The 10 “best” bass fishing waters in the 10 easternmost counties of Washington have been listed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 1 fish managers this year, and experienced anglers are confirming many of the choices as their favorite regional fisheries.
Trout are the spring crowd-pleasers in Eastern Washington, especially in the lakes that open the last Saturday of April. But bass, panfish and catfish are found in far more waters, and they continue to provide great fishing even in the hotter summer months.
Picking 10 of the best bass lakes wasn’t easy, said Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fisheries research biologist. “Some other lakes can be very good at times,” he said, “and any one of the 10 best waters can be better than another one at a given point in time. Consistency was a main factor. … We didn’t try to rank them in a specific order.”
Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River is a top 10 bass fishery that’s a favorite of Bobby Forster, a local longtime tournament angler.
“The sloughs along the river warm up and start getting good in April,” he said. “The bass fishing took a downturn in recent years because of the influx of northern pike, but bass numbers have rebounded since they’ve been netting the pike (in a joint predator suppression project conducted by the Kalispel Tribe and WDFW).
“Last year, my best five fish in a tournament totaled 28 pounds. That’s a nice catch of bass.”
Pend Oreille River anglers will catch healthy largemouth and smallmouth bass, he said.
“It’s been one of my favorite bass destinations since I was in high school because there’s a lot of water and a lot of fish between Newport and Box Canyon Dam,” Forster said, “and you won’t see more than a handful of boats in a day of fishing, if you see any.”
Boundary Reservoir – the Pend Oreille between Box Canyon and Boundary dams – also has some good bass fishing stretches, he said.
Lake Spokane, aka Long Lake, is the local favorite of young standout bass angler Chase Heaton. The reservoir on the Spokane River extends 24 miles behind Long Lake Dam.
“It has good numbers of both species and lots of water to cover,” said Heaton, a three-time Washington Junior Bass Champion who advanced to the Bassmaster Junior World Championships in 2013.
“Long Lake has some excellent quality fish, which you can see in tournament results over the years,” he said. “It has a diversity of water that serves all different ways of fishing, from casting frogs to throwing deep jigs and a variety of other techniques.”
He said he finds fish throughout the reservoir, with smallmouths becoming dominant closer to Long Lake Dam. Heaton said he focuses in the middle 10 miles for largemouth bass.
“Northern pike also have been found in Lake Spokane for years,” Divens said, noting the fish have been moving downstream from the Lake Coeur d’Alene area. “But last year our researchers found evidence that they’re spawning in there, so the chances of catching one are even better. Walleye also are showing up.”
The reservoir also holds panfish and stocked triploid rainbow trout.
The Snake River has a special distinction to veteran bass angler Craig Shaber, who has 22 years of experience fishing the stream from Asotin to the Tri-Cities.
“If I’m just going fun-fishing, I go to the Snake,” he said. “It has a large quantity of quality smallmouth bass and you can always catch fish there. The kids, your partners – everybody catches fish, sometimes up to 5 pounds.”
He said he finds bass in the flowing as well as the impounded stretches.
“I’m always looking for ledges and edges,” he said. “The fish might be up on the flats chasing bait or zeroed in on wind-blown sections of the river when baitfish are pushed up to them.
“If they’re feeding on crawdads, I look around rocky structures – big chunks of rocks but not the large boulders.”
Newman Lake northeast of Spokane gets high marks from a lot of anglers for its balanced warmwater fishery in an 1,100-acre package that’s too small to catch the attention of larger bass fishing tournaments.
“Newman used to be stocked with trout, but we’ve moved to solely warmwater fish management and our surveys confirm that it’s offering some quality opportunities for smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie and tiger musky,” Divens said.
“Our surveys have found bass in the 4- to 5-pound range, tiger muskies over 40 inches and black crappie up to 15 inches,” Divens added. “Although the average fish will be smaller, that’s quality.”
Largemouth tend to be bigger than smallmouth in Newman with the smallies more likely along the rockier shorelines while the largemouth lurk mostly in the weeds.
A new public ramp has improved boat access.
Sprague Lake just off Interstate 90 near the town of Sprague is known for growing big hatchery rainbows and continues to be one of the most underrated of the area’s good bass fisheries, Divens said.
“Our surveys found largemouths in a wide range of sizes up to 3 pounds with reports from anglers of even larger fish.
“Bass clubs have told us they shy away from Sprague for tournaments because it has a shortage of weedy areas. They say that lack of habitat would concentrate anglers and they’d be fishing on top of each other.
“But our surveys show that largemouth in Sprague are more likely to be foraging on sculpins and crayfish. When you look at it that way, there are more bass fishing areas than just the weed patches.”
Catfish are in the lake, and perch have moved into the lake since last year’s flooding and will add a new panfish option to the spotty numbers of bluegill.
Other top 10 bass waters in WDFW’s Spokane Region include:
Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County, is small, averaging 12 feet deep. It warms and fishes well for largemouths earlier than many of the region’s larger waters. The lake also holds perch, crappie and other warmwater fish along with stocked catchable-size rainbow trout.
Eloika Lake northwest of Chattaroy is known to hold some lunker largemouths in the 4- to 6-pound range that hide in vast expanses of weeds.
Lake Roosevelt holds tons of smallmouth bass in its 150 miles of the Columbia River behind Grand Coulee Dam. The pre-runoff period of deep reservoir drawdowns offers a prime opportunity to scout shorelines for exposed rocky areas and dropoffs where smallies will congregate this summer after water levels come back up toward full pool.
Liberty Lake east of Spokane, once renowned for trout fishing, has good smallmouth and largemouth fisheries during late spring and summer.
Silver Lake near the town of Medical Lake holds largemouth bass plus bluegill, crappie, perch and a few big surprises. Every season, a few bass anglers are yanked to attention by big, savage tiger muskies.