Since 2012, Bassmaster Magazine has released annual rankings of the country’s best bass fisheries.
While tournament data could not be gathered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, crunching numbers gathered over the past eight years revealed a surprising Best Bass Lake of the Decade — California’s Clear Lake.
While Toledo Bend at No. 6 was East Texas’s highest placing lake, overall the area had four lakes on the Top 100 list — Toledo Bend, Lake Sam Rayburn, Lake Fork and Caddo Lake. Other Texas lakes to make the list were Falcon Lake and Lake Ray Roberts. With six lakes on the list, Texas tied with California and Florida for the states with the second most lakes on the list.
“Typically, creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor-in-Chief James Hall. “Instead, we used all of this research and rankings from the past eight years to create an incredible — and somewhat surprising — ranking of bucket-list destinations for anglers.”
While long-considered a West Coast powerhouse, Clear Lake has never topped the Best Bass Lakes list until this year. However, in the past decade, California’s largest natural lake has also never ranked below 10th in the country and has been the top-ranked Western fishery for the past three years. Anglers can expect to consistently catch big bass in a fishery where an average bass weighs in at over 5 pounds. In fact, a bass over 16 pounds was landed at Clear Lake last year. Combine that production with a pristine setting in California’s wine country, and you have the definition of a bucket-list fishing destination.
Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, home of the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, took the No. 2 spot, matching its 2019 rank. Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention. Guntersville is known for its breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion.
True giants call our third-place fishery, Lake Erie, home. While most of the tournament data comes out of Buffalo, N.Y., anglers can expect smallies in the 6-pound range anywhere along the shoreline, which includes New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, where you can catch the smallmouth of a lifetime surrounded by Instagram-worthy scenery, is in the fourth spot.
Rounding out the remainder of the Top 10 lakes are California’s Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta at fifth; Toledo Bend, on the Louisiana/Texas border, at sixth; Sam Rayburn Reservoir at seventh; Falcon Lake at eighth; Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene at ninth; and Florida’s Lake Okeechobee at tenth.
“We divide the nation into four regions and rank the lakes in each region to give anglers perspective on the fisheries they can most likely reach,” Hall explained.
As for bragging rights on which state has the most fisheries in the all-decade rankings, that title goes to Michigan with seven lakes.
Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes of the Decade
- Clear Lake, California
- Lake Guntersville, Alabama
- Lake Erie, New York/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Michigan
- Lake St. Clair, Michigan
- Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, California
- Toledo Bend, Louisiana/Texas
- Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
- Falcon Lake, Texas
- Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
- Lake Okeechobee, Florida
- Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont
- St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands), New York
- Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee
- Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Oklahoma
- Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
- Lake Fork, Texas
- Lake Havasu, Arizona/California
- Oneida Lake, New York
- Candlewood Lake, Connecticut
- Columbia River, Oregon/Washington
- Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
- Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida
- Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion/Moultrie), South Carolina
- Lake Charlevoix, Michigan
- Sturgeon Bay (Lake Michigan), Wisconsin
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2 and The Pursuit Channel), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship, new Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.