Livesay-Lake Fork

Lee Livesay (right), a Kilgore High alumni and now a professional fisherman on the BASSMaster tour, guides his boat across the waters of Lake Fork in a tournament in April. Lake Fork was named the best fishing lake in the United States recently by BASSMaster Magazine’s annual ranking of 100 Best Bass Lakes.

A study by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation shows that in the past year nearly 55 million Americans have gone fishing. Those eager anglers hunting for giants need to look no further than Texas according to Bassmaster Magazine’s annual ranking of 100 Best Bass Lakes. Lake Fork in the Quitman area, renowned for producing giant bass, has been named the No. 1 fishery in the U.S. for 2021.

Overall the state had 10 fisheries on the Top 100 list — Fork, Sam Rayburn, O.H. Ivie, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts, Conroe, Falcon, Choke Canyon, Texoma and Caddo — creating a tie with California for the state with the most fisheries in the rankings.

“Creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor-in-Chief James Hall. “Folks found respite in the outdoors, and many of them fished for the first time. That may have put more pressure on lakes than normal, and some fisheries were impacted. Still, other lakes, which may not have been exposed previously to tournaments, shined brightly.

“These rankings provide a bucket list of destinations for anglers.”

Lake Fork, just 65 miles west of Kilgore, is a slice of heaven for anglers hungry for hogs. A whopping 20 ShareLunkers — largemouth bass measuring at least 24 inches in length or 8 pounds — were caught on Fork in the first four months of 2021, with a 15.27-pound giant hooked in March.

Those familiar with Fork know it sets the table for some of the biggest catches in the U.S. each year, but look what the Bassmaster Elite Series did in the April 2021 stop on this hallowed spot. Former Kilgore High School athlete Lee Livesay (112 pounds, 5 ounces over four days) joined the Century Club and Patrick Walters (102-5) accomplished the feat on Fork for the second consecutive year.

This Lone Star State success story produces giants every year, and since the fishing is hot right now, there’s never been a better chance for avid anglers to mark this one off their bucket list.

Most commonly referred to as the California Delta, the No. 2 spot goes to the massive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a tidal fishery renowned for producing some of the biggest bass in the country over the past decade. Grass control efforts gone wrong and pillaging sea lions still seem to be keeping this fishery out of the top spot, but monster limits continue to surface here. The Delta’s rivers, tule-lined sloughs and vegetation-filled flooded islands are a wild and beautiful setting boasting largemouth that fit the “personal best” category.

At No. 3 for 2021, Marion and Moultrie — the sister lakes that make up Santee Cooper — have been a juggernaut on the rankings since the inception of the Best Bass Lakes list in 2012. This year, Marion and Moultrie continue to prove they are a must-visit for every angler and the crown jewel of South Carolina bass fishing.

The rankings identify the top lakes in the nation based on head-to-head comparisons, as well as the Top 25 lakes in four geographical regions — Central, Western, Southeastern and Northeastern.

“We divide the nation into four regions and rank the lakes in each region to give anglers perspective on the fisheries they can most likely reach,” Hall explained.

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