Bassmaster Magazine’s third annual ranking of America’s best bass fisheries has been announced, and there is a new champion. Lake Michigan’s Sturgeon Bay beat out the hottest fisheries in the U.S. to take the No. 1 spot for 2014. Texas and California tied for the states with the most entries on the list; both have eight lakes ranked in the Top 100. Some stalwart lakes fell out of the rankings completely, new lakes were added, and Lake St. Clair, last year’s No. 1, fell out of the Top 15.
Months of research, catch-rate data and countrywide polling by the publication’s staff created the ultimate bucket list for anglers looking to fish the most productive waters in the nation.
“The Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes project spawned from our desire to not only identify traditionally good bass fisheries, but also to spotlight lakes that are red hot right now,” says Bassmaster Editor James Hall. “Our goal is to make the annual rankings as objective as possible by using the most current data available from state wildlife agencies, current tournament data and expansive polling of the B.A.S.S. membership.”
This year, Bassmaster not only asked each state’s wildlife department to list their best lakes, but also asked the department to rank the lakes and offer reasons for each ranking. All the B.A.S.S. Nation presidents and conservation directors ranked the lakes they frequent as well. And to make sure no lakes were overlooked, the 580,000-plus Facebook fans of B.A.S.S., as well as a 3,500-member panel of avid anglers, chimed in.
“Our master list included more than 180 great bass fisheries. Once we had this foundation, the real work began,” Hall says.
Phone calls to area guides, Internet research and angler interviews brought the cream to the top. After identifying the Top 100 fisheries, the rankings were sorted by a blue-ribbon panel, including bass pros, outdoor writers and fishing industry insiders.
Although many rankings were debated by the panel, the top spot was not. “Sturgeon Bay is absolutely on fire right now. It is beautiful. The smallmouth here are giant — nobody even blinks at 6-pounders. And it’s not unusual for an angler to catch 60 bass per day. That’s what it takes to be named America’s best bass fishery,” Hall says.
Lake Amistad, once ranked in the Top 10 on this list, no longer makes the cut. “We aren’t sure what’s to blame for Amistad’s poor production lately, but this typically awesome fishery is struggling right now,” Hall explains.
Although several new lakes are now ranked in the Top 100, California’s New Melones Lake made the biggest splash among the newcomers, earning an inaugural ranking of 51. “This lake has become a world-class spotted bass fishery, and the current pending world record spotted bass caught there in March (10.48 pounds) puts an exclamation mark on that statement,” Hall says.
For a complete listing of Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes, visit Bassmaster.com.
Image courtesy Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center/ B.A.S.S.