13 Best Bass Fishing Rivers and Lakes in Maryland

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For a smaller state, Maryland is filled with incredible largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing in its rivers and reservoirs.

We’re about to show you more than a dozen top fishing spots for either or both popular black bass species so that you can have your best season ever.

We talked with Maryland guide and lure maker Jeff Greene of Shallow Water Fishing Adventures to help us break down the state’s best bass fishing waters.

Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

Susquehanna River

The Susquehanna is a renowned Northeast river that begins in New York and flows across Pennsylvania before crossing into Maryland and emptying into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Maryland section includes the lower part of the 9,000-acre Conowingo Reservoir, which offers incredible smallmouth territory for local anglers.

In the spring, look for smallmouths near the mouths of creeks that flow into the river, especially around rocky structure, which is common in the Susquehanna.

Smallmouth bass chase crayfish in the spring, and crankbaits and jigs that imitate them can both be productive.

Jeff Greene, who often guides on the Susquehanna, said that a green pumpkin and purple soft-plastic crayfish imitation was his go-to here. He likes the baits to be in the 3-to-4-inch range.

Both bluegill and perch are common, so crankbaits in those patterns can also be effective.

While the Susquehanna has more current and rocky structure upriver, the Maryland section on either side of Conowingo Dam slows down.

As the spring moves to summer, look for smallmouth bass to be on the edges of the sharpest drop-offs where they can reach the coolest water quickly.

In the fall, they’ll be more apt to hunt crawfish, perch, and bluegill on the flats but will stay close to ledges and drops.

Greene said that the small, invasive madtom catfish is one of their favorite meals, so mimicking this species around rocky cover can be the ticket to catching huge smallmouth.

Largemouth bass are also common in the Susquehanna, typically in the slower, weedier portions of the river.

Deep ledges and drop-offs around the I-95 bridge from Havre De Grace north can hold suspended largemouth for much of the year. They will start actively feeding and moving into shallows from March through April when water temperatures climb out of the 40s and 50s.

Look for wood, stumps and structure in the 5-to-10-foot range in this stretch in the early spring. As water temperatures climb into their summer range, they’ll move from structure to grass flats.

Access: See the access section in our full Susquehanna River guide.

More: Complete Guide to Susquehanna River Fishing

Potomac River

The Upper Potomac is another legendary northeastern river that offers anglers potentially great smallmouth fishing along the length of its non-tidal section on Maryland’s border.

The state calls the Potomac its most popular smallmouth fishery, and for good reason. State officials stock the Potomac with smallmouth regularly at Taylors Landing, Snyders Landing, and the Dargan Bend Boat ramp.

A few years ago, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources held a tournament to collect fish they’d use as breeders in their hatchery. The tournament-winning boat had a bag that weighed 20.4 pounds. Any river where anglers can catch a limit of smallmouth with an average of 4 pounds is top-notch.

“It’s nothing to catch a 20-inch smallmouth on the upper river,” says Greene, who also guides customers for bass on the Potomac River. They’ll typically see these fish moving into tributaries in late April and spawning throughout May.

He says that smallmouth bass spread throughout the river in their post-spawn pattern but are still oriented to structure, most typically rocks.

The North Branch of the Potomac is another smallmouth bass hotspot.

It’s hard to believe that smallmouths, at one point, were so scarce on the upper reaches below Jennings Randolph Lake that in 2001, Maryland established a 25-mile catch and release area from Keyser to Cumberland. This species rebounded unbelievably.

That stretch of the North Branch now supports some of the state’s best bass fishing. 

Down at the river’s eastern end, as the Potomac River nears the coast, widens out, and comes under the influence of tides, it transitions into a premier largemouth bass fishery.

In the spring, from April to June, use your electronics to find grass flats and shell beds, which can be prime areas for largemouth.

When milfoil becomes thicker in the late spring and summer months, targeting the weed lines with topwater baits like a hollow frog can be extremely effective.

Greene says that tubes with 1/16- to ¼-ounce jigheads are one of his primary baits on the Potomac. He likes to see the water temperatures reach 42 degrees and above to get the fish more active in the spring.

This lower section is also Maryland’s premier fishery for giant blue catfish.

Access: See the access section in our comprehensive guide to fishing the Potomac.

More: Complete Guide to Potomac River Fishing

Liberty Reservoir

Liberty is a big, popular lake 40 minutes outside of Baltimore, where you can chase both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Liberty’s wooded shorelines provide both shade and relatively steep drop-offs. Drop-shotting these near-shore edges can be productive for largemouth from late spring through early fall.

In 1974, Liberty produced the state-record smallmouth that was 8.3 pounds and has continued to produce 7-plus-pounders since then.

The biggest smallmouth bass are particularly fond of topwater lures like a Zara Spook thrown near shallow structure in the early spring.

Access: There are three separate launches off Oakland Mills and Oakland roads in Eldersburg.

Deep Creek Lake

Deep Creek Lake is popular with Maryland bass anglers for a couple of reasons. First, you’ve got a healthy population of smallmouths. Secondly, although largemouths aren’t as common, the specimens that come out of Deep Creek tend to be on the heftier side, according to Maryland’s DNR.

For bass-attracting structure, the 3,900-acre lake has it all: Submerged vegetation, sunken timber, rock piles, steep drop-offs, plenty of docks, and even a public fishing pier.

Crappie are a common catch in Deep Creek, and anglers also pull the occasional giant northern pike out of there. The lake’s southern end is shallower, with depths mostly in the 5-to-30-foot range.

The lake’s narrower arms extend from all four corners, and the northwestern arm has the deepest drops that push 50 feet. The cooler water in the northern end will likely hold fish in summer, with the deepest water closer to the Deep Creek Hydroelectric Dam off Mayhew Inn Road.

Access: Deep Creek Lake State Park on the east side of the reservoir offers a public boat ramp.  

Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park

When the state of Maryland did an electrofishing survey to check the size and quantity of the bass in Lake Habeeb, the results spoke for themselves: There are a lot of bass, and many are big.

Down imaging will come in handy to find fish habitat structures that state officials have sunk in the lake. Target those fish with jigs or deep-diving crankbaits in the summer months, especially.

Note that only electric motors are allowed on Lake Habeeb.

Access: The White Pine Boat Launch is off Pleasant Valley Road Northeast on the south side of the reservoir. See the Rocky Gap State Park webpage for more visitor information.

Prettyboy Reservoir

Prettyboy Reservoir, north of Baltimore near the Pennsylvania border, has good populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

There are some stout smallmouths in this 1,500-acre reservoir. Bouncing a black or blue jig off the bottom very slowly in the winter can be effective.

As the water warms up, you’ll find higher concentrations of fish in the lake’s southwest corner with shallower flats.

You also can find good-sized largemouths here. Much of the shoreline is tree-lined with plenty of structure that largemouth love.

The reservoir’s deepest holes will be on the southeastern end, where you have depths reaching 100-plus feet. Bass often move deeper during the extreme temperatures of summer and winter.

Access: There is a public launch off Spooks Hill Road on the reservoir’s northeast side.

Largemouth Bass Fisheries

North East River

The North East River is a tidal river that flows into the northern Chesapeake and offers some spectacular largemouth bass fishing.

The state listed the North East, with the Potomac and Susquehanna, among the top three largemouth rivers for Maryland anglers, so don’t overlook it this year.

The rocky shoreline provides excellent structure to target and look for protected coves where fish will get out of the wind and current. 

There’s not a great deal of shoreline access, so a boat, canoe or kayak is ideal here.

Access: There are public launches in North East and Charleston.

Loch Raven Reservoir

Loch Raven, on the northern edge of the Baltimore metro area, has plenty of white and yellow perch, crappie and sunfish. That means there’s a ton of forage to produce some thick largemouth bass.

A lot of Loch Raven’s shoreline has overhanging brush or limbs, and the shade and fallen trees can be ideal largemouth territory.

Wacky rigs are a solid bet, especially at first and last light.

One attractive element for novices is that you can rent boats and tackle at the Loch Raven Fishing Center right on the lake.

When you’ve had enough bass fishing, this is one of the better spots in Maryland to catch a mess of crappie.

Access: The Loch Raven Fishing Center, which has boat rentals as well as a place to launch your own boat, is at 12101 Dulaney Valley Road on the east side of the lake.

Piney Run Lake

Not too far to the east of the bigger Liberty Reservoir, you’ve got a smaller option in Piney Run, where you can catch larger-than-average largemouth.

Largemouth have a wide variety of forage species to pick from here, such as sunfish, perch, shiners, creek chubs and darters.

Spring and summer bring large patches of lily pads to Piney Run, and fishing soft-plastic baits right on the edges of the pads or frogs over the top of them can be very effective.

You can rent boats, canoes, or kayaks. However, gasoline motors are prohibited. Platforms and floating docks are available for shore anglers throughout spring and summer.

As a bonus, Piney Run Park awards a $1,000 prize in their “Annual Big Fish Contest” during its main fishing season, from March 1 to November 30. The contest is not species-specific, but fish entries must be in season and weighed alive.

Also, on the first Friday of each month during the open season, the lake remains open until midnight for late-night fishing.

Access: Piney Run Park off Martz Road in Eldersburg ends in a loop where there is a public launch and boat rentals.

Hunting Creek Lake (Cunningham Falls Reservoir)

Hunting Creek is a small lake with a healthy population of thick largemouth bass. A 2022 survey reported “very abundant” largemouth with a good number of quality-size fish.

The docks are good bets to hold largemouths in the spring, then look for bass to hang around the shoreline weeds as the water temperatures warm. 

Because gas motors aren’t allowed on the small (75-acre) lake a half hour north of Frederick, it doesn’t get as much pressure as some of the more well-known largemouth bass water we’ve already covered, but that’s good for the anglers who do fish it. 

Access: There is a public boat launch off Catoctin Hollow Road. Cunningham Falls State Park offers various amenities.

Smallmouth Bass Fisheries

Monocacy River

“The Monocacy is full of smallmouth,” Greene said. Although this shallower tributary of the Potomac River is more suitable for wading or kayak fishing, Greene pointed it out specifically as one of Maryland’s great smallmouth destinations.

The Monocacy forms where Marsh Creek and Rock Creek meet just across the Pennsylvania border, but your most promising smallmouth water is farther downstream.

For example, the Monocacy River Natural Resources Management Area just up from the Potomac is open from sunrise to sunset and is popular for fishing as well as hunting and horseback riding.

Greene says the fish are more apt to feed when the water’s higher after a recent rainfall. He likes to see the water in tributary streams like the Monocacy stained but not dirty.

Access: There are multiple public bank fishing and boat/kayak launches along the lower Monocacy River. Among them are Craegerstown Park, River Bend and Pinecliff parks in Frederick, Buckeystown Community Park, Park Mills Road, and near the mouth.

Youghiogheny River Reservoir

Although Youghiogeny River Reservoir, which straddles the Pennsylvania state line, has both largemouth and smallmouth bass, it’s far better known for its robust smallmouth fishery.

In the upper reservoir in Maryland, you’ve got everything to make for prime smallmouth habitat with sunken trees and brush, rock piles, and the deeper channel winding through shallower flats.

There’s a good number of docks and other structures along the shoreline when the reservoir is full, and pre-spawn smallmouth will orient here in the spring.

The Youghiogheny River also offers excellent smallmouth fishing above the reservoir in Maryland, where anglers are catching increasingly larger bass.

Farther up, close to Deep Creek Lake, the Youghiogheny is one of the state’s premier trout fisheries.

Access: The Mill Run Recreation Area on Mill Run Road in Friendsville has a public launch.

Jennings Randolph Lake

If you were to follow the Potomac River’s north branch to the Maryland and West Virginia border, you’d find Jennings Randolph Lake.

As mentioned, this upper section of the Potomac is incredible for smallmouth bass fishing. The reservoir in Western Maryland is much the same.

Jennings Randolph is especially well known for its water clarity, so tactics like drop-shotting with either a fluorocarbon line or at least a fluoro leader can be effective.

You’ve got flooded timber on this lake, which is a good place to start your fishing.

In 2019, the state documented a 25-inch, 7-pound smallmouth from Jennings Randolph. That should be all the motivation you need to get out there.

Access: Mount Zion Road in Swanton ends on the lake with a public launch.

Catch More Bass

Check out our simple guide to bass fishing tactics and tips.


Thanks to Jeff Greene of Shallow Water Fishing Adventures guide service and lure company for his insight into Maryland bass fishing.