Bassmaster Magazine has released the highly anticipated rankings of the best bass fisheries in the nation for 2019 and for the first time ever, New York’s St. Lawrence River earned the top spot.
Over the past seven years, this incredible smallmouth fishery has cracked the Top 10 in Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings two times. In both 2015 and 2018, the St. Lawrence (also known as the Upper St. Lawrence River) ranked eighth on the list. This year, though, 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 up this claim, but there is no need to look any further than the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops held June 19 through 21. In this event, a 26-pound, 6-ounce limit of smallmouth was weighed in. However, the most astounding statistic is that the average weight of the entire 149-team field was 20.3 pounds. The winning team from Sam Houston State University averaged 24-4 per day. The Carhartt Big Bass Award for that event was a 6-pound, 7-ounce giant. Suffice it to say, the St. Lawrence not only has big smallmouth swimming around the many islands dotting its waterscape, but a lot of them.
“The St. Lawrence is not only healthy right now, but seems to be showing off,” said James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine. “There have been years where a spirited internal debate was required to assign the top spot in the rankings. This year was easy after looking at the unbelievable weights being produced at the Upper St. Lawrence River. And on top of that, the scenery is stunning. If you are looking for the best angling experience in the country right now, the St. Lawrence river should be your next destination.”
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.
Hall explained the process of creating the rankings takes more than two months. State fishery agencies across the U.S. are polled and rank the fisheries in their states based on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access. Then, B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors add to the potential lakes list based on the thousands of tournaments they hold across the country. And finally, the data from dozens of tournament organizations, as well as big bass programs from various states, are analyzed to create the ultimate list of the Top 100 lakes. The rankings are debated by a blue-ribbon panel of fishing industry insiders. The final result of this research and debate is Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings published in the July/August issue of the magazine.
The rankings identify the Top 10 lakes in the nation based on head-to-head comparisons, as well as the Top 25 lakes in four geographical regions. “We divide the nation into four regions and rank the lakes in each region to give anglers perspective on the fisheries they can most likely reach,” Hall explained.
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.