Rayburn Rises To Best Bass Lake In The Country In Bassmaster Ranking

After three years of hovering in the Top 5 of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings, Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir finally takes the crown for being the best bass lake in the nation for 2018.

The storied Lone Star State fishery has never ranked below 26th in the seven years the rankings have been published. However, the 114,500-acre lake started showing out in 2015, when it climbed to fifth. In 2016 it jumped to fourth. And last year, Rayburn was the bridesmaid, sitting in second place. But, Rayburn is a bridesmaid no more, and for the first time captures the title.

“Although there were some pretty spectacular numbers being produced from other lakes this year, Rayburn was a clear No. 1,” said James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine. “While some lakes were boasting of a single 30-pound, five-bass limit being caught, Rayburn was spitting them out in rapid succession. And to top it off, a 40.28-pound limit was recorded in June.”

Countless limits of solid fish aren’t the only thing special about this lake.

“When it comes to double-digit bass, Rayburn also seems to top the list this year,” Hall continued. “Three 10-pounders were weighed in during a one-day February derby. Plus, a 12.05 and a 13.06 were landed here in March. The lake is simply on fire right now.”

The process to create the rankings takes about three months to complete. Data is received from state fisheries agencies across the U.S. This is coupled with catch data collected from dozens of tournament organizations across the country from the past 12 months. After the numbers are crunched, a blue-ribbon panel from the bass fishing industry debates the strength of the lakes, then settles on the final rankings.

The rankings identify the Top 10 lakes in the nation regardless of location, as well as the Top 25 lakes in four geographical divisions. “By dividing the Top 100 into four regions, anglers have perspective on fisheries nearby,” Hall explained.

Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake, which takes the No. 2 slot this year, made a strong argument for No. 1, as it also produced 40-plus-pound limits this spring. Yes, that was plural — two five-fish limits exceeding 42 pounds were landed this year. Although this 36,240-acre fishery hasn’t produced quite as many big fish as Rayburn, there were two bass over 10 pounds recorded here since February, the biggest weighing 11.21 pounds.

California’s Clear Lake landed in the No. 3 position on the strength of its production of big largemouth. Lake St. Clair, a former No. 1 in 2013, climbed from ninth last year to the fourth spot in 2018, while Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake (last years’ No. 1 fishery) fell to No. 5. The remainder of the nation’s Top 10 are: sixth, Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie), South Carolina; seventh, Diamond Valley Lake, California.; eighth, Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York; ninth, Lake Guntersville, Alabama; 10th, Falcon Lake, Texas.

Other highlights include the comeback of Lake Guntersville, which has finally turned the corner on several subpar years of production for the stalwart fishery. Newcomers to the rankings include Texas’ Belton Lake, Arkansas’ Lake Chicot, Maryland’s Potomac River, Mississippi’s Lake Ferguson and Oregon’s Tahkenitch Lake.

When it comes to bragging rights for the state with the most lakes to make the Top 100 list, Texas wins with 12. California boasts eight fisheries within the rankings, while Florida has the third most with seven.

Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass lakes will be published in a 12-page section of the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings can also be found in Bassmaster.com photo galleries.

2018 List Of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes       

Rank FisheryState
Top 10  
1Sam Rayburn ReservoirTexas
2Chickamauga LakeTennessee
3Clear LakeCalifornia
4Lake St. ClairMichigan
5Mille Lacs LakeMinnesota
6Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie) South Carolina
7Diamond Valley LakeCalifornia
8Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River)New York
9Lake GuntersvilleAlabama
10Falcon LakeTexas
1Sam Rayburn ReservoirTexas
2Mille Lacs LakeMinnesota
3Falcon LakeTexas
4Toledo Bend ReservoirTexas/Louisiana
5Sturgeon BayWisconsin
6Lake ConroeTexas
7Lake Lyndon B. JohnsonTexas
8Lake O’ the PinesTexas
9Millwood LakeArkansas
10La Cygne LakeKansas
11Lake Ray RobertsTexas
12Lake PalestineTexas
13Grand Lake O’ the CherokeesOklahoma
14Lake of the OzarksMissouri
15Lake DardanelleArkansas
16Bull Shoals LakeArkansas
17Caddo LakeTexas/Louisiana
18Newton LakeIllinois
19Lake OuachitaArkansas
20Lake OaheSouth Dakota
21Belton LakeTexas
22Table Rock LakeMissouri/Arkansas
23Lake ChicotArkansas
24Lake TexomaTexas/Oklahoma
25Lake ForkTexas
1Lake St. ClairMichigan
2Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River)New York
3Lake ErieNew York
4Lake ErieOhio
5Lake ChamplainNew York/Vermont
6Bays de NocMichigan
7Saginaw BayMichigan
8Lake CharlevoixMichigan
9Burt/Mullet lakesMichigan
10Grand Traverse BayMichigan
11Potomac RiverMaryland/Virginia/West Virginia
12Oneida LakeNew York
13Cayuga LakeNew York
14Lake BarkleyKentucky
15Presque Isle BayPennsylvania
16Upper Chesapeake BayMaryland
17Lake CumberlandKentucky
18Smith Mountain LakeVirginia
19Webber PondMaine
20China LakeMaine
21Great PondMaine
22Candlewood LakeConnecticut
23Chatauqua LakeNew York
24Lake WinnipesaukeeNew Hampshire
25Kentucky LakeKentucky/Tennessee
1Chickamauga LakeTennessee
2Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie)South Carolina
3Lake GuntersvilleAlabama
4Lake OkeechobeeFlorida
5Lake TohopekaligaFlorida (plus Kissimmee Chain of Lakes)
6Pickwick LakeAlabama/Mississippi/Tennessee
7Lake IstokpogaFlorida
8Shearon HarrisNorth Carolina
9Lake EufaulaAlabama/Georgia
10Lake SeminoleGeorgia/Florida
11Rodman ReservoirFlorida
12Cooper RiverSouth Carolina
13Wilson LakeAlabama
14Lake FergusonMississippi
15Lake BurtonGeorgia
16Lake MurraySouth Carolina
17Falls LakeNorth Carolina
18Harris Chain of LakesFlorida
19Lake GreenwoodSouth Carolina
20Bay Springs LakeMississippi
21Kerr Lake (Buggs Island)North Carolina/Virginia
22High Rock LakeNorth Carolina
23Lake HartwellGeorgia/South Carolina
24Kenansville ReservoirFlorida
25Logan Martin LakeAlabama
1Clear LakeCalifornia
2Diamond Valley LakeCalifornia
3Sacramento-San Joaquin DeltaCalifornia
4New Melones LakeCalifornia
5Don Pedro ReservoirCalifornia
6Lake BerryessaCalifornia
7Lake HavasuArizona/California
8Roosevelt LakeArizona
9Lake PerrisCalifornia
10Tenmile LakeOregon
11Lake MohaveNevada/Arizona
12Lake PleasantArizona
13Potholes ReservoirWashington
14Fort Peck ReservoirMontana
15Coeur d’Alene LakeIdaho
16Lake WashingtonWashington
17Dworshak ReservoirIdaho
18Saguaro LakeArizona
19Lake PowellUtah/Arizona
20C.J. Strike ReservoirIdaho
21Elephant Butte ReservoirNew Mexico
22Siltcoos LakeOregon
23Lake MeadNevada/Arizona
24Tahkenitch LakeOregon
25Columbia RiverOregon/Washington