire a guide for peacock bass fishing in the lakes and rivers of South Florida – the only place in the continental USA where you can catch this formidable, tropical adversary. Colorful peacock bass – in varying shades of green, blue, orange, and gold – are one of the hardest-fighting freshwater fish in the world.
5 – Lake Lanier, Georgia
Lake Lanier is a premier residential and vacation destination, spanning 38,000 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 25 miles northeast of Atlanta.
The Army Corps of Engineers operates 46 park areas around the lake with boat launch ramps, beaches and swim areas, campgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic areas, so recreational activities are limited only by your imagination. The Corps and the Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources actively manage fish habitats with fish attractors around the lake.
Lake Lanier is noteworthy for its striped bass, spotted bass, white bass, and largemouth bass. Other fish found naturally in Lake Lanier include catfish, crappie, and several species of pan fish. Trout fishing below the Buford Dam is also popular, including rainbow, brown and brook trout.
6 – Lake Champlain, New York and Vermont
Lake Champlain covers an impressive 271,000 acres and straddles the border of two states. The lake is accented by 71 islands, including an entire Vermont county, and its irregular shape is segmented into five unique sections.
New York’s 6.1 million-acre Adirondack Park comprises much of the lake’s western shoreline. The city of Burlington, Vermont, located on the Main (or Broad) part of Lake Champlain, is a sports-oriented, year-round residential and vacation destination on the eastern shoreline.
Champlain is a world-class lake for both smallmouth and largemouth bass. Outdoor Life magazine named Burlington the “Bass Fishing Capital” in its Best Towns 2010 issue. The lake also teems with trout, salmon, northern pike, walleye, catfish, pan fish – and Champ, Lake Champlain’s renowned lake monster.
Whether your passion is fishing or boating, Lake Champlain has plenty of water to spread your wings.
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7 – Lake Saint Clair, Michigan
Lake Saint Clair is the smallest body of water in the Great Lakes system, but this heart-shaped lake spans an impressive 275,000 acres.
Tucked between Lake Huron to the North and Lake Erie to the south, Lake St. Clair is renowned as a sport fishing paradise and is one of the USA’s top destinations for smallmouth bass fishing. These hard-fighting fish average 2-4 pounds, with catches as large as 6-7 pounds. Anglers can hook 25-50 smallmouth bass in a day.
Other popular sport fish are muskellunge, walleye, yellow perch, and northern pike.
The Lake St. Clair Tourism Initiative launched its ‘Circle the Lake Tour’ campaign in 2011 with a travel brochure and map that highlight the lake area’s top 50 destinations.
Attractions include the Detroit River’s Ambassador Bridge (connecting Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario) and the St. Clair River’s Blue Water Bridge (connecting Port Huron, Michigan with Sarnia, Ontario). The self-guided tour attractions are reachable by car or boat.
8 – Lake Marion & Lake Moultrie, South Carolina
Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are known as the Santee Cooper lakes for the two rivers they impound. These two reservoirs in South Carolina’s Low Country cover 174,000 acres and are part of a navigable inland channel that extends more than 100 miles from Columbia to Charleston. The 6.5-mile Diversion Canal connects the two lakes.
You know you’re in serious fishing country when the billboard across the I-95 bridge welcoming you to the Santee Cooper lakes shows a gigantic striped bass with the humorous caption: “Not quite actual size.”
The lakes are fishable all year because they never freeze. A fish hatchery is located on Lake Moultrie. Natural hazards in Lake Marion challenge first-time visitors; we recommend you hire a local fishing guide to show you the best places to catch stripers, largemouth, and catfish.
9 – Lake Fork, Texas
Lake Fork is regarded as one of the world’s best big bass lakes. Covering 27,690 acres, state officials created this reservoir in 1985 with bass production in mind.
Nationally recognized because of the trophy largemouth bass fishery, Lake Fork claims 65% of the Texas Top 50 largest bass ever caught. The state record still resides at Lake Fork with an 18.18 pound bass that was caught in January 1992, surpassing the old record of 17.67 pounds caught in November 1986 (also in Lake Fork).
Other species found in the lake include white crappie, black crappie, channel catfish, bluegill, and redear sunfish.
Texas is full of other incredible bass fisheries: Lake Amistad (65,000 acres), Falcon Lake (83,600 acres), Choke Canyon Lake‘ (25,600 acres), Toledo Bend Reservoir (181,600 acres), and Sam Rayburn Reservoir (114,500 acres).
These Lone Star State reservoirs provide plenty of space for every imaginable on-water and off-water recreational pursuit.
10 – Lake Erie
Completing our bass lakes list is the 6.3 million-acre Lake Erie. The shallowest of the Great Lakes, Erie reaches at most 200 feet below its surface. These relatively shallow depths create great angling opportunities, especially among its islands and reefs.
In addition to its renown as “The Walleye Capital of the World,” the western basin of Lake Erie (near Lake St. Clair) is known for its abundance of 5- and 6-pound smallmouth bass. Ohio’s state record 9.5 pound smallmouth (23.5 inches long) was caught here.
Aside from great bass fishing, Lake Erie contains more than 30 islands, including Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle with seven miles of protected, sandy beaches.
Ohio state parks are located on five islands: Catawba Island, Kelleys Island, South Bass Island, Middle Bass Island, and North Bass Island.
Lake Erie provides many recreation options: boating, sailing, wildlife viewing, island hopping, lighthouses to visit, and more.
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Bonus! Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Smith Mountain Lake, located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwest Virginia, is home to LakeLubbers.com and to some outstanding fishing so we simply couldn’t leave it out of this list!
Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s second largest freshwater body of water and one of the top fishing destinations in the Mid-Atlantic. While muskie, brook trout, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are all popular, the prized catch is striped bass (stripers).
Aside from fishing, SML is an outdoor lover’s paradise where boating, watersports, sailing, hiking and golf are available year-round thanks to Virginia’s temperate climate. Several sites of historical significance should also be at the top of your list when you visit Smith Mountain Lake, including the National D-Day Memorial and Booker T. Washington National Monument.
Find out more about Smith Mountain Lake boat rentals and where to stay when you visit.
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