Let the debate begin!
So you want to plan a bass fishing vacation, but you’re not sure where you want to go. Lucky for you, consensus has begun to form about which lakes and states offer the best bass fishing in the country.
Whether you’re looking for largemouth or smallmouth bass, huge trophy fish or large numbers, we’ve got you covered.
Check out the list below to see where the states rank.
In 2012, when Bassmaster compiled a list of the top 100 bass fishing lakes in the United States, Texas came out on top in not one, but two ways. On one hand, Texas won the list outright with its famous Falcon Lake taking the top slot – and by default becoming the lake that just about every bass angler needs to fish before they die.
On the other hand, Texas also covered the most ground on the list, with its lakes, rivers, and streams taking up eight slots. Of course, Texas has a bit of an edge over every other state in the lower 48 given its size. Still, with tons of famous bass fishing reserves and plenty of less well-known rivers, streams, and ponds spread throughout the state, it’s hard to argue with Texas as one of the top fishing states – if not THE top fishing state – in the country.
It would be tough to make a list of any sort of “top fishing states” list without including Michigan. The state’s all-sides access to the Great Lakes in itself makes Michigan an embarrassment of riches for fishing enthusiasts. The Great Lakes are generally not considered the most significant bodies of water for bass fishing, but none of them are slouches in the bass department, and Lake Erie is a haven for smallmouths if you fish there at the right time of year. Add literally thousands of inland lakes, streams, rivers, ponds – not to mention the gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay (pictured) up in the mitten state’s pinky – and Michigan is just about the only state in the union that can feasibly give Texas a run for its money.
They don’t call it “the Land of 10,000 Lakes” for nothing. Minnesota is yet another fisherman’s paradise, seemingly filled to the brim with great bass lakes. Ask 10 bass anglers for the prime fishing destination in the state, and you could easily get 10 different answers. General consensus points to Lake Minnetonka, the St. Croix River, and Minnesota’s stretch of the Mississippi as the state’s best fishing spots.
However, Minnesota’s number of lakes is actually closer to 13,000 than the advertised 10,000, and a good number of them house exceedingly healthy populations of largemouths and smallmouths alike. Anglers in Minnesota don’t always report the biggest trophies in the world, but they do routinely land dozens of bass in a single fishing trip. Call it a tradeoff.
Not to be left out of the Great Lakes glory pool, Wisconsin shares some of the best fishing characteristics of both Michigan and Minnesota to become one of the finest fishing states in the country. The bays on Lake Michigan and Superior – Green Bay (pictured), Sturgeon Bay, and Chequamegon Bay, especially – are the prime bass fishing spots, but a wealth of inland lakes and streams help to round out the state’s impressive fishing resume.
Speaking of the Great Lakes, Ohio lands on this list almost solely for its proximity to them. The state doesn’t have a lot in terms of inland fishing opportunities, but Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline provides some of the best bass fishing on the planet.
Texas and the Great Lakes states aside, you can bet there are more than a few bass anglers who would rank the paradise of Florida near the top of the bass fishing list. Lake Okeechobee is the state’s bass Mecca (and number two on Bassmaster’s top 100 lakes list), but there’s a reason that Florida also comes in second on that list in total bodies of water. Seven Florida lakes landed on the Bassmaster top 100, and from Lake Seminole to the Everglades (pictured) to Lake Tarpon, the Sunshine State has plenty to offer for anglers looking to take it easy in the warm weather.
On Bassmaster’s top 100 bass lakes list, Texas and Florida rather predictably provided the lakes that took the top two spots. Significantly less predictable was the fact that Alabama’s Lake Guntersville (this year’s Bassmaster Classic lake) slipped in at number three – ahead of the almighty Lake Erie. But Guntersville has recently become one of the favorite bass fishing lakes in the country, a body of water that – like Falcon Lake – is an essential destination for most anglers. The waters of Guntersville routinely yield massive, 10-pound largemouths.
8. New York
Manhattan residents looking to escape the bustle of city life for some good bass fishing don’t have to go as far as you might think. As a matter of fact, the Empire State plays host to a lot of great fishing opportunities if you know where to look. The state’s 200-plus survey of lakes is slim compared to states like Minnesota and Michigan, but New York makes up for that shortcoming in overall quality and diversity of fishing. Furthermore, Lake Champlain – which New York shares with Vermont – is easily one of the greatest lakes on the planet for any kind of fishing, bass included.
The world-record largemouth bass – a 22-pound, 4-ounce specimen fished by one George Perry – was caught in Georgia. Enough said.
It’s well known that the Peach State is full of big fish, and plenty of beautiful fishing spots and towns that surround them. The state holds more fishing tournaments every year than you knew existed.
You didn’t think we were going to get to the end of this list before hitting the west coast, did you? Next to Texas, California was the only state to land two different bodies of water – San Joaquin Delta and Clear Lake – in the top 10. California might be cheating a bit, since the state imports Florida bass to many of its lakes. However, big fish are big fish regardless of where they come from, and California has become a hot spot for 15 to 20 pound largemouths. If any state is ever going to break Georgia’s world largemouth record, California is the one.