Bass Fishing Ohio: Top 5 Places for a Weekend Trip

When the state of Ohio is brought up, football is the first sport that comes to mind and what most people associate the Buckeye state with. But, what a lot of people do not know is the hidden secret of the quality bass fishing Ohio has to offer!

Ohio is home to quality College fishing teams, numerous high school and youth fishing programs, many fantastic tournament series like the Fishers of Men series and the Great Lakes Largemouth Series. It is also home to Bassmaster Elite Series Professional Hunter Shryock and MLF Bass Pro Tour Professional Fletcher Shryock. While overshadowed by some of the great fishing that can be held in the state just south of the Ohio river, bass fishing Ohio can and still produces big bass, so here is the Top 5 ‘need to visit’ destinations in Ohio for a weekend fishing trip.

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Bass Fishing Ohio: Alum Creek Lake

This Columbus area lake kicks off our list at number 5 in Ohio. Alum Creek is a very fun lake in my personal opinion. The lake can be broken down by north and south sections using the Cheshire Road bridge running just about mid-way through the lake. The northern half of the lake forks off into the river and is a more stained, shallower part of the lake. The southern part of the lake is deep, clear, rocky water. Generally speaking, the northern part of the lake holds more largemouth and the southern part of the lake holds more smallmouth. This creates a lot of diverse opportunities at this fishery.

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One can finesse smallmouth in the southern half and decide to turn their engine north and go flip the banks for largemouth.

This is a lake I have had a lot of experience on and really is a unique lake that gives anglers from all backgrounds a chance to flaunt their abilities or improve on techniques they may have never tried or have lower confidence in. This lake provides an enormous amount of offshore structure for the deep-water fishermen as well as plenty of lay downs and submerged vegetation for the shallow water guys. With the large population of both large and smallmouth and the diverse fishing opportunities, this lake is a great destination for a weekend getaway trip. And with Columbus mere minutes away, there are plenty of opportunities for things to do while you’re not on the water, or at least that’s what you can tell your significant other.

Bass Fishing Ohio: Knox Lake

Knox Lake is a… well it’s an interesting lake in Ohio. The reason this lake rolls in number 4 on the list is because Knox Lake is rather small. Knox is only 469-acres and is one of the few lakes in Ohio that have a higher minimum catch length for keeper bass than other bodies of water. This makes Knox Lake Ohio’s ‘Trophy lake’. This is because the minimum catch length is 18-inches. This also is why Knox Lake records more catches over 18 inches than any other inland lake in Ohio.

The lake itself is not very big or very deep and only just recently allows idle speeds with engines to get around the lake, but if you’re looking to go to Ohio and catch a big bass, then Knox is a great place to spend your time. With 11.4 miles of shoreline and various bottom compositions loaded with endless amounts of flooded cover, this lake is made for the fisherman who likes to just put down the trolling motor and throw a jig at everything in sight.

Bass Fishing Ohio: Portage Lakes

Coming in at number 3 on our list is actually a chain of lakes. Portage lakes is made up of 5 lakes in Summit County, Ohio (Akron, OH). The “lake” in total is 1681 acres and has 38 miles of shoreline. This makes for a great weekend bass fishing destination as you can dissect a few of the lakes in the chain on one day and then finish off the rest the next day out.

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With varying depths and different habitats throughout the lakes, this is a great lake to go fish your strengths.

ODNR has the numbers and size of fish in the lake listed as “Excellent” and with good catch rates reported by anglers this is just a lake to go to just fill the boat with fish. Jerkbaits, crankbaits, chatterbaits, and Texas rigs are strong options to keep tied up and prepare you for the diverse fishing situations you will find on the Portage Chain of Lakes.

Bass Fishing Ohio: Mosquito Creek Lake

Mosquito Lake rolls in at number 2 on this list as the best inland lake in Ohio (in my humble opinion). Mosquito is a 7,421 acre lake, making it one of the larger inland lakes in Ohio and it is located in Northeast Ohio. Mosquito lake is a shallow grass fisherman’s dream. Weed beds, lily pads, standing structures like docks, and submerged timber and stumps hold quality largemouth for most of the year. In 2018, Mosquito lake showed out at bass tournaments where it regularly took 16-pounds or more to win.

For a lake in Ohio, this is a pretty good statistic as many lakes in the state take around 10 to 12-pounds to win a single day bass fishing tournament. So, if you enjoy shallower water grass fisheries or have a smaller boat, then Mosquito is your perfect storm! Mosquito lake is known as a very productive topwater lake, more specifically, a fantastic frog fishing lake. With grass beds and seas of lily pads, this lake sets up perfectly for throwing topwater and gives bass a variety of ambush points.

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These same areas are favorite targets for flipping and punching baits as the topwater bite dies off, or to throw spinnerbaits or vibrating jigs over and around the weed beds. This lake is somewhat of a mirror opposite to our top ranked lake, but shows that Ohio is home to a variety of fisheries. In 2016, this lake was even featured as one of the host lakes for the Major League Fishing Summit Cup qualifying rounds. So, if you’re interested in some great shallow water grass fishing and want to see the best Ohio has to offer, then Mosquito Lake is a must visit.

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Bass Fishing Ohio: Lake Erie

Finally, we saved the best for last. When composing a list of the best lakes in Ohio, I believe it is impossible to leave out Lake Erie. Honestly, Lake Erie could probably make this list as number 1 and 2 by separating main Lake Erie from the bays and harbors. Lake Erie not only ranks on top of my list of best lakes in Ohio, but also ranks nationally as one of the best bass lakes in the country. Lake Erie, while known for its unbelievable smallmouth fishing, has a large secret that gets overshadowed by its hard-fighting bronze back brother.

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Lake Erie has phenomenal largemouth bass fishing.

I was even tempted to list Lake Erie Harbors and Bays as number 2 on this list, but for a weekend trip you can have a dream of a day catching endless amounts of 3-5 pound smallies then turn around the next day and put a 20-pound sack of largemouth bass in the box. Lake Erie even has its own tournament series dedicated just to the green fish, the Great Lakes Largemouth Series. In east and west Harbor, it is not unheard of to throw green pumpkin shaky heads and sexy shad crankbaits in the springtime for a 50 to 60 fish day. Then the Sandusky bay, which is large enough to be considered a lake of its own, does not have the outstanding numbers like the harbors, but it makes up for it in size. But, don’t let all of this talk fool you for one second.

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The smallmouth bass fishing on Lake Erie is only rivaled by a few juggernaut fisheries in the world!

Ohio provides numerous areas with easy access to the main lake where you can target these insane schools of smallmouth. Ohio sits in one of the best parts of the western basin and is home to Kelly’s Island and the Bass Islands which are known for historically attracting and holding large populations of smallmouth, and the occasional brute largemouth, on the shoals that sit between the surrounding the islands. Be prepared to have to dig through the massive sheepsheads that are mixed in with the smallmouth and hold on the same structure. For your weekend trip to Erie, your keys baits are dropshots and tubes for the main lake smallmouth and black and blue and green pumpkin colored flipping baits for the shallow watered bay and harbor largemouth. Lake Erie is an elite fishery and has countless reasons as to why you need to give this lake a visit if you are in Ohio. This is why Lake Erie is and will forever be the number 1 lake in the state of Ohio.

You can watch an episode from the ANGLR Tour on Lake Erie below!

Bass Fishing Ohio: Final Thoughts

Ohio, can be a tough state for bass fishing, yet it still has some fantastic fisheries that are a lot of fun to fish. From catching largemouth in 6-inches of water to dropshotting smallmouth in 30-feet, Ohio provides all the opportunities an angler needs to really develop all of their fishing abilities as well as just fall in love with the sport of fishing. Just remember your licenses, and the rules and regulations for each lake! Good luck, take a kid fishing, and tight lines!

Bass Fishing in Ohio: Breaking Down The Bite

ANGLR Expert, Tanner Ward has spent his whole life bass fishing in Ohio. Growing up in Coshocton, he’s been fishing for as long as he can remember. Both his father and grandfather were avid fishermen, so he just sort of fell into it. He started tournament bass fishing with his dad back when he was a young grade schooler and is currently very involved with college fishing along with being the president of the Kent State University Fishing Team in his junior year of college.

If anyone knows the bass of the Buckeye state, it’s Ward.

catch more bass fishing app banner 1Bass Fishing in Ohio vs. Southern Bass Fishing

During the cold months of winter, the lakes in Ohio will get over six inches of ice on them at certain points. “That can really take a toll on the fish here in Ohio,” he begins. “They’re not able to grow well during the winter months, so we wind up with fish that are smaller than their southern counterparts.”

You really don’t see many bass that get over six to seven pounds.

In the south, the bass see year round growth. Hence why the Florida strain bass grow larger than their northern counterparts. With more opportunities to feed throughout the year, they don’t have to experience the winter lull that the northern bass undergo.

Where to Head for the Best Bass Fishing in Ohio

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Ward believes that the fishing in Ohio gets better as you head farther north, towards Lake Erie. “Lake Erie is great for smallmouth, and there’s so many in there and they’ve had the opportunity to grow larger with the introduction of Goby.

Around Kent, Ohio, home of Kent State University (KSU), there are a number of great locations for largemouth. “I believe they have a better quantity and quality than lakes in southeastern Ohio,” he shares.

His favorite places to frequent include Mosquito Lake and some of the electric only lakes around Kent.

The lakes in northeastern Ohio are grass lakes, which can really positively affect the bass fishing. The more cover the fish have, the more places they have to follow baitfish. Having that mat also helps with the spawn, so there’ll be a good wave of new fish coming along.

It helps to scope the area out ahead of time, and here’s where technology can really come in handy. “I really like the Lakemaster Chips by Humminbird for locating bass. I think they give really clear mapping.” Along the way, Ward drops waypoints through the ANGLR App so he can easily find where he wants to return to.

Bass Fishing in Ohio: Dealing with Peculiar Ohio Weather

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The wind in Ohio can be terrible sometimes due to very flat land with little to no geographical changes in elevation to act as a windbreak. “On Mosquito and especially the electric only lakes, the wind actually forcefully concentrates anglers to certain areas,” Ward explains. “You can’t even fish some areas because the wind won’t allow you to control your boat.” The lakes are shaped like a big bowl.

“On Mosquito in the springtime you’ll see all of the boats concentrated on one side of the lake because you can’t really control the boat otherwise.”

Bass Fishing in Ohio: Dealing with Seasonal Bass

During the different seasons, bass will migrate within a lake. “During the spring, the fish will usually be moved up closer to the bank.” But a lake like Mosquito makes it tough. It’s a really flat lake, so the fish could conceivably be out 100 feet off of the bank, yet still be in three feet of water. “I’ll look for the differences in the contours, because the fish usually relate to that.”

In the summertime they’re found along the edge of the grass or the harder structure out off the bank, whereas in the fall, the fish are out in the main creek channel drops where there are a lot of stumps and rock and larger structures.

Gearing Up For Bass Fishing in Ohio

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Most of Ward’s rods and reels are Abu Garcia. In the spring, he grabs a chatterbait because they work great on the grass lakes. “I’m usually using moving baits like a swimbait or spinnerbait in the spring.” He says he also spends time flipping.

“In the summer, I’m using either topwater in the mornings or dragging a Carolina rig or some sort of jig out deeper.” Attached to his Carolina rig is usually a Zoom Bait Brush Hog. In the fall, he’s still using topwater, and some sort of swimbait.

Ward advises that a lot of knowing what baits to grab is a lot of trial and error. One of his favorite brands is Keitech, though he doesn’t necessarily have a specific model he’s attached to. He also frequently grabs his Z-Man Chatterbait.

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All About the Technique

Learning to master the Carolina rig may take a little bit of time, but it’s worth it in the end. Ward offers a few tips on how it’s done.

“You want to drag it really slowly, then when you get around the cover, slow down even more and pick it apart.”

“The chatterbait is a cool one to use in the springtime,” he continues. “You can reel it in and tick the tops of the grass coming off the bottom, or you could yo-yo it by holding the rod and lifting quickly before letting the jig fall back to the bottom.”

In the fall, he uses similar techniques with the swimbaits, ticking the tops of the grass.

Best Advice for Bass Fishing in Ohio

The biggest advice Ward has for anyone, whether they’re just getting started or have been at it for a while is to spend time on the water. “That’s the biggest thing with fishing. Get out there as much as you can. It really doesn’t have to be tournaments, just get out there for fun because you really will learn so much,” he says.

Fishing Intelligence Podcast Ep. 3 | Ohio Bass Fishing With Tyler Waller

On Episode 3 of Fishing Intelligence, I talk with Tyler Waller about how dealing with the fishing in Ohio might be one of the most difficult things in the world (joke intended… kinda). Everyone from Ohio knows it’s no secret that Ohio can be seriously tough fishing, other than the big lake of course.

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Tyler and I started first of talking about creating a social media presence.He is the owner of the On Another Line fishing podcast which I have been on before and was one of the inspirations for Fishing Intelligence. Starting up a podcast is no easy feet, and Tyler dove in head first going for a live stream with all of the right video and audio equipment for a great setup. The issue is getting your name out there and we discuss how hard it really is to organically grow an audience.

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Tyler and I fished together on Rocky Fork Lake for Episode 2 of the ANGLR Tour!

After discussing that, we moved on to talking about beating these tough Ohio fisheries. Lake Erie, as most know, is a treat to fish. It is full of massive Smallmouth and Largemouth as well as Steelhead, Musky, Walleye, Perch and others. You just have to find a rock pile and I can almost bet you will catch a fish. Once you move inland, however, Ohio bass fishing is a different story.

Conditions change often and multiple times throughout the day. It forces one to really break down areas, as you can go through multiple different baits before finding what the fish are keying in on. Another strategy for tough fisheries is fishing the same points at different times in the day to try to get the rhythm of the fish down and give yourself the best fish catching chances possible. One of Tyler’s favorite tough lake lures is a shaky head and that is how we caught our fish when I met him in Southern Ohio on the ANGLR Tour. Make sure to check out Tyler’s podcast On Another Line Fishing Show on Facebook!

Where To Listen!

Episode 2 | Rocky Fork Lake and Bass Fishing Dinks #GrindSquad

If you read my first blog or watched the kick off video, you know that we christened the Tour from the ANGLR HQ in Pittsburgh PA. We locked down last minute items, drank a few beers, then briefly celebrated the work done up to this point. Now the real work begins, 40+ fishing trips in just two months. Ya, I called it work… this is now my “job”. Travel, fish, and vlog it all.

Episode 1 | Conneaut Creek Fly Fishing for Steelhead with Steelhead Legends

If you read my first blog or watched the kick off video, you know that we christened the Tour from the ANGLR HQ in Pittsburgh PA. We locked down last minute items, drank a few beers, then briefly celebrated the work done up to this point. Now the real work begins, 40+ fishing trips in just two months. Ya, I called it work… this is now my “job”. Travel, fish, and vlog it all.