Sturgeon Bay Reigns as Bass King

Sturgeon Bay is suddenly on the radar of bass anglers throughout the country after being named by B.A.S.S. as the No. 1 top bass lake in the nation in its 2014 survey of bass fishing spots.

B.A.S.S. has more than 500,000 members and 3.2 million readers of its Bassmaster Magazine, so its annual rankings carry some weight.

In introducing the ranking, B.A.S.S. said it “reached out to every state Department of Natural Resources agency in the country to find out which bodies of water are healthy and producing based on catch rates and shock data. Secondly, we surveyed 3,500 rabid bass anglers from every region of the U.S. to find out which lakes were red hot. Then, we surveyed all the B.A.S.S. Nation presidents and conservation directors from each state to get a sense of the accessibility and health of each fishery and to rate the overall experience of fishing any given body of water. And lastly, we asked the 500,000-plus Facebook fans of B.A.S.S. to chime in on which lakes deserve to be on this list, and which ones should be left off. All said, more than 6,000 people contributed to this feature.”

Of the 100 spots named, four were in Wisconsin. Chequamegon Bay in Lake Superior, which had not previously ranked, came in at No. 84. A 185.9-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that includes Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois was included at No. 35. Green Bay came in at No. 31 (it was No. 29 in 2013 and No. 34 in 2012).

And Sturgeon Bay – from Little Sturgeon Bay to Fish Creek – topped the list.

Here’s what the ranking said:  “When an 8.45-pound fish wins big bass — and that fish is a smallmouth — heads turn. That’s exactly what happened at a local tournament on this section of Lake Michigan last year. In that very same two-day tournament, it took 67.13 pounds to win (an average of almost 34 pounds per day). If you are looking for a destination to catch the biggest smallmouth of your life, Sturgeon Bay should be your next trip. Simply put, if you want to angle the best bass fishing waters that currently exist for size and numbers of fish, head to Wisconsin.”

David Boyarski, Northern Lake Michigan Fisheries Supervisor with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was one of the contacts for the ranking. He said his main points were:

• “Our excellent smallmouth fishery is because of the quality smallmouth habitat for both juvenile and adult fish.”

• “We survey two areas regularly:  Little Sturgeon Bay and Sturgeon Bay in central Door County and Rowleys Bay in northern Door County. The smallmouth are big and growth rates are increasing. Increased growth rates are likely due to feeding on gobies. A smallmouth captured last year that weighed about 8.5 lbs. is getting a lot of attention but we have seen a number of fish more than 7 lbs. throughout the years.”

• “Large number of smallmouth w/consistent recruitment over last 10 or so years.”

• “There is diverse fishing opportunity including those using big bass boats, small boats, piers and shore, kayak and wade fishing.”

“Obviously we’re thrilled,” said Jon Jarosh, communications director of the Door County Visitor Bureau. “It’s a pretty big deal in terms of the fishing world.”

But he points out that the area cited as the best fishing spot runs from Little Sturgeon Bay to Fish Creek. “That’s a large chunk of the county,” he said. Unlike some of the other spots cited on the top 100 list, Door County is poised to provide a complete experience for a family. Some family members might want to come for the fishing, but there is plenty to do for those who don’t want to go in search of giant smallmouth bass.

“That’s where Door County shines as a destination,” he said.

Visit to see all the rankings.