by Richard Simms
The second annual list ranking the country’s best bass lakes has been released by Bassmaster Magazine and Chickamauga Lake has been ranked as the 6th best bass lake in the United States.
“One of the biggest jumps [on the list] was Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee,” said Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “That body of water is on fire right now with 40-pound limits being caught. It was 61st last year, and climbed to the sixth spot this year.”
Chickamauga ranked higher than world-famous bass lakes Falcon Lake in Texas, Lake Okeechobee in Florida and Toledo Bend Reservoir in Texas/Louisiana.
The meteoric rise of Chickamauga Lake has been well-documented by huge bass catches
in February and March. Rogne Brown anchored the win in two tournaments with bags if five bass that exceeded 40 lbs. each, an almost unheard of feat in bass tournament fishing. But Brown's huge catches have been closely followed by numerous other anglers.
Mike Jolley, fisheries biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has described Chickamauga Lake as "the perfect storm"
in bass angling right now. TWRA has been stocking more robust Florida bass-strain fingerlings in Chickamauga Lake for ten years. Crappie anglers have benefitted from the storm however with equally stunning catches as well. Fishhound.com ranked Chickamauga as the 14th best crappie lake in the nation.
Nearby North Alabama Lake Guntersville ranked Number 4 on the Bassmaster Top 100 list that appears in the May issue, which hits newsstands today. Michigan’s Lake St. Clair took the No. 1 spot, while Falcon Lake, which was last year’s No.1, fell to seventh.
“Most bass anglers, including me, figured Falcon would be ranked No. 1 for the next decade," said Hall. "However, the fishing there has been tough because of drought and fishing pressure. And based on the metrics we use to create the list, then rank the lakes, Lake St. Clair deserved the title of best bass lake in America.”
St. Clair’s smallmouth population is legendary, but it is the emergence of its largemouth fishery that solidified its No. 1 ranking. Elite Series pro Jason Christie won the most recent B.A.S.S. event there with a three-day total of 67-4. But the most astounding fact from that July tournament was that 135 of the 147 pro anglers boated five-fish limits every day, with more than 2 tons of bass being weighed in.
The metrics used to create the rankings included catch rate and shock data from state wildlife agencies; a survey of B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and presidents based on tournaments held across the country; and a survey of 3,500 B.A.S.S. members across the country to detail nontournament lakes. To finalize the rankings, Bassmaster enlisted a panel of outdoor writers, Elite Series pros and fishing industry insiders.
“The process is as all-encompassing and data-driven as we can make it. Our goal is to identify the hottest lakes in the country so fishermen don’t have to worry about doing the research,” Hall said. “An angler can look at this list and know that the lakes are very healthy, and the odds of having a fantastic day on the water are high.”
Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir took the second spot, while Clear Lake (Calif.), Lake Guntersville (Ala.), and Lake Erie (Mich., Ohio, New York, Pa.) landed in third through fifth, respectively.
Lake Okeechobee (Fla.), San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) and Toledo Bend Reservoir (Texas) round out the Top 10. Click here
for the complete Bassmaster Top 100 list.
Photo: Rogne Brown (left) and Michael Neal show off the best fish of a 31-pound Chickamauga Lake bag that won second place in a March 30 tournament. In an earlier Chickamauga tournament, Brown and his partner weighed in a massive 44.3-pound bag of bass. (Photo: Richard Simms)