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)
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.