UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Ouachita

Greatest smallmouth fisheries in America

Greatest smallmouth fisheries in America

Editor's Note: This is the second article in a series on the greatest bass fisheries in America. Last month's article covered largemouth fisheries, and next month's article covers the best spotted-bass fisheries.


Recently the editors of FLW Outdoors Magazine conducted an in-depth survey to identify the greatest bass fisheries in America. Professional anglers, outdoor writers and tournament directors were polled, and while many of the results were expected, a number of lesser-known fisheries received numerous votes. These somewhat obscure fisheries may be well-known regionally, but many anglers across America know very little about, or have never heard of, them. Along with listing the overall top 10 smallmouth fisheries in the nation, we felt compelled to explore some of the outstanding yet unrenowned fisheries that every bass angler should know.

----------------------------------------------------------

Black River - ArizonaBlack River
Two hours east of Phoenix, the White Mountains of Arizona give rise to the Black River. Geology has afforded the stream, which cuts steep canyons through primal rock, all the requisites of a great smallmouth fishery, replete with awe-inspiring backdrops at every bend in the river.

Bronzebacks were stocked in the Black River 60 years ago, and now it is locally renowned for consistently producing big bass. Interestingly, the smallmouth section of the river cuts through the mountains at an impressive elevation of 4,000 to 6,500 feet - one of the highest smallmouth streams in the country.

The river is accessible to anglers willing to do some literal legwork. Hiking is required to access the water in most places. More than 70 miles of stream make up the natural boundary between the San Carlos Apache and White Mountain Apache reservations. The river is most accessible from the San Carlos side, and a tribal permit is required. Nearby towns of Globe and Safford offer lodging, but using a hotel room for a base is not advised. Day trips are feasible, but staying overnight on the river is highly recommended.

For more information, contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department at (602) 942-3000 (www.gf.state.az.us).
- Craig Springer


----------------------------------------------------------

New River - Virginia, West VirginiaNew River
The New River of Virginia and West Virginia is new in name only. This is the world's second-oldest river, and it's the Old Dominion's best bet for trophy smallmouths, particularly during spring. It is quite possibly the best smallmouth fishery in West Virginia as well. The current Virginia state-record bronzeback, an 8-pound, 1-ounce beauty, hails from the New River.

"Virginia visitors should try spots near Interstate 81, in the Radford area," said Barry Loupe, a New River expert from Saltville, Va.

For those willing to explore the New River valley a little more, go up to the New River Gorge National River area near Beckley, W. Va. The Appalachian scenery is remarkable, and the fishing is just as good as on the Virginia side.

There are several Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries boat ramps to choose from, and float trips come highly recommended.

To order the New River Float and Fishing Trips guide, call (804) 367-1000 (www.dgif.state.va.us) or contact the New River Gorge National River park service at (304) 465-0508 (www.nps.gov/neri/home).
- Marc McGlade


----------------------------------------------------------

Broken Bow Lake
Tucked neatly away in the foothills of the majestic Ouachita Mountains of far southeastern Oklahoma lies one of that state's best-kept secrets: Broken Bow Lake. With its crystal-clear water and numerous islands, the 14,200-acre gem is rapidly becoming one of the better-known smallmouth-bass fisheries in the region.

With the impoundment of the Mountain Fork River, which is known for an abundant population of native Ouachita-strain smallmouths, it was merely a matter of time before this lake exploded into a bronzeback angler's dream come true.

Broken Bow is one of Oklahoma's deepest lakes, with some areas reaching 140 feet, and its shoreline consists of mostly steep, rocky banks cradling clean, clear water - the perfect recipe for smallmouth bass to thrive and reproduce year after year.

Almost all of the lake's smallmouths are hybrids of the river's native strain and a Tennessee lake strain first introduced into the waters in 1993. Eleven years after that introduction, Broken Bow boasts smallmouth bass with the best features of each strain. The Ouachita smallmouths are known for their fierce, never-give-up battles from the point of hook all the way into the boat. The Tennessee strain grows larger than the native fish. The result: a fighting machine that Oklahoma anglers consider the state's feistiest game fish.

Tournament anglers, who visit the lake with thoughts of abundant spotted bass and double-digit Florida largemouths (the Oklahoma state-record largemouth of nearly 15 pounds was caught here in March 1999), are noticing winning stringers consisting almost exclusively of smallmouth bass in the 2- to 6-pound range. Few Southern lakes can boast that kind of diversity in a bass population.

For more information, contact the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife at (405) 521-3721 (www.wildlifedepartment.com).
- Bob Gunn


----------------------------------------------------------

Mississippi River - Minnesota, WisconsinMississippi River
Smallmouths in the Big Muddy? Absolutely.

Southern anglers would not recognize the upper sections of the Mississippi River (Red Wing, Minn., to La Crosse, Wis., in particular). The water is cool and much less stained than the lower parts of the river, and the smallmouths are abundant and overweight.

"The river around Red Wing is usually very clear," said Tom Monsoor, a Wal-Mart FLW Tour pro from La Crosse, Wis. "The smallmouth fishing is excellent. The average fish is 2 to 3 1/2 pounds.

"The fishing, believe it or not, is even better near La Crosse. You can find big schools of smallies all weighing between 3 and 5 pounds. The water is usually fairly clear, but it all depends on the wind and rain runoff from the surrounding farmland."

The whole upper Mississippi is really a neat fishery. There is vegetation and structure everywhere, and it all holds fish.

Relatively light smallmouth-fishing pressure allows anglers to get away from people and have a large area to fish in solitude. On a good day, anglers can boat 70 smallies. While certainly known in the region, anglers across America rarely hear of the quality smallmouth fishing found in the unique upper Mississippi River.

For more information on the upper Mississippi, contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at (608)266-2621 (www.dnr.state.wi.us).
- Chris Eubanks


----------------------------------------------------------

Chautauqua Lake - New YorkChautauqua Lake
Located in far western New York, Chautauqua Lake offers top-quality fishing, though it is rarely mentioned in national publications. Locals have proclaimed Chautauqua as the Muskie Capital of the World. Smallmouths, however, may soon claim a title of their own.

Lying in the quiet, historic countryside about 40 miles east of Erie, Pa., Chautauqua is a gorgeous lake chock-full of the fattest smallmouths in the country. Chautauqua Lake is about 17 miles long and covers approximately 13,000 acres. The lake consists of two basins, and with depths going more than 70 feet, the northern basin averages 25 feet deep. The southern basin, about equal in size, is much shallower with a maximum depth of only 19 feet. The overall fishery is outstanding - muskies, walleyes and even big largemouths often draw attention away from the trophy bronzebacks. Furthermore, nearby Lake Erie often garners a lot of the local angling attention, leaving Chautauqua fishermen free to roam the peaceful lake without competition.

How big do Chautauqua smallies get? In tournaments, anglers better catch five-fish limits around 23 pounds to compete for the win. Two- and 3-pound bronzebacks are so numerous that they occasionally annoy anglers searching for 5- and 6-pounders.

For more information, contact the Chautauqua County Visitors' Bureau at (800) 242-4569 (www.chautauquafishhunt.com).
- Chris Eubanks



Top 10 smallmouth fisheries in America


1. Lake Erie - Lake Erie received more first-place votes than any other fishery in any category. It is undeniably the best smallmouth fishery in the United States. True, the lake can be broken into three separate regions (basins) because of its vastness, but as a whole, it is the best. As many anglers familiar with Erie proclaim, "There are no small fish in Erie." Smallies over 5 pounds are nothing special in this top-notch fishery.

2. Lake Champlain - The huge natural lake along the New York/Vermont border is similar to Erie. Smallmouths are absolutely everywhere, and they are all fat as footballs. Champlain just does not produce quite the size found in Erie. The top-end fish are 6 pounds instead of 7 or 8 pounds.

3. Dale Hollow Lake - The world-record holder, Dale Hollow still grows big bronzebacks. The Tennessee/Kentucky impoundment is not discussed as much as it once was, but it is still the king of big smallmouths until overthrown. Catch rates are slightly lower as compared to many Northern fisheries, but size is larger. The 16- to 21-inch slot on smallies ensures bunches of fish in the 3- to 5-pound range are caught.

4. Chautauqua Lake - How do you pronounce that? Chautauqua Lake in far western New York is a 13,000-acre trophy-smallmouth factory. If fishing a tournament, you better have close to 20 pounds of smallies just to guarantee a place in the money. Read more about Chautauqua in the adjacent article.

5. Lake St. Clair/Detroit River - Very few world-class fisheries border a major metropolitan area. Lake St. Clair is connected to lakes Huron and Erie by the Detroit River, and downtown Detroit overlooks the lake. The smallmouth quality and numbers are hard to beat.

6. Lake Ontario - The region around Thousand Islands (northeast corner of the lake) holds a huge population of smallmouths. The smallies receive very light fishing pressure, and anglers can catch fish all day.

7. Kentucky/Barkley lakes - Already in the top 10 for largemouth fisheries, now Kentucky/Barkley comes in at No. 7 on the top smallmouth fisheries list. Very rarely will anglers catch the dozens of solid smallies that are produced each day on the great Northern fisheries, but the fish that are caught are often wall-hanging quality. Anglers are catching limits of smallies in the 25-pound range.

8. Lake Cumberland - The fishery at Cumberland is similar to that of its sister lake, Dale Hollow. The central Kentucky lake usually will not produce those 40-fish days common in the North, but the fish are healthy and strong. Bronzebacks over 6 pounds are caught on a regular basis.

9. Pickwick Lake - Upstream from Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River, Pickwick may be the greatest Deep South smallmouth fishery. The lake holds the Mississippi record and produces 7-pounders regularly.

10. New River - The Virginia/West Virginia river is the only true river to make our top 10. In a region with many outstanding smallmouth streams/rivers, the New River rises to the top. Read more about the New River in the adjacent article.

Tags: chris-eubanks-bob-gunn-marc-mcglade-and-craig-springer  article 

/tips/2016-02-12-fishing-the-all-american

Fishing the All-American

My wish is that everyone who competes in BFL tournaments will get to experience the All-American. It truly is an amazing experience, and a goal that everyone who competes on the weekends should strive to achieve. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-11-eric-jackson-q-a

Eric Jackson Q&A

We caught up with Jackson just prior to his Tour debut on Lake Okeechobee to learn more about his background in the outdoors and how he got started in tournament fishing. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-11-flw-podcast-111-bradley-hallman

FLW Podcast 111 - Bradley Hallman

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-05-an-ill-wind-at-okeechobee-

An Ill Wind at Okeechobee?

The wind can be a bass fisherman’s best friend or worst enemy. On its best behavior, it creates a temporary current, positions baitfish and helps an angler move around more stealthily in shallow water. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-04-aquatic-plant-id

Aquatic Plant ID

Val Osinski, the owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on the lake, knows as much about the Big O as anyone and is an expert on finding and targeting bass in its various grasses. When we had the opportunity to ride along with him for a tour of the lake and to learn to identify some of the grasses, it was a no-brainer to accept. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-03-flw-podcast-110-jt-kenney-and-kyle-monti

FLW Podcast 110 - JT Kenney and Kyle Monti

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-poche-services-set

Poche Services Set

Funeral services for Dylan Poche, the 18-year-old Bass Fishing League angler who was stabbed to death Saturday night, are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Freedom Life Church in Natchitoches, La. Visitation will take place at Freedom Life beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-time-to-shine-for-setzer

Time to Shine for Setzer

With three years on Tour and a Co-angler of the Year (COY) award under his belt, Braxton Setzer believes now is his time to start casting from the front. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-01-ambassador

Ambassador

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-29-glenn-browne-s-timeout-is-over-

Glenn Browne’s Timeout is Over

By his own admission, Glenn Browne isn’t the most organized guy. After the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee, he spent hours returning stuff to its proper place and tossing out the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in a bass boat during a tournament. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-flw-podcast-109-mike-surman

FLW Podcast 109 - Mike Surman

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-john-cox-gives-himself-a-makeover

John Cox Gives Himself a Makeover

Last fall there was a rumor going around that John Cox was entering the electronics age and souping up his boat with sonar gear. Just to clear the air, the Florida pro reports that though he did flirt with the notion of incorporating an offshore strategy centered on depth finders into his act, he eventually abandoned the idea. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-austin-felix-is-ready-for-the-big-time

Austin Felix is Ready for the Big Time

Back in the spring of 2014, Austin Felix and his University of Minnesota teammate Chris Burgan were on the top of the FLW College Fishing world. With a win in the National Championship on Lake Keowee, Felix was headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-flw-canada-sets-tournament-sites-dates

FLW Canada Sets Tournament Sites, Dates

FLW Canada, one of four partners in FLW’s International Division of the Costa FLW Series, recently released its 2016 tournament schedule. The season includes three two-day regular-season qualifying events and a three-day championship. Anglers fish as two-person teams. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-26-jigging-spoons-for-winter-bass

Jigging Spoons for Winter Bass

Of course, the application of the spoon hinges on finding bass in the first place, which is the biggest challenge. Walmart FLW Tour pros Jason Johnson and Clark Reehm are experts at finding winter bass in their respective regions of the country and offer FLW readers some advice on where to look and how to get them to bite the spoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-24-how-bryan-thrift-got-to-be-so-good

How Bryan Thrift Got to be so Good

My No. 1 focus out here is to support my family and make a living. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to make a valiant effort. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-high-school-fishing-makes-the-grade

High School Fishing Makes the Grade

Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark are typical teenagers, at least in everything except bass fishing. In that, they are above average, as the two juniors from Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina proved in the TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open held Jan. 17 on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-flw-mexico-at-the-starting-gate

FLW Mexico at the Starting Gate

Our excitement is so great that we wanted to share this important news with all of you. Believe me, fishermen in Mexico are talking it up as if it were dock talk surrounding the Forrest Wood Cup. What really matters at the end of the line is knowing that FLW is showing its true devotion to promoting bass fishing and making it a truly international sport. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-making-the-case-for-haynes-as-aoy

Making the Case for Haynes as AOY

As many have noted, the Walmart FLW Tour schedule for this season looks a lot like it did in 2014. Back then, in his sophomore year on Tour, Randy Haynes had one of the strangest seasons you’ll ever see. He finished 104th at Okeechobee, 149th at Sam Rayburn (ouch) and cranked out top-30 finishes everywhere else. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-21-flw-podcast-108-jason-lambert

FLW Podcast 108 - Jason Lambert

READ MORE »