After three years hovering in the Top 5 of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings, Texas’ Sam Rayburn Lake finally took the crown as the best bass lake in the nation for 2018.
Consistent production of heavy five-fish tournament limits and the potential for giant bass made this 114,500-acre reservoir northeast of Houston tops in the country this year. Rayburn Lake started showing out in 2015, when it climbed to fifth in the rankings. In 2016 it jumped to fourth. And last year, Rayburn was the bridesmaid, sitting in second place. But, Rayburn is a bridesmaid no more, and for the first time captures the title.
“Although there were some pretty spectacular numbers being produced from other lakes this year, Rayburn was a clear No. 1,” said James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine. “While some lakes were boasting of a single 30-pound, five-bass limit being caught, Rayburn was spitting them out in rapid succession. And to top it off, a 40.28-pound limit was recorded in June.”
Countless limits of solid fish aren’t the only thing special about this lake.
“When it comes to double-digit bass, Rayburn lake also seems to top the list this year,” Hall continued. “Three 10-pounders were weighed in during a one-day February derby. Plus, a 12.05 and a 13.06 were landed here in March. The lake is simply on fire right now.”
The process to create the rankings takes about three months to complete. Data is received from state fisheries agencies across the U.S. This is coupled with catch data collected from dozens of tournament organizations from the past 12 months. After the numbers are crunched, a panel from the bass fishing industry debates the strength of the lakes to settle on the final rankings.
The rankings identify the Top 10 lakes in the nation regardless of location, as well as the Top 25 lakes in four geographical divisions.
“By dividing the Top 100 into four regions, anglers have perspective on fisheries nearby,” Hall explained.
Chickamauga Takes 2nd Behind Rayburn Lake
Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake, which took the No. 2 slot this year, made a strong argument for No. 1, as it also produced 40-plus-pound limits this spring, two of them exceeding 42 pounds. Although this 36,240-acre fishery hasn’t produced quite as many big fish as Rayburn lake, there were two bass over 10 pounds recorded since February. The biggest weighed 11.21 pounds.
California’s Clear Lake landed the No. 3 position on the strength of its production of big largemouth. Michigan’s Lake St. Clair climbed from ninth last year to the fourth in 2018, while Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake (last years’ No. 1 fishery) fell to No. 5.
The remainder of the nation’s Top 10 are: sixth, Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie), South Carolina; seventh, Diamond Valley Lake, California.; eighth, Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York; ninth, Lake Guntersville, Alabama; 10th, Falcon Lake, Texas.
When it comes to bragging rights for the state with the most lakes to make the Top 100 list, Texas wins with 12. California boasts eight fisheries within the rankings, while Florida has the third most with seven.
Complete rankings can be found in Bassmaster.com photo galleries.