Bassmaster Magazine, arguably the premier authority on bass fishing in the country, for the first time this week compiled a list of its 100 best bass fishing lakes in the United States.
Three Oklahoma lakes made the list: Grand Lake at No. 17, Lake Konawa at No. 29 and Arbuckle Lake at No. 56.
James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine, said the magazine spent more than three months researching its top 100 lakes, getting survey data and angler catch rates from state wildlife departments or natural resources divisions and tournament data from B.A.S.S. Federation tournament organizers, who also offered recommendations.
A panel of outdoor writers and editors, pro anglers, and fishing industry veterans put together the list based on current fishability of each lake, its history, big fish and overall quality potential and aesthetic surroundings.
“Instead of just having opinions, we wanted to put science behind the opinion to rate the 100 best bass lakes,” he said. “The method was as scientific as we could make it.”
I asked Hall on Wednesday what made Grand, Konawa and Arbuckle worthy of being one of the 100 best bass lakes in the country.
Hall said Grand Lake, which has hosted Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments and will be the site of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, made the list for a variety of reasons, including the population of bass in the lake, according to the state Wildlife Department surveys, and the tournament data provided by local B.A.S.S. Federation members.
“It takes quite a lot of weight to win on Grand, according to those guys,” Hall said. “Coupled with how beautiful it is, it becomes a jewel for bass fishermen to come to.”
Hall said Bassmaster Classic organizers also rave about Grand Lake. The 2013 Bassmaster Classic “is going to be phenomenal event because of the health of that fishery,: he said.
Konawa Lake may surprise some for being in the magazine's top 30. The power plant lake produces lots of bass but not that many wall-hangers.
“Our Federation guys just raved about it (Lake Konawa),” Hall said. “They have quite a few tournaments on a lot of lakes and Konawa was their favorite place to go because everybody would come away with limits of bass.”
Hall said most bass anglers just want something to tug on their line when they go fishing and are less concerned about trophy fish.
“You may go there (Lake Konawa) and not catch and 8- or 9-pound bass, but you will have a fantastic day of bass fishing,” Hall said. “The number of fish you will catch will more than make up for the one bite you did not get.”
Plus, the electro-shocking surveys of Lake Konawa provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation showed a very healthy population of black bass, Hall said.
Arbuckle Lake has been the hottest big bass lake in Oklahoma in recent years, producing many 10-pound plus fish.
“That's the one your fishery guys (for the state Wildlife Department) voted as No. 1,” Hall said. “I was talking to Jimmy Houston the other day about Arbuckle. He said ‘A lot of people don't know it, but that place has giant fish in it.'”
Arbuckle made the list because of its recent history of big bass and, like Grand, is a gorgeous lake in a beautiful part of the state, Hall said.
Both state wildlife officials and local Federation anglers reported that Arbuckle “was an incredibly healthy fishery and likely will continue to produce these huge fish. They also say the population of fish is fantastic.”
Hall said the drought hurt some lakes in the rankings, like Texas' Lake Fork and O.H. Ivie.
“They were hurting so bad for water it pushed them down,” he said. “They would usually be higher.”
While the rankings were highly debated, Hall said there was unanimous consensus on the No. 1 lake in the country: Falcon Lake which straddles the Rio Grande and is shared by Texas and Mexico.
Falcon Lake earned the top spot despite its reputation as a dangerous place to fish. The 83,000-acre reservoir has been in the news as much for drug cartel-related crime as for its enormous catches of largemouth bass.
Hall said the magazine did consider the criminal activity around the lake when it compiled the list.
“We talked to a lot of our guys who live down there,” Hall said. “We don't want to recommend a place that is just absolutely dangerous, but all the people we talked to said if you stay on the American side, there is absolutely nothing to fear and there is a lot of that lake on the American side and it's all good.”
The lake is heavily patrolled and it is now less dangerous on the Mexican side, Hall said.
“I think it is safer now than it has been in quite a while,” Hall said. “We were not afraid to recommend to bass anglers to go down there to fish.”