Perhaps to the relief of many Toledo Bend regulars, the famed largemouth bass fishery in northwestern Louisiana along the Texas border is no longer the No. 1-ranked destination in the nation.
In fact, it’s not even in the Top 10.
The new No. 1 for Bassmaster Magazine in 2017 is Mille Lacs Lake, a 132,000-acre natural lake 100 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that cranks out smallmouth bass.
“This fishery really got our attention last September during the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in that topped the 20-pound mark,” explained Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall. “Had that been a four-day event, eventual winner Seth Feider may have topped the 100-pound mark with smallmouth, a feat that has never, ever happened before.”
But it takes more than one good event to push a fishery to the top of the rankings.
“After months of research and processing data from dozens of sources, we realized that the Angler of the Year event was hardly impressive production for the lake. Thirty-pound limits were weighed in during five team events last fall, including two limits breaking the 36-pound mark. Remember, these are limits of smallmouth,” Hall said. “Just incredible.”
This year, the rankings highlight the Top 12 fisheries in the nation regardless of location. The remaining lakes are ranked within one of four regions (Northeastern, Southeastern, Central and Western), so readers can easily identify the Top 25 lakes nearest them.
The Central division, which has been dominated by Toledo Bend the past two years (it was the first fishery to be ranked No. 1 more than one time), experienced the biggest shakeup of the rankings. As Mille Lacs took over the No. 1 spot here, Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas also jumped ahead of Toledo Bend (which fell to No. 4 in the region). Lake Erie, fishing out of Buffalo, N.Y., took top honors in the Northeastern division (No. 7 nationally). California’s Clear Lake ended up the best in the West (No. 3 in the nation). As for the Southeastern division, North Carolina’s Shearon Harris Lake topped all other fisheries (No. 4 in the nation).
In the Central Division, Mille Lacs Lake was No. 1, followed by Sam Rayburn, Falcon Lake, Toledo Bend at No. 4 and Lake Palestine in Texas at No. 5.
Bassmaster’s Top 12 in the nation are:
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
3. Clear Lake, California
4. Shearon Harris Lake, North Carolina
5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
6. Lake Berryessa, California
7. Lake Erie, New York
8. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina
9. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
10. Falcon Lake, Texas
11. Thousand Islands, New York
12. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee