Lake Okeechobee ranked best bass fishery of the decade in Florida

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion

BIRMINGHAM — Bassmaster Magazine has released their top 100 lakes of the decade and Lake Okeechobee is the highest ranking lake in the state of Florida on the list.

Since 2012, Bassmaster Magazine has released annual rankings of the country’s best bass fisheries. Bassmaster crunched the numbers gathered over those past eight years to compile their top 100 list.

While Lake Okeechobee at No. 10 was Florida’s highest placing lake, overall the state had six fisheries on the Top 100 list — Okeechobee, Seminole, Rodman Reservoir, Tohopekaliga, Istokpoga and the St. Johns River — creating a three-way tie for second place with California and Texas.
As for bragging rights on which state has the most fisheries in the all-decade rankings, that title goes to Michigan with seven lakes.

In their top 100 list Bassmaster acknowledges that the aptly named “Big O” has experienced some extreme highs and lows in their rankings throughout the years.

“When the lake is good, it is really good,” said Bassmaster of Lake O. “When it’s at it’s worst, it’s still pretty freaking good.”

Back in 2012 Lake Okeechobee was ranked as the second best fishery in the nation. This year, California’s Clear Lake was awarded the top spot of the decade.

“Typically, creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor-in-Chief James Hall. “Instead, we used all of this research and rankings from the past eight years to create an incredible — and somewhat surprising — ranking of bucket-list destinations for anglers.”

While long-considered a West Coast powerhouse, Clear Lake has never topped the Best Bass Lakes list until this year. However, in the past decade, California’s largest natural lake has also never ranked below 10th in the country and has been the top-ranked Western fishery for the past three years. Anglers can expect to consistently catch big bass in a fishery where an average bass weighs in at over 5 pounds. In fact, a bass over 16 pounds was landed at Clear Lake last year. Combine that production with a pristine setting in California’s wine country, and you have the definition of a bucket-list fishing destination.

Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, home of the 2020 Academy Sports and Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, took the number two spot, matching its 2019 rank. Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention.

Guntersville is known for its breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion.
Rounding out the remainder of the Top 10 lakes are California’s Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta at fifth; Toledo Bend, on the Louisiana/Texas border, at sixth; Texas’s Sam Rayburn Reservoir at seventh; Texas’s Falcon Lake at eighth; Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene at ninth; and Lake Okeechobee at tenth.

The rankings identify the Top 25 lakes in the nation based on head-to-head comparisons, as well as the top lakes in four geographical regions — Central, Western, Southeastern and Northeastern.

“We divide the nation into four regions and rank the lakes in each region to give anglers perspective on the fisheries they can most likely reach,” Hall explained.

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