California is a huge state with so many lakes it defies the imagination. The state is often ranked very high in terms of best states for bass fishing. California also has Clear Lake, which Bassmaster Magazine labeled as the number one fishery in the country for bass.
So, of course, we will have Clear Lake on our bass fishing in California list of best fishing spots. The bad news is, not everybody lives near Clear Lake. Due to California’s size, it can be quite a day trip to reach a popular bass lake.
On the bright side, there are so many great bass fishing lakes in California that the list goes well beyond our own, top 15.
15 Best Lakes for Bass Fishing
Fifteen hardly does the state justice. It’s not the best state in the country for bass fishing, but it is one of the best. It’s also so large, with so many lakes, it’s like picking gold out of a pile of gold, based on appearance and carat, with all other things being equal.
1. Clear Lake
The obvious choice for the number one spot is the lake featured in just about every bass and fishing magazine or website on the planet. Clear Lake is a beautiful stretch of lake that covers 43,000 acres of area. Mountains make up the horizon, and, on some days, the water is like a mirror.
There is a ton of underwater vegetation, with a shoreline that contains plenty of piers. With the addition of underwater brush and tules, Clear Lake is a veritable bass-fishing paradise. If you want to fish Clear Lake, you’ll have to head to northern California.
2. Folsom Lake
Shaped like a wide river, winding through the low-lying hills, Folsom Lake covers 11,400 acres of territory with 75 miles of shoreline. The best time to fish here is in the spring when the lake is known for giving up ten-pound bass. The rest of the year averages around 5 or 6lbs.
There’s a North Fork and a South Fork, with the South Fork region of the lake frequently overpopulated with bass boats. The North Fork isn’t productive, but you will find some peace and quiet on that end.
3. Lake Camanche
One of the clearest lakes on our list, Lake Camanche produces healthy-sized bass all year round. The lake is full of underwater obstructions, mostly in the form of downed trees and underwater vegetation. If you spend a day exploring, you’ll be able to map some of these areas out.
Big and Little Hat Islands are known for producing a lot of bass on Lake Camanche. If you’re having no luck with bass for the day, the lake is also an excellent spot for Rainbow Trout.
4. Casitas Lake
Most of Casitas Lake is known for producing a lot of bass if you prefer them small (2 to 4 pounds). However, the reservoir area is supposedly the place to go for monster bass fishing opportunities. Apparently, the bass eat rather well there.
Coyote Creek branches off Casitas Lake and is also known to be a hot spot for bass fishing. The lake is frequently stocked with Rainbow Trout, and the bass simply gorge on them.
5. Lake Sonoma
One of the best bass fishing lakes in California is Lake Sonoma, though many who visit are just there to enjoy the beauty and luxury of the local amenities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Lake Sonoma, and its slowly risen to produce bass in abundance.
Spinnerbaits are said to be the baits of choice on Sonoma since bass like to hide under the cover of half-submerged trees and bushes. Deep crankbaits and buzzbaits are also popular choices.
6. New Melones Lake
If you’re looking to catch smallmouth bass, New Melones is one of the hottest spots for them in the state. One thing that anglers like about New Melones Lake is they allow night fishing, when the big boys like to come out.
Early Springtime is the best for bass fishing, but anglers start hitting the boats and the shorelines as early as February.
7. Hodges Lake
Another reservoir, Hodges Lake is located in Southern California and is popular for its high population of largemouth bass, channel cats, and crappies. They do have a limit with a minimum of 15” on bass, but you should catch plenty of bass larger than that.
The lake butts up against Escondido city and is 31 miles from San Diego, so you should have plenty of sleeping options if you are from out of town. Besides, you will want to make a weekend out of the time you spend bass fishing on Hodges Lake.
8. Lake Berryessa
Head back up to Northern California, in Nappa County, and you will find a beautiful slice of heaven otherwise known as Lake Berryessa. It’s not the largest lake in Cali, but it’s well-stocked with smallmouth and largemouth bass.
There are a lot of man-made structures beneath the waters of Berryessa as well as along the shoreline. These are the places locals invariably point to if you want the most luck. If you can get along with water skiers in the summer, you’ll do just fine.
9. Diamond Valley Lake
If you have ever fished Hodges Lake before, you’ll catch Hodges Lake bass in Diamond Valley Lake. Bass, along with everything else that swims in Hodges, were used to stock Diamond Valley Lake when it was formed.
Another reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake covers 800,000 acres, so there is a spot along the shoreline for the entire population of California. Rainbow Trout lures are best here, as the bass will happily gobble them up.
10. Lake Oroville
Of all the Lakes that compete with Clear Lake for bass-catching supremacy, Lake Oroville probably comes the closest. The Middle and South Forks of the Lake are considered to be gold mines of bass-catching fun.
Spotted bass, redeye, smallmouth, and largemouth all call Lake Oroville home, and you can fish there all year long.
11. Lake Havasu
Home of the best striped bass fishing in California, Lake Havasu is a reservoir filled with crystal clear water. This means the bass will seek shelter and hiding spots as much as they can.
The lake also spreads into the state of Arizona, so even if you’re not a California resident, you can still take advantage of the striped bass fishing.
12. Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella is known for being a hard place to catch bass. However, if you do, it’s bound to be a monster. The thing is, Lake Isabella is covered in areas with half-submerged trees and bushes.
So long as you know where to find them, you’ll have the same opportunities you would in any other famous California lake.
13. Shasta Lake
Spotted bass and smallmouth bass thrive in Shasta Lake. Of course, that’s a little strange because spotted bass are supposed to be negative impact fish, driving smallmouth out.
The lake covers 30,000 acres of territory and is the largest man-made reservoir in California. The lake is full of underwater rock structures where spotted bass love to hide.
14. Lake McClure
This is one of those “little engine that could” lakes, at a paltry 7,000 acres. However, there are a lot of bass to find in this small, watery space. If you’re not hitting bass, it’s trout on the line since the lake is well stocked with both.
Swimbaits and nudging right up against the dam for a little trolling are two of the best methods for catching spotted bass here, at least they are according to the locals.
15. New Bullards Bar Reservoir
The world record spotted bass was caught here in 2017 and the lake is known for giving up monster spotted bass. The bass here feed on young, kokanee salmon and when you eat something that size, you get pretty big yourself.
It’s also a beautiful lake, and though the existence of the kokanee pushes out other bass species, spotted bass are still in abundance.
What months are best for bass?
Striped bass and largemouth bass bite in the Springtime in California, but anglers are catching them earlier often enough. Clear Lake is supposed to be an insanely successful bass fishing spot in June, especially for largemouth.
What are the biggest bass in California?
There are 24 lakes in California that have produced national, world, or state records. Half of all of them are in San Diego County. Another place that is highly recommended for catching huge bass is the Sacramento River Delta, Don Pedro Reservoir, and Lake Morena.
California is one of the best states in the union for bass fishing, especially the San Diego area, Clear Lake, and some of the northern lakes. While Cali is not the number one state for bass fishing, it does tend to produce all of the state and national records.
If you’re in a position to travel back and forth across the US and you love bass fishing, you would do yourself a disservice not to put a lake or two in California on your map. Especially if you’re looking for bass over 10 pounds and a story to tell your grandkids one day.
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