An early morning sunrise lights up a cypress tree near a dock on lake Marion, the perfect prelude to a day of fishing on one of the top-ranked fishing lakes in the United States. [SCDNR photo by David Lucas]
This year, Bassmaster named four South Carolina lakes as some of the nation’s Best Bass Lakes of the Decade based on tournament catch records and information on how agencies like the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) manage major reservoirs in their states for both bass and other popular species.
The Santee Cooper lakes scored a Top 25 in the U.S. designation, and three more of South Carolina’s major impoundments made the “runner-up” cut for the Southeast region.
Based on both the strength of its tournament bass returns and its tremendous fisheries for other species, such as catfish, striped bass, and crappie, the Santee-Cooper lakes (Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie) landed at #23 on the nationwide list.
Lake Hartwell in the Upstate, Lake Murray in the Midlands, and Clarks Hill/Lake Thurmond on the western border with Georgia made the Best of the Southeast list.
Since 2012, Bassmaster magazine and Bassmaster.com have published a list ranking the top 100 bass-fishing lakes in the United States and is highly anticipated by the magazine’s readers and recreational anglers looking for “bucket list” destinations to try and hook a big one!
Typically, the list uses data compiled from weigh-ins during the spring tournament-fishing season. With no data for Spring 2020 tournament fishing available due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the magazine’s editors dug into all the data at their disposal, like catch records and fisheries management.
Inclusion on the list is a nod to the planning, hard work, and cooperative effort among the SCDNR, state lawmakers, local governments, tourism-promotion organizations, and other stakeholders that goes into managing South Carolina’s major lakes and reservoirs.
“The quality of our fishing in South Carolina, our resources and the abundance of waters that we have in the state, have drawn the attention of national organizations that organize fishing events, and we see a steady stream of these national tournaments coming to South Carolina to take advantage of the opportunities we have,” said SCDNR Freshwater Fisheries Chief Ross Self. “A lot of that credit has got to go to our field staff, who work day in and day out to monitor those populations, evaluate how they are performing and make those recommendations that we’re been able to implement to maintain and provide those opportunities that are some of the best in the nation.”
Over the next few weeks, keep up with SCDNR’s social media where, in a series of posts, we’ll be exploring what goes into managing these destination fishing lakes and the benefits they bring to the communities surrounding them.
Fans of professional bass fishing can follow Bassmaster’s coverage of the Elite Series Pro tournament on the Santee-Cooper lakes Oct. 8-11.
(Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, regular tournament activities such as weigh-ins and festivals will not be held this year, but spectators can follow the tournament standings, watch video clips of daily action and support their favorite pro anglers via the Bassmaster tournament web page.)