Last updated on November 21st, 2020
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Bass fishing is an American pastime that rivals the likes of baseball and NFL football. Starting in the spring and stretching into the late fall – and even into winter– people can head to the lake and you’ll find numerous anglers in search of some of the best fighting freshwater fish in the world. The challenge of learning their tendencies and the battle that they provide when hooked keeps people coming back time after time. Yes, bass fishing is downright addictive!
A successful day on the water is determined by the severity of the “bass thumb” and discussions about the biggest fish caught. Americans are fortunate to have so many amazing bass fishing lakes, reservoirs and rivers all across these great United States.
With that said, here is a list of what we believe to be the 10 best bass fishing locations in the United States, along with some great location-specific fishing tips. These are some of the most productive spots in the country for trophy largemouth and smallmouth, as you will see shortly. In fact, you may just want to plan your next bass fishing adventure around one of these exciting locations after reading this post. Read on…
Lake St. Clair, MI
Lake St. Clair is one of the top bass lakes in the US. Lake Huron is on its north side and Lake Erie borders the south. It’s a 430 square mile lake home to both large and smallmouth bass. One of the main reasons this lake is so successful is due to the fact that it flushes itself into Lake Erie every seven days. The constant flow of water through the lake brings in new fish on a consistent basis.
While it’s not a deep lake, the flow of nutrients keeps fish satisfied. It is an average of 10 feet deep and the deepest section is only 27 feet.
What to Use on Lake St. Clair
Tackle choice on St. Clair is often up for debate. Many anglers have their preferences when it comes to fishing Lake St. Clair, but there are a few staples that tend to find fish. The tube bait has always worked and doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
Another common option is using some sort of jerk bait. The bass are going to rush towards these baits and give anglers a chance to catch a lot of fish in a short time. The Big Bite Baits Jerk Minnow on a ¼ oz drop shot works well. Drop shotting is a common technique on St. Clair that every angler needs to try. The suspended bait is great for the bass that hang near the bottom and are waiting to pick something floating through the weeds.
Presentation for St. Clair
In any sort of fishing, presentation can make the world of difference. Many anglers can remember successful days where it didn’t matter what you threw, but those days are few and far between. Success often comes with trial and error. Drifting a tube bait over some structure is going to find fish. It’s tempting to want to use your trolling motor, but the slower and more efficient the presentation, the better.
Like any bass angler knows, structure or weeds is key. The bass need somewhere to hide while they watch their surroundings for food. Since it’s such a large lake, you may burn quite a bit of gas in your first few times fishing it. You’ll be searching for structure and the ideal location. When you do find these spots, remember to take it slow and naturally drift over the areas.
Test around 8 pounds will be just fine. You want enough power to get through the structure, but the thinner the line, the less obvious you will be.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir, TX
The Sam Rayburn is one of the best bass lakes in Texas and a world-class fishery that serious anglers travel miles to experience. The reservoir can produce unforgettable days with sizable bass. Most bass anglers love to fish the spawn as it’s hard to beat the big, aggressive fish here. In Sam Rayburn, there are a few areas to focus on and several key baits that will help you find fish… let’s check ’em out.
What to Use on Sam Rayburn Reservoir
The area known as the “Black Forest” is a hot spot for bass on the reservoir. It’s a great spot to hit during the spawn. In the Forest, there is quite a bit of hydrilla to fish. The bass will hang out on its edge and wait for the bait to swim past. Do your best to be as accurate with your casts as possible. These fish don’t venture far from their beds during the spawn.
A couple of the best baits to use are chatterbaits and crankbaits. These are heavier baits that will stay lower in the water column. These baits will create reaction bites so be ready to set the hook. The bass will lash out at the lure as it passes through the vegetation.
Presentation for Sam Rayburn
Again, stay low in the water column. Also, when using chatter and crankbaits, vary your retrieve. It’s not bad to get hung up in the grass because as soon as it pops free, you’ll likely receive a strike. If a slow retrieve isn’t working, the fish may be more in the mood for a faster-moving option. Don’t be afraid of trial and error when it comes to fishing the Sam Rayburn.
Clear Lake, CA
Some would argue that California’s Clear Lake needs to be at the top of this list. Due to the fact that it fishes well year-round, it’s a popular spot for any die-hard angler. On top of the wonderful bass fishing, anglers can find a solid population of bluegill, catfish and crappie. This lake, stationed about 2.5 hours north of Sacramento, is a must for anyone out west.
What to Use on Clear Lake
Another wonderful aspect of this lake is the fact that a variety of baits can be used on it. The time of year can predict a bit of what you should use, but for the most part, variety is great. One spot can call for a slow jig presentation and the next a frog skipping across the surface.
The north end of the lake is more shallow. Rodman’s Slough is a common spawning spot for the bass so depending on the time of year, be sure to hit this location. The spawn is a prime time to jig or Texas Rig some plastics in the beds. The residential areas are common places for bass to spawn. They’ll hang out near docks and create their beds.
Search for drop-offs and rock piles during the post-spawn. This is where many bass will hang out. The more structure, the better! Throughout the lake, no matter the time of year, big swimbaits will work. Fish these along the tule lines or near the mouths of creeks.
Presentation for Clear Lake
The spring is going to be more forgiving for anglers on Clear Lake. The fish are aggressive and looking to fight off anything that may encroach on their beds. Go ahead and flip a jig or fish a slow swimbait and see what will strike. These fish may need a bit of coaxing, but it’s well worth your time to be patient. It’s not common to walk away with several 5 plus pound fish at the end of the day.
Lake Guntersville, AL
Lake Guntersville is a legend in the bass fishing world. It’s a 68,000-acre lake within the Tennessee River. It covers almost 900 miles of shoreline and is always a consistent fishery. The dam near Guntersville keeps water temperature and depth fairly consistent throughout the year. Early spring is the most successful time of year due to the spawn, but it fishes well all year long.
What to Use on Guntersville Lake
During the spawn, shallow water is going to be your friend. As the year progresses and the water temperatures warm, the fish will find the deeper water and hang out near structure.
Anything from a Rattletrap to a jig will work on the Guntersville. Like most of the lakes on this list, flipping jigs and searching for reaction strikes with crankbaits is going to lead some of the bigger fish. Use worms and craws for the soft plastics on your jigs. When using hard baits, shad colors are going to be best.
Presentation for Guntersville
Do your best to find the structure and the presentation. When the water is cold in the early spring during the pre-spawn, be sure to fish slow. These fish aren’t going to be as aggressive and need some coaxing. If you get hung up in vegetation or other structure, prop it free and let it drop. This is when the fish are going to strike.
In the midst of the summer, go ahead and vary your retrieval speed. The bass will be deeper and more aggressive so don’t be afraid to use a heavy bait and drag it across the bottom.
St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands), NY
Bass fishing in the St. Lawrence River is a must for anyone living in the Northeast. It’s been listed as the top bass fishing location in the United States numerous times. This lake is well known for its smallmouth bass population and can keep all skill leveled anglers satisfied. It’s a 50 mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River that has widened out and looks more like a lake.
What to Use on the St. Lawrence River
Similar to the other smallmouth lakes on this list, the traditional drop shots and tubes are going to find the most fish. This should tell anglers one thing: the slower, the better. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, topwaters and jerkbaits can all be successful, but it’s best to stick to the things that have proven to work best. A Robo Worm on the drop shot will find fish and lead to a productive day on the water.
The tube baits create just enough action with the tail and entice those smallies to strike.
Presentation for the St. Lawrence
Low and slow is the name of the game. The depth in the St. Lawrence varies quite a bit so don’t be afraid to try numerous locations. The colder months will slow the fish down so don’t be in a hurry. Let the bait take its time during the pre-spawn. As the bass begin spawning, do your best to force their aggression with accurate casts. These bass can hang out deep, but still want to be near structure. Some of the biggest fish are going to be cruising the open water for food, but they’ll always make their way back towards safety.
Lake Okeechobee, FL
Lake Okeechobee in Florida is almost as much of a draw for anglers as the Atlantic Ocean. It’s tough to find better bass fishing in the entire United States. For those tackling Okeechobee for the first time, the Clewiston area is going to be the best bet. It has a nice diversity and allows for all different types of fishing.
What to Use on Lake Okeechobee
Shiners are the natural bait that the bass want. While it’s fun to watch the bobber go, it is even more fun to fight some of those larger fish. Live bait, however, isn’t a common choice for anglers on Okeechobee. Most prefer to flip jigs on the structure or burn topwater baits.
Your best bet is to find reed lines with a nice amount of backwater that filters well and keeps the water clear. The bass want to be in the clearer water and the reed lines help accomplish this. A one or two-ounce jig is going to get through all of the vegetation and help you reach the spots you would like. Use some darker blue or green colors for your soft plastics to match the color the fish want. Braid between 40-50 pounds is going to help you get through all the structure.
Presentation for Okeechobee
The lake can be frustrating due to its immense size and potential lack of action. Don’t get overwhelmed. Work hard and continue pitching. If the fish strike, it will be almost as soon as it hits the water. If not, let it hit the bottom, give it a good hop and then move on to the next spot.
Chickamauga Lake, TN
Located in Chattanooga, TN, Chickamauga is a great lake for bass angling. It has a wide variety of water and massive fish. The lake stretches across 34,500 acres and was ranked as the #2 best bass fishing lake in the United States in 2018. In 2015, a 15-pound bass was pulled out of it to set a new state record for Tennessee.
What to Use on Chickamauga Lake
There are a few bait options for bass anglers on Chickamauga. There are plenty of spots in the lake to flip and anger some of the larger bass. When flipping, use the Mag Fatty. It’s a big and fat worm that is going to be too good for many bass to pass up. Using darker reds and purples will do the trick.
Some heavier crankbaits are great options for those warmer days. Get these as deep as possible in the water column and fish them along the weed lines. These will cause some impressive reaction bites.
Presentation for Chickamauga
In the morning when the temperature is cool, you can be a bit more aggressive with your casting. The most entertaining bite is the early morning bite. Ripping a topwater before the temperature is too high is a blast.
Tennessee tends to see a massive temperature change as their days progress. This change drives the bass deeper. As they work their way deeper, they find structure. This structure is going to host quite a few impressive fish.
Also, be aware of the currents in the lake. Since it’s a part of the Tennessee River, there are all sorts of currents within it. Follow these currents because the majority of food flows through the moving water.
New Bullards Bar Reservoir, CA
This may be the most unique lake on the list. It is home to both large and smallmouth bass as well as Kokanee Salmon and trout. This variety can lead to entertaining days on the water. Depending on the day, you could pull in four or five different species.
What to Use on New Bullards Reservoir
For the bass, go ahead and use spinners, crankbaits and spoons. Also, the smallmouth will love the drop shots with the Robo Worms and Chug Bugs. Hang out near the mouths of the creeks and structure. Some of the creeks to fish are Little Oregon Creek, Burnt Bridge Inlet and Tractor Cove. The baits listed above will have success on all of these. It’s an entertaining lake with beautiful views and fun for the whole family.
Presentation for New Bullards
Similar to the other lakes on the list, pay attention to the water temperature. Since it is in Northern California, the temperatures may not spike as much as some of the other lakes on the list. As a result, you’ll need to fish a bit slower. Bass need the warmer temperatures in the late afternoon to truly go after some of the deep laying baits. It’s a good choice to stay moving on this lake. Jigging will work, but the more movement you can have with your bait, the better.
La Cygne Lake, Kansas
These last two lakes on the list are for midwestern bass anglers. La Cygne is located fairly close to Kansas City and is easily accessible. For some, they believe the best fishing is when the power plant is working and the weather is a bit rough. It’s an amazing fishery that most midwest anglers like to hit at least once a year.
What to Use on La Cygne Lake
Jigs and crankbaits are the name of the game. However, do your best to stay shallow with both of these. The crankbaits don’t need to be fished in the deepest portions. Also, dark colors are going to be the most necessary. The water isn’t always the clearest, so anglers have success when the bait is dark.
Presentation for La Cygne
Find rock walls or currents. When you do, don’t be afraid to hit them hard. These fish need some coaxing at times, but they’re available for the taking. Don’t be afraid to fish at a variety of speeds. The fish can be a bit temperamental and it takes some figuring out to determine what they might like.
Lake Mille Lacs, MN
Lake Mille Lacs is another world-class smallmouth lake. Located in the heart of the Land of 10,000 lakes, it’s one of many great options in the state. However, its size and the possibility for a monster fish are too tempting for many to pass on. Be sure to give it a try in both the summer and the winter!
What to Use on Mille Lacs Lake
Drop shots, jerkbaits and crankbaits will all catch fish. Similar to the other smallmouth lakes on the list, Mille Lacs has some sizable fish and quite a few of them. With the recent limit put on walleye, the fishery is in a good place.
Find some structure and use a drop shot or even wacky rig, a Senko or flake. These are going to find the most fish. Keep the bait about a foot above the hook when fishing a drop shot. The more space for it to move around, the better.
Smaller jerkbaits can also entice some sizable smallies.
Presentation for Mille Lacs
Finding structure in 10-20 feet of water is a great option. These smallies like to hang around the rocks. Be patient. You’ll likely mark plenty of fish with your electronics and that is always a good sign. Drop it in and see what you can find. There are some perfect rock piles spread throughout the lake, but they can be tough to find due to the size. Trial and error is the name of the game on Mille Lacs.
Also see these posts:
The Texas Rig Explained With Step By Step Setup
Winter Bass Fishing: Tips for Catching Cold Weather Lunkers
10 Tips for Sustainable Sport Fishing
Gatun Lake, Panama – Some of the Best Peacock Bass Fishing in the World
Clackamas River Fishing
Fishing for Rainbow Trout, Top Game Fish West of the Rockies
I’ve been thinking about checking out Clear Lake for some time now. My question is whether it’s an area for more experienced anglers. Could someone with basic skills go there and have a good time (and catch some fish LOL).
Hi Edwin. Yes! Although Clear Lake has a reputation as a go-to destination for serious bass anglers, anyone can have success there. Just learn as much as you can about the lake and ask other anglers you may run into for a few pointers.