W2’s Best Big Bass Waters 2024

by Chris McCotter

Catching a big bass is the goal of most area anglers when they head to their favorite fishery each spring. Seeing the strike or the jump of an eight-pound or better largemouth bass is an image not soon forgotten, nor are the hours spent to accomplish this noteworthy feat. The sheer power of a five-pound river smallmouth is like a scaled, brown dragster. Catching a five-pound spotted bass is another notable feat that’s more and more common.

   More often than not, though, anglers return home without their big fish dream. That’s not to say big bass are the only reason to go fishing, but when you do finally get one, the experience is a vivid and lasting memory.

  To give you a better shot at making a big fish memory you have to start with fishing the right water. This is why we have put together the following article on our top big bass waters. You might be surprised at a few of the recommendations; they are not all the big waters you’d expect to be on the list; however, they are good places to start your lunker hunt. Here they are in order of rank along with some advice on how to fish them.

   According to Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources data, the best place to catch a trophy bass is a private pond! In 2023 anglers certified 83 largemouth bass over eight pounds or 22 inches pulled from farm ponds, community lakes and watersheds. The sheer number of these waters around the state makes them good places to start your search.

  Now, if you want to catch a citation bass from a public water it’s going to be tougher. There are more anglers vying for the same reward and the fish can be savvy. However, if you fish the right waters at the right time, you can beat the odds. 

  At the top of the list of public trophy largemouth bass fisheries is Sandy River Reservoir. This 740-acre water supply impoundment located slightly east of the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County produced 23 certified citation largemouth bass in 2023 and it should continue to be a big bass destination. The lake is a blend of shallow weeds and standing timber and has a bluegill and herring forage base. The largemouth bass fishery is managed with a 14-20 inch slot to improve quality fish catch rates and still allow for some harvest.

     Now 60+ years old, Smith Mountain Lake bass fishing has been rejuvenated somewhat recently with the stocking of F1 N1 hybrid largemouth bass about seven years ago. In 2023 the 20,600-acre lake produced 17 citation largemouth bass. Couple that with a thriving trophy smallmouth population and you have a great candidate for your spring fishing vacation.

   Next on the list is Briery Creek Lake, also near Farmville. This 845-acre lake was opened in 1989 and stocked with Florida strain bass in 1986 and 1987. It produced bass up to 16-3, just shy of the state record by hasn’t really made much noise on the big bass meter recently. Last year it produced nine certified/recorded trophy bass. Is this the year it explodes again with giant bass? Probably not, but it is worth a visit if you are looking for a 22-inch plus specimen that weighs from seven to eight pounds.

   Here’s a name you won’t recognize that sits fourth on the list of top public largemouth bass waters… Lee Hall Reservoir. This is a 230-acre reservoir owned by the City of Newport News. within Newport News Park. Private boats can be launched from both of these areas. A daily fee of $5 is required to launch private boats, or an annual permit may be purchased for $50. Gasoline-powered outboards are prohibited.

   In the fifth spot is 13,500-acre Lake Anna located in central Virginia, just south of Fredericksburg. This public fishery gave up six certified citations, but dozens more were caught by anglers and not certified. The addition of F1 N1 hybrid largemouth or “tiger” over a three-year period culminating last year and the re-emergence of hydrilla has anglers thinking Anna will be the frontier for trophy bass in a few more years.

  The tidal Chickahominy River also produced six certified citations last year and should continue to rank highly this year for big bass hunters. The combination of tiger bass stockings and great shallow cover make the Chick a fun place to fish for big bass. You’ll never run out of lily pads, cypress trees and duck blinds to cast at here!

  Now for a couple of sleepers that don’t get a lot of attention you might want to visit this season when trophy hunting.

   Nottoway Lake is a scenic 188-acre impoundment located in Nottoway County, Virginia. With exceptional cover and a wooded shoreline, this lake offers a great opportunity for anglers to catch several big largemouth bass in a rural setting. The lake was impounded in 1978 and opened to fishing just two years later. Most of the standing timber was left at that time as fish cover in the lake. With the advent of forward-facing sonar anglers are able to locate some impressive fish here evidenced by a 30-pound, five fish limit recorded by a popular YouTube angler over the winter.

  We think Chickahominy Lake has the potential to join the top five big bass waters list in 2024. A 30-pound limit was also weighed there over the winter and there are plenty of bass that somehow make it over and/or through Walkers Dam to take up residence in this cypress and lily pad-lined haven. Fishing after the bass spawn when herring enter the lake in late May/early June can be a productive big bass time.

 Lastly, we told you a couple years back that Hunting Run Reservoir just north of Fredericksburg would be a big bass water. Well, we were right. Anglers are reporting bass up to nine pounds this winter from the 420-acre lake full of standing timber and submerged grass.

  The next Fredericksburg area lake ready to explode with big bass is Mooney Reservoir. Opened in 2017, this 520-acre reservoir is located in Stafford County and also full of brush, timber and grass.

  There’s a new lake anglers will want to watch in the coming months – Cobb’s Creek in Henrico County. According to our sources, there is a concrete boat ramp nearly complete and plenty of bass in the 1,100-acre lake!

  Switching over to trophy smallmouth bass waters, it’s clear that the New River and the James River are two of the best not only in the state but in the region. The New was brown bass trophy king last year with 53 certified citations with the James in second with 41.

   The resurgent Shenandoah River (includes the main stem, north and south forks) produced 29 citations and looks to be even better in 2024 based on some early results. Other good waters to target 20” or five-pound smallmouth include the Staunton River (13), Smith Mountain Lake (12) and the Maury River (10).

  The state does not keep track of trophy spotted bass; in fact, it encourages anglers to harvest every one they catch because they are said to impact largemouth and smallmouth bass negatively. 

   A five-pound spot is  considerted a trophy and the two best places to catch one are Lake Gaston, Claytor Lake and Diascund Reservoir. Reports of spotted bass in Diascund Creek, a tributary of Chickahominy River could mean some big ones are coming this season.

  There you have it, some of the best places to find big bass. Remember, our annual Big Bass Contest is easy to enter – just email or post a photo of your big bass to our Facebook page and you’re entered to win the $50 gift card from Green Top Sporting Goods. Good luck!

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