Outdoors: Best bass lakes nearby

I’ve always believed we have some of the nation’s best fishing at our doorstep and Bassmaster Magazine agrees.

The 500,000-circulation periodical listed the nation’s best bass fishing lakes and six of those lie within 3½ hours of South Bend.

More impressively, Michigan’s Lake St. Clair landed No. 1.

Think about that; it ranked higher than lakes Guntersville in Alabama or Falcon and Amistad in Texas — all well established big bass lakes.

Other nearby waters making the top 100 list include Lake Erie, ranked No. 5; Lake Michigan (especially Traverse bays) was 29th; Lake Charlevoix, Mich. was 40; Burt was 81 and, closer to home, Lake Wawasee ranked 92.

These lakes are excellent for other species, too. Erie might be the best walleye fishery in the world, Lake Michigan is tops for trout and salmon, and Charlevoix and Wawasee are darn good panfish lakes.

I asked Bassmaster Editor James Hall how a lake on Detroit’s doorstep gets top billing.

“Well, there are a number of reasons,” he said. “First, it’s been a crazy good smallmouth bass fishery forever. Secondly, the pros tell me the largemouth fishing is almost as good as the smallmouth fishing, but few people fish for them.”

He’s right about that. The smallmouth bass fishing at St. Clair has been spectacular – beyond belief – the past few years. Largemouth bass, found primarily in the slower, heavily vegetated backwaters, take a backseat to the phenomenal smallmouth fishing.

Kalamazoo pro Kevin VanDam told me there’s not a better bass lake for numbers of 3- to 4-pound smallmouth anywhere in North America. And he’s seen them all.

“Here’s another reason,” added Hall. “We had a Bassmaster Open tournament there last summer and there were nearly two tons of bass brought to the scales. Had the tournament been a four-day event instead of a three-day tourney, winner Jason Christie would have threatened the 100-pound mark. And remember, we’re talking smallmouth that don’t get as big as the largemouth.”

That 100-pound mark, which gets eclipsed occasionally on lunker largemouth lakes, could be surpassed in August when the Bassmaster Elites compete there. Elite pros fish four days and are permitted 5 bass per day.

All of the lakes from this region that were mentioned in the article are popular bass tournament lakes that have been good for a long time.

Apparently, their reputations are starting to grow.

Youth fishing event

The Indiana DNR and the South Bend Parks and Recreation Department will host a free youth fishing day Saturday at Pinhook Park in South Bend.

To encourage participation, the DNR will stock 400 keeper-size rainbow trout into Pinhook Lagoon for young participants to catch.

The event is open to the first 100 youths to register, ages 7-17. You can sign up online at or call 574-299-4765.

The fishing day for families includes basic instruction on casting and angling, fish cleaning, water safety, and fish identification. There also will be a DNR shocking boat demonstration.

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