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Field and Stream - - ON THE COVER -

Sure, you could luck into a 10pounder on a ran­dom farm pond, but to max­i­mize your chances, these are the best lakes in the world for dou­ble-digit bass right now

LAKE FORK, TEXAS

• If you built a tro­phy reser­voir straight out of the text­book, you’d get Lake Fork. It has ev­ery­thing needed to con­tin­u­ally pump out big Texas bass: stand­ing tim­ber, veg­e­ta­tion, creek chan­nels abut­ted by big spawn­ing flats, and pro­lific bait­fish like shad and the calo­rie-rich barfish. Fork gave up the Texas record—an 18.18-pound brute caught in 1992—as well as Texas’s top six bass, and 12 of the state’s top 15.

Guide Choice: Lance Vick (guideon­lake­fork.com)

TOLEDO BEND, TEXAS & LOUISIANA

• The Toledo Bend Lake As­so­ci­a­tion awards a free fiber­glass replica to any­one weigh­ing in a bass over 10 pounds in its Lunker Bass Pro­gram, and in 2015, the an­nual record was bro­ken for the fourth straight year with 139 qual­i­fy­ing largemouths—in­clud­ing a 14.16-pound mon­ster. This gi­ant bor­der reser­voir can be dif­fi­cult for the new­comer to nav­i­gate with its mas­sive amounts of brush and tim­ber. But the lake is also chock-full of hy­drilla— and all of that cover pro­vides end­less hid­ing places for hawgs.

Guide Choice: Darold Glea­son (glea­son­fish­ing.co)

LAKE OKEE­CHOBEE, FLORIDA

• Okee­chobee has had its ups and downs, of­ten cor­re­lat­ing to wa­ter lev­els, but it has such a healthy stock of fish and an ex­tended grow­ing sea­son that it never takes long to bounce back. Right now it’s on the up­swing and loaded with hy­drilla, eel­grass, and pep­per­grass. Big fish can spawn from Novem­ber through March. Many of the largest bass are caught on live shin­ers, but ar­ti­fi­cial lures pro­duce as well. Sight fish­ing is ex­cel­lent, but punch­ing the lake’s thick mats pro­duces gi­ants, too. Guide Choice: Tom Mann Jr. (tom­man­njr.com)

CLEAR LAKE, CAL­I­FOR­NIA

• While many north­ern Cal­i­for­nia lakes are touted as big-bass mec­cas, Clear Lake con­tin­ues to be the best. This is where Steve Kennedy con­vinced the en­tire coun­try that swim­baits are a vi­able tour­na­ment tool when he won an Elite Se­ries event in 2007, and since then the lake has con­tin­ued to pump out 30- and 40-pound tour­ney lim­its and lots of dou­ble-digit fish for tro­phy hunters. One way to catch a 10 is to use swim­baits meant to match the Clear Lake hitch, a lo­cal bait­fish. But with grass-lined shores and deep rock­piles, there’s no short­age of ways to tar­get them through­out the chang­ing sea­sons.

Guide Choice: Randy Pringle (the­fishin­gin­struc­tor.com)

SAN JOAQUIN DELTA, CAL­I­FOR­NIA

• Heavy veg­e­ta­tion, hun­dreds of miles of sloughs, canals, and small lakes, and Florida-strain bass com­bine to make this fish­ery con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent for both size and num­bers. It’s pos­si­ble to catch bass in a va­ri­ety of ways here, from flip­ping to fi­nesse tech­niques to throw­ing big swim­baits, all while hav­ing a de­cent-size area to your­self. “Over the past five years, in seem­ingly ev­ery tour­na­ment, whether it’s five boats or 150 boats, there have been mul­ti­ple fish over 10,” says bass pro Jared Lint­ner.

Guide Choice: Bobby Bar­rack (bob­by­bar­rack.com)

PICKWICK LAKE, ALABAMA, MIS­SIS­SIPPI & TEN­NESSEE

• Gun­tersville and Ken­tucky Lakes get much of the press, and right­fully so be­cause they con­tinue to pro­duce huge num­bers of 5- to 8-pound bass. Among the TVA reser­voirs right now, how­ever, Pickwick is the champ for dou­ble dig­its

thanks to a ma­jor grass resur­gence. In 2012, Lance Walker caught a po­ten­tial lake record that ap­peared to weigh some­where in the 15-pound class, but he re­leased it with­out tak­ing it to a cer­ti­fied scale. Chicka­mauga, an­other TVA im­pound­ment, has also pro­duced teen­ers, and the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors are lush fields of un­der­wa­ter grass and slightly less fish­ing pressure than neigh­bor­ing wa­ters—at least for now.

Guide Choice: Jimmy Ma­son (256-762-0014)

LAKE BERRYESSA, CAL­I­FOR­NIA

• Bass pro Ish Mon­roe says that in Cal­i­for­nia there are “about 15 sleeper lakes,” but about Lake Berryessa he adds, “I’d bet ev­ery­thing I own that it holds a worl­drecord spot, large­mouth, and small­mouth.” Berryessa isn’t far from Sacra­mento but has min­i­mal de­vel­op­ment, so it re­mains un­pres­sured. It also has deep wa­ter and a fer­tile pop­u­la­tion of for­age, and in the last decade it has re­ceived an in­flux of hy­drilla.

Guide Choice: Matt Allen (tac­ti­cal­bassin.com)

FALCON LAKE, TEXAS & MEX­ICO

• Falcon Lake is hardly a se­cret spot. Af­ter all, it pro­duced the record B.A.S.S. four-day to­tal of over 130 pounds for 20 fish, a 61⁄2-pound av­er­age, back in 2008. Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite the lake’s re­mote lo­ca­tion (50 miles to the near­est Wal­mart), the pressure be­came ex­treme, and that com­bined with very low wa­ter meant the fish­ery suf­fered. Now it seems to be back, with huge num­bers of 4- to 8-pound bass and a healthy pop­u­la­tion in the dou­ble dig­its, grown big on tilapia and liv­ing among the thorny mesquite and huisache bushes.

Guide Choice: Matt Reed (mat­treed­basspro.com)

LAKE EL SALTO, MEX­ICO

• Kevin VanDam called El Salto the ul­ti­mate buck­etlist des­ti­na­tion for bass an­glers and for good rea­son: It’s where he caught his per­sonal best five-fish limit weigh­ing just over 50 pounds. There are cer­tainly other good wa­ters in Mex­ico—Comedero, Bac­carac, Pi­ca­chos—but none has re­mained so good for three decades as El Salto has.

It’s full of heav­ily man­aged tilapia that sup­ply pro­tein­packed meals for the fast­grow­ing bass, and the lake’s an­nual fluc­tu­a­tions of 30 to 40 feet pro­vide a con­stant source of new cover and life.

Out­fit­ter Choice: An­glers Inn In­ter­na­tional (an­glersinn.com)

LAKE LETSIBOGO, BOTSWANA

• If you’re a true ad­ven­ture junkie, south­ern Africa is where it’s at for big bass. North­ern-strain fish were in­tro­duced here al­most a cen­tury ago, but the fish­eries in sev­eral coun­tries ex­ploded when Florida-strain fish were brought over more re­cently, with dou­ble-digit and teen­class fish be­com­ing more com­mon. You may have to con­tend with crocs and hip­pos—and in­fe­rior fa­cil­i­ties— but bass pro Gerry Jooste says it’s worth such trou­ble to fish Lake Letsibogo, where bass gain weight dur­ing a long grow­ing sea­son on a diet of sil­ver labeo, a bait­fish that can grow up to 2 pounds.

Out­fit­ter Choice: Phokoje Bush Lodge (phoko­je­bush lodge.com)

Great Pick

Pickwick Lake is a big­bass hotspot, re­cently giv­ing up a 15-pounder.

Lands of Gi­ants Falcon Lake on the Texas–Mex­ico bor­der is a gen­uine tro­phy fac­tory, as are (clock­wise from top left) Lake El Salto, Lake Okee­chobee, and the San Joaquin Delta.

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