best smallmouth fishing states
Craig Raleigh

The 8 Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing States

These are the eight best smallmouth bass fishing states in the union.

We love bass fishing. We don't care if we're fishing for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass or spotted bass, as long as it jumps, thumps and bumps our offering. We expect big bass to follow, slam, and then leap and spit our lures. More often than not, we're perfectly happy to see them release themselves, but can be just as crushed when they get away.

We call them chunks, slobs, pigs and toads, none which are words you might imagine someone using for one of our most revered fishing foes, but they are used in great respect.

Bass lakes and bass rivers command our attention. We get jealous when another state seems to surpass our own for smallmouth bass fishing royalty.

Many states in the United States have terrific bass fishing, and I'll leave it to you to decide which is the best. But, here are eight I believe should be on a bucket list for every bass angler to try:

8. Maine

Maybe not on everyone's list, but I know enough people who've fished there to know how great of a smallmouth state it really is. Don't let the fact that this is a coastal state dissuade you from thinking that it's a great warm-water fishery, because it is. Waters like Cobbosseecontee Lake, Megunticook Lake and Sebago Lake aren't only good smallmouth bass fishing lakes, but you could just as easily hook into a landlocked salmon or trout!

7. Missouri

Some folks in the Show Me State might not like being a little low on the list, especially since the Ozark Mountains and all of its streams and rivers have such great smallmouth fishing. Reservoirs such as Bull Shoals and Table Rock Lake are staples of the bass fishing tradition. But, it's the rivers such as the Big Piney River, the James River, the Current River and the Jacks Fork River that garner the attention of those seeking a battle with the gamey bronzeback.

6. Wisconsin

Lake Mendota, Lake Mohawksin, Oconomowoc Lake and Okauchee Lake are the best bets to land a smallmouth, but don't forget about the Wisconsin River or the esteemed Mississippi River, which is fishable all the way into Minnesota. Additionally, Sturgeon Bay has some of the best smallmouth habitat known to American bass anglers.

5. Tennessee

Of the 10 biggest smallmouths ever caught, four came from Dale Hollow Lake or Pickwick Lake in the Volunteer State. And, this includes the all-tackle, world-record 11-pound, 15-ounce brute caught by David Hayes back in 1955. Anglers in Tennessee also know to not overlook the Holston River.

4. Kentucky

The first striped bass I ever caught was on the Cumberland River, but that was outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The Cumberland winds around some 690 miles of territory between Kentucky and Tennessee, but the Bluegrass State boasts almost 135 miles of prime smallie water. Before you decide to travel here, make sure you get some information about Elkhart Creek, one of the most famous smallmouth streams in the state.

3. Minnesota

Starting right off with the famed Mille Lacs, smallmouth fishing in the North Star State is as good as it gets. This shallow, sprawling lake is replete with all the structure a smallmouth bass could ever want, making it a fisherman's dream. Moving on to the venerable Lake Minnetonka, you'll likely find yourself catching some beautiful largemouth bass, too!

Even the famed Mississippi River is a big part of the smallmouth bass fishery in Minnesota. And, as everyone knows, fishing for bronzebacks in moving water is as fun as it gets.

2. Michigan

When you consider Lake St. Clair, Saginaw Bay, Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Erie, it's hard not to put Michigan at the top. Home to so many smallmouth hot spots, it's hard to list them all. But, Michigan is a leader in putting the gamey black bass in your boat. Even Burt Lake and Mullet Lake are known as draws for smallmouth anglers.

1. New York

best smallmouth fishing states

Craig Raleigh

I'm completely subjective in calling the Empire State the best smallmouth bass fishing state in the U.S. But, having fished this state for most of my life, I can confidently say Lake Erie produces smallmouth and walleye unlike any other body of water I've seen. The vaunted and mighty St. Lawrence River hosts Bassmaster Elite events that typically win by smallmouth catches.

Almost every single one of the Finger Lakes have amazing smallmouth populations, and you'll get an argument from locals every time over which one is the best. Then there's the mystical, magical Lake Champlain on the border of Vermont and Quebec.

There's also Chautauqua Lake, but you might watch a muskellunge eat your big smallmouth while you're reeling it in.

And then there's the whole world of stream fishing! You can traverse the tributaries of Lake Ontario and wear out your arms, come October, you may get run over by all the king salmon.

These are some of the best lakes, streams and rivers you can fish for when it comes to our favorite bronze foes. The next time you consider a fishing trip, think about one of the areas on this list.

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