We all have our favorite fishing moments. For some, there’s nothing like the thrill of battling a bull brown trout into submission, or feeling the line strain against the weight of a behemoth catfish.
But few experiences in the world of fishing will get your heart racing quite like watching the enormous jaws of a largemouth bass engulf a weedless frog on the surface of a lake.
Largemouth bass have earned their place as America’s most popular game fish time and time again, and in Pennsylvania, anglers have ample opportunities to tangle with these aggressive, hard-fighting fish.
Top Spots for PA Bass
From vast reservoirs to small ponds that lie well off the beaten path, Pennsylvania waters are home to tremendous largemouth bass populations. Some big fish have been caught in the Keystone State too, including an 11-pound, 3-ounce state record.
That fish, which was caught by Donald Shade in Birch Run Reservoir, has been unsurpassed since 1983. But a handful of 10-plus pounders in the intervening years have come tantalizingly close.
Some of the best largemouth bass fishing takes place during the spring pre-spawn and spawning season. The biggest fish of the year are often caught when the calendar is between April and June.
That being said, keep in mind that bass fishing in Pennsylvania is strictly catch and release from April 9 through June 10.
Many lakes in Pennsylvania, including quite a few listed below, are managed under Big Bass Program special regulations, which include a 15-inch minimum length and combined daily limit of four largemouth and smallmouth bass.
If you have to narrow down your largemouth bass fishing options in Pennsylvania, the following handful should be near the top of your short list.
Located in Butler County about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh, Lake Arthur is one of Pennsylvania’s most reliable producers of big bass. It’s possible that no other lake in the state has given up more largemouths weighing 5 pounds and up.
Electrofishing surveys by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission also reveal a well-balanced and healthy population of largemouth bass in all size classes. Bass in the 12- to 14-inch range are most common.
Lake Arthur is a 3,225-acre reservoir with several major creek arms. It’s mostly shallow, with a maximum depth just over 30 feet, and has a rolling bottom contour similar to the surrounding landscape.
This is a popular bass lake, and it gets hit hard in summer by bass tournaments and weekend anglers. The best time to be on the water is during the month of May, before tournament season begins, and when big spawning largemouths are in relatively shallow water.
The bass in this lake are experienced, and the biggest ones in particular are not easy to catch. In summer, it’s best to skip the obvious spots that get pounded every weekend, and look for largemouths around deep structure.
The lake’s flooded creek channels and roadbeds can be very productive in summer. Try a Texas- or Carolina-rigged worm around the edges of the creek channels.
Fish attracting structures have also been placed in many areas of the lake, including Watts Bay and the Bear Run area.
The water is usually lightly stained, so lures with a bit of flash tend to work well. Many local anglers swear by soft plastics with some red flake.
Lake Arthur is located within Moraine State Park, which provides boat launch facilities, cabins, bank access and an ADA-accessible fishing pier. Camping is not available in the park, but several private campgrounds are close by.
Be aware that Lake Arthur also is among Pennsylvania’s better muskie fishing lakes, and it’s possible one of these massive predators may occasionally try to snack on your bass lure.
Presque Isle Bay (Lake Erie)
Largemouth bass are seldom encountered in the smallmouth-dominated waters of Lake Erie. But Presque Isle Bay, a shallow, sheltered embayment in Pennsylvania’s Erie County, is Lake Erie’s largemouth central.
In addition to the smallmouth bass that migrate in legendary numbers into the bay to spawn every spring, Presque Isle Bay supports a healthy year-round population of resident largemouths. These fish are often ignored by anglers who pursue their small-mouthed cousins.
Fishing for largemouth bass in Presque Isle Bay starts to ramp up in early May. The bay warms up much faster than the main lake in springtime, and by May the lagoons toward the upper edge of Presque Isle Bay might be 20 degrees warmer than Lake Erie itself.
Spots like Horseshoe Pond, Marina Bay and the lagoons offer outstanding spring largemouth fishing, with soft jerkbaits, tube jigs and spinnerbaits all being great lure choices.
As Presque Isle Bay warms up into June, oxygen levels in the shallow, marshy lagoons start to become depleted, and the bass action moves out into the main body of the bay. This is a great time to fish for hungry largemouths that have just finished spawning.
Weed beds blossom throughout Presque Isle Bay in summer, and bass are caught in and around aquatic vegetation, including along the edges of the reeds that grow along the bay’s northern shore.
Try tossing a wacky worm along weed and reed edges. There’s also some great man-made cover including piers, docks and bulkheads along the mainland side of the bay.
Presque Isle Bay State Park is located on the long, hook-shaped peninsula that wraps around the bay, and provides a variety of access.
Bass boats are ideal for exploring the main body of the Presque Isle Bay, but the smaller lagoons and ponds in the park are better suited to kayaks and cartop boats.
Marsh Creek Lake
Nestled in the rolling countryside between Philadelphia and Lancaster, Marsh Creek Lake is a 535-acre reservoir in Southeast PA’s Chester County. This lake has been on the map for Pennsylvania bass hunters for decades.
Marsh Creek Lake has always been one of the most likely spots in the state to catch an 8-pound largemouth (rumors of a 10-pounder caught here back in the ‘80s are, by now, impossible to confirm). The point is, there have been big bass here for a long time, and you can believe that there still are.
In addition to trophy potential, it’s also a great numbers lake. Electrofishing surveys of Marsh Creek Lake by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission have turned up some of the highest catch rates of largemouth bass in the state.
Most years, the fishing starts to warm up here in April, and is usually going into high gear by May. Bass head toward coves with shallow cover to spawn throughout this season.
Marsh Creek Lake has ample weed growth that starts to develop early in the spring. By summer, vast groves of milfoil mushroom toward the surface all around the shoreline, providing perfect cover for bass.
If you’re adept at fishing weed edges and punching through thick vegetation, this is the lake for you. Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are great when the weeds aren’t quite at the surface yet, and a Texas-rigged worm or tube may come in handy for exploring heavy vegetation.
You might tempt some explosive surface strikes on a weedless frog too, especially on early summer mornings. Muskellunge also prowl the lake’s deep weed lines, so hold on tight in case something much larger than a bass engulfs your bait.
Boats are limited to electric motors and non-powered craft only. There’s excellent access, including a boat launch and ample open shoreline, within Marsh Creek State Park.
Cross Creek Lake
Cross Creek Lake is one of southwestern Pennsylvania’s most reliable bass factories. The lake covers 250 acres, and is located within Washington County’s Cross Creek County Park.
Cross Creek Lake routinely produces largemouth bass weighing 4 to 5 pounds, and occasionally kicks out a monster weighing 8 pounds or more.
There’s a fair amount of fishing pressure, but boats are restricted to 10 hp or less, which helps keep the tournaments away.
Almost 60 feet deep near the dam, this man-made reservoir has significant depth for its size. It’s also an incredibly fertile lake, with rich weed beds and a wide range of cover including stumps, woody debris and some man-made structures that have been sunk around the shoreline.
All of this adds up to a very productive bass fishery. In springtime, there’s great action in the lake’s numerous small coves. You can clean up by fishing tight to the banks this time of year.
Summer fishing can also be excellent, as weed beds expand and bass move from spawning grounds into thicker cover and deeper water. Try main lake points adjacent to nearby spawning coves.
Spinnerbaits with gold blades seem to work very well in Cross Creek Lake. That may be because of the lake’s turbid, off-color waters, or the fact that gold shiners are one of several forage species that are on largemouths’ menu here.
Located a stone’s throw from the Ohio state line in Western Pennsylvania, Shenango Lake (also known as Shenango River Lake) is a 3,560-acre impoundment in the Shenango River Valley. It offers some of the best bass fishing in this part of the state.
Typical largemouths here run 2 or 3 pounds, and there are loads of them. Bigger fish, while not as common, are also a real possibility. Shenango Lake gives up an 8-pounder from time to time.
The lake is Y-shaped, with two upper arms that are broad and shallow, connecting at the midpoint to form a narrower but much deeper main stem.
Flats on the two shallower arms are very productive in May, after the lake has been refilled following the annual winter drawdown.
If your tactic of choice is beating the banks with crankbaits and wacky worms, this might not be the lake for you. Aside from a few fallen trees and rip-rap along the lake’s various bridge crossings, there’s precious little shoreline cover. Vegetation is sparse at best.
The key to success here usually lies in identifying and fishing submerged structure.
The bottom of Shenango Lake is a jumble of old road beds, stump fields, creek channels, and even an old canal towpath along the length of the reservoir’s bottom. Try bouncing a crankbait off some of the stumps in spring.
Management of the lake is overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which also maintains Shenango Recreation Area. The rec area offers launch ramps, shore access and a campground with over 300 campsites.
Shenango Lake is widely regarded as an excellent, well-rounded multispecies fishery.
In addition to largemouth bass, other game fish including crappie, northern pike, white and hybrid striped bass, channel catfish and bluegill offer excellent fishing opportunities in various seasons.
Don’t stop your search for trophy largemouths at the lakes listed above!
Pennsylvania offers several additional lakes that provide a real shot at a giant bass, as well as opportunities to catch your limit of smaller fish. The following are excellent options.
A tiny 24-acre lake on the Laurel Highlands of Westmoreland County, Mammoth Lake punches well above its weight class when it comes to producing huge bass. It’s a good reminder that big fish often live in small bodies of water.
Multiple largemouths from Mammoth Lake have been recognized by Pennsylvania’s Angler Award Program over the last decade, and a 2019 electrofishing survey by the PA Fish & Boat Commission dredged up a chunky 23-inch bass weighing 10 pounds.
Some of the biggest bass here are caught and released in springtime, but there’s good fishing all summer long. Weed growth gets thick in summer, and topwaters like chatterbaits and buzzbaits are often the best lures.
Only non-motorized craft are permitted on Mammoth Lake, so it’s a great place to fish from a canoe or kayak. The lake is completely encircled by Mammoth County Park, which provides easy access for bank fishing.
Raystown Lake spans 8,300 acres, making it the largest lake that lies entirely within the state of Pennsylvania. It’s also one of the most popular fishing lakes in the state, which is something of a double-edged sword.
A lot of big bass are caught in this Central Pennsylvania reservoir, which has fairly equal populations of largemouths and smallmouths. You have a fair shot at a 5-plus-pounder of either species, but most largemouths tip the scales at around 2 or 3 pounds.
Late April through Early June (before the tournament season begins) is the best time to be on Raystown Lake. The fishing is strictly catch-and-release for part of the spring season.
By summer the lake will be abuzz with pleasure boaters, to say nothing of the frequent bass tournaments that whip the water to a froth.
In spring, bass will be concentrated around cover in shallow areas, including the bays at James Creek and Shy Beaver. There are also good spots above the Entriken bridge on the main arm of the lake.
George B. Stevenson Reservoir—Stevenson Reservoir for short—is surrounded by the rugged, forested hills of the Alleghany Highlands of North-Central Pennsylvania. This small, 142-acre lake is often overlooked by bass fishermen.
Trout are partially to thank for that. Stevenson Reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout every spring, and these fish take the brunt of the angling pressure, leaving bass to swim free and mostly unmolested.
Stevenson Reservoir is long and narrow, with an abundance of vegetation and woody cover. Man-made cribs, rock pikes, stump clusters and other cover have also been placed around the lake.
Plastic worms, including Texas rigs and wacky worms, are very productive.
This is a great kayak fishing lake, and it’s a lot of fun to paddle around the perimeter, casting toward shoreline cover.
Stevenson Reservoir is located within Sinnemahoning State Park, where you’ll find boat launch facilities and bank access.
There’s often great bass fishing right around the boat launch, which is toward the shallower, upper end of the lake.
Most of the fish are small-but-scrappy 12- to 15-inch largemouths, but bigger bass topping 7 pounds have also been pulled out of Stevenson Lake.
High Point Lake
339-acre High Point Lake is a productive bass fishery in Southern Pennsylvania’s Somerset County. The lake sits in the shadow of 3,213-foot Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania, and has given up quite a few trophy bass over the years.
This lake made some headlines back in 2001, when an angler pulled out a 10-pound, 3-ounce largemouth, one of the biggest bass ever caught in Pennsylvania. It was only about a pound off the state record.
That giant fish fell for a live shiner, and fishing with live bait remains a popular tactic.
High Point Lake has stained water and depths up to about 30 feet. Targeting woody cover can be very productive, and the lake has a lot of laydowns along the shoreline, as well as some stump-filled areas near the southern bank.
Plastic lizards and worms get a lot of bites here, and spinnerbaits can also be effective.
Electric motors are allowed, but by mid-summer, thick weed growth makes kayaks and other non-powered craft easier to manage. A free state-operated boat launch is located on the southern shore.
You might also find a longer, toothier fish crashing your bass lure now and then, because High Point Lake also is among the better places to catch northern pike in Pennsylvania.
Located in Bucks County in Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1,450-acre Lake Nockamixon offers solid numbers of both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Largemouths are considerably more common, and numerous specimens weighing 7-plus pounds have been caught here.
The lake is long and narrow, consisting of two main arms whose shorelines are notched with bays and coves. Those shallow areas are ground zero for catching pre-spawn and spawning largemouths in spring.
Try working a Zoom Fluke or over the emerging weed beds as they develop in springtime. Once the lake has warmed up more in June, many of the bigger bass move to the outer edges of milfoil beds and into thick lily pads.
This is also a good lake for fishing deep structure. Keep an eye on your electronics as you look for the old submerged road beds and rubble piles, and ply the depths with diving crankbaits and jigs.
Several launch facilities are available around the lakeshore within Nockamixon State Park.
Despite a 20 hp limit on outboard motors, the lake gets quite a bit of fishing pressure during summer. It tends to fish best on weekdays.
Spanning 63 acres and just 20 feet deep, Hopewell Lake is a small, shallow and highly fertile lake in Eastern Pennsylvania that supports a tremendous largemouth bass population. They grow big and fat on the lake’s resident shiners and small panfish.
Hopewell Lake supports abundant vegetation too. Weed beds take over about 70 percent of the lake in summer, but most of the vegetation doesn’t break the surface.
Spinnerbaits do well here if you can find the rate of retrieve that allows your lure to just tickle the tips of the weeds.
You can also pull big bass out of the slop using tube jigs and plastic worms. Green pumpkin and junebug are great colors for soft plastics.
There’s often a good night bite here in summer too, and you can catch big bass on black lures after dark.
Boats are restricted to electric motors and non-powered craft. Access is available through French Creek State Park.
Blue Marsh Lake
At 1,150 acres, Blue Marsh Lake is one of the largest lakes in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It’s a lake that can be tough to fish, but the potential rewards are significant.
Blue Marsh Lake has produced multiple bass weighing 7 to 8 pounds, and there could very well be even bigger fish swimming in its depths. Catching them requires working on your deep structure game, especially in summer.
This lake has little vegetation, and traditional shallow cover is sparse. The anglers who have the most success here typically rely on their electronics to locate specific pieces of deep cover.
Drop-shots, Ned rigs and jig-and-pigs are all great lures for exploring deeper haunts like secondary points, submerged tree stumps and rocks.
You’ll find plenty of access through Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area. There’s a lot of boat traffic here in summer, so steer clear of the weekends if you want to beat the crowds.
If you get your fill of bass fishing and want to catch something to bring home to eat, this is one of the really good catfish fishing lakes in Pennsylvania.