Survey says Smith Mountain Lake is No. 16 in Northeast

Smith Mountain Lake, a body of water covering parts of three counties — Franklin, Bedford and Pittsylvania — is ranked No. 16 in the Northeast Region in Bassmaster Magazine’s annual survey of the nation’s 100 Best Bass Lakes. The above photo was taken in the Franklin County community of Penhook.

Smith Mountain Lake is ranked No. 16 in the Northeast Region by Bassmaster Magazine in its 2019 list of the nation’s 100 Best Bass Lakes.

The rankings are published in the July/August edition of the magazine.

The magazine has conducted the survey since 2012.

Smith Mountain Lake made the debut rankings at No. 63 nationally. In 2013, the lake vaulted into the top 25 at No. 25. In 2014, it dropped five positions to No. 30.

The Northeast Region includes bodies of water in Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Vermont, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Kentucky, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Tennessee.

The Potomac River, which flows through Virginia, is ranked 11th.

Twenty-five bodies of water are ranked in four regions: Northeast, Southeast, Western and Central.

“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,’’ James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine, said in a press release.

Creating the rankings takes more than two months, Hall said.

State fishery agencies across the U.S. are polled and they rank the fisheries in their states based on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access, Hall said.

Then, B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors add to the potential lakes list based on the thousands of tournaments they hold across the country, Hall said

Finally, the data from dozens of tournament organizations as well as big bass programs from various states are analyzed to create the ultimate list of them top 100 lakes, Hall said, adding that “the rankings are debated by a blue-ribbon panel of fishing industry insiders.’’

The St. Lawrence River, which is noted for smallmouth bass, is ranked first in the Northeast Region and first nationally.

The St. Lawrence River was ranked eighth nationally in 2015 and 2018.

“The St. Lawrence is not only healthy right now, but seems to be showing off,’’ Hall said.

“There have been years where a spirited internal debate was required to assign the top spot in the rankings. This year was easy after looking at the unbelievable weights being produced at the Upper St. Lawrence River,’’ Hall said.

“And on top of that, the scenery is stunning. If you are looking for the best angling experience in the country right now, the St. Lawrence River should be your next destination,’’ Hall said.

Two other lakes from the Northeast Region are listed among the top 10 nationally: Lake St. Clair in Michigan is eighth and second regionally and Lake Erie/New York is 10th and third regionally.

The Southeast Region has three lakes ranked in the top 10 nationally, while the Western and Central regions each has two.

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