Are you looking for a summer fishing getaway for the family or group of fishing pals? I have five must-visit locations that offer incredible bass fishing for the young, old and everywhere in between. Enough chatter – let’s get to my top 5 summertime bass fishing destinations!
1. Clear Lake, CA
Clear Lake, the largest natural lake entirely in the state of California, offers some of the best bass fishing in the world. Clear Lake isn’t loaded with the teen-sized bass like other lakes in California, but there is no shortage of big five to ten pound bass. It’s not out of the question to have twenty to fifty bass days on Clear Lake.
Summer Patterns: Clear Lake has loads of vegetation in the summer on the north end of the lake which will keep the shallow water anglers happy. Fishing a frog over the vegetation or punching with big one to two-ounce weights through the vegetation are great ways to catch them in the hot summer months.
If you like fishing deeper water, Clear Lake has plenty of deep water rock piles and docks on the south end of the lake. Fishing a jig or Z-Man Shaky HeadZ rigged with a Z-Man Finesse WormZ on rock piles or shallow running squarebill crankbaits around the docks can load the boat quick.
2. Potomac River, MD
It’d be hard for me not to put the Potomac River on any of my favorite fishing lakes lists. It’s one of my absolute favorite places to fish. When I won an FLW Tour event there in 2011 it didn’t hurt its status in favorite places to fish list. Located not far from from Washington, DC, the Potomac River not only offers fantastic bass fishing, but where else can you view George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Home, the Pentagon and the DC skyline from the water?
Summer Patterns: Like Clear Lake, the vegetation will grow thick most summers on the Potomac. Fishing a frog or punch fishing with heavy weighs can work great. For an alternative, anglers can fish shallow running (five to eight feet) spinnerbaits and crankbaits in the creek channels.
3. Lake Guntersville, AL
The gem of the Tennessee river chain of lakes, Lake Guntersville is just a few hours drive from the major cities of Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham and Huntsville. Almost all of its over 69,000 acres of water is fishable. With over 950-miles of winding shoreline, it makes for excellent fishing.
Summer Patterns: The vegetation does get thick in Lake Guntersville. Shallow water anglers can fish a frog or flip vegetation, docks or wood. For deep water anglers Guntersville can be exceptional for ledge fishing. Find big drop offs from shallow to deep water and fish a deep diving crankbait or a big jig. Carolina rigging large soft plastics on ledges can also be extremely productive. Guntersville is where the umbrella rig craze began in the late summer of 2011, so don’t leave home without your umbrella.
4. Lake Champlain, NY/VT
Lake Champlain is huge. I heard it was once considered a Great Lake, but I didn’t confirm that. It is 125 miles long and 14 miles across. It is mostly in New York and Vermont in the U.S., but portions of it do stretch into Canada. Be sure to check with local authorities if you plan to fish near or across the Canadian border, the rules change there often.
Summer Patterns: Champlain is one of the few lakes in the world where you can catch both giant largemouths and giant smallmouths. On the north end of the lake you can target giant smallmouth bass. A Megabass Vision 110 rip bait in original or magnum size is hard to beat for the smallmouth action. For a slower presentation try a tube or Z-Man Finesse Shadz drop-shotted. On the south end of the lake you can target lunker largemouths with a frog fished over vegetation or a big jig fished near grass lines. A lipless crankbait, like a Megabass Vibration-X, can be super effective when yo-yo’ing it in shallow water grass.
Fun note: Keep your eye out for Champ, the Lake Champlain monster. In the 1600s there were reports of a five foot long creature with a two foot wide mouth loaded with razor sharp teeth. Indians also claimed to see Champ, and the Vermont Lake Monsters minor league baseball team and their team mascot Champ keep the “monster” mystery alive.
5. Lake Okeechobee, FL
Located in Central Florida, Lake Okeechobee (Seminole for ‘big water’) is one of the top ten largest freshwater lakes in the U.S.. I believe it is the seventh largest, but I could be off a few spots. Okeechobee is full of giant bass and other wildlife including herons, cranes, dozens of duck species, alligators, whitetail deer, wild hogs, turtles, birds of prey (ospreys and even bald eagles) and more snakes than you may ever want to see.
Summer Patterns: Water temperatures can rise to nearly 90 degrees in the summer, so its imperative to find current or shade. The deeper water in the rim canals and the Kissimmee River are generally a few degrees cooler and can offer better fishing. Early mornings and evenings top water action can be fantastic outside of the grass lines near the drop-offs to deep water. When the top water action slows, Z-Man Jerk ShadZ and Grass KickerZ fished weedless can be super effective.
Planning a fishing trip for a group of friends or the family in the summer can be a lot of fun. Visit one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country and catch lots of bass. Each of the lakes I’ve mentioned above should provide excellent fishing and a chance at the fish of a lifetime. Please practice catch and release and always have a good time!