I once mentioned to a few out-of-state anglers that Washington actually boasts some of the finest bass fishing in the West. That comment drew a few doubtful smirks. Sure, maybe Washington State has world class salmon and steelhead action but bass? No way.
Believe it or not, Washington State grows plentiful amounts of largemouth and smallmouth bass. We also grow them big. The state record largemouth bass crossed the 12.5 pound mark in 2016. Not to mention, just about every lake in Washington provides anglers with opportunities to catch America’s favorite gamefish.
Anglers who call Washington home likely live within spitting distance of a quality bass fishery that pumps out 4-5 pound bass regularly. On top of that, the Columbia River system hosts world class smallmouth fishing that is almost entirely overlooked.
Even so, not all lakes have what it takes to produce high numbers of big bass. In this article, we narrow down the lakes that stand above the rest. Only lakes that regularly relinquish 4-8 pound largemouth and smallmouth make it on this list. These are 9 of the most exceptional bass fishing lakes in Washington State. Read on so you don’t miss your chance to cast a line for trophy bass this season.
1. Lake Roosevelt
Not only does Lake Roosevelt claim the title as Washington’s largest lake at 79,000 acres, it also holds a top slot for smallmouth bass fishing. With over 650 miles of rocky shoreline, this remote gem doesn’t get nearly as much pressure as the other lakes on our list. Nor as much as it deserves.
Starting at the Grand Coulee Dam, this Columbia River impoundment stretches 151 miles through a semi-arid landscape of sage and basalt. Summers can be hot and dry but the cool, clear water provides a welcome reprieve.
Smallmouth bass are a huge draw for most anglers. Chunky bronze backs pushing 5-6 pounds are routinely caught. You just might need to sort through numerous 1-3 pounders with insatiable appetites that provide non-stop action. The most intense fishing pressure is within a mile or two of the boat launches. Go beyond that for solitude and an endless supply of willing smallmouth.
Countless inlets and coves along Lake Roosevelt are prime habitat for smallmouth. But you’ll also find decent populations of largemouth as well. Whereas smallmouth prefer rocky shorelines, points and breaks, largemouth bass are concentrated around downed trees and marina docks. Largemouth over 4 pounds are common but tricky to find at times.
Boat access to Lake Roosevelt is easiest at either Spring Canyon or Keller Ferry on the southern shore. Recreational access and camping along the hundreds of miles of shoreline is handled by the National Park Service. One of the best ways to enjoy the fishing is via boat-in camping at one of the 35 remote camp areas. Find more information about permits and reservations here.
2. Palmer Lake
The next lake on our list is yet another smallmouth bass hot spot. Palmer Lake is tucked close to the Canadian border in Okanogan County and covers 2,032 very fertile acres. It’s lightly fished and needs to be on every smallmouth junkie’s bucket list.
Just about every foot of shoreline has bass to give up. Most of the smallmouth average 2-3 pounds but quality fish up to 5 pounds are in the mix. Effective tackle includes tube jigs, Senkos and crankbaits. Natural colors like brown, black and green pumpkin produce well. Often blue or purple sparkle are top choices as vegetation takes hold during the dry, hot summers.
Expect to also encounter plenty of decent sized largemouth hanging around the scant collection of docks on Palmer. You’ll find good spots for a few largemouth around submerged wood structure and grass beds that are scattered around the lake edge as well. Smallmouth are evenly dispersed around the many rocky banks that surround Lake Palmer.
BLM and DNR access areas provide decent boat launches and a small camping area along the southern and eastern shore.
3. Eloika Lake
When it comes to largemouth bass, Eloika Lake is the Spokane area’s pride and joy. This 629 acre warm-water fishery is almost entirely surrounded by weed beds and brushy shoreline with smatterings of sunken logs and downed trees. It’s perfect habitat for Eloika’s healthy population of largemouth.
Most of Eloika Lake is less than 12 feet deep so the water warms fast after ice out in the spring. Bass quickly ramp up their appetite and gorge on the plentiful panfish prey. Largemouth in excess of 5-6 pounds are not uncommon. Top water frogs, poppers and jitterbugs are great in early spring. Fishing holds up through early summer when a switch to soft plastics is key to extending the bite.
Anglers need to be patient on Eloika. While this lake relinquishes abundant 1-2 pound bass all season, the big ones take some work. Fish slow and cover likely spots thoroughly before moving on.
Public access is located on the southeast edge in Grays Landing. A one lane boat ramp, dock and limited trailer parking is available. Arrive early to get a spot when fishing is at its peak.
4. Banks Lake
Banks Lake is the heart and soul of Washington’s bass fishery. This giant reservoir is filled by water pumped up from Lake Roosevelt and covers over 27,000 acres along its 32 mile length. Banks Lake is known for producing above average sized fish for most of the species that swim in its depths and bass are no exception.
Smallmouth are the most popular target for bass anglers and countless miles of rock studded shoreline provide excellent smallmouth habitat. There are lots of smallmouth around the 4 pound mark. However, 6 pound bruisers do get yanked to the surface enough times to draw multiple bass tournaments to Banks Lake every year.
A good number of hefty largemouth bass populate the northern portion of Banks Lake as well. The grassy shorelines and marshy inlets of Osborne Bay and the Devils Punch Bowl generally hold largemouth bass in the 3-5 pound class.
There are 5 public boat launches spread along the eastern edge. Northrup Canyon and Steamboat Rock State Park are your best bet for centralized access to great bass fishing.
5. Potholes Reservoir
When it comes to water sports and fishing, Potholes Reservoir is Washington’s favorite playground. Situated in Grant County, Potholes’ massive expanse spreads over 28,200 ecologically divers acres.
The rip-rap bank of the O’ Sullivan dam impoundment is an ideal location for targeting good sized smallmouth up to 5 pounds. For those of you after largemouth bass, head to the northern part of the lake in early spring. Thousands of sand dune islands harbor grassy weed lines perfect for largemouth bass with many up to 6 pounds.
Several bass tournaments make a seasonal stop at Potholes throughout the spring before major irrigation draw downs impact fishing quality. You’ll find several public boat launches including Potholes Lake State Park, Blythe access and the Sampson Pit access areas.
Mar Don Resort is also a popular jumping off point for anglers and hosts many of the bass tournaments each year. Stop at the bait shop to get the latest bass fishing updates.
6. Lake Wallula
The Columbia River runs for hundreds of miles through Washington State before discharging into the Pacific Ocean. Fine bass fishing exists along it’s entire stretch but Lake Wallula boasts some of the most exceptional bass fishing of all the impoundments on the Columbia.
Starting at the McNary Dam, Lake Wallula encompass the upstream portion of the Columbia to Priest Rapids Dam and upstream to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass inhabit these waters but smallmouth are the major draw.
In fact, the Washington state smallmouth bass record was taken from the Hanford Reach portion of Lake Wallula. While that 8.75 pound beast was caught over 50 years ago, there are still plenty of big smallies to be had. You can expect to pick up your fair share of 4-5 pound smallmouth along some of the best stretches. Every now and then, someone posts a picture of a 6 pound beauty. Eventually, the 1966 state record will fall.
Largemouth are less abundant but some decent sized bass are available. 2-3 pounders are common and largemouth up to 5 pounds regularly spice up the smallmouth action.
Numerous boat launches are dispersed along Lake Wallula’s length. Several of which are within the Hanford National Monument where bass fishing is the best.
7. Lake Washington
Western Washington is seldom considered a bass fishing hot spot by out-of-state anglers but Lake Washington proves them wrong. Its close proximity to the Seattle metro area makes it a popular recreational destination but the vast, 21,933 acre lake allows bass anglers to find their own space to chase trophy largemouth and smallmouth.
Plenty of bass call Lake Washington home but they are spread out, making them tough to find for those new to the lake. Once you learn the structure and key in on productive habitat, largemouth in the 7-8 pound range are available. You’ll certainly need to sort through a fair number of 2-4 pounders though.
Smallmouth are also available along some of the rockier shorelines. A few exceed 5 pounds but most are in the 1-3 pound range. For both largemouth and smallmouth, May through August is the best time to target them. Anglers get a second crack at bass in late fall as well.
Boat launches are available around the entire lake but most bass anglers launch from Kenmore, Magnuson Park, Gene Coulon Park and Beach Park ramps.
8. Silver Lake
When it comes to big largemouth bass, look no further than Silver Lake. It has long produced some of the biggest bass found in Western Washington with many reaching 8 pounds and a few that scratch the 9 pound mark. Over 3,000 acres of grassy shoreline, giant lily pad beds plus a patchwork of points, channels and bays create some of the finest bass habitat around.
The deepest portion of Silver Lake barely exceeds 15 feet and coupled with the mild weather in southwest Washington, bass angler get an early start to the season. Some winters the water warms enough in February to churn out some hefty largemouth.
Don’t expect to have this lake to yourself though. Silver Lake garners a good bit of attention from local bass clubs and plays host to numerous tournaments. Even so, there is still plenty of solitude to be found and enough big bass to go around. The trophy fishery is sustained by catch-and-release so resist the urge to take home the big ones.
One WDFW boat ramp gets you on the water at the north end of the lake. There is also access via private resorts.
9. Lake Kapowsin
Lake Kapowsin is the smallest lake on this list covering only 512 acres. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in prime bass habitat. The entire lake is a maze of stumps, floating logs, downed trees and entire shorelines overhung with thick brush. Most of the lake is less than 20 feet deep so it warms fast and grows big bass.
Largemouth bass up to 6 pounds thrill anglers every year with good numbers of 1-3 pound bass to fill the gaps. This is a good lake to practice your favorite angling tactics and refine your skills with your electronics. Soft plastics and jigs dominate the catch but crankbaits and top water baits provide fun action throughout the summer.
Lake Kapowsin is not a lake for fast boats. Many partially submerged stumps prove hazardous to careless anglers. Instead, take your time and pick your way through the stumps, fishing all the while. The WDFW manages a single lane boat launch on the north end. As good as the fishing can be, few anglers visit Lake Kapowsin. Expect plenty of solitude and even more bass.
More top producing bass lakes in Washington State
Can’t make it to one of the top 9 bass fishing lakes in Washington State? No worries. Take a look at a few of these noteworthy Washington lakes. Every one of the following lakes is known for great bass fishing from time to time. Not all will give up giant bass but they make up for it in quantity. Persistent bass anglers will find plenty of action all season. Plus, you never know when you might catch the big one.
Western Washington Bass Lakes
|Duck Lake||LM||450||Grays Harbor|
Eastern Washington Bass Lakes
|Billy Clapp Lake||LM/SM||1010||Grant|
|Boundary Reservoir||LM/SM||1600||Pend Orielle|
|Box Canyon Reservoir||LM||6000||Pend Orielle|