Best Bass Lakes 2023: Central

1. O.H. Ivie Lake, Texas
[20,000 acres] For the second consecutive year, O.H. Ivie is an easy choice as the best bass lake in the Central Region, and for the first time ever, the easy choice for best lake in the nation. And, oh my, why not? As of late April, a total of 38 of the 214 bass entered in this year’s Toyota ShareLunker program, operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, were caught in this gem of a fishery. An amazing 15 of those 38 bass were Legacy Class, meaning they weighed more than 13 pounds and were caught during the spawning period of January through March. The biggest of the bunch was a 17.03-pound behemoth hooked by Jason Conn of Anna, Texas, on Feb. 13 — a Top 10 catch in state history. Another 14 Elite Class bass (at least 10 pounds) were among the heaviest catches on Ivie in early 2023. Ivie crashed the national spotlight in 2022 when 11 Legacy Class bass were caught through early May. Amazingly, the lake has only gotten better in 2023.
2. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Louisiana/Texas border
[185,000 acres] The Bend is back! Not that it ever left, really, but boy, did it sure feel like a revival when Ben Milliken caught 77-14 over the course of three days to win the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Toledo Bend in mid-April. It was the third-heaviest total in a three-day Open tournament in B.A.S.S. history and as impressive a victory as witnessed in recent years. Milliken’s average weight, just shy of 26 pounds a day, was a hammering reminder that not only is Toledo Bend one of the biggest bass lakes in the country, but also one of its most productive. And it wasn’t just the Texas pro catching ’em. A total of 5,053 pounds, 6 ounces was caught over the course of three days in the boater division. That’s one of the highest totals in recent memory, though it trails the three-day record caught at (you guessed it) Toledo Bend, when boaters caught 6,275-4 over three days back in 2002.
3. Lake Fork, Texas
[27,690 acres] Fork continues to serve up tremendous treats for big-bass anglers. The reservoir, which is just a few dozen miles east of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, is responsible for 14 ShareLunkers through April 2023, with five Elite Class bass of over 10 pounds among them. The largest to date this year is the 12.04 caught by Mitchell Jeffries of Lee’s Summit, Mo., in January.
4. Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas
[19,800 acres] Don’t sleep on this pearl just east of Fort Worth, which provided nine ShareLunkers through the first four months of 2023. Four of those were Elite Class bass, weighing more than 10 pounds, and another was a Legacy catch — the 13.14-pound whopper boated by Tony Lozipone back in March. B.A.S.S. has taken notice, too, hosting a stop on the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series at Possum Kingdom powered by TourneyX in June.
5. Caney Creek Reservoir, Louisiana
[5,000 acres] This little lake in north Louisiana has made a big splash in recent years, and 2023 might be its biggest yet. The Bossier Parish high school team of Mason McCormick (Byrd High School in Shreveport) and Alexis Virgillito (Parkway High School in Bossier City) caught a one-day stringer in March weighing 37.13 — a five-bass total that’s believed to be a high school national record. The splurge came during the Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation Hawg Fest. Caney Lake, as it’s often called, is home to six of the 10 heaviest largemouth catches in Bayou State history. And with high schoolers catching stringers averaging nearly 8 pounds per bass, it’s easy to see why.
6. Bussey Brake Reservoir, Louisiana
[2,200 acres] Records break at Bussey Brake. OK, enough of the puns. But it’s true — record catches have been coming in bunches from this tiny Wildlife Management Area lake in extreme northeast Louisiana. It started with a 13.58 hog caught there in mid-February and was followed by a 15.36-pound giant later that month by Robert Rush of nearby Crossett, Ark. Last year, Major League Fishing pro Randy Howell caught a 12-pound, 14-ounce lunker at Bussey, which was the biggest bass ever recorded in that circuit’s history. The lake, which once supplied water to a nearby paper mill, is new to bass fishing, having been donated to the state in 2013. It was stocked with Florida-strain bass only six years ago, meaning the best is likely still to come from this secluded gem.
7. Mille Lacs, Minnesota
[132,500 acres] “Thousand Lakes” continues to represent Northern bass fishing in the best way. It’s a smallmouth paradise. Consider the results from the second annual City Auto Glass Bass Classic held last September, when Tony Groskreutz and Jeff Ziermann caught a limit totaling 24.89, including a 5.52 smallie, to win the first prize of $10,000. Also that month, Dustin Connell earned a Bass Pro Tour win with 20 bass over four days totaling 82-9.
8. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
[114,000 acres] Was there any doubt that trusty Sam Rayburn would be on this list? We think not. Rayburn may not be the top lake (as it was in 2018), but it’s not like the place has taken a mighty tumble. Far from it. Rayburn produced four ShareLunkers through April, including two Elite Class fish, the heaviest being Andy Brignac’s 10.78 boated back in February. What makes Rayburn so solid is the consistency of the fishery. It’s pretty much expected that tournament anglers will limit out here regularly, and those five fish almost always total at least 15 to 18 pounds. And it’s huge, with plenty of room for all comers to maneuver.
9. Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Oklahoma
[41,779 acres] Grand Lake has been on this list each of the 12 years it’s been published. It’s already hosted two Bassmaster Classics (in 2013 and 2016) and is set to host the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing yet again in 2024. The track record speaks for itself. So what makes Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees so special? A lot of things, but really, it’s the consistent, world-class bass fishing that keeps bringing B.A.S.S. and recreational anglers from around the globe back to this corner of northeast Oklahoma. Consider that it took 25.72 pounds to win the Anglers in Action Team Trail opener in March, and the top three teams in a team tournament topped 18 pounds in late April. Results matter. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees provides them.
10. West Okoboji Lake, Iowa
[3,847 acres] Where’s some of the best bass fishing in America? If you said Iowa, quit lying. And if you’re an Iowan, how much longer can this place be such a secret? Seriously, Okoboji (particularly cold and clear West Okoboji) has results to show. Take, for instance, the catches at a Full Throttle Team Tournament in mid-April, only two days removed from the lake icing over. The winning team bagged 24.74 (including a 6.11-pounder), while second place came in with 22.24 (and a 6.82-pound big bass). That’s good bassin’, no matter where you are in the world.
11. Caddo Lake, Louisiana/Texas
 [25,400 acres] Caddo is among the more scenic fisheries in the country, with its array of mossy cypress trees providing the backdrop for a gaggle of Hollywood movies. Bass anglers know Caddo for its gigantic largemouth, though, and those sights are as pretty as any to behold. Consider the 27.89 stringer it took to win an H&W Marine Powersports Team Trail tournament on April 1 (no foolin’!). The heavy of the day was an 8.55 largemouth, which sets anglers’ hearts aflutter. And remember Alexis Virgillito, who helped set a high school record at Caney Creek? She teamed with Parkway High School’s Taylor Bacot to catch a whopping one-day limit of 30-3 to win the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Bass Fishing Championship on Caddo Lake in March.
12. Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
[104,000 acres] This is another of the top stops for Oklahomans and traveling pros alike. B.A.S.S. held one of its nine St. Croix Bassmaster Opens tournaments of 2023 on the sprawling fishery in June, and that came on the heels of the Oklahoma College State Championship at Lake Eufaula held in May. Back in April, it took veteran pro Alton Jones Jr. 81-15 over four days to win a Major League Fishing event at the lake.
13. Lake of the Arbuckles/Arbuckle Lake, Oklahoma
[2,350 acres] Arbuckle hasn’t been on this list for a good while, but it’s claiming a rightful spot in 2023. What’s one of the smaller lakes on our list has produced some of the biggest bass in Oklahoma this year, with a South Central Bass Anglers team event in April taking more than 22 pounds to win, including an 8.66 lunker to claim big-bass honors. Last year, a 14.57-pound beast was caught at Arbuckle, which immediately became one of the Top 10 biggest bass in state history. There’s a Fatty Arbuckle joke in here someplace, right?
14. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
[54,000 acres] This mid-America boating playground is a bass angler’s paradise. Just ask Brock Boyher of Chesterfield, Mo., who caught a 7.27-pounder to win the 2023 AFTCO Spring Big Bass Bash (and $100,000) on April 15-16. A few weeks before that, TJ Martin won a BFL event here with a five-bass limit weighing 26-2. Two different Anglers in Action Team Trail tourneys earlier this year required limits of 23 and 20.95 pounds to win derby honors.
15. Lake Falcon, Texas
[87,000 to 115,400 acres, depending on elevation] A quick glance at Falcon’s heaviest bass on record this year doesn’t automatically scream, “Get it on the list!” After all, 8.34 pounds is fairly standard for big-bass awards on as many as two dozen Texas fisheries. But true to Texas form, it’s what might happen on Falcon that gets this perennial favorite onto the Top 25 Central Lakes list. The place is so vast, and so far removed from a major population center, that it’s likely underfished. And it’s almost certain that results here are underreported. But fisheries biologists in the state say don’t let that 8.34 “big” fool you. Falcon remains a Top 5 pick for them, as well as the dedicated anglers that make the journey to the border for “Los Gigantes.”
16. Lake Oahe, South Dakota
[374,000 acres] There aren’t as many bass lakes in South Dakota as, say, Florida or Texas. But Lake Oahe looms like a giant every summer in the Great Plains. And B.A.S.S. has taken notice, so much so it sent its Elite Series anglers (and the giant production team it takes to stage such an event) way out to Oahe in 2018 and again in 2022. Minnesota’s Austin Felix, who was the Elite Series Rookie of the Year in 2020, won his first Elite event at Oahe with a four-day total of 71-9 last year. He targeted the rabid smallmouth bite in that derby, learning what South Dakota fisheries biologists and everyday anglers in the area already knew: Oahe rewards those brave enough to tackle its vast wilds.
17. Lake Nacogdoches, Texas
[2,200 acres] Everyone knows that everything is bigger in Texas. Well, almost everything. Lake Nacogdoches is a kiddie pool compared to the Olympic-size ponds of Rayburn and Falcon. But the bass from this little pearl rival anything coming from the big boys. Look no further than five ShareLunkers boated here in the first trimester of 2023, including the 13.51-pound Legacy Class bass that Jack York of Emory, Texas, caught back in January. The big ones kept coming well into April, too, with a 9.13 and an 8.53 adding to the Lunker Class tally.
18. Bull Shoals, Arkansas/Missouri
[45,000 acres] Steady as she goes at old Bull Shoals, which continues to produce some of the finest Ozark Mountains fishing there is. It took 19.83 and 19.94 pounds to win a pair of Joe Bass Team Trail events in January, showing the fishery’s strength even in the dead of winter. And during a frigid tournament a month later, the top bag still weighed nearly 17 pounds and big-bass honors went to a team that hooked a 6.88 largemouth.
19. Lake Conroe, Texas
[19,640 acres] If you’re looking to bust big bass in southeast Texas, chances are you’re heading to this faithful fishery just north of Houston, site of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic. Conroe continues to be as consistent as any bass lake in the area, with a nifty nine ShareLunker bass coming from the lake through April 2023. The biggest reported so far this year was “only” 9.04 pounds, but there’s not one bass angler in the Lone Star State who’ll disagree with catches like that.
20. Table Rock Lake, Missouri
[43,100 acres] Catching big ones means a lot, but consistency in a fishery might be even more valued by recreational anglers. Table Rock Lake fits the bill. Despite frigid climes in a mid-March derby, it took 18.69 pounds to win an Anglers in Action Team Trail event. Perhaps more telling was that each of the Top 10 teams weighed 15 pounds or more in the extreme conditions. And in a Phoenix Boats event a month earlier, the Top 5 bags all were more than 17 pounds, led by Justin Luetkemeyer’s 18-14 limit. A 6.73-pounder won a Cabela’s Big Bass Tour event in mid-April.
21. Upper Mississippi River, Wisconsin
[200 miles long] There’s no way to measure the exact acreage of the Mississippi River near La Crosse, Wis., but bass fishing on the expansive floodplain definitely registers nationally. The Elites were here in 2022 for the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River, and it took Bryan Schmitt’s four-day total of 63-4 to win the event. Chris Johnston, Keith Combs and Brandon Lester (all among the world’s best bass anglers) also caught more than 60 pounds in the tournament. B.A.S.S. will head back to the area in July for the 2023 Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX.
22. Lake Hudson, Oklahoma
[12,000 acres] Oklahoma fisheries biologists put Lake Hudson up there with the usual big boys of Sooner State fishing, and the results make the case. Take a look at the Hudson Bass Anglers Club, which has a four-bass limit in tournaments. First place in an April event was 18.35, and it took 19.32 to win one in March. Many Oklahomans consider the lake to be as consistent as any in the state for landing bass in the 3- to 5-pound range.
23. Lake Bistineau, Louisiana
[15,550 acres] It’s not exactly a destination lake for anglers across the U.S., but this popular fishery in the Shreveport area is well known among bass busters in north Louisiana. A limit of 20.97 won an H&W Marine Powersports Team Trail tournament on Bistineau in late April, and the big bass weighed 6.11 on the event scales. Fisheries biologists in the state say Bistineau is on the climb, too, following a salvinia infestation in 2009 that clogged nearly one-third of the lake.
24. Newton Lake, Illinois
[1,750 acres] This jewel about two hours east of St. Louis is always among the most productive bass lakes in Illinois. It’s not a big lake, offering anglers 52 miles of shoreline with an average water depth of 16 feet. The average bass caught at Newton is no small deal, however, with the top largemouth caught in a tournament there in 2022 weighing 7.8 pounds. The fifth-heaviest bass caught by a tournament angler last year weighed 7.3 pounds, proving the consistency of the lake’s heftiest fish.
25. Lake Texoma, Oklahoma/Texas
[89,000 acres] Big lake. Big bass. It’s really that simple in the case of Lake Texoma, which straddles the Oklahoma/Texas border. The Top 5 teams in the Texoma Spring Team Series each weighed more than 16.80 pounds, including the winning duo with 21.25 pounds. The heaviest largemouth of the tournament tipped the scales at 7.56 pounds and the biggest smallie went for 4.77 — not so small at all.