The 11 Best Lakes for New York Bass Fishing

Coty Perry

New York is home to tons of bass fishing opportunities. While they’re most famous for their smallmouth bass fishing, their largemouth bass population is bigger. 

May through July is the best time for New York bass fishing. However, you can technically catch bass any time, so don’t let the calendar contain your fishing. 

Of course, some lakes are better for fishing bass than others. Below, we’ll go through some of the best lakes for fishing in New York.

Going fishing in New York? Then give a read to our New York Fishing License guide.

Best Bass Fishing Lakes in New York

You can find bass in nearly any lake in New York. However, some of them are better than others. Here are the best bass fishing lakes in NY:

1. Lake Erie

Lake Erie - New York bass fishing lake

Lake Erie is one of the best bass fishing lakes in NY. While the whole lake is considered a bass hot spot, the area near Buffalo is particularly good. You’ll find a healthy smallmouth bass population and plenty of walleye. 

With that said, the great lakes are very windy and can prove difficult to navigate. It isn’t like fishing in your average lake.

Many anglers devote themselves to fishing in the Great Lakes almost exclusively. Small craft advisories are common. 

You can catch bass using the typical techniques in Lake Erie. Drop-shot rigs and drifting tubes work quite well. When the fish are spawning, you can use swimbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits effectively. 

2. Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua Lake - New York bass fishing lake

In Western New York, you’ll find Chautauqua Lake – a large, natural lake that takes up over 13,150 acres. It provides some fantastic bass fishing, just be sure to check the local regulations first. 

In some ways, this lake is two lakes in one. It has a narrow bottleneck near the middle of the lake, though the waters don’t get cut off completely. 

The two different sides of the lake are pretty similar. However, there are some key differences. The northern side is rockier and deeper.

The southern side is shallow and home to more plants. If you’re looking to catch largemouth bass, you’ll want to head to the southern side. 

The southern side provides some particularly good spring fishing when the bass spawns. 

The area around the lake is very developed, with plenty of docks and man-made structures. In my experience, developed areas provide the best bass fishing during pre-spawn.

All your normal techniques work here, including worms and soft plastics. 

You’ll need to use heavy weights to make it through the weedy cover during the summer months. 

The northern end features tons of rocky areas where smallmouth bass can be easily found. 

3. Oneida Lake

Oneida Lake - New York bass fishing lake

Oneida Lake is the largest lake that’s completely within the borders of New York. It’s a huge lake, covering 50,894 acres, and hosts a healthy population of many fish species. 

Most anglers know this lake for its walleye population. However, it’s a great place to catch bass in the spring and early summer when the water begins to warm up.

You can find both smallmouth and largemouth bass in abundance. 

Bassmasters has hosted tournaments here several times, showing how good the bass population is. 

The lake’s made up of several mid-lake shoals. You can catch both species in these areas. 

Largemouth bass prefers the shallows, of course. Luckily, there’s plenty of weed coverage along the shoreline, which is a series of smaller bays. Most of these “bays” have many largemouth bass. 

The western half of the lake features the biggest largemouth bass population. Several famous areas of the lake, such as Big Bay, Three Mile, and Lower South, are known for largemouth bass. 

You’ll find smallmouth bass in the more open areas of the lake. While this lake isn’t as rocky as others, it’s still home to a large smallmouth bass population. 

4. Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake - New York bass fishing lake

Cayuga Lake is part of the Finger Lakes – all of which feature decent bass populations. However, Cayuga Lake gets most of the attention of bass anglers. Several bass tournaments are hosted here. 

The lake is long and narrow – like a finger. However, it drops off quickly to over 400 feet deep. There is a significant amount of coastline that is much shallower, though. 

This lake has a significant green bass population, but you can find several other species, too. Largemouth bass love the shallow, weed-filled coastline.

The northern parts of the lake rarely get below 15 feet deep, making them prime largemouth territory. 

Largemouth bass in the 2 – 3 pound range are common, but you’ll find plenty of 5-pounders too.That said, largemouth bass aren’t that abundant throughout the lake.

Instead, they’re concentrated in only a few areas in great numbers. 

Therefore, you’ll need to be particularly careful about where you fish. Smallmouth bass prefers the middle of the lake, while largemouth bass can be found along the shore. 

You’ll find tons of fish besides bass, too. Rainbow smelt, yellow perch, and trout fishing are all popular on the lake. 

5. St. Lawrence River

St. Lawrence River - New York bass fishing lake

The St. Lawrence River may be one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world. If you’re interested in smallmouth bass, you have to give this lake a try (taking a vacation just to fish in this river is more than worth it. 

Smallmouth bass love to hang out around the islands, such as Round, Linda, and Carleton, as well as the bays and off points. Use small spinners, jigs, and rubber worms during the later summer months.

During spawning season, live bait and soft plastics work best. 

You can also find largemouth bass in the lake. They prefer the weedy, shallow bays. However, Wellesley Island is also known for supporting a largemouth bass population. 

You’ll find a range of other fish species, too. The St. Lawrence River is simply a great fishing hotspot. 

6. Black Lake

Black Lake - New York bass fishing lake

Photo credit: Black Lake NY Fishing

The Black Lake sports healthy populations of both smallmouth and largemouth bass. You’ll find a range of environments to fish in, including weed beds, rocky shorelines, and mid-lake shoals.

The variety this lake offers allows it to support various fish. 

Largemouth bass tends to stay around the shallow bays, especially during earlier months of the season. In the summer months, you’ll want to find locations with tons of weed coverage and deeper waters around mid-lake shoals. 

The water temperature can get hot in the summer, so early morning and evening fishing works best. 

Smallmouth bass prefer the rocky shorelines and points of the lake. Many structures in the middle of the lake smallmouth like to hang around, too.

The fish typically hang out in the deeper waters, but they will move to the shallows to feed when the light dims.

Finding smallmouth during the fall is much easier than finding largemouth bass.

The cooling water tends to push the fish back towards the surface, where they are easier to catch. Use minnows or crankbaits instead of deep baits in the autumn months. 

7. Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario - New York bass fishing lake

I already talked about one of the Great Lakes, but let’s touch on another one: Lake Ontario. 

Sodus Bay is the best place on the New York shoreline to target bass. It’s located between Oswego and Rochester. 

Throughout much of Lake Ontario, you’ll find mostly smallmouth bass. If you want to target smallies, you’ll have no trouble finding a spot to fish. 

However, Sodus bay also supports a large number of largemouths. The bay is about 50 feet deep, but much of the coastline is shallow, with plenty of vegetation. Largemouth bass love these areas. 

About 35% of the bay’s surface is covered in vegetation during the summer months. These areas are best for largemouth bass fishing, while you can still find smallmouths in the deeper portions of the lake. 

With that said, the vegetation can get extremely thick. The state sends out mechanical harvesters to cut through some of the growth in the summer. Take advantage of these cut pathways to navigate into the underwater jungles.  

Like all large lakes, Lake Ontario can be windy and unsuitable for fishing. However, this can reduce some fishing pressure, making catches easier when the weather cooperates. 

8. Conesus Lake

Conesus Lake - New York bass fishing lake

Conesus Lake is one of the 11 Finger Lakes. As you might expect, it is long and thin – like a finger. It isn’t the best Finger Lake for bass fishing, but still supports a sizable population. 

It’s one of the smaller lakes in the chain at only 3,450 acres. However, don’t let its small size fool you. It’s home to a huge largemouth bass population. 

The coastline of this lake remains pretty shallow, reaching around 5 to 10 feet deep. However, it does drop off suddenly to over 40 feet in some places. The extended shoreline makes it easy to catch largemouth bass. 

You can enjoy some nice shore fishing on the northern part of the lake, where Vitale Park overlooks the lake. The shoreline here is less than 5 feet, making it a great spot for finding largemouth bass. 

Over the same, weeds will slowly take over the shallows. You’ll want to focus on the first major drop-off and deeper portions of the coast. 

9. Lake George

Lake George - New York bass fishing lake

Lake George doesn’t get a  bunch of love. However, it hosts a surprisingly large bass population. Plus, it isn’t nearly as popular as some other lakes, making it a good option for those looking for more solitude. 

Smallmouths are the most common bass species in Lake George. Fish in the deeper waters and around rockier shorelines to target them.

While weeds overtake part of Lake George’s shoreline, you can find rocky spots to catch smallmouths. 

Largemouths are a bit harder to locate and less plentiful. Try areas with plenty of weed coverage, like Basin Bay and Boon Bay. The southwestern part of the lake features the largest population of largemouth bass. 

You’ll find the biggest bass in drop-offs and ledges, especially in summer. Try to find water that’s around 20 to 30 feet deep. 

Lake George features several small islands called the Narrows. These islands can host some largemouth bass. However, they’re best known for their boat-in campsites, making them a great spot for a nice mini-vacation. 

10. Honeoye Lake

Honeoye Lake - New York bass fishing lake

Photo credit: Sandi Ezell Blackmer

Another one of the Finger Lakes, Honeoye Lake is one of the smallest and shallowest lakes in New York.

However, that also means that it is a great warm water fishery, featuring a large population of largemouth bass (though it’s lacking in the other black bass species). 

Honeoye Lake turns out some of the highest bass numbers each year, and catch rates stay high, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

However, it’s not home to very big bass. They tend to be mostly on the smaller side. 

You’ll mostly find 12- to 16-inch bass in this lake – not the 18”+ bass found in other lakes. However, it’s a great spot to do more laidback fishing, especially with children who can’t haul an 18” bass anyway. 

Plus, the smaller size of this bass lake makes it easier to navigate via kayak. 

You’ll get the most luck by targeting the weedy shoreline of the lake. Soft plastics seem to be the most productive. Dock fishing can also be productive, especially in the morning.

11. North Sandy Pond

North Sandy Pong - New York bass fishing lake

Despite the name, North Sandy Pond is not a pond. It’s over 2,400 acres, making it plenty big enough to catch some fish in.

It’s barely connected to Lake Ontario via a small channel. However, a few barrier beaches separate the two water sources. 

Largemouth bass are plentiful in this “pond,” as it only reaches down to 13 feet. It’s full of plant growth, providing tons of hiding spots for bass. The weeds can be a bit overwhelming in the summer, though. 

Therefore, the best time to fish in this lake is in spring and early summer. By the late summer, weeds tend to take over. You can still use spinnerbaits and plastic worms to catch top-feeders, though. 

For smallmouth bass, you can head to the nearby South Sandy Pond, which is a bit deeper. Largemouth bass are in this pond, as well, especially around the weedy shorelines. 

You can actually access both ponds through the Sandy Island Beach State Park. If the fishing isn’t good in one, you can try the other. 

There are many other abundant fish in these ponds, too. For instance, northern pike are common in both ponds, so don’t be surprised if you accidentally catch one. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best bass fishing in New York State?

The St. Lawrence River offers some of the best bass fishing in New York State. You’ll also find great opportunities in Lake Erie, Chautauqua Lake, and Lake Champlain. 

What is the best bait for bass fishing in NY?

The best bait for bass fishing in New York are crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Live bait like minnows, worms, and even crabs work well, too. 

What are the best places to fish for bass in NY?

The St. Lawrence River features some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the world, making it a great place to fish in NY.

Lake Erie and Lake Ontario also offer plenty of opportunities for bass fishing. 

Is there a bass season in NY?

December 1st through June 14th is the catch-and-release bass season in New York. Open harvest season starts on June 15th and runs through November 30th. 

What are the best techniques for catching bass in NY?

The best technique for catching bass in NY depends on where you’re located and what time of year it is.

During the cooler months, most bass spend more time near the surface, so surface-level baits work the best.

However, when it gets hot, bass tend to search for cooler waters, making drop-shot lures your best option. 

When do bass spawn in NY?

In most lakes, bass spawn between May and June in New York. Keep an eye on water temperature to better understand when bass may spawn in a particular lake. 


There are many great lakes to catch bass in New York. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are plentiful in the state, providing anglers with plenty of opportunities to catch them. 

New York bass fishing features world-class fishing waters, such as the St. Lawrence River and Lake Erie.

The state also features a fishing season that lasts much of the year, though harvest season is only for a few months.

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