The first-ever Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S) tournament was held in Arkansas. Numerous legendary pro bassers hail from Arkansas. The iconic Ranger Bass Boat is a product of, you guessed it, Arkansas. Bass fishing roots run deep in Arkansas.
But you don’t need to be a pro to enjoy the bountiful largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass angling opportunities in this land of diverse waters ranging from clear, deep mountain lakes to eutrophic lowland fish factories. Yes, bass can be found and caught everywhere, and thanks to mild Southern winters, anytime in Arkansas. But four impoundments offer the best chances for a limit of lunkers and the off-chance of tangling with a tackle-busting hawg.
Arkansas River and Lake Dardanelle
The Arkansas River stretches across Arkansas from border to border, carving its way through hill terrain in the western part of the state to the Delta where it merges with the Mighty Mississippi. Excellent angling for largemouth bass can be found anywhere in its channel, but 34,300-acre Lake Dardanelle, is a place of special note.
The state’s first-ever bass tournament weigh-in pavilion was built here. If that doesn’t scream “quality fishery” nothing does. Lake Dardanelle is simply a contained portion of the Arkansas River, providing more stable water levels and a diversity of habitats. Even though it’s dammed, current still plays a major role in figuring out how to catch them. But there’s plenty of them to catch in Lake Dardanelle. Local pro tip: These bass really like blue.
On the banks, Lake Dardanelle State Park offers camping, picnic tables, a playground, and a beautiful visitor center featuring a 7,000-gallon aquarium for an up-close look at native fish.
Bull Shoals Lake
Up in the Ozark Highlands, Bull Shoals Lake covers more than 45,000 acres, providing anglers with chances for largemouth, spotted, smallmouth, and (even though they’re not in the freshwater bass family but are, instead “true” bass) striped bass. The clear waters and rugged shoreline offer postcard views and ample opportunities. Spring and fall are best, but don’t overlook deep-water probing in summer and especially winter. Crankbaits, jigs, and finesse techniques are all effective in the lake’s depths.
Lake Ouachita owns the title of Arkansas’ largest man-made lake (since Bull Shoals spills into Missouri), spanning over 40,000 acres. While its pretty waters attract water enthusiasts of all types, submerged timber and rocky structures create an ideal habitat for largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. During the summer months, schooling bass are busting shad and will also bust a strategically cast topwater. Soft plastic worms and swimbaits are productive, too. Big striped bass roam the open waters of Lake Ouachita, bite all year long, and pull like a freight train. Hire a guide for your best opportunity for this huge freshwater fish.
In the southwestern corner of Arkansas lies Millwood Lake, a sprawling 29,000-acre reservoir with Florida-strain largemouth prowling about. Given the genetics and superb habitat, many experts predict the next state record—which must top 16 pounds 8 ounces—to come from Millwood. Long known across the nation as a bass-fishing hot spot, Milwood continues to impress and looks to do so for years to come.
Visit Arkansas Tourism to plan your trip.