It’s impossible to talk about great bass lakes without bringing Florida into the conversation. Florida is easily one of the best states in America for bass fishing, and Florida-strain largemouths are now widely stocked across the southern U.S.
But peninsular Florida is the native stomping grown for these giant bass, which commonly exceed 10 pounds and are capable of topping 20. Some of the best places to catch them are a stone’s throw from Orlando.
Orlando is located right in the middle of the state, in an area dotted with hundreds of lakes, big and small. You can catch bass in practically any of them, but the amazing Orlando area bass lakes we’ll share are on a whole other level.
Bass fishing can be excellent year-round in the Orlando area, but the best season is generally November to March. A lot of big bass are caught close to shore during this period, especially as they prepare to spawn in late winter and early spring.
Orlando’s Best Bass Fishing
It’s difficult to pick just a handful of lakes as the best around a bass-fishing mecca like Orlando, but we’re confident the following choices are well worth your time on the water.
Often referred to simply as Lake Toho, 18,810-acre Lake Tohopekaliga consistently ranks as one of the best big bass lakes not just in Florida, but in the United States as a whole. Few places more consistently produce trophy largemouths.
Lake Toho is a massive lake, and the list of spots with excellent potential is virtually endless. The best approach to the lake depends on the season and weather conditions.
Rainfall is a key factor. When moving water is available, bass congregate around the mouths of tributaries like the St. Cloud canal, Partins Ditch, and especially Shingle Creek, which enters the lake on its western side near Paradise Island.
Bass follow schools of baitfish to these areas and feed heavily, creating a bass fishing bonanza. Therefore, after a good rain, anglers should always head to areas with current.
Other times, the best tactic is to focus on weed edges and pockets within vegetation throughout the lake. Little Grassy Island and Goblets Cove are a couple of areas that have extensive beds of hydrilla, maidencane, and knotgrass that reliably produce bass.
As in many Florida lakes, the bait of choice for trophy largemouths is a live gold shiner. Lip-hook the shiner on a Kahle hook or circle hook, and either fish it below a float or allow it to swim freely on an unweighted line.
The most popular of the many access points on Lake Toho is Kissimmee Lakefront Park, which offers a six-lane boat ramp, fishing pier, and shoreline trails for bank fishing access.
Lake Toho really landed on the map in 2001 when Dean Rojas caught the heaviest single-day bag of five bass ever in a B.A.S.S. tournament. Those five fish weighed 45 pounds, 2 ounces, and that record has stood for more than 20 years.
Although the lake has changed since then—it was drastically drawn down in the early aughts to remove excess invasive vegetation—it remains a reliable big bass factory.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (F.W.C.) surveys have found at least one 10-pound bass for every 10 acres of water.
Lake Toho also landed a spot among the very best crappie fishing lakes in Florida.
Much more information: Lake Tohopekaliga Fishing
Butler Chain of Lakes
Just 25 minutes west of Downtown Orlando, the Butler Chain of Lakes encompasses 13 interconnected lakes that offer more than 5,000 acres of water.
Every lake in the chain provides quality bass fishing, and anglers often note some of these lakes for both numbers and size.
The largest lake of the chain is 1,665-acre Butler Lake. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to the Butler Chain.
Butler Lake has tons of emergent and submergent weed beds, an abundance of boat docks, and some flooded timber that often yield good catches.
The area around Bird Island is especially productive for anglers who like to fish shallow cover or beat the banks with soft plastics and topwaters. That being said, some of the best bass fishing in this lake is surprisingly deep.
Thanks to Florida’s karst topography, the bottom of Butler Lake is riddled with sinkholes. The steep drop-offs into these depressions are great places for bass to stage.
Wacky-rigged finesse worms are effective when bass are down deep.
All the lakes in the Butler Chain support a healthy shad population, and these baitfish offer the primary forage for largemouths. So, shad imitations like Zoom Flukes and similar soft jerkbaits are effective at various depths.
Walk-the-dog style topwaters are also great when bass are busting shad on the surface. It’s a good idea to have a few spinnerbaits handy too. The Fernwood Park boat ramp is a popular place to access Butler Lake.
Lake Down, at 872 acres, is another excellent bass lake in the Butler Chain, with some very productive emergent grass beds, flooded timber, and deep holes.
The Lake Down Boat Ramp provides access.
The smaller lakes in the chain, like 50-acre Lake Louise and 30-acre Fish Lake, also have great fishing opportunities.
One of the more popular boat ramps is at R.D. Keene Park on 10-acre Lake Isleworth, the smallest lake of the chain.
The entire Butler Chain is known for having crystal-clear water, so be prepared to use stealth and have some finesse baits handy. The best days typically have light wind or some cloud cover.
Located in the heart of Orlando, Lake Ivanhoe is within a few minutes’ drive of anywhere in the downtown area, making it one of the city’s most popular urban bass lakes.
It’s a relatively small lake at 124 acres but produces a lot of quality fish.
Lake Ivanhoe isn’t known as a trophy bass lake, though anglers catch 8- to 10-pound largemouths here. It’s more of a numbers lake, with lots of healthy 3- to 5-pound bass.
Because the bass fishing action is reliably good, Lake Ivanhoe is a great spot to take kids fishing in Orlando.
Bass often relate to submerged vegetation in Lake Ivanhoe, and working soft plastics around weed edges is a tried and true tactic.
A wacky-rigged stickbait like a Senko or Yum Dinger is usually effective. Try inserting a rattle into your plastic worms for a little extra attraction.
It’s also common for bass to suspend and chase baitfish in open water, so don’t hesitate to explore the whole water column, especially in fall and winter. Jerkbaits account for many catches in 8 to 15 feet of water.
One thing that makes Lake Ivanhoe an especially good family fishing lake is its abundance of access. Lake Ivanhoe Park on the west side and Gaston Edwards Park on the east side offer ample opportunities to fish the banks.
Late winter and early spring are great times to fish from shore, but anglers can expect to catch some bass from the banks year-round.
If you prefer to fish from a boat, you’ll find launch facilities at the lake’s northeast corner, just off N.E. Ivanhoe Blvd.
Interstate 4 crosses Lake Ivanhoe at a narrow midpoint of the lake, and the area around the overpass is a particularly good place to find bass, especially on sunny days when they seek shade. Try a plastic worm or creature bait around the bridge pilings.
Conway Chain of Lakes
The Conway Chain of Lakes consists of three or four interconnected lakes (depending on how you count them) just south of Orlando. The lakes offer excellent bass fishing, with an abundance of fish in the 5-pound class, with occasional 10-pounders.
Lake Conway North and Lake Conway South offer the best bass fishing in the chain. However, many anglers consider the North and South to be parts of one lake—hence the confusion over the total. So you also will hear fishermen simply call the entire waterway Conway Lake.
However you slice it, these lakes have an excellent largemouth bass population, with gin-clear waters that make sight fishing with a pair of polarized sunglasses a fun way to fish.
The bottom is made primarily of hard sand, with ledges and holes that are clearly visible.
Conway Lakes North and South also have some isolated beds of eelgrass, peppergrass, and hydrilla that are productive at times, along with numerous boat docks around most of the shoreline.
Spinnerbaits, flukes and topwaters are the most popular lures on Conway Lake.
Bass often school around offshore hydrilla beds during midday, and you may see them breaking the surface as they chase schools of shad.
A floating frog can also draw some vicious strikes around the edges of emergent vegetation and the islands of reeds that dot parts of the lake.
Working a plastic worm slowly along the bottom is also a good tactic on days when bass aren’t active near the surface.
The other two lakes in the chain are Little Lake Conway and Lake Gatlin, which offer similar conditions and produce excellent numbers of bass, even though they aren’t really known for trophies.
Try fishing around the two large islands at the east end of Little Lake Conway.
The city of Belle Isle operates four public ramps on the chain: one on Conway Lake South, one on Conway Lake North, and two on Little Lake Conway. Bank fishing access is limited.
Just a few miles west of Orlando, Johns Lake is a picturesque water body offering 2,500 acres of excellent bass habitat. The lake is 18 feet at its deepest point, with lightly stained water and a wealth of bass cover.
Grass beds, hydrilla, lily pads, reeds, submerged trees, and brush all provide places for bass to hide and hunt. That abundance makes Johns Lake a great place for anglers who enjoy fishing methodically around cover.
While the southern shoreline of Johns Lake is mostly undeveloped, boathouses and docks line the north shore and offer ample opportunities to practice your pitchin’ and flippin’ techniques.
Johns Lake consists of two primary sections. The eastern basin is usually called Johns Lake, while anglers often refer to the western basin as the Johns Lake Main Body. In between these two is a smaller area called the Horseshoe north of Deer Island.
The best place to fish, especially in the morning and evening, is the narrow no-wake zone south of Deer Island.
This stretch serves as a connector between the other parts of the lake. The current in this narrow area draws baitfish, which attract hungry largemouths.
Bass anglers have caught plenty of 10-pounders here, but the best lures and presentations change day to day.
Johns Lake gets quite a bit of pressure, and the best tactic is often to find something that few other anglers are using.
Swimbaits and swim jigs are often effective when bass are actively feeding, and Mepps Minnows are an off-beat choice that has caught on among many local anglers. There are also plenty of times when a Carolina-rigged worm or lizard outperforms just about anything.
The Johns Lake Boat Ramp is located at the north end of the lake on Lake Blvd.
Bank access is limited, but this can be a great place to fish from a kayak, especially on weekdays when boat traffic is more manageable.
The Orlando area offers many lakes that can produce great numbers and even some trophy bass. So while the lakes listed above may get most of the attention, ignoring these other quality options would be a mistake.
Managed by the city of Orlando as a trophy bass lake, Lake Underhill is practically within walking distance of downtown. This lake has some serious bass, and it’s a great spot to target 8-pound-plus largemouths.
That being said, it’s not exactly what you would call a pristine lake in a wild setting. Lake Underhill is surrounded by concrete jungle, with the Orlando Executive Airport to the north and a four-line highway bisecting the lake from east to west.
But if you’re here for the fish and not the scenery, this lake can be very rewarding. It’s a small lake of 147 acres and a maximum depth of 37 feet, with thick hydrilla mats and grass beds. The water is clear, forage is abundant, and bass grow fat and happy.
The best tactic for targeting big bass is drifting a live shiner around weed edges. Big largemouths can’t seem to pass them up. If your bait gets tangled in the weeds, try a bobber to keep it out of the slop.
Lake Underhill Park has boat ramps as well as a loop trail that encircles the lake and provides some bank access.
There’s often good bank fishing along the riprap that lines the banks around the bridge crossing.
It wasn’t very long ago that the idea of Lake Apopka being considered a great bass lake was unthinkable. The lake was polluted to the point of collapse in the 1980s, and has only just begun to rebound over the last 20 years.
Today, this 30,000-acre lake offers some solid bass fishing opportunities. Largemouths have been abundantly stocked in Lake Apopka, and anglers catch lots of healthy 5-pounders. It’s not quite a trophy bass lake yet, but it’s getting there.
One of the major results of pollution from pesticide and fertilizer runoff has been dingy water and algae blooms. These days, the clearest water—and best fishing—is the area right around the natural springs in Gourd Neck Bay.
These springs supply about 30 percent of the lake’s water inflow, and there’s often an easily discernible line where the crystal-clear spring water meets the turbid water that makes up most of the lake.
Gourd Neck Bay is a great area to fish during the spawn.
Because the lake is so shallow, bass create nests almost anywhere. That fact makes the spawn a uniquely interesting and challenging time to target bass in Gourd Neck Bay and along the lake’s southern and western shores.
Newton Park has a boat ramp and fishing pier.
Visible from the Florida Turnpike and less than a mile from Universal Orlando, Turkey Lake is a great little bass lake that spans about 325 acres on the city’s west side.
You might not catch a wall-hanger here, but you can expect to reel in plenty of 2- to 4-pound largemouths.
Turkey Lake has a max depth of about 14 feet, with plenty of healthy weed growth.
Look for bass along the edges of grass beds or schooling in open water, especially when the weather is stable.
The bass in Turkey Lake tend to shut down when the weather is less than perfect, but you can usually still pick off a few fish using finesse techniques. It’s a rare day when a wacky-rigged Senko won’t put bass in the boat here.
Speaking of boats, no privately owned watercraft are allowed on Turkey Lake. So the only way to get out on the water is to rent a boat at Bill Frederick Park, which overlooks the lake’s south shore. The boats are well-equipped and come at a surprisingly affordable daily rate.
The park also offers floating fishing platforms, plenty of open shoreline, and a campground. Spring and fall offer the best bass fishing, and there are some nice crappies and chain pickerel in Turkey Lake as well.
A little over 350 acres, Clear Lake is just a couple miles west of Downtown Orlando, close enough that you can catch a nice view of the city skyline while you fish the lake.
Clear Lake produces lots of healthy, mid-sized bass, though a trophy isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Largemouths tend to get overshadowed by hybrid striped bass in Clear Lake. The Florida FWC stocks hybrid stripers most years, and the lake essentially acts as a put-and-take fishery, though a few are known to hold over.
But largemouth bass fishing here can be excellent as well. The lake is small enough to accommodate kayaks and other cartop boats without too much competition from larger watercraft, and the shoreline offers a wide range of cover.
Parts of the lake are developed and parts are relatively wild. There’s a lot of hydrilla, along with flooded cypress trees and other woody cover. Dock fishing can also prove fruitful, and anglers hook some nice bass at the west end of the lake around the John Young Parkway bridge.
Those who enjoy fishing with live bait can catch a lot of bass on shiners underneath a float.
Soft jerkbaits also land plenty of fish, as do plastic worms worked in and around grass beds and under docks.
A boat ramp is available at George Barker Park.
One of eight lakes that make up the Harris Chain, Lake Harris is a promising trophy bass lake about 30 miles northwest of Orlando.
Like nearby Lake Apopka, Lake Harris saw a crash in its fishery in the 80s and early 90s but a significant recovery in recent years.
Although the water in Lake Harris remains deeply turbid, bass numbers are steadily increasing, and sizes are up too. Today, catching a 10-pound largemouth is entirely possible here.
Lake Harris is a massive lake that spans over 15,000 acres but is also quite shallow. Most of the lake is less than 15 feet deep, and anglers usually catch bass in 6 feet of water or less. With a bottom of hard sand, most of the lake’s vegetation is in the shallows.
Bassers catch many fish around isolated grass beds, pockets of lily pads, and at the edges of shoreline reeds and bulrushes. The residential canals connecting to the lake are also some of the best places to fish, especially during the year’s cooler months.
Hickory Point Recreation Park offers boat launch facilities and a fishing pier. The park sits along a narrow point in the lake, and there’s a lot of excellent bass water nearby, including beneath and around the Lake Harris Bridge.
Starke Lake is less than a 15-minute drive from Downtown Orlando. This 200-acre lake in the city’s western suburbs is an excellent fishing destination popular among families and locals.
It’s not really known as a trophy bass lake, but Starke Lake cranks out tremendous numbers of smaller fish.
If you don’t care much about size, but just want to have fun catching 2- and 3-pound largemouths until your arms are sore, this place is worth a shot.
As a fairly small body of water, Starke Lake usually is relatively easy to pattern. Bass commonly feed on shad, and running a Rat-L-Trap or similar lipless crankbait along the outside edges of grass beds is a surefire way to draw some strikes.
Plastic worms in classic colors like watermelon and junebug are also great baits. Try a straight-tailed or paddle-tail worm instead of the more widely used curly-tail, or simply hook a Senko wacky style and toss it around the grass and pads.
Starke Lake is also known for being a very angler-friendly lake.
Bill Breeze Park on the lake’s western shore offers boat launch facilities, fishing piers, and plenty of open shoreline for bank fishing.
Catch More Bass
Follow the bait and lure suggestions and the tips on where and how to fish these Orlando-area lakes, and you’re sure to catch bass.
If you’d like even more ways to catch America’s favorite gamefish, check out our complete guide to bass fishing techniques.
Be sure to find all of the best bass fishing lakes in our full Florida guide.
If you’d like to check out some of the lakes concentrated a little farther north, check out our guide to the best bass fishing near Jacksonville. That article includes some excellent lakes about midway between Orlando and Jacksonville, including a few near Gainesville.