Bass Fishing in Ohio: Our Favorite Spots

Last Updated on August 30, 2022

Have you ever heard of the “walleye capital of the world”[1]? Would you believe me if I said it was in Ohio? 

Ohio isn’t exactly on the radar when I think of bigtime fishing states but there’s a lot to get excited about here. Bass fishing in Ohio is pretty popular as well. 

In fact, the diversity of freshwater sport fish species in Ohio is legendary. You can easily find more than 20 common fish types in the numerous lakes, ponds, and rivers in this beautiful state.

After detailed research, comparing data, and collecting tons of feedback from local anglers, we have picked the top destinations for bass fishing in Ohio.


Top 16 Bass Fishing Destinations in Ohio

In reality, the bass density in many fishing destinations In Ohio can keep changing. But if you choose the fishing spots mentioned in this list, you’ll surely enjoy some action-packed bass fishing.

1. Lake Milton

lake Milton - bass fishing in Ohio

Located in Mahoning County, this lake forms the Lake Milton State Park and offers a wide range of recreational opportunities.

It’s also one of the top bodies of water with a high density of smallmouth and largemouth bass. Some anglers even mention that in Lake Milton, there’s never a dull moment.

In the past few years, the smallmouth population has overtaken the largemouth. However, the period around early spring can yield more largemouth.  

The average size of the bass found here is less than 12 inches. If you’re lucky you might find some trophy largemouth measuring over 18 inches.

There were plenty of spots along the shoreline and a few docks where the bass lurks. A big plus of the lake is there are a ton of baitfish like the shad. So, swimbaits, spoons, and spinnerbaits work like a charm for the smallmouth.

2. Tycoon Lake 

tycoon lake - bass fishing in Ohio

At first glance, this 204-acre lake located near the small town of Rio Grande doesn’t look impressive. 

But you know what? Looks can be deceiving. 

In reality, it’s one of the best fishing destinations for trophy bass in Ohio. As per the local experts, the bass in Tycon lake has the best combination of higher numbers and larger sizes in southeastern Ohio.

The main attraction is largemouth bass and 5-pound catches aren’t uncommon. Spring is the ideal time for the best bass fishing opportunities on this lake. It’s also a hot spot for sunfish.

This is a shallow lake with plenty of weeds, stumps, and submerged trees. Since there’s plenty of cover along the shoreline, it’s also a great spot for bank fishing.

If you’re planning to use a boat, remember that only electric motors are allowed.

3. Burr Oak Lake

burr oak lake - bass fishing in Ohio

Looking for bigger-than-average bass in Ohio? 

Then Burr Oak Lake should be on the top of your list.

It’s a rare lake that produces largemouth over 18 inches consistently.  In reality, over 70 percent of the bass in this lake is over 12 inches in length.

The lake is a part of Burr Oak State Park and has 664 acres of surface area.

The shoreline is over 8 miles in length and provides multiple drop-offs, submerged stumps, and shallow bays where the largemouth haunts.

Spring is the best season for bank fishing as the bass prefers to hug the shoreline. In summer, areas around the weed edges and aquatic vegetation are the best spots.

Quite simply, if you use the right shore fishing tips, this lake won’t disappoint you.

Note, the water in the lake has excellent clarity. That makes using natural bait colors the best option. Locals mention that using jigs and realistic crankbaits is a good option.

Besides bass, you’ll also find crappie and channel catfish in the lake.

4. Clear Fork Reservoir

clear fork reservoir - bass fishing in Ohio

This reservoir is located on the Clear Fork River and is shared by Richland County and Morrow County. The 1000-acre lake has 14 miles of shoreline and is an excellent destination for a fishing trip with the family.

The lake has plenty of aquatic vegetation and weeds that are favorite spots for the largemouth. Using square bill crankbaits, jerkbaits, and bladed jigs can deliver good results. 

In general, the woody covers around the west end of the lake have a higher bass density. But if you’re looking for a larger size, try the eastern shores.

Note, there are some 8-pound monsters in the lake that can put up a great fight. As per locals, it’s best to go with a braided line and a heavy rod. 

Apart from bass, other game fish like bluegill, white bass, and channel catfish are also found here. Keep in mind, shore fishing is permitted only along the south and west shorelines of this lake.

5. Great Miami River

great miami river - bass fishing in Ohio

The Great Miami River originates from the Indian lake and flows through southwest Ohio. The river flows through a gentle terrain and the waters have a diverse fish population.

Admittedly, the river is considered the best smallmouth fishing destination in Ohio. Smallmouth catches above 15 inches aren’t uncommon.

The largest largemouth caught in the river measures 24.3 inches.

In fact, some local anglers mention that smallmouths in the river are getting bigger with each passing year. The period between March to June is best for smallmouth as well as largemouth bass.

Veterans suggest that the waters around Middletown offer some of the best action for smallmouth bass. Other than that, you can also take part in the Great Smallmouth Bass Fishing Challenge held each year in June.

6. Ohio River

ohio river - bass fishing in Ohio

For anyone looking for a year-round bass fishing destination in Ohio, the Ohio river offers excellent opportunities. Besides smallmouth and largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass is also available in these waters.

One of the best aspects of angling in this river is the chance to explore miles of unpressured water. Moreover, the current in the river is gentle and the water is mostly clear. 

That said, the river can be fickle and flooding during the spawning season can affect the bass catch rate.

The tailwater areas in the river are popular spots among local anglers for locating largemouth holes. The sections of the river that borders Kentucky have a high density of such spots.

As the water temperature rises in summer, the largemouth heads towards the deeper backwaters.

Swimbaits, spinnerbaits and the combination of a Carolina rig with a jig are some of the best baits to use. Around rocky shorelines, lighter-colored buzz baits can work great for smallmouth bass.

7. Oakthorpe Lake

oakthorpe lake - bass fishing in Ohio

This bite-size lake has a surface area of 43 acres and is one of the hidden gems for Bass fishing in Ohio. It’s located in Rush County, around 3 miles from the city of Rushville.

Here, the main attraction is the largemouth bass. Locals suggest exploring the lily pads on the south end of the lake for the big ones. Bluegill, green sunfish, and catfish are available too.

The visibility in the lake is around 1 to 2 feet. Soft plastics, lizards, and spinnerbaits work well in the covered areas around the shoreline. The size of the bass is generally between 12 to 20 inches.

I suggest avoiding the weekends when the number of boats on the small lake remains high. Keep in mind only electric motors are allowed in this central Ohio lake.

Note, there are no facilities around the lake for camping. So, day trips from Rushville or Lancaster are the best option.

8. Alum Creek Lake

alum creek lake - bass fishing in Ohio

Looking for an all-around fishing lake in Ohio that’s ideal for serious anglers as well as newbies?

The Alum Creek Lake in Delaware County is one of the best options with 5 square miles of surface area and unhindered shoreline access.

However, the boat ramps can get busy with recreational boaters during the summer months.

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are found in large numbers in the lake. As per the Ohio department of natural resources, bass around 5 to 6 lbs. are easily found.

Other than that, you’ll also find saugeyes, muskies, bluegill, and catfish in the waters.

Use soft plastics or spinnerbaits around submerged vegetation, submerged woods, and rocky structures. Boat anglers can head towards the drop-offs where the largemouth gathers.

Note, the lake can be as deep as 68 feet in places. So, using a depth finder is a good idea. The visibility remains excellent all through the year.

9. Portage Lakes 

portage lakes - bass fishing in Ohio

These are a bunch of eight reservoirs and lakes connected by channels and are located in Summit County. Together, they are a part of the Portage Lakes State Park.

You’ll find plenty of boat docks and weeded zones along the water bodies that make it a great spot for shore fishing.

However, the shoreline is dotted with private properties. So, pick your spot carefully.

Surveys have pointed out that there are largemouth above 7 pounds in the lake. Locals believe that 10-pounders can also be found here.

Generally, spinnerbaits and topwater lures work great on the covers.

The best season to head to the lake is during spring. The boat traffic remains high during summer. 

10. Ross Lake

ross lake - bass fishing in Ohio

This reservoir is in Ross County and is one of the top destinations for trophy bass in Ohio. The lake is a part of the Ross Lake Wildlife Area and is around 50 miles from Columbus.

The main reason for the high bass population is the efforts made by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Multiple steps have been taken in the past decades to improve the bass habitat.

Locals mention that largemouth in the lake can weigh between 7 to 9 pounds. The upper half of the lake has some covered areas that are great for bass fishing in spring.

Surface baits and soft plastic are the best options here. The lake is also a good spot for night fishing.

In summer, the bass heads towards the deeper areas. So, try searching the bottom with a swimbait or a crankbait.

11. Lake Erie

lake erie - bass fishing in Ohio

No discussion about Ohio bass fishing opportunities is complete without discussing Lake Erie.

Even though it’s best known for the walleye population, the fourth largest Great Lake offers first-rate smallmouth action.

In recent years, the amount of vegetation and weeds have grown in the lake. This has resulted in a higher population of largemouth bass as well.

The good news is, these fish can easily hit the 5-pound mark.

The lake is bordered by several counties and there are plenty of hot spots to seek out. Veterans suggest that for the best smallmouth action, the cities of Lorain and Conneaut are good spots.

Bass over 20 inches aren’t uncommon near the harbors and rock reefs around Conneaut 

That said, the hotspots keep changing and the waters can be tricky for newcomers. So, it’s best to get help from a local professional or try shore fishing.

For bank fishing, spinnerbaits and plastic worms work well in most zones.

Make sure to check out the current fishing regulations in Lake Erie before you head out.

12. Salt Fork Reservoir

salt fork reservoir - bass fishing in Ohio
(photo source: https://stateparks.com/salt_fork_state_park_in_ohio.html)

This reservoir is a part of the largest state park in Ohio – Salt Fork State Park. With an expansive surface area of 2,952 acres, it’s also a scenic body of water.

While largemouth is the main draw, the reservoir contains most of the major game fish found in Ohio state. With 74 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of bass hotspots to locate. 

The lake contains hundreds of sunken Christmas trees that are some of the favorite haunts for the largemouth.

For best results use creature baits and dropshot worms in the shallow areas around weed beds and the rocky shoreline.

The reservoir has all the necessary amenities along with lodges and camping sites.

However, since it’s close to Columbus, the fishing pressure remains high during the summer.

13. Lake Snowden

lake Snowden - bass fishing in Ohio
(photo source: https://premierangler.com/lake-snowden-ohio-fishing/)

Lake Snowden is a part of a recreation park in Athens County. At 136 acres, this is a relatively small lake.

But the efforts of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in the past few years have resulted in excellent growth of the largemouth population.

The water in the lake is clear, which makes it one of the best bass lakes for sight fishing. It’s quite deep and the depth reaches around 40 feet near the spillway.

Some anglers have also marked this area as a top action zone for bass.

The shoreline around the lake is around 7 miles and offers some great spots for shore fishing in the summer months.

Locals prefer using spinnerbaits and buzz baits around the weed beds and submerged trees.

Keep in mind, bass measuring above 12 inches should be released back into the lake. Also, the entire lake is marked as a no-wake zone.

14. Hoover Reservoir

hoover reservoir - bass fishing in Ohio

Formed by the Hoover dam, this reservoir has a surface area of 3,272 acres.  It’s a popular destination for boating, hiking, and fishing, especially for the residents of Westerville.

The reservoir has been divided into upper, middle, and lower basins. The surveys conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife have pointed out a number of top sites for bass anglers throughout the zones.

And the best part is, the fishing pressure on the reservoir is on the lesser side.

The area around the dam is also a favorite spot for local anglers looking for largemouth. The average size of the bass is between 4 and 5 pounds.

Remember, the water in the reservoir remains murky throughout the year. So, choose your baits accordingly. Also, the water levels can fluctuate based on the season.

15. Griggs Reservoir

griggs reservoir - bass fishing in Ohio

The Griggs reservoir is a top angling destination for Columbus-area anglers. Located in Franklin County, the area is also a city park.

With a surface area of around 364 acres and a shoreline of over 5 miles, it’s also one of the best tournament lakes in Ohio.

The eastern and western banks of the lake offer excellent opportunities for largemouth fishing. There’s a sizable population of smallmouth as well.

Other species like channel catfish, saugeye, and carp are also found.

The main fishing season is between April and September. The average weight of the bass is between 2 to 3 pounds, though catches over 5 pounds aren’t uncommon.

The long shoreline provides great bank fishing opportunities. Since the water is mostly muddy, choose your bait colors accordingly

There are plenty of docks, fallen trees, and submerged vegetation where worms, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits are the perfect lures. 

16. Stillwater River

stillwater river - bass fishing in Ohio

The Stillwater River is a relatively small tributary of the Great Miami River. Along with Greenville Creek, it forms the Stillwater Scenic River and Water Trail in southwestern Ohio.

Due to its connection with the Great Miami River, the smallmouth population in the river remains on the higher side. The largemouth population isn’t too bad either.

Apart from bass, the waters also hold channel catfish. 

The gentle current of the river makes it a great choice for kayak fishing. Some of the spots near Dayton are also great for fly fishing. 

The water quality is great and remains clear throughout the year. It’s not uncommon to catch smallies above 15 inches in these waters.

The best time is between March and October when the chances of a bite are high.

Conclusion

To sum up, Ohio is a top destination for bass enthusiasts. With a ton of lakes and rivers loaded with bass, the state boasts of a long tradition of recreational bass fishing.

While many bass anglers head to Alabama, Texas, or California, the angling options in Ohio deserve more attention.

No matter whether you prefer bank fishing or heading out on a boat, the opportunities for bass fishing in Ohio are equally good.

Quite simply, if you’re not taking advantage of what Ohio has to offer, you’re missing out on some amazing fishing opportunities

Before planning a trip, make sure to check out the latest fishing regulations and get hold of an Ohio fishing license.

So, what are you waiting for?

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