Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Destinations (Lakes & Rivers)

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Ranking System for Best Destinations by Species of Fish

We use a different ranking system when we are listing the best destinations for each species of fish.  While we do factor in the business services in the area, destinations can rank higher or lower for each species of fish depending on the potential for numbers of fish, trophy fish, fishing guides in the area, etc.

For example, we rank Mille Lacs Lake a 9.5 as an overall fishing vacation destination, but when it comes to just smallmouth bass fishing, it scores a perfect 10.0.

Door County, WI  –  Rating 10.0

Home to Sturgeon Bay, Door County is so much more than just Sturgeon Bay though.  All the way up the peninsula on the Green Bay side, world class smallmouth bass fishing awaits you.  Head farther north to Washington Island for some incredible smallie fishing too.  3 to 4 pound smallmouths can be found along the rocky shorelines or on offshore humps.  5 to 6 pounders are common throughout the county and fish up to and above 7 pounds won’t surprise any of the locals here.

Lake of the Woods (Canada)    –  Rating 10.0

The Canadian side of Lake of the Woods has some fantastic smallmouth bass fishing available.  Anglers fish for them in Kenora, Morson, Sioux Narrows and in Nestor Falls.  The spring and early summer bite is fantastic and there are so many awesome-looking smallmouth bass spots up here to fish that you’ll wish you had enough time to fish them all.  The Canadian part of lake of the woods has a lot more rocky bottoms to go along with tons of islands, points and bays that provide some unbelievable smallmouth bass fishing.  Anglers report 30 to 50 bass days all the time up here with lots of bass in the 2 to 3 pound range and some pushing 5 pounds.

Mille Lacs Lake (MN)  –  Rating 10.0

This lake has really come on strong for smallmouth bass.  Once known as a walleye factory, many anglers now come here for the smallmouth bass fishing.  This lake is a big bowl, so you don’t have options out here when the wind is blowing too hard.  If the weather cooperates though and you know how to find smallies, you can do very good on this lake. On guided fishing trips, double digit days are fairly common.  Fish in the 2 to 3 pound range are common and big bass up to 6 pounds are reported here too.

Northwoods Wisconsin  –  Rating 10.0

Northern Wisconsin is home to so many awesome lakes that offer good fishing for smallmouth bass.  These fish don’t get pressured as much either since most anglers in this area are out targeting walleye and muskie.  Some lakes are better than others for smallmouth bass, but there are several lakes that give anglers an opportunity to catch good numbers of bass in a day with 30 plus days being possible.  Some lakes don’t have the same types of numbers of fish, but they do give anglers a chance to catch a bass in the 3 to 5 pound rangeThere are so many lakes up here that give anglers the shot at smallmouth bass in the 3 to 5 pound range.

Chequamegon Bay (WI)  –  Rating 10.0

Chequamegon Bay is on the radar now due to various fishing shows, however, it’s still not fished nearly as much as some of the other popular smallmouth bass destinations in Wisconsin.  With the tight regulations here and the never-ending amount of food that the gobies are providing the smallmouth bass here, you can count on the big fish to be here for many, many years ahead.  Smallies up to and above 6 pounds are common here with 2 to 4 pounders being fairly abundant in the waters of Chequamegon Bay.

Lake Champlain (NY & VT)  –  Rating 10.0

Lake Champlain is a huge lake located mostly within the borders of Vermont and New York, but a portion of the lake is also located across the border into Canada.  The cool waters provide excellent fishing for smallmouth bass and many other species of fish.  This is one of the better smallmouth lakes for numbers and there are some good-sized bass here as well.

Grand Traverse Bay (MI) –  Rating 10.0

The Grand Traverse Bay has an outstanding smallmouth bass fishery.  Good numbers of smallmouth bass to go along with big fish in the 4 to 6 pound range can be caught here. Add that to the beauty that this area offers and it’s one destination that you’ll be glad you visited.

Lake St. Clair (MI)   –  Rating 9.75

This is one of the best when it comes to numbers with some big fish mixed in.  It may not always fish easy for every angler, but it’s one of those lakes where you hear about 30 to 50 bass days all the time and big fish up to and above 6 pounds are possible here.

Ely, MN (Boundary Waters Area)  –  Rating 9.75

Smallmouth Bass are common in many of the lakes in the Ely, Minnesota area.  If you are coming to this area to catch smallmouth bass, you won’t be disappointed.  Anglers report that the smallmouth bass fishing is incredible in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, especially during the spring or early summer and the fall. Because many of these lakes have a horsepower limit to 10 or 25 horsepower, the fishing is definitely a lot easier if you plan a trip here when the bass are all along the shorelines.  If you know what you’re doing, you should be able to catch a lot of smallmouth bass with 3 to 4 pounders being fairly common.

Rainy Lake (MN & Canada)  –  Rating 9.5

The smallmouth bass fishing is excellent on Rainy Lake.  It is one of Minnesota’s best smallmouth bass fishing lakes and the fishing is even better on the Canadian side of the lake.  The spring and early summer bite along the shorelines can provide 30 to 50 bass days with several fish in the 3 to 4 pound range.  It’s all timing though, if you get here too early or too late, you may have to find the bass in deeper water.  Time it right and you’ll have some awesome shallow water fishing opportunities.  When the bass go deep here, fish the reefs or you can really struggle for smallies by fishing the shorelines.

Lake Erie (Ohio, MI, NY & Canada)  –  Rating 9.5

Lake Erie is one of the best smallmouth bass lakes on the planet.  The only problem is that there isn’t too much shelter on this lake to get out of the wind.  If you plan a trip here, make sure you have a big enough boat and don’t be shocked if you lose a day or two due to high winds.  If you can get some good weather though, smallmouth bass in the 4 to 7 pound range are pretty normal on Lake Erie and if you find one of the larger schools of smallmouths, you may catch 50 or more bass.

Pickwick Lake (TN)  –  Rating 9.5

Trophy smallmouth bass fishing and because it is down south, you have a smallmouth bass option as the weather gets cold up north.  On this lake, there are so many species of fish that it’s difficult to just catch one species of fish with most artificial lures and live baits.  Don’t be shocked if you also catch largemouth bass, huge catfish and striped bass while targeting smallmouth bass.

Dale Hollow Lake (TN)  –  Rating 9.25

Dale Hollow Lake is home to the world record smallmouth bass that weighed 11 pounds and 15 ounces.  This lake may not be what is used to be, but it’s still a big bass fishery down south which gives anglers a nice lake to fish once the weather gets cold up north.  The slot that they went to on this lake has helped tremendously.  You can catch good numbers of smallmouth bass and big bass are still here too.

Menominee River (WI & MI)  –  Rating 9.25

This is a big stretch of water, however, this river offers some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the entire state of Wisconsin.  Anglers that know the water will usually catch good numbers of smallies to go along with fish in the 3 to 6 pound range.

Turtle Flambeau Flowage (WI)  –  Rating 9.0

The Turtle Flambeau Flowage is located in Iron County Wisconsin, near the towns of Mercer and Butternut.  The Flowage consists of nine lakes, three rivers and several creeks. The flowage is one of the better smallmouth bass lakes in the state of Wisconsin.  It has good numbers and great size for their smallies.  Fish in the 3 to 4 pound range are fairly common.  This is one of the more beautiful and remote parts of the state as well.

Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio & New York

Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing destinations are up north.  Take a look at the best fishing destinations in these areas.

More Destinations by State


  • Lake Havasu



  • Dworshak Reservoir
  • Lake Coeur d’Alene



  • China Lake
  • Downeast Maine
  • Moosehead Lake


  • Connecticut River
  • Quabbin Reservoir

New Hampshire

North Carolina

  • Fontana Lake


  • Columbia River


  • Pymatuning Reservoir

South Dakota

  • Lake Oahe




  • New River
  • Smith Mountain Lake


  • Columbia River
  • Potholes Reservoir


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