Bass fishing is a popular sport across the United States, with anglers pursuing trophy largemouth, smallmouth, and other bass species in lakes, rivers, and streams nationwide. When it comes to the biggest bass catches, a few states stand out for producing massive fish. So which state reigns supreme for trophy bass fishing?
California is home to many well-known bass fisheries like Clear Lake, Lake Hodges, and Castaic Lake. The California state record for largemouth bass is an impressive 21 pounds, 12 ounces, caught at Clear Lake in 2020. Numerous double-digit bass over 10 pounds are caught from California waters every year. Lake Dixon produced the former world record largemouth bass of 25 pounds, 1 ounce back in 1991. So California definitely has the potential for trophy largemouth bass.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that seems to apply to bass as well. Numerous ShareLunker bass over 13 pounds have come from Texas lakes like Lake Fork, O.H. Ivie, and Lake Alan Henry in recent years. The Texas state record stands at a whopping 18.18 pounds for a huge largemouth from Lake Fork. Lake Fork is renowned nationwide for producing giant bass. Texas certainly deserves consideration for the top trophy bass state.
Florida is famous for its bass fishing, boasting thousands of lakes and ample habitat for largemouth bass to grow huge. The Florida state record is an incredible 17 pounds, 9 ounces from Lake Montgomery back in 1986. Florida waters produce many double-digit bass over 10 pounds annually. Lake Kissimmee, Lake Okeechobee, Lake Tohopekaliga, and the Butler Chain are just a few of the premier trophy waters. Florida also holds records for the largest bass ever caught – a 22-pound, 4 ounce monster from Montgomery Lake in 1932.
Northern Alabama features excellent smallmouth bass fisheries where 6-7 pound smallies are caught regularly. The state record smallmouth is 8 pounds from Wheeler Lake. For largemouth, Lake Eufaula produced a 15 pound, 9 ounce state record in 1987. Alabama allows ample habitat like grass and wood cover for bass to achieve huge sizes. Lakes like Lay Lake, Lake Guntersville, and Lake Eufaula are renowned trophy waters in Alabama.
Like its neighbor Alabama, Georgia boasts many lakes and rivers ideal for trophy bass fishing. The Georgia state record for largemouth bass stands at a staggering 15 pounds, 2 ounces from Montgomery Lake in 1932 – the same year it produced the world record that stood for nearly 60 years. Lakes Oconee and Lanier are two of Georgia’s most productive trophy bass fisheries where double-digit fish are caught annually.
While not thought of as a premier bass destination, New York has produced some massive smallmouth bass from Lake Erie and other waters. The New York state record smallmouth weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces from Oneida Lake in 1998. Skilled anglers regularly catch 6-7 pound bronzebacks from Lake Erie each season. So for smallmouth bass, New York deserves a look.
Many lakes and rivers in Arkansas provide ideal habitat for largemouth bass to grow huge. The Arkansas state record stands at an impressive 16 pounds, 12 ounces from Mallard Lake. Lake Ouachita, Lake Hamilton, and Lake Chicot are some of Arkansas’s most productive trophy waters. Thanks to ample grass, wood cover, and forage, these fisheries can grow lunker largemouth.
Table Rock Lake along the Missouri-Arkansas border is one of the most famous lakes in the country for trophy smallmouth bass fishing, producing fish over 7 pounds annually. The Missouri state record smallmouth weighed 8 pounds from Bull Shoals Lake. For largemouth, Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake have produced many double-digit fish up to 13-14 pounds. Missouri offers great trophy potential for both black bass species.
Lake Erie and the Susquehanna River offer world-class smallmouth bass fishing, with plenty of 5-6 pound fish available. Numerous smallmouth over 7 pounds have come from these waters, along with the Pennsylvania state record of 8 pounds, 3 ounces from the Susquehanna. The Allegheny River and Pymatuning Lake are other top spots for trophy smallmouth in Pennsylvania.
Home to Lake Gaston along the Virginia-North Carolina border, Virginia has produced some of the biggest largemouth bass on record. The current state record stands at an incredible 16 pounds, 12 ounces from Buggs Island Lake in 2013. Gaston and Buggs Island are two of the most consistent lakes for trophy largemouths in the Southeast, producing many 10+ pound fish annually.
Lake Erie offers world-class smallmouth bass fishing, with many 6 pounders caught annually and fish over 7 pounds possible. The Ohio state record smallmouth is an impressive 9 pounds, 12 ounces from Lake Erie in 2019. Inland lakes like Clear Fork Reservoir and Alum Creek Lake also produce trophy smallmouth. And for largemouth, Caesar Creek Lake holds the state record at just over 15 pounds.
With lakes like Lake Texoma along the Oklahoma-Texas border, big bass are always a possibility. The Sooner State record for largemouth bass comes from Texoma, a massive 14 pounds, 12.7 ounces. Many other lakes like Grand, Eufaula, and Hudson produce double-digit largemouths annually. Texoma is also a smallmouth giant, with the state record of 7 pounds from its waters.
Home of the Great Lakes, Michigan offers some of the best smallmouth bass fishing on earth. Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Superior consistently produce smallmouth bass over 5 pounds, with 6-7 pounders caught each year. The Michigan state record smallmouth weighed over 10 pounds from Long Lake in 1906. For largemouth, Lake St. Clair and inland lakes have produced some mega bass including the state record of over 14 pounds.
East Tennessee lakes like Chickamauga, Douglas, and Norris are big bass paradises, producing many double-digit largemouths over 10 pounds annually. Chickamauga has even kicked out 15 pound giants as Tennessee bass continue to grow bigger. Old Hickory and Kentucky Lakes have also produced ShareLunker largemouths over 13 pounds in recent years. Tennessee ranks as one of the top trophy states in the country.
Home to massive man-made lakes like Kentucky and Barkley, the Bluegrass State has the water and forage necessary to grow giant largemouth bass. The Kentucky state record is a huge 15 pounds, 8 ounces from Greenbo Lake. Kentucky and Barkley Lakes are renowned for kicker bass over 8-10 pounds to back up heavy stringers. The western lakes also offer excellent smallmouth fishing with 6 pounders available.
Based on the available data, a few states stand out for their production of massive, record-setting bass. Florida and California have produced the largest bass in history over 20 pounds. But modern trophy catches seem most plentiful in southern states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia where habitat allows bass to achieve their maximum growth rates. Lakes Okeechobee, Kissimmee, and Toho in Florida; Lake Fork in Texas; and Lake Gaston along the Virginia/North Carolina border are a few examples of the most consistently productive modern day trophy waters. Northern smallmouth fisheries also clearly produce some giant bass in states like Ohio and Michigan.
|State||Species||Record Weight||Body of Water|
|California||Largemouth bass||21 lbs 12 oz||Clear Lake|
|Texas||Largemouth bass||18 lbs 2 oz||Lake Fork|
|Florida||Largemouth bass||17 lbs 9 oz||Montgomery Lake|
|Alabama||Smallmouth bass||8 lbs||Wheeler Lake|
|Georgia||Largemouth bass||15 lbs 2 oz||Montgomery Lake|
|New York||Smallmouth bass||8 lbs 8 oz||Oneida Lake|
|Arkansas||Largemouth bass||16 lbs 12 oz||Mallard Lake|
|Missouri||Smallmouth bass||8 lbs||Bull Shoals Lake|
|Pennsylvania||Smallmouth bass||8 lbs 3 oz||Susquehanna River|
|Virginia||Largemouth bass||16 lbs 12 oz||Buggs Island Lake|
|Ohio||Smallmouth bass||9 lbs 12 oz||Lake Erie|
|Oklahoma||Largemouth bass||14 lbs 12.7 oz||Lake Texoma|
|Michigan||Smallmouth bass||10 lbs 3 oz||Long Lake|
|Tennessee||Largemouth bass||15 lbs||Chickamauga Lake|
|Kentucky||Largemouth bass||15 lbs 8 oz||Greenbo Lake|
Key Factors for Trophy Bass
Several factors come into play when looking at the top trophy bass states in the country:
Warmer southern states allow for a longer growing season and more opportunities for bass to feed and achieve maximum sizes. Northern fisheries can still produce giants, but their growing seasons are shorter.
Lakes and rivers with ample grass, wood cover, and structure allow bass to ambush prey most effectively. States like California, Florida, and Texas offer prime habitat for trophy bass.
A healthy population of shad and other forage fish is a must for growing giant bass. Lakes with excellent shad numbers tend to produce the biggest bass.
Heavily pressured fisheries can make it harder for bass to reach trophy sizes, while more remote waters allow fish to grow old and large. Lightly fished lakes generally produce bigger bass.
States with aggressive stocking programs to introduce Florida-strain genetics help create opportunities for more fast-growing bass with trophy potential.
Strict length and creel limits can protect larger bass from harvest. Slot limits requiring the immediate release of fish between certain sizes are great for producing trophies.
While many states have produced massive bass over 20 pounds, the combination of warm southern climate, prime habitat, robust prey base, and careful management give a few places the advantage for modern trophy bass fishing. Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas have emerged as some of today’s top trophy lakes known for consistency in producing giant bass. Northern fisheries in states like Michigan, Ohio, and New York also harbor massive smallmouth bass thanks to excellent rocky habitat. With wise fisheries management and catch-and-release practices, bass fishing will continue improving across the country and more and more trophy catches are likely in the future.