State's 5 best bass lakes: Potholes tops list

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    MOSES LAKE, Wash. — Nowhere else in Washington can an angler catch 5-pound smallmouth bass off of rockpiles and 10 minutes later nail 6-pound largemouth from beaver hut-studded sand dunes than at the Potholes.

    Centrally located in Grant County, this big reservoir gets my vote as the best bass lake in Washington State. That's because this remarkable body of water has it all: 28,200 surface acres where you can always find a private fishing spot no matter how many other boats are out, productive shore and dock fishing, a plethora of boat ramps, motel facilities and camping.

    You can't go wrong on big largemouth here with a white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait on the shallow side of the sand dunes during the prespawn and spawning season.

    Crankbaits and Senkos both take their share of early-season largemouth as well. Don't let the vast amount of dunes intimidate you. No matter where you fish, you will not be far from Mama Pesce, so focus on technique more than location.

    Potholes smallmouth bass have really become exciting thanks to good numbers and fish size. Wherever you find rocky bottoms, there will be smallmouth foraging for crayfish.

    Deep-diving balsa crankbaits and drop-shotting Basstrix soft plastics with QuickDrop weights on 6-pound test McCoy line will do the trick.

    For more, contact the nice folks at Mar Don Resort (800-416-2736).

    Lake Washington

    That 15 mile-long pond sandwiched between latte-drinking Seattle and high-tech Microsoft? It's only one of the hottest smallmouth bass fisheries in the entire country!

    Indeed, if you want big smallmouth (and largemouth), this is your destination. A five-bass limit needs to weigh 21 pounds to win a tournament here.

    Bronzebacks as large as 8½ pounds have been wrestled from here, and there are many stories of larger Mama Pesces that have gotten away!

    The fact that this body of water encompasses more than 22,138 acres of fertile water and receives very little pressure is the reason that it kicks out both numbers and size.

    The first step in catching Lake Washington bronzebacks is to understand what the bass like to eat.

    Primary forage species (aka menu items) include sticklebacks, sculpin, yellow perch, and crawdads.

    Choose your lures to imitate these delicacies, and fish them where you would expect them to inhabit, and you are on your way to catching bass.

    Ramps are located at Gene Coulon Park, Coal Creek, Mercer Island, Sand Point, and other areas making access easy.

    Contact Anglers Marine (253-548-2232), Auburn Sports & Marine (253-833-1440) and Outdoor Emporium (206-624-6550) for more.

    Lake Wallula

    I love to fish the Columbia around Tri-Cities at this time of the year. The big smallies are still in a prespawn posture, and almost anywhere along the main river is likely to turn up some hungry bronzebacks.

    I usually pick an area that contains some rock and a water depth of 4 to 6 feet deep.

    If you know how to navigate safely through the hazardous shallows, focus on the Hanford Reach. This area will produce some five-bass limits exceeding 20 pounds during May, guaranteed!

    For the less adventurous, there are outsized smallies from Richland all the way down to McNary Dam, which creates the Wallula pool.

    The mouth of the Yakima River holds plenty of big bass on a feeding binge, prior to moving upriver to spawn. Look for these bass on flats of 4 to 8 feet deep, and tempt them with Lucky Craft jerkbaits or drift Yamamoto Senkos by them.

    Don't forget that many of the sloughs like Villard and Burbank hold some bodacious largemouth as well!

    Although there are many ramps in the Tri-Cities area, Columbia Point Marina in Richland is my favorite because it is free, handles four lanes with plenty of parking and restrooms and picnic areas on lush grass.

    For info, swing by Grigg's (509-547-0566) in Pasco, Richland Ace Hardware (509-946-0881), Kennewick Ranch & Home (509-737-1996), Motyka's Fishin Post (509-375-6028) in Richland and Sportsman's Warehouse (509-736-2200) in Kennewick.

    Banks Lake

    Grant County has two entrants on the big list, thanks to the quantity of bass at Banks Lake. This huge impoundment measures 24,900 acres, and is stuffed with smallmouth from the north end all the way to the south.

    If there is one downside, however, it is the recent decline of larger bass above 4 pounds.
    The bass will begin to spawn later this month, and in the meantime they are eating everything in sight.

    Access is a breeze, thanks to launch ramps at both ends of the lake and in the middle. Steamboat Rock State Park (509-633-1304) offers excellent campsites with full hookups, not to mention spectacular views.

    For more info, stop by Big Wally's (509-632-5504) on the south end and Coulee Playland Resort (509-633-2671) on the north.

    Lake Whatcom

    Although this 5,000-acre Bellingham area lake is small by the above standards, it proves the axiom that "good things come in small packages."

    Besides lush scenery and crystal-clear water perfect for sight fishing with polarized glasses, this northwestern Washington gem holds a healthy population of smallmouth bass anxious to do battle with anglers.

    With 26.5 miles of rocky shoreline there is plenty of area to explore, though the bulk of the smallmouth population is clearly in the northern end of the lake.

    The only downside of Lake Whatcom is its closed season from Nov. 1 through the last Saturday in April, but an abundance of 4-pound smallmouth makes winter soon forgotten.

    Also note that as a municipal water supply, carbureted two-stroke engines are not allowed on the lake.

    The best ramp facility is at Bloedel Donovan Park (360-676-6888) on the lake's west side.

    H&H Angler & Outfitter (360-733-2050) in Bellingham has bass gear.

    Material from Fishing & Hunting News
    published 24 times a year.

    Visit them at www.fishingandhuntingnews.com.