Lake Havasu Fishing: Famous for Bass; Lots More to Catch

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Lake Havasu is widely known as one of the best bass fishing destinations in the country, and for a good reason. Three popular types of bass are plentiful, hungry, and big.

Sure, there are largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass living throughout Lake Havasu, but the fishing doesn’t stop there. You can catch giant catfish and world-class panfish, maybe even some trout, and all that often adds up to great fishing.

Read on for great fishing tips to catch all of the major game fish found in this desert oasis of a reservoir.

Located on the border between Arizona and California, Lake Havasu was formed in the 1930s with the construction of Parker Dam on the Colorado River.

There are quite a few places to check out at the 45-mile-long reservoir, like the popular London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. 

Driving east from Palm Springs will take a little over three hours. It’s a little closer to Phoenix and closer still to Las Vegas. Once you arrive, you’ll find the drive was well worth it.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the fishing license requirements here. You may need Arizona and California licenses or an add-on permit. To be safe, it’s recommended that all anglers get a California and an Arizona permit. 

The lake has incredible fishing, iconic views, and beautiful, clear water. If you’re looking for an adventure, Lake Havasu is just the place.

Black Bass Fishing at Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu is known for its epic bass fishing. Habitat improvement efforts have been underway since the 1990s, which has led to excellent fishing opportunities throughout the lake.

Bass fishing tournaments are held here throughout most of the year, and tournament anglers know that they can spend part of their day chasing big but tricky largemouths and then fill out their five-fish bags with 5-pound smallmouths.

Professional and amateur anglers travel from all over the country to get in on what is often ranked among world class bass fisheries. A good number of fishing guides hire out to those who need that extra advantage at catching a trophy.

The variety of fishing opportunities here are astounding. Public fishing piers, boat docks, rocky shorelines, quiet bays, and canyons are all available and come with the added benefit of giant bass.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass fishing Lake Havasu can be hot — or not. One day you might catch your limit. The next trip might have you fishing at that same epic spot without so much as a nibble.

Lake Havasu has some pristine, clear water.

While that’s always beautiful to look at, it can make catching bigger fish a challenge. You’ll often find that lighter lines and smaller lures will get more bites here.

The problem in going light is big fish might break you off just as you reach down to land them.

One approach is using crankbaits and other lures that generate a quicker reaction strike. That’ll allow you to use a heavier line.

Largemouth moving onto the beds in spring can provide particularly fantastic action. With such clear water, you can sight fish and catch some real hogs.

Use a soft plastic and toss it in front of the bass guarding the beds. You’re in for some fast action.

If they don’t hit right away, just keep bugging them. They’ll eventually snap it up out of frustration.

Having trouble seeing them? Throw on a pair of polarized sunglasses. 

Be sure to catch and release the spawning bass, and larger bass in general. They are bringing about the next generation of bass fishing in Lake Havasu.

Other lures to have at the ready in your tackle box include some lipless crankbaits, shad imitations, and a variety of soft plastics, including the reliable green pumpkin.

Oh, and don’t forget the top-water lures for those incredible times bass will crash the surface.

Hit Mesquite Cove by Lake Havasu State Park. This cove (a.k.a Mesquite Bay) can be an excellent spot for fast action with largemouth and possibly stripers.

Down the lake, a little ways, is Cattail Cove State Park. This is another area not to be missed.

There are excellent spots to try throughout the length of the lake. Any of the small coves that litter the area may hold that PB bucketmouth for you. 

Focus on shallower cover in the spring, following warmer water throughout the early summer.

Launching in the Lake Havasu City area will give you access to several excellent spots. Site Six is super popular; it may be a bit crowded.

On the west side of the reservoir, several coves hold big bass.

If the largies aren’t biting, go a little deeper, and you’re likely to catch a few smallmouth as well. 

Every cove throughout the lake has the potential of hiding big bass. You’ll need to explore to find your favorite spots.

Lake Havasu is on our list of best bass fishing lakes in Southern California.

Smallmouth Bass

Have you been in search of an incredible smallmouth bass fishing experience? Lake Havasu is the place.

Smallmouth bass populations have been on the rise in the lower Colorado River system, and in Lake Havasu they’ve found perfect fish habitat.

Rocky shorelines, drop-offs, sheer canyon walls, rock piles, and artificial structures litter the lake and hold abundant bass. 

While bucketmouths can grow bigger, smallmouths are here in more significant numbers and are no slouches in size. Who’s going to complain about bringing a 6 ½-pound smallie to the net?

These fish fight hard, and in this clear water, they make excellent table fare. The smaller keepers tend to have better flavor than the lunkers.

A wide range of lures and plastics will bring these beasts in.

When it’s calm, clear, and sunny at Havasu, you’ll want to try crankbaits in bluegill patterns.

Other options that work well are white spinnerbaits, realistic-looking jerkbaits, and your old standbys for smallmouth like Texas-rigged drop shots, Ned jigs, and other finesse style plastic baits. 

Smallmouth bass become more active when the water cools, heading into winter at Lake Havasu. (You need to keep in mind that it does get cold here. Just because you’re in a desert doesn’t mean you won’t freeze.)

When it’s cold and windy, hit up the banks near fast drop-offs and rocky points.

Bright crankbaits fished deep often will do well.

Anglers have reported good success on cloudy, cold days using chartreuse jerkbaits.

Follow the shoreline when it’s windy to find drop-off points and rocky areas, and focus on those spots.

This lake is big, so there are hundreds of points and drop-offs to target.

The upper reservoir can offer fantastic smallmouth fishing when the waters warm a bit. Late spring to early summer will produce well.

Sight fishing for spawning smallies works well, using the same techniques as discussed earlier for largemouth.

Lake Havasu has earned a spot as one of the best smallmouth spots in California.

Also read: Learn How to Catch More Bass.

Striper Fishing at Lake Havasu

Striped bass are caught throughout the lake, and for many, this is the major draw bringing anglers to this desert reservoir, which offers some of the best inland striper fishing anywhere.

The artificial structure introduced to the lake gives the striped bass some excellent foraging opportunities. Baitfish around these structures draw in the crowds.

Lake Havasu offers some epic fishing for giant striped bass. Cover as much area as possible while using your electronics to locate schools.

Spring is prime time for striped bass, when they often move up into the narrower reaches of the reservoir, from Lake Havasu City clear up to Bullhead City.

In the upper areas, they are concentrated and hungry, making them susceptible to Rapala-style lures, jigs and other lures in your tackle box, especially those that imitate baitfish.

In the summer months, stripers scatter and often hold in the deeper sections and are best targeted at night. As a bonus, the fish won’t cook as soon as you land them. 

Night fishing with a light to attract baitfish will improve your chances significantly.

If you can draw schools of shad to the surface, you’ll soon see a feeding frenzy. Try anchovies and live bait in these circumstances.

Early morning and evenings, when water temperatures are a little lower, are great for topwater action.

Lake Havasu stripers like bone white, shad, chrome, or clear topwater lures. If there is a feeding frenzy taking place, they might bite anything.

Try around the Site Six, Havasu Springs areas, or the Main Channel.

Whipple Bay and Steamboat Cove are also great spots for striper fishing. Troll between them back and forth.

Looking for more stripers? We’ve run down all the best striped bass fishing spots in California.

Catfish Fishing in Lake Havasu

Want to catch catfish? Flatheads and channel cats hang out throughout the lake.

The shallower coves are always good targets for a feisty cat.

Luckily, catfish don’t care so much about the line weight, so gear up to handle the bigger fish.

Channel Catfish

Channel cats can be found throughout the lake. They love bait like anchovy, mackerel, other cut bait, chicken liver, stink baits, and good old nightcrawlers.

Try chumming a bit of cut anchovies for channel catfish. The scent will draw them in.

Keep in mind that with any catfishing, the bigger the bait, often the bigger the bite.

Stink bait balls dropped into a chum slick can produce great results for big, clean channel cats. Caught in clear water like Lake Havasu, these fish make great fried catfish strips. 

You can use the same techniques for finding channel cats as when searching for smallies in the wind. Find drop-offs into deeper sections, and you’ll find channels.

In the late summer and fall, feel free to cast almost onto the shore. They can be found feeding in very shallow water.

Flathead Catfish

Flatheads get pretty big. A 30-pound plus catfish are big enough to make anyone’s day. Make sure to use a heavy action rod with a 20-pound line to handle these monsters. 

Targeting flatheads is a different game than channel cats.

You’re going to want big offering like live bluegill-sized bait.

Drop the bait down, and you’re off to the races. Well, you’re fishing for flatheads anyway. They aren’t going to provide the fastest action on the water, but they are big.

Let your bait sit, and when you feel the bite, keep waiting. These guys take a nibble, let the bait sit in their mouth for a minute, then bite for real.

It’s wise to use a clicker or open bail. Once a few wraps start coming off, get ready to set the hook.

The Colorado River and its reservoirs are among the best catfish fishing waters in California.

Also read: Find more catfish fishing tips and bait ideas in our simple guide.

Bluegill and Sunfish Fishing

Holy slabs! This lake has some huge bluegill.

Something about the artificial structure throughout the lake, the mild temperatures and ample food supply has created the perfect conditions for giant bluegill.

Typical bluegill techniques work well here. Use a mealworm or crappie jigs. 

The Arizona State record redear was caught here. It weighed 5.78 pounds. For a fish that’s typically under 12 ounces, that’s huge.

There is excellent news in the struggle with quagga mussels as well. It turns out bluegill and redear love them.

Lake Havasu started getting a quagga mussel outbreak in 2007. Since then, the size of sunfish in the lake have exploded. It may be a coincidence, but either way, there are giant sunfish to be found.

Catching bluegill and redears can be simple and super fun with the right sunfish fishing techniques.

Trout Fishing at Lake Havasu

Rainbow trout are occasionally planted in the river above the reservoir.

During the colder months, when water conditions are better for trout, these fish are easier to catch towards the upper part of the lake near Davis Dam.

Find some current and possibly deeper water, and you might find trout.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the trout being planted has been the bass in the lake. They have taken to feeding on younger rainbows, which can make finding the trout difficult.

This usually isn’t a high numbers fishery, but once you locate trout, they should be of pretty decent size, having made it through the bass gauntlet.

Still-fishing with PowerBait or nightcrawlers as well as trolling with lures are among the various trout fishing techniques that can be successful.

Some anglers out there swear by Trout Magnet lures at Lake Havasu. Trout Magnets are also known to bring in crappie and bluegill.

More: Learn more ways to catch trout.

More Fishing at Lake Havasu

Crappie fishing can be quite good at Lake Havasu, although crappie populations everywhere tend to wax and wane.

Locating the fish may take some time, but once you find them, you’re bound to bring out a slab black crappie or two.

The Bill Williams Arm in the south part of the lake has been known to put out lots of crappie when times are good.

The spring spawning period will find crappie schooled into shallow areas with cover.

During other times of the year, crappie tend to hold in a bit deeper water and can be harder to locate, although once found they can provide good action.

Crappie fishing will even be a viable option here in the winter if you’re willing to go out and find them.

Lake Havasu crappie are sometimes caught as a byproduct of targeting other panfish like bluegill and redear sunfish, but if you locate a school, it’s time to bring out the small crappie jigs and other proven fishing tactics.

Interested in crappie? Just for you, we’ve run down the very best crappie fishing lakes in California.

There also are some large carp in the reservoir, and small common carp add to the food supply for predatory fish.

Planning Your Trip

A trip to Lake Havasu should be on everybody’s list. Beautiful, clear water, amazing views, and incredible fishing are all reasons to bring the family out for a vacation. 

Be prepared for the weather here. It’s either cold or just shy of a billion degrees. The cool water helps with that. Don’t forget the sunscreen either. 

If you’re planning on night fishing, bring along some warmer gear. The desert gets cold at night, so be ready to layer up and down each day. 

There is Lake Havasu City right in the middle of the lake on the Arizona side, and Needles upriver on the California side, so there’s plenty of lodging and food options around. Great tackle shops are around as well.

Bank and Boat Access

While a boat is a really advantage here, bank fishing options are more readily accessible than you might think, including a variety of fishing piers

The Lake Havasu State Park in Arizona has some excellent areas, as does the west side in California. There are also several parks with good shore fishing and boat launches.

The Lake Havasu State Park has five boat launches, and you’ll find several more private and public launches and marinas throughout the area. Getting access to the water isn’t difficult here.

Camping and Lodging

The state parks at Lake Havasu have plenty of campgrounds and RV lots. Cabins are also available.

If you’re looking for more of a hotel experience, there are several available ranging from cheap to four-star resorts. You shouldn’t have any issues finding a place to stay, but you should plan early. 

The family will love Lake Havasu because of the sheer number of recreational opportunities there are here.

Beaches, pools, waterfalls, perfect temperatures, and fantastic fishing add up to a great getaway.