BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Minnesota’s state motto is “Star of the North,” which seems appropriate seeing Bassmaster Magazine has crowned the state’s second largest lake as the best bass fishery in the nation based on the recent release of the publication’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings.
Mille Lacs Lake, a 132,516-acre natural lake located 100 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, soared to the No. 1 spot after months of research unveiled its unbelievable production of smallmouth bass. Mille Lacs was ranked No. 6 in the nation last year.
“This fishery really got our attention last September during the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in that topped the 20-pound mark,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “Had that been a four-day event, eventual winner Seth Feider may have topped the 100-pound mark with smallmouth, a feat that has never, ever happened before.”
But it takes more than one good event to push a fishery to the top of these rankings.
“After months of research and processing data from dozens of sources, we realized that the Angler of the Year event was hardly impressive production for the lake. Thirty-pound limits were weighed in during five team events last fall, including two limits breaking the 36-pound mark. Remember, these are limits of smallmouth. Just incredible,” Hall said.
This year, the rankings highlight the Top 12 fisheries in the nation regardless of location. The remaining lakes are ranked within one of four regions (Northeastern, Southeastern, Central and Western), so readers can easily identify the Top 25 lakes nearest them.
The Central division, which has been dominated by Toledo Bend Reservoir the past two years (it was the first fishery to be ranked No. 1 more than one time), experienced the biggest shakeup of the rankings. As Mille Lacs took over the No. 1 spot here, Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas also jumped ahead of Toledo Bend (which fell to No. 4 in the region). Lake Erie, fishing out of Buffalo, N.Y., took top honors in the Northeastern division (No. 7 nationally). California’s Clear Lake ended up the best in the West (No. 3 in the nation). As for the Southeastern division, North Carolina’s Shearon Harris Lake topped all other fisheries (No. 4 in the nation).
“There are a lot of surprises this year,” Hall admits. “Shearon Harris may be one of the biggest. But this lake produced two limits this year that topped 40 pounds. Can you imagine an 8-pound average?”
Other highlights include the comeback of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, a former No. 1 lake on this list that faced a serious downturn two years ago. This smallmouth factory has climbed back to No. 9 in the nation. New Bullards Bar in California (No. 4 in the Western division) has produced several world-record class spotted bass in the past 12 months, including an 11.25-pounder. South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion and Moultrie) are again producing near-30-pound limits, earning them the No. 8 spot in the nation and top spot in the Southeastern division.
As for bragging rights for the individual state with the most lakes making the Top 100, Texas wins by a long shot. The Lone Star State features 11 lakes that made the cut. California was a distant second, with a still-impressive showing of seven lakes being ranked in the Top 100.
Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes will be published in an 11-page section of the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings will also be featured on Bassmaster.com.
The Top 12 In The Nation
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota [132,516 acres] 2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas [114,500 acres] 3. Clear Lake, California [43,785 acres] 4. Shearon Harris Lake, North Carolina [4,100 acres] 5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California [1,153 square miles] 6. Lake Berryessa, California [20,700 acres] 7. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo] 8. Santee Cooper Lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina [110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively] 9. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles] 10. Falcon Lake, Texas [83,654 acres] 11. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York [50-mile stretch] 12. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee [36,240 acres]
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
3. Falcon Lake, Texas
4. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas/Louisiana [185,000 acres] 5. Lake Palestine, Texas [25,560 acres] 6. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin [4,945 acres] 7. Newton Lake, Illinois [1,775 acres] 8. Lake Ray Roberts, Texas [29,350 acres] 9. Lake Oahe, South Dakota/North Dakota [370,000 acres] 10. Lake Amistad, Texas [64,900 acres] 11. Lake Fork, Texas [27,690 acres] 12. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri [54,000 acres] 13. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana [25,400 acres] 14. Squaw Creek Reservoir, Texas [3,275 acres] 15. Table Rock Lake, Missouri [43,100 acres] 16. Lake Texoma, Texas/Oklahoma [89,000 acres] 17. Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas [34,300 acres] 18. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Oklahoma [46,500 acres] 19. Lake Waco, Texas [8,465 acres] 20. Millwood Lake, Arkansas [29,500 acres] 21. Lake Bistineau, Louisiana [15,500 acres] 22. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas [40,324 acres] 23. Mississippi River Pools 4-10, Minnesota/Wisconsin [from Lake City past La Crosse] 24. Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas/Missouri [45,000 acres] 25. Okoboji Chain of Lakes, Iowa [12,687 acres]
1. Lake Erie, New York
2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
3. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York
4. Lake Erie, Ohio [30-mile radius of Sandusky] 5. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont [490 square miles] 6. Saginaw Bay, Michigan [1,143 square miles] 7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan [32 miles long, 10 miles wide] 8. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan [17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively] 9. Bays de Noc, Michigan [Escanaba to Little Summer Island] 10. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan [17,200 acres] 11. Cayuga Lake, New York [38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide] 12. Oneida Lake, New York [79.8 square miles] 13. China Lake, Maine [3,845 acres] 14. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia [20,600 acres] 15. Webber Pond, Maine [1,233 acres] 16. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania [5.8 square miles] 17. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut [5,420 acres] 18. Great Pond, Maine [8,533 acres] 19. Lake Barkley, Kentucky [58,000 acres] 20. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee [160,309 acres] 21. Chautauqua Lake, New York [13,156 acres] 22. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky [65,530 acres] 23. Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia [2,630 acres] 24. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland [The entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top one-third.] 25. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire [20 miles long, 9 miles wide]
1. Shearon Harris, North Carolina
2. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina (Marion and Moultrie)
3. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
4. Lake Okeechobee, Florida [730 square miles] 5. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee [43,100 acres] 6. Lake Murray, South Carolina [50,000 acres] 7. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida [37,500 acres] 8. Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee [39,000 acres] 9. Lake Guntersville, Alabama [69,000 acres] 10. Bay Springs Lake, Mississippi [6,700 acres] 11. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida (plus Kissimmee Chain of Lakes) [22,700 acres] 12. Cherokee Lake, Tennessee [28,780 acres] 13. Lake Istokpoga, Florida [26,762 acres] 14. Cooper River, South Carolina [30-mile stretch below Lake Moultrie Dam] 15. Stick Marsh/Farm 13, Florida [6,500 acres] 16. Fontana Lake, North Carolina [10,230 acres] 17. Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia/South Carolina [71,000 acres] 18. Wilson Lake, Alabama [15,930 acres] 19. Kenansville Reservoir, Florida [2,500 acres] 20. Lake Wateree, South Carolina [13,250 acres] 21. Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina [56,000 acres] 22. Kerr Lake, North Carolina/Virginia [50,000 acres] 23. Logan Martin Lake, Alabama [15,263 acres] 24. Lake Lanier, Georgia [38,000 acres] 25. Davis Lake, Mississippi [200 acres]
1. Clear Lake, California
2. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
3. Lake Berryessa, California
4. New Bullards Bar Reservoir, California [4,790 acres] 5. Saguaro Lake, Arizona [1,264 acres] 6. Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho [25,000 acres] 7. Diamond Valley Lake, California [4,500 acres] 8. Lake Havasu, Arizona/California [19,300 acres] 9. New Melones Lake, California [12,500 acres] 10. Apache Lake, Arizona [2,568 acres] 11. Dworshak Reservoir, Idaho [17,090 acres] 12. Columbia River, Oregon/Washington [191 miles from Portland to McNary Dam] 13. Siltcoos Lake, Oregon [3,164 acres] 14. Roosevelt Lake, Arizona [21,493 acres] 15. Potholes Reservoir, Washington [27,800 acres] 16. Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah [1,322 acres] 17. Tenmile Lake, Oregon [1,626 acres] 18. Moses Lake, Washington [6,800 acres] 19. C.J. Strike Reservoir, Idaho [7,500 acres] 20. Lake Mohave, Nevada/Arizona [26,500 acres] 21. Brownlee Reservoir, Idaho/Oregon [15,000 acres] 22. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona [108,335 acres] 23. Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico [36,500 acres] 24. Lake Mead, Nevada/Arizona [158,080 acres] 25. Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Montana [7,700 acres]
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