Florida is one of the best destinations in the world when it comes to bass fishing lakes. There are numerous lakes and rivers throughout the Sunshine State that are home to trophy bass and a variety of aquatic wildlife that largemouth bass are known to feed on.
For many Florida bass fishing locations, there are very high numbers of bass, as well as large populations of big bass. These are just a few of the reasons why Florida is one of my favorite places for bass fishing. In this article, we’ll discuss my selections for the best bass fishing lakes in Florida along with some helpful information for anglers planning to visit these destinations.
The Best Bass Fishing in Florida
Florida is home to swampy, shallow lakes that are teeming with wildlife and vegetation found only in this section of the United States. The rich ecosystem that most of the state’s lakes and rivers possess creates a prime opportunity for lots of bass to grow extremely large compared to their counterparts found in other sections of the country. The warm climate of Florida is also a great contributor to big bass fishing, as fish enjoy a much longer growing season than most other sections of the country.
Southern Florida Bass Fishing: Top Spots
South Florida is unlike any other place in the United States when it comes to trophy largemouth bass. Many of the lakes in this part of the state feature thick, aquatic vegetation that is home to a wide variety of food sources, which helps sustain a healthy bass population. Most of the waterways in and around Everglades National Park are home to various types of grass, lily pads, and other types of cover where monster bass can easily remain hidden from the sun and their prey.
Bass anglers from outside this region may initially find it difficult to figure out the feeding behaviors and patterns of the giant bass that live here. As someone who is more familiar with deep-water lakes and river channels, I found these Florida lakes to be particularly challenging. However, if you’re willing to shift your approach and try some new methods, southern Florida is a great location to catch trophy bass in large numbers.
Here are some of the best bass fishing lakes in southern Florida.
Lake Okeechobee is easily one of the best Florida lakes for bass fishing, and it’s my personal favorite among those located along the southern part of the Sunshine State. The lake is fondly nicknamed “The Big O” by locals and professional bass anglers as it is a regular stop for some of the most prominent bass fishing circuits in competitive fishing.
Lake Okeechobee is Florida’s largest lake and is more than 30 miles across in some sections. This giant, circular-shaped natural waterway has a maximum depth of only 12 feet. With such an enormous size, there are dozens of entry points anglers can use to launch on Lake Okeechobee.
Personally, I prefer putting in at C. Scott Driver Park on the northwestern part of the lake, but many locals say there are numerous big largemouth bass to be caught if you’re willing to drive further around the lake to Henderson’s Fish Camp and other sections along the western edge.
I prefer to use a 1 oz. Tungsten Texas rig and creature baits when fishing in the thick vegetation in and around Lake Okeechobee. This heavy weight may take some getting used to for some anglers, but it’s essential for punching through the thick vegetation and getting down to the pockets where trophy largemouth bass are hiding. I also like to throw a wacky rigged Senko around logs and other structures where there is open water.
The Florida Everglades is a waterway unlike any other in the United States in terms of both its ecosystem and catching bass. Located at the southern tip of the state, the Everglades is a labyrinth of canals and pockets that are brimming with Florida fish of all kinds, as well as giant alligators, snakes, and many other dangerous animals.
My favorite section to catch bass in the Everglades is around Big 67, 67C, and L67 canals. This is an outstanding place to throw a large buzzbait around lily pads and other surface vegetation as bass will usually strike at topwater lures throughout the day. You may also find a good number of peacock bass around the Everglades.
Golden Gate Canal System
The Golden Gate Canal System is another location where you can expect to catch quality-sized bass of a variety of species. This system is more popular for catching peacock bass, and it’s located between the Everglades National Park and Naples.
There are a number of big fish that can be caught on a wide variety of artificial lures in the Golden Gate Canal System, but I’ve had better luck catching peacock bass on live bait such as shiners. This lake system is famous for professional bass trails to focus on early in the year since the largemouth bass spawn during late January and throughout February due to the much warmer climate.
Miami Airport Lakes
If you’re flying into Miami, you won’t have to look very far to find a great Florida bass fishing spot. The Miami Airport Lakes are world-renowned for bass fishing and offer some of the best opportunities to catch big bass in southern Florida. This lake is another that is filled with peacock bass, but it’s known more for having big largemouth bass instead.
I prefer to use topwater lures to skim the surface or heavy jigs or Texas rigs to punch through eel grass and other vegetation in waterways like the Miami Airport Lakes. The fishing is best here during the winter and early spring months, as the sweltering summer heat is usually too punishing for bass to bite during the daylight hours.
Just a short drive from West Palm Beach is Lake Osborne, one of my favorite bass fishing lakes in the Sunshine State that’s certainly deserving of being among the top-ranked. Lake Osborne is a relatively small waterway compared to most that we’ve already covered, but it has developed a reputation as a trophy bass lake. This 378-acre natural lake is full of underwater structures that largemouth bass will often use to hide from the hot summer sun, as well as baitfish they plan to ambush.
I enjoy fishing smaller lakes like Osborne because it is a bit more of a challenge to catch Florida bass. In addition to bass, you can also seize the opportunity to catch clown knife fish in Lake Osbore. These are invasive fish species that are well known for being ferocious fighters. These fish will attack just about anything that moves for most of the year, and you can usually find them alongside lunker bass in portions of Lake Osborne.
Lake Ida is actually connected to Lake Osborne through a series of canals, but these two waterways are considered to be among the top chain of lakes in Florida. Lake Ida is only a few minutes’ drive from Delray and is only 189 acres in size, but this small lake is often deemed a trophy bass factory by those who visit its waters.
You can expect to catch peacock bass and sunshine bass, as well as largemouth bass in Lake Ida using the same type of lure presentation. The Lake Ida chain of lakes is made up of a network of interconnecting canals. I have caught peacock bass using topwater poppers along these channels during the spring and consider this to be among the top bucket-list destinations for Florida bass fishing.
Central Florida Bass Fishing: Top Spots
The natural underwater ecosystem of central Florida usually appears very similar to that of the state’s southern tip. There are plenty of largemouth bass to be found in the various lakes, canals, and rivers throughout central Florida, and this section is well known for spring bass fishing. Most of the main lakes found in the central Florida region are fished very heavily, but there is enough monster bass to make these waterways a routine stop along most of the United States’ professional bass fishing circuits.
Stick Marsh (Farm 13)
Stick Marsh is the stuff of legend in bass fishing circles, as it is usually considered one of the best-managed bass lakes in the country. The lake is also known as Farm 13 and can be found a short drive from the Atlantic coast between Vero Beach and Melbourne, Florida.
This lake is very similar to Lake Okeechobee in that its average depth is roughly 6 to 8 feet in most areas. Kayak fishing is very popular in Stick Marsh as it easily allows anglers to navigate around the many stumps and other structures found in the lake. It’s not uncommon to catch big fish weighing in excess of 10 pounds in Stick Marsh, and jerkbaits are usually the ticket to landing a monster bass during early spring.
Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho)
Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho) is one of the most popular bass fishing lakes in the Orlando area for good reason. This lake offers more than 18,000 acres of surface water and is full of Kissimmee grass, pepper grass, as well as many other kinds of vegetation that largemouth bass love to take refuge in.
My experience at Lake Toho has been mostly on the eastern side of the lake, where I have had great success using a square bill crankbait running just above the tip of the grass along the bottom. Bass in Lake Toho typically hide down in the grass and will attack a fast-moving lure in the early morning or late evening hours.
Lake Kissimmee is one of my personal favorites to fish in central Florida, but it’s also one that earns its place among our top choices for the best bass fishing lakes in the Sunshine State. Lake Kissimmee is located about 40 miles south of Orlando and is connected to the Kissimmee chain of lakes.
There are two main public boat ramps on Lake Kissimmee on this lake, that’s nearly 35,000 acres. I prefer to use the ramp located on the northern side during the late winter because big bass are known to spawn along the northern banks of most waterways during this time. Soft plastic creature baits and lizards rigged Texas style are often best to catch bedded bass during the spawning season.
Butler Chain of Lakes
The Butler chain of lakes is situated in central Florida and is known for being one of the top chains in the state for largemouth bass fishing. The Butler chain of lakes is made up of 13 interconnected waterways that comprise about 5,000 total acres.
These lakes are much deeper than most others in Florida, with holes that are known to be up to 40 feet in depth. For this reason, I find it best to focus on depth changes that also feature structure or cover of some type for the best chance at catching big bass.
Lake Istokpoga is a waterway located roughly 2 hours south of Orlando. This lake is more than 26,500 acres in size and has an abundance of access points all over its banks. This is yet another very shallow Florida bass fishing lake that is an average of about 6 feet deep in most areas.
In my experience, the bites are somewhat slow on Lake Istokpoga due to heavy fishing pressure, but the bass that I have caught are sizable compared to other lakes. My go-to lure of choice on Lake Istokpoga is a Zoom super fluke-fished weightless or a jerkbait during the early spring. Soft plastic creature baits and finesse worms are more suitable for the winter months when bass might be less active.
Lake Tarpon is just a short drive northwest of Tampa and features more than 2,500 acres of premium bass fishing habitat. Lake Tarpon is known as one of the more quality-managed waterways in Florida and anglers have the option to fish in very shallow lily pads or even deep water holes scattered throughout the lake.
There are two main access points on this lake, including John Chestnut Park just off East Lake Road, and A.L Anderson Park along the western side. I prefer night fishing on Lake Tarpon in the hot summer months, and the obvious lure of choice is usually any variety of top water. During the early morning or late evening hours, you can find bites throwing a double-Willow-bladed spinnerbait.
Northern Florida Bass Fishing: Top Spots
Northern Florida is somewhat different from the state’s southern end in many ways. While the heat still remains very much the same throughout the Sunshine State, the habitat along the northern section above the panhandle features different vegetation and wildlife on both land and underwater. There are some cold snaps that will take place during the winter, and the spawn usually occurs later in the spring compared to the more southerly parts of Florida. Regardless, there are giant largemouth bass to be found all across this section of the state.
Rodman Reservoir is truly a hidden gem among Florida bass fishing lakes. This waterway is located in Putnam County and is sometimes referred to as Lake Ocklawaha due to its being located along the Ocklawaha River. It offers more than 9,500 acres and has a maximum depth of about 30 feet–making this waterway much more diverse in terms of fishing habitat for largemouth bass.
I prefer to fish along the upper river channel with a wide variety of lures depending on conditions and the time of year. The best fishing usually takes place in early spring when fish will feed voraciously on shad in preparation for the spawn. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits usually draw strikes during the pre-spawn feeding time on Rodman Reservoir.
St. Johns River
The St. Johns River is the longest in the state of Florida and is also known as one of the best places for bass fishing along the northern section of the Sunshine State. The river’s headwaters flows from Blue Cypress Lake and winds its way through the Florida coastal region until emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. These brackish waters create an ideal location for catching big fish including striped bass and largemouth bass.
The St. Johns River flows into a few smaller lakes, including Lake George, which is another small yet productive bass fishing lake in Florida. Since bass of all kinds typically feed on shad throughout the year on the St. John’s River, anglers usually opt for spinnerbaits, crankbaits, or jerkbaits at any time of the year.
Lake Seminole is one of the more popular stops along the professional bass fishing trails, and the lake is considered by many to be one of the top large reservoirs in the north Florida region and among the best bass lakes in the country. This 37,500-acre lake sits on the border of Georgia and Florida and features plenty of access points on both sides of the state line.
I have fished Lake Seminole during spring and summer and have found great fishing opportunities in both seasons. There is an abundance of submerged cover that largemouth bass will use to hide under or around. I like to use a wacky rigged Senko fished slowly just a few feet in front of underwater brush or trees to draw bass out of their hiding spots and entice them to bite.
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