These are some of the noteworthy stops the pros always fish in tournaments.
There are literally thousands of lakes and rivers across North America that can rightfully be considered "destination" fishing spots worthy of any angler's time. However, only a select few waters ever get considered for the Bassmaster tournament trail.
That's mostly because they need to be well-stocked and large enough for a field of pro anglers to all descend on it at once. In the world of bass fishing, these locations usually have a long history of excellent angling opportunities dating back generations. There's a reason these places appear on the schedule year after year.
Perhaps you're an aspiring pro angler looking to hone your skills on one of the scheduled tournament spots, or maybe you just want the chance to go out and have some fun fishing the same legendary places as the pros. Either way, these lakes and rivers are excellent spots to spend an afternoon fishing and possibly catch some real trophy fish at the same time.
Many of these locations have been annual destination spots for B.A.S.S., the governing body for the Bassmaster Elite Tour. Several of them have hosted the biggest tournament of them all, the Bassmaster Classic. We'll profile some of the most popular locations for serious bass anglers to consider visiting at least once in their life. We'll also give a little bit of notable history from each of these locations as it pertains to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Lake Guntersville, Alabama
At nearly 70,000 acres and almost 75 miles in length, Guntersville is Alabama's largest lake and is prime big bass habitat. This lake has hosted the Bassmaster Classic three times and is responsible for some of the heaviest limits in the storied tournament's history starting with Rick Clunn's winning weight of 59 pounds, 15 ounces in 1976.
More recently, it saw limits of 67 pounds, 8 ounces from Randy Howell, and 65 pounds, 5 ounces from Hank Cherry, Jr. In the 2014 Classic, Paul Mueller caught a five fish limit here weighing a staggering 32 pounds, 3 ounces on day two that turned the whole tournament around for him. It helped him avoid the cut and led to a runner-up finish after starting day two in 47th place!
Guntersville Lake is usually considered one of the best places to fish in America.
Kissimmee Chain of Lakes/Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida
These lakes are legendary in the Sunshine State for producing big bass. Kissimmee is approximately 35,000 acres while Tohopekaliga, which most simply call "Lake Toho," is a respectable 22,700. Both are part of the same chain and have produced some incredibly impressive stringers at Bassmaster events over the years. However, none can match what Dean Rojas did there at a tournament in 2001.
Rojas caught a five fish limit weighing a whopping 45 pounds, 2 ounces. He won the tournament with a total weight of 108 pounds, 12 ounces. The amazing thing was that runner-up Mark Davis caught an equally impressive total weight of 93 pounds, 1 ounce. Either way, anglers are still talking about Rojas' incredible day one record more than 20 years later.
Lake Hartwell, South Carolina
Situated on the Georgia/South Carolina border, this manmade lake was created by a dam in the early 1960s and covers about 56,000 acres. It has a reputation as a destination point for striped bass, but it has also become a regular favorite of the bass pros.
It has hosted the Classic three times since 2008 with the winner catching limits in the 47 to 50-pound range every single time. The single best performance came from 2015 winner Casey Ashley who caught a total of 50 pounds, 1 ounce on the reservoir.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
At approximately 114,500 acres, Sam Rayburn is a beast of a lake, and it holds some truly gigantic bass within its depths. The eastern Texas reservoir was built back in the 1950s and while it's never hosted a Classic, it is a frequent stop for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
The chance for some truly gigantic bass is always a possibility at Sam Rayburn. The lake holds both largemouths and spotted bass. The spotted bass lake record is 5.50 pounds, and the largemouth record is a whopping 16.80 pounds!
The St. Lawrence River, New York
Don't let the fact that this is a northern body of water fool you into thinking you can only catch small bass on the St. Lawrence River. In a 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series event, Micah Frazier won with a total weight of 87 pounds 4 ounces. The top eight finishers all caught total weights over 80 pounds in that same tournament. The river was also home to the 1980 Bassmaster Classic, which was won by Bo Dowden with a total weight of 54 pounds, 10 ounces.
The great thing about the St. Lawrence is the fact that it holds both big largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. This includes a monstrous, 8-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth that was caught there in 2016 to tie the state record. That bass looked like it had swallowed a basketball, and the amazing thing was that the catch came in late August, well after the spawn. It makes us wonder just how much bigger that fish was earlier in the year.
Table Rock Lake, Missouri
Situated right on the border of Arkansas and Missouri, Table Rock was an Army Corps of Engineers project back in the 1950s. Today it's known as one of the best bass fishing destinations in the Show Me State and is a consistent home for pro fishing tournaments.
It covers approximately 43,000 acres and while it's home to a bevy of game fish species, it's especially well known for both largemouth and spotted bass. Table Rock is the home of the spotted bass state record at 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
Lake Mead, Nevada
This reservoir will always have a special place in the hearts of Bassmaster fans because it was home to the very first Classic back in 1971, which was won by Bobby Murray with a weight of 43 pounds, 11 ounces. It has continued to be a regular tournament trail stop ever since then.
Formed when the famous Hoover Dam was constructed during the Great Depression, the lake is massive. It's more than 100 miles long and sinks to depths of over 500 feet at its deepest points. It's home to a robust population of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Lake Mead is also where the Nevada state record largemouth was caught, a 12-pounder that was pulled out of the lake in 1999.
Pickwick Lake, Tennessee
The nice thing about Pickwick is that this 43,000-acre reservoir near the Tennessee border is also easily accessible from Alabama and Mississippi. Pickwick has not hosted a Classic but is a regular home for Elite Series events. It holds both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, with the latter receiving most of the attention.
Many would claim that a 5-pound smallie is a common catch at Pickwick, and rarely a season goes by without someone catching some in the six- and seven-pound range. It's also one of the rare lakes to produce a 10-pound smallmouth. Because of this, some speculate the lake could be holding a smallmouth big enough to challenge the world record someday.
Lake Fork, Texas
The legendary northeastern Texas lake covers approximately 24,000 acres and offers some of the best bass fishing in Texas. There's little wonder that it's a regular stop on the pro tour and has been for decades now.
You can thank the lake's regulatory slot limits (which protect all bass between 16 and 24 inches from harvest) for helping to bolster the lake's reputation as a lunker hotspot. While it has spotted bass, this lake is best known for its largemouths. The lake record is a whopping 18 pounds and was caught in 1992. Every year the lake produces multiple fish over the ten-pound mark, making it a destination spot for anglers in the Lone Star state looking for early season pre-spawn giants.
Grand Lake, Oklahoma
Grand Lake or Grand Lake o' the Cherokees as it is also known, covers about 46,000 acres of prime bass habitat. It was formed with the construction of the Pensacola Dam by the Army Corps of Engineers back in the late 1930s.
It has hosted the Bassmaster Classic twice, in 2013 when Cliff Pace finished with a total weight of 54 pounds, 12 ounces, and again in 2016 when Edwin Evers caught a limit of 60 pounds, 7 ounces. The waters of this reservoir are home to many different species of gamefish, including paddlefish, which are a popular recreational target. However, the largemouth bass are plentiful, and a fish weighing more than 10 pounds is a real possibility on this lake.
James River, Virginia
This river hosted three Bassmaster Classics in a row from 1988 until 1990, and the total winning weight increased every year. Notable winners here include Guido Hibdon, Hank Parker, and the legendary Rick Clunn, who boated a limit of 34 pounds, 5 ounces to win the 1990 Classic here. While it hasn't hosted the Classic in a long time, it's still a great bass fishery and regularly hosts Bassmaster Open events nearly every year.
Lake Logan Martin, Alabama
This 17,000-acre reservoir hosted the Bassmaster Classic twice, in 1992 and 1993, won by Robert Hamilton Jr., and David Fritts with weights of 59 pounds, 6 ounces, and 48 pounds, 6 ounces respectively. The waters here are home to both largemouth and spotted bass, although the former are the ones that most anglers are interested in targeting. After all, big fish of seven or eight pounds are caught here every year. The lake record is just a hair over 14 pounds, showing there are some true giants in the waters of the "Lake of a Thousand Coves."
St. Johns River, Florida
This popular Florida River is on the Bassmaster Elite schedule almost every season. If it's not, then it's often scheduled for an Open or college level event. St. Johns has produced some incredible winning weights in more than a few tournaments. One of the more recent finishes of note was in 2019 when Bassmaster legend Rick Clunn took home the top prize in a Bassmaster Elite event with a winning weight of 98 pounds, 14 ounces. In fact, the top eight finishers all cracked the 80-pound mark for that event, proving there is some truly great fishing to be found here for both the competitive and the casual angler.
Lake Eufaula, Alabama and Georgia
While it's officially called Walter F. George Lake, all the locals refer to it as Lake Eufaula. Whatever you decide to call it, the 46,000-acre reservoir is another Army Corps of Engineers project. This lake straddles the Alabama and Georgia border, and it doesn't matter which side you fish, it's a big bass paradise. You only need to look at heavy Bassmaster Elite winning weights like Buddy Gross' 84-pound, 8-ounce limit in the 2020 DEWALT Bassmaster Elite as proof of that. In 1980, the Georgia side famously produced a 16.5-pound largemouth, which still stands as the lake record to this day.
Lake Conroe, Texas
This 21,000-acre reservoir hosted the 2017 Bassmaster Classic, which saw fan favorite Jordan Lee get his first Classic win with a total weight of 56 pounds, 10 ounces. It's a common stop for the Bassmaster Elite series in recent years, with good reason. The waters hold some truly giant largemouth bass. Rarely does a spring fishing season go by without Conroe producing at least one legacy class fish for the Texas ShareLunker program. The lake record is also a hefty 15.93 pounds, proving this is a lake that should be on every bass angler's bucket list at some point.
For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels.
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