Bass pro Brandon Lester with a double handful St. Lawrence smallies.
Each year, Bassmaster Magazine releases rankings of the best bass fisheries in the nation. For 2019, New York’s St. Lawrence River earned the top spot for the first time ever.
The rankings are created through a two-month process that takes into account polling of state fisheries officials as well as data compiled from B.A.S.S. tournaments, dozens of other tournament organizations, and state big bass programs.
Over the past seven years, the St. Lawrence River has cracked the top 10 in Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings twice. In 2015 and 2018, the St. Lawrence ranked eighth on the list.
This year, the New York fishery would not be denied as the No. 1 bass fishing destination in the country. There are plenty of tournament results to back the claim, but there is no need to look any further than the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops held June 19-21. In this event, a 26-pound, 6-ounce limit of smallmouth bass was weighed in. However, the most astounding statistic is that the average weight of the entire 149-team field was 20.3 pounds. The Carhartt Big Bass Award for that event was a 6-pound, 7-ounce giant. The St. Lawrence has a lot of big smallmouth swimming around the many islands dotting its waterscape.
Alabama’s Lake Guntersville took the No. 2 spot after producing several 30-plus-pound limits this spring. That said, the Big G was producing so many 20-pound limits that a 4-pound average quit turning heads. Even during tough tournaments, anglers had to catch at least 24 pounds to win. This historic fishery had been down in the rankings for several years, falling out of the Top 10 in both 2016 and 2017. It climbed to No. 9 last year, and is now looking as healthy as ever.
Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir slipped from No.1 last year to No. 3. Although production has slowed, this lake still produced a 40-pound limit and typically required at least 22 pounds to win a one-day event. California’s Clear Lake is in the fourth spot on the strength of the giant bass it is producing. A 16-pound largemouth was landed recently, and double-digit fish abound. Rounding out the remainder of the Top 10 lakes are Texas’ Lake Fork at fifth; Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake at sixth; California’s New Melones Lake at seventh; Michigan’s Lake St. Clair at eighth; South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lakes at ninth; and New York’s Lake Erie at tenth.
As for bragging rights on which state has the most fisheries in the 2019 rankings, the title is shared. Both Texas and California have 10 lakes on the list. Florida has the next highest with eight lakes making the rankings.