When it comes to big bass fishing, the state of Missouri stands as a true angler’s paradise, boasting an abundance of pristine lakes that offer an unforgettable bass fishing experience.
Whether you’re in pursuit of largemouth, smallmouth, or spotted bass, the Show-Me State doesn’t disappoint. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 15 best Missouri bass fishing lakes, each with its own unique scenery, exceptional bass fishing opportunities, and the promise of reeling in trophy-worthy catches.
Missouri Bass Fishing Tips
Planning a fishing trip to Missouri’s lakes is an exciting endeavor that requires a bit of thoughtful preparation. Begin by taking a closer look at the unique characteristics of the lakes you’re considering. Research the types of bass you can find in each location, pay attention to local fishing regulations to make sure you have the right permits, and take a look at recent fishing reports to get a sense of the current conditions.
Timing is crucial in the world of fishing. Keep in mind that spring and fall are often the best seasons for bass fishing in Missouri, as the water temperature and bass activity work together. During the hotter summer months, aim for early mornings or evenings to escape the heat and increase your chances of a good catch.
Packing the right gear is very important too. Bring a selection of rods and reels suitable for the type of fishing you plan to do, whether it’s casting or spinning. Variety in your tackle box can also be a huge help so stock up on an assortment of lures, including soft plastics, crankbaits, and topwater options, so you can adjust your lures to match the changing conditions and lure big bass effectively throughout the day or weekend.
Familiarize yourself with the specific fishing regulations for each lake you intend to visit. This encompasses understanding fishing license requirements, adhering to size and bag limits, and being aware of any unique rules in place. Some lakes, especially those in State Parks or on privately owned land, may have specific restrictions, including being catch-and-release only or limiting the number and size of fish you can keep.
Explore accommodation options near your chosen lakes. Whether you opt for camping, renting cabins, or staying in local hotels, securing a comfortable place to rest after a day of fishing can help make your trip much more enjoyable. Scout nearby bait shops and supply stores to cover any angling essentials you might have forgotten at home or if you just want to check out what’s new on the market.
Local insights can offer a significant advantage so be sure to connect with local bass fishing enthusiasts, guides, or tackle shops to learn about recent trends, recommended baits, and successful techniques tailored to the specific lakes you’re targeting. A lot of times, a local bass angler would be happy to start up a bass fishing conversation if you just start by asking a question.
Stay attuned to the weather forecast leading up to and during your trip. Weather conditions can influence fish behavior, prompting you to adapt your tactics accordingly for better results. Some bass anglers will keep an eye on moon phases as well, but I personally just stick to the high and low-pressure systems, cold fronts, and any rainstorms that may be moving through the area.
Patience and adaptability are vital traits to have in fishing. If your initial fishing spot doesn’t yield results, don’t hesitate to explore different areas of the lake or experiment with various approaches. Some bass anglers will sit around in the same spot for hours waiting on a bite, but I personally love moving around to new spots in order to find schools of fish or lunkers hiding in deep thick vegetation.
1. Table Rock Lake
Table Rock Lake is a sprawling reservoir known for its clear water and stunning Ozark scenery. Table Rock Lake is located in southwestern Missouri, near Branson, and offers countless public ramps and marinas for boat access, as well as shoreline fishing opportunities.
Table Rock Lake is one of my personal favorites to visit during the summer and fall, but fishing pressure can be high during the peak seasons. The structures to target include bluff walls and rocky points, as well as any submerged logs or heavy brush areas you may notice.
Both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass call Table Rock Lake home and will react quickly and aggressively to a variety of lures. Jigs, plastic worms, jerkbaits, and topwater lures have all given me great results here, but don’t be afraid to try something new or experiment with a lure or technique you haven’t tried yet.
2. Lake of the Ozarks
Probably the best-known waterway in the state, Lake of the Ozarks is a massive reservoir in central Missouri with numerous coves and points for big bass to hide in. You’ll find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in very healthy populations at Lake of the Ozarks.
Access points around Lake of the Ozarks are plentiful, with dozens of private access points, public boat launch ramps, public marinas, docks, piers, and many miles of shore fishing spots you can set up on. Lake of the Ozarks is a very popular destination for locals and out-of-state visitors, so expect the fishing pressure to be high pretty much year-round, especially on the weekends or during summer holidays such as Independence Day.
For lures and techniques at Lake of the Ozarks, I have had the best luck using crankbaits and swimbaits, but spinnerbaits and soft plastic worms are very viable when fished around docks, rocky shorelines, and brush piles. Night fishing can yield good results during the warmer months at Lake of the Ozarks too, and the bass angling pressure is somewhat lower during the late spring and early fall months.
3. Bull Shoals Lake
Bull Shoals Lake is a large reservoir straddling the Missouri and Arkansas border, offering clear waters and diverse fishing opportunities with abundant populations of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in this southern lake.
There are a large number of access points all around the lake, including public boat launch ramps, public marinas, docks, piers, and both public and private trails. The angling pressure throughout the year is moderate but may push a bit higher during Independence Day or other summer holidays.
Some of my favorite methods here are either Ned or Carolina rigs, crankbaits, or jigs. I’ll put most of my focus on points, bluffs, and deep structure, as well as deep ledges, rocky points, and sunken or standing timber along the shoreline. During the summer, consider using some diving lures to get your presentation deep, but fish can be found at all depths almost year-round.
4. Stockton Lake
Stockton Lake is a scenic reservoir located in southwest Missouri that is surrounded by rolling hills and forested areas. It has multiple boat launch ramps and parks, giving you easy access to a wide range of different spots to set up on the shore or launch a boat, kayak, or canoe.
Largemouth bass and spotted bass are popular here, with some smaller populations of smallmouth bass. For the most part, bass angling pressure is moderate throughout the year, but summertime is the busiest time of the year on this lake.
For the best techniques, I would bring crankbaits and topwater baits. The largemouth bass here are not shy about grabbing a topwater frog or other creature bait. You can also get some quick and aggressive smallmouth strikes using finesse worms and spinnerbaits around sunken brush or structures and rocky points, especially during the spring and fall months.
5. Truman Lake
Also known as the Harry S. Truman Reservoir, Truman Lake is a sprawling body of water known for its diverse fishing opportunities and natural beauty. Some massive largemouth bass and spotted bass call this lake home, giving you plenty of opportunities to haul one in.
Jigs, plastic worms, crankbaits, and chatterbaits all do extremely well here. Fish around submerged structures and riprap to get the quickest bites from hungry, aggressive, or defensive bass
Throughout the year, the seasonal pressure is normally moderate, but you can find areas of less pressure around some of the creek channels. Also, keep in mind the lake’s fluctuating water levels can affect bass behavior, so you may want to ask locals when and where the bass are biting.
6. Mark Twain Lake
Mark Twain Lake is a serene reservoir surrounded by forests and offers a quieter fishing experience. The pressure here is low to moderate, but for the most part, you can get a number of quick and easy bites from the largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, and white bass that live here.
There are multiple boat launch ramps and public fishing areas around this northeast Missouri lake, giving you plenty of options for setting up a spot. Angling pressure stays moderate throughout most of the peak seasons, with early morning and late afternoon being the best times to head out onto the water.
Spinnerbaits, plastics baits, jerkbaits, and topwater options are excellent choices here. Fish around submerged vegetation, brush piles, and rocky points to locate schools and single fish lurking in the shadows.
7. Pomme de Terre Lake
This is a smaller reservoir located in southwest Missouri known for its peaceful atmosphere and abundant cover, which the local populations of largemouth bass, spotted, and white bass absolutely love.
Access is easy, though, with at least three boat ramps and public access points. Bass angling pressure is usually low throughout most of the year, but summertime weekends can push it up to moderate levels. Early spring is the best time to hit this lake.
Use Texas-rigged worms, jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits to get the best results from the bass here. Target underwater vegetation, brush piles, weed beds, and drop-offs to quickly find fish in any season.
8. Thomas Hill Reservoir
Thomas Hill Reservoir is a scenic lake in north-central Missouri with diverse fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and spotted bass. It offers some public boat launch ramps and fishing piers for easy access whether you want to be on the water or keep your feet on dry land.
Crankbaits, jigs, plastic worms, and topwater presentations are the popular choices here, with topwater and plastic worms being my preferred choices. Fish around points, coves, and submerged structures to find big bass willing to strike.
The lake’s bass pressure is low to moderate all year round, with fish willing and eager to bite for the most part. You’ll find bass at all depths of the lake, so be sure to experiment with different depths to locate fish.
9. Clearwater Lake
Clearwater Lake is a smaller reservoir in southeast Missouri surrounded by forested hills that turn a beautiful mix of reds and golds in the fall. This lake is home to some pretty big largemouth bass and spotted bass populations.
You’ll find a few boat launch ramps and plenty of spots for shoreline fishing, giving you a choice of how you want to track down your next trophy bass. This lake has very little bass pressure overall, but summertime can see it pushed to moderate, especially on the weekends.
Crankbaits, jigs, soft plastic worms, and topwater bait around target points, drop-offs, and submerged structures will give the best results. Spring and early summer are great times for topwater action, so break out your frogs or creature baits to get some bass to lunge and put up a good fight.
10. Norfork Lake
Norfork Lake is a scenic reservoir in southwestern Missouri, near the Arkansas border, offering some great fishing opportunities for you to catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass. With numerous boat ramps and marinas around the lake, you’re sure to find easy access with your smaller watercraft.
Crankbaits, swimbaits, jigs, and soft plastic baits are the go-to around here, with soft plastic worms and crankbaits being my preferred methods. Fish around main lake points and rocky shorelines or target submerged timber and deeper areas during the hotter parts of the day.
Bass pressure is moderate throughout most of the peak season. Early mornings will be your best option for getting quick strikes, but evenings can also give some strong results too.
11. Hazel Creek Lake
Hazel Creek Lake is a smaller lake in western Missouri known for its relaxing and scenic surroundings. It offers a few boat ramps and at least two fishing piers for you to access the lake easily.
Largemouth bass and spotted bass call this lake home, and angling pressure is normally pretty low all year round. The fish here stick around rocky points and laydowns but don’t overlook submerged cover and sunken logs.
Spinnerbaits, plastic worms, jigs, and topwater baits are the typical bass-preferred lures here. Fishing around dawn and dusk can be particularly rewarding, especially when using plastic worms.
12. Lake Wappapello
Lake Wappapello is a picturesque reservoir located in southeast Missouri offering diverse fishing options for spotted and largemouth bass. Access is easy through public boat ramps and other designated fishing areas.
Largemouth bass and spotted bass are plentiful in this lake and respond well to a wide range of lures and techniques. My preferred method is soft plastics or topwater frogs, but you can get some quick and aggressive strikes when using crankbaits and jigs too. Target points, submerged cover, and creek channels to get the most action.
Throughout the year, angling pressure stays low to moderate, with the summertime weekends being the busiest and pushing the pressure a bit high across the lake. Fish will still strike, but you may need to search around for good spots, such as around the creek mouths or along heavy brush shorelines.
13. Lake Springfield
Lake Springfield is a man-made reservoir located in southwest Missouri, offering a convenient urban fishing experience. It was originally created to be an artificial cooling lake for the James River Power Plant but has since become a great spot for bass fishing.
Largemouth bass and spotted bass call this lake home and will eagerly strike at plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater baits. Angling pressure is low to moderate during the peak seasons, so you’re sure to get a few bites. The lake is regularly stocked with bass and other species giving you a great opportunity to haul in a trophy.
14. Bilby Ranch Lake
Bilby Ranch Lake is a serene fishing spot in north-central Missouri surrounded by rural landscapes and wide open farmland. If you’re looking for a spot to do some night fishing, this is the place to be. The wide open sky offers incredible views of the starry night sky while the largemouth and spotted bass that call the lake home will strike throughout the night.
Bass angling pressure is low all year round, and the bass will eagerly take plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater presentations. Fish along the shoreline and near submerged structures to quickly locate schools or single fish. Use natural-colored lures to mimic local prey species, and you’ll notice some much better results.
15. Montrose Lake
Montrose Lake is a smaller reservoir in west-central Missouri offering peaceful fishing experiences for new and experienced bass anglers alike. It’s a very low-pressure area that is home to largemouth and spotted bass willing to strike at a wide range of lures.
Jigs, plastic worms, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits are the go-to lures in this area, but you can get results from almost anything, including live bait, finesse presentations, glow-in-the-dark lures, rattlers, and more. Target points, submerged cover, and drop-offs for the best results, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different retrieves to find what’s working.