Bass are the American sweethearts of the freshwater world right now. Tournament popularity? Maybe—but it’s primarily because bass are found in so many states—including Hawaii. But which states are best?
Some of the best bass fishing states favor spotted bass, some are better for smallies, some are loaded with largemouths, and a few have all three. Some have phenomenal numbers, some have size, and a few have both. All contain a few “secret” spots nobody’s talking about, beyond the stark glare of media attention.
So anglers from almost any state can claim they live in bassin’ heaven. Some states, however, are obviously better than others. So, how to create a top-10-best list of states for bass fishing? Conservation efforts protecting bass and their habitat have something to do with it. Media coverage of specimens that include state and world records have an impact. Accessibility is considered. A healthy number of venues is a must. Quality and number of great bass waters hold the most weight. How many big-fish waters exist? How many reservoirs, lakes, and rivers in the state hold world-class numbers of bass, and how many harbor real trophies? And how consistent is the action, year after year?
Certainly, Utah has some world-class smallmouth fishing—but the number of venues is limited. Giant bass are caught in Arizona, but the reservoirs can dry up completely in draught years. Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri have the potential to grow big bass and lots of them. Certainly, anglers from those states would include them, but timing is a factor, too. Anglers that have been around a while know that good fishing comes and goes—and right now the bass fishing in Alabama, Tennessee, and Michigan might be better than ever before.
Tourism statistics also reveal that the following states are visited often for purposes of fishing bass of one species or another. Bringing up the point— which is better? A smallmouth, a spot, or a bucketmouth? Impossible to determine. All are equal in our eyes, giving an 8-pound smallmouth about the same value as a 20-pound largemouth, or a 7-pound spot. Which further complicates the following list. So we present the states in alphabetical order. Which of the ten is best? You decide.
- “To me, Florida is the big-bass hatchery of the world, whether they go to Texas or California,” says legendary pro Larry Nixon. “Lakes here have some deep water, lots of grass, great spawning habitat, and the best fishing is in the heart of summer when nobody knows about it and nobody’s there.” Okeechobee is back. Not news, but along with Lake Seminole, the Harris Chain, Lake Tarpon, the Everglades, the Kissimmee Chain, and several others—Florida can’t be bypassed when naming the top 10 states for bass. “On Okeechobee, that early-morning Zara Spook bite is nothing shy of awesome,” Nixon said. “Anglers overlook the St. John’s River, too. If you know how to fish tidewater, the St John’s is awesome. The Harris Chain has always been solid, and the Toho-Kissimmee Chain is way up there on my list of favorites for numbers of big fish.”