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Best BASS Fishing in ARIZONA (Top 7 Spots To Hit in [year]!)

largemouth bass in arizona

Best Bass Fishing in Arizona. Does It Get Any Better?

This is the second article of my “Fishing In Arizona” series. You can check out others by following the links at the end of this article. 

Arizona as a bass fishing destination is something else that comes to mind. 

The warm desert climate lends itself well to bass in areas all across the state. The long growing seasons means growing bigger bass quicker. Better yet, tolerable weather year round means you can get out catching bass nearly any month of the year if you are truly dedicated.

While Largemouth Bass are the main draw as far as bass species are concerned, Arizona offers the intrepid angler a little bit more diversity. In several reservoirs, anglers also have the opportunity to catch Smallmouth Bass and Striped bass, along with lesser target white and yellow bass. Some rivers in Arizona are also host to some top notch Smallmouth Bass fishing.

Anglers looking to target bass have options in nearly every corner of the state. However, most of the best bass fishing in Arizona is going to be in the southwestern half of the state in the lower elevation desert reservoirs. With that said, there is some high mountain bass fishing to be found in Arizona as well.

Most of the best bass fishing lakes in Arizona are large desert reservoirs and on a fundamental level are fairly similar, ecologically. As such, overal fishing tactics from one to another are going to have similarities. Fine tuning of tactics, presentation, color, and timing are going to vary with times of the year and individual lake conditions.

bass fishing for largemouth in arizona

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rizona’s Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips

Arizona's Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips
  • 181 of Arizona's prime fishing spots
  • Maps
  • GPS Coordinates and Directions
  • Insider Tips
Buy Now on Amazon
02/18/2024 02:53 am GMT

Whether you live in Arizona, or are planning on spending any time here, you’ll want to have a copy of this Arizona Fishing guide. 

The 181 Arizona prime fishing spots that are mentioned in this guide range from small sections of rivers and streams to various ponds and large lakes.

Each fishing spot comes with expert descriptions of the location, detailed directions to get you there, maps, amenities, GPS coordinates, fishing tips, historical notes and other insider information you’ll only be able to find in this book.

If you’re in one of the larger metropolitan areas, like Phoenix, the guide contains special sections on urban fishing.    

This is definitely one of the fishing tools you should have on hand if you’re going to be spending any time enjoying all that Arizona has to offer.

Top 7 Bass Fishing Locations In Arizona

1. Roosevelt Lake

bass fishing at Roosevelt lake arizona

The Salt River is one of the few major river systems in Arizona. With its headwaters beginning high the the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, it eventually meanders down into the desert canyons and valleys. Before it reaches the Phoenix city valley, the river encounters a series of construted dams which form 4 large canyon-type desert reservoirs along a canyon section of the river. All of these reservoirs hold a similar warm-water species composition, including largemouth bass, which are one of the more predominant species amongst them.

The furthest upstream and by far the largest of the Salt River Lakes chain, Roosevelt Lake lies about a 2 hour drive northeast of Phoenix. This large desert reservoir remains a popular destination for bass anglers and is host to a variety of bass tournaments throughout the year. The forage base here is a healthy population of bluegill, sunfish, and shad; all of which help to grow larger bass quicker.

Like many of the desert reservoirs, a variety of habitat exists from the flooding repercussions of the dam. Rocky outcroppings, flooded trees, and sandy flats are some of the variety you will be able to find. Additionally, Roosevelt Lake has recently received hundreds of individual fish habitat structures in dozens of locations around the lake. This is in an effort to increase forage fish populations in areas of the lake which may lack cover. In turn, these structures should focus larger predatory fish, such as bass which will be targeting both the cover of structure and the forage base which is also attracted to them. Thankfully for anglers, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has published the locations of these fish habitat structures on their website.

Time of the year will help dictate tactics on this lake. During spring runoff, some suggest moving closer to the turbid waters flow in from both arms of the lake (Fed by Tonto Creek to the west and the Salt River to the east). The northern shores of these sides of the lake have an abundance of rocky outcroppings and abrupt dropoffs, perfect hiding locations for predatory bass.

When water temps pass 60 degrees and bass start thinking about spawning, the majority will likey head towards the southern shoreline of the lake, as there is a lot of shallow cove habitat broken up by brush on that side of the lake.

In addition to Largemouth Bass, you can also find Smallmouth Bass in this reservoir in lesser numbers. Overall, these fish are going to be found at deeper depths and different habitat sites that Largemouth.

2. Apache Lake

apache lake bass fishing in arizona

Below the dam of Roosevelt Lake, the Salt River meanders briefly through a narrow canyon constriction and quickly opens up to Apache Lake. A beautiful and secluded desert reservoir nestled securely between towering fortresses of rock on all sides. This is the hardest to access of the Salt River lakes chain and may offer you the most seclusion. Anglers have the option of taking the winding road designated the Apache Trail from Apache junction, complete with a harrowing descent down fish creek canyon. Or you can access it by driving down past the Roosevelt Lake dam and winding down several miles of dirt parrelling the river as it flows though a narrow canyon. Either way is sure to excite.

Apache Lake is host to a healthy population of Largemouth Bass thanks to abundant forage species. Bass tournaments are also often held at this lake due to this fact. Despite it being a quality Largemouth fishery, the traditional species of interest here has been the Smallmouth Bass.

While all the Salt River chain lakes have potential for smallmouth fishing, it is Apache Lake that boasts the most worthwhile potential. This lake is characterized by an abundance of rocky outcroppings, reefs, and dropoffs. The smallmouth will generally work up and down in these features in the water column. This can be a good place to start targeting them depending on water temps. Smallmouth start thinking about spawning in the spring a little sooner than Largemouth when water temps start approaching 60F.

Recently, Apache Lake has experienced several fish kills related to Golden Algae blooms. Arizona Game and Fish heavily encourages anglers to practice proper aqutic invasive species protocols and clean their boats between waters to prevent the spread of pathogens between waters.

3. Canyon Lake & Saguaro Lake

bass fishing in canyon lake arizona

After Apache Lake, the Salt River forms the last two lakes in the Salt River Lakes chain: Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake. Like the two reservoirs above them, these are reservoirs contained in deeply incised desert canyons with a variety of warm-water fishes throughout. Water recreation sports are even more common at these two particular lakes due to their closer proximity to the Phoenix metro area.

Bass numbers in these lakes may at times be slightly lower than at Apache and Roosevelt Lakes. However, the caliber of largemouth bass in Canyon and Saguaro Lakes is known to be of a higher scale overall. These are excellent lakes to target if you are chasing that bass over the 10 pound mark, they certainly exist here.

These lakes are best access with a boat, though still offer ample fishing opportunity from shore. Bass anglers at these lakes like to target the shallow reed filled coves during the warmer months. A variety of tactics work well on bass here. Large swimbaits are often utilized here as these lakes are also stocked with Rainbow Trout, an excellent snack for a 10 pound largemouth.

4. Phoenix Urban Ponds – Community Fishing Waters

bass fishing in Phoenix Arizona

Surprising enough to some, decent bass fishing can be found within the confines of the concrete jungle of Phoenix. Thanks to a joint effort between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and local city governments; these “Community Fishing Waters” are designated urban ponds across Phoenix and other urbanized areas that are stocked with different species of fish to make fishing access easier for some people.

Across the Phoenix Metro area, dozens of these designated waters exist and can all be viewed on the AZ Game and Fish website. Generally, these waters are stocked with Bass, Catfish, and Bluegill in the warmer months; and Trout in the colder months. Bass thrive in many of these ponds throughout the year and offer city-constricted anglers year round opportunity.

While these ponds don’t grow the enormous bass that other Arizona waters may be home to, they offer excellent opportunity much closer to home for some. With that said, with some time spent on these urban ponds, catching a 5+ pound bass is not out of the question.

Bass in these ponds will fall susceptible to generally accepted tactics for  bass fishing. Between crankbaits, spinners, jigs, and topwater fished around various portions of the lake; a savy angler will be able to key in on what the bass are looking to feed on.

5. Lower Colorado River 

bass fishing in arizona on colorado river

Near the end of its long adventurous course from it’s headwaters high in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado river spends it’s remaining time as freshwater slowly working it’s way through the desert north of Yuma. In this stretch of the River, backwaters, sloughs, and irrigation ponds abound within the floodplain. These warm and slow moving bodies of water serve as ideal refugia for the bass that persist in the mainstem Colorado River. For adventurous and curious anglers, many of these side-waters hold trophy largemouth bass.

Many of these backwaters must be accessed with a boat via the Colorado River due to the fortress of growth on the banks of the waters. However, some are designated lakes and sites with fishing areas and boat launches.

Mittry Lake is one of the managed water bodies just north of Yuma. With a boat launch and nearly 10 different fishing jetties, opportunity for all is present. However, bass anglers report the largemouth in this lake to be finicky and difficult at times. Though for the dedicated angler, reports of 10 pounders coming out of this water are out there.

To name all the potential fishing spots along the Colorado River north of Yuma would be exhausting, I will leave this one up to you to explore with some maps and internet know-how. The Lower Colorado River is one of the sleeper bass fishing spots in Arizona and still has water and fish that have yet to be discovered.

6. Lake Pleasant

lake pleasant bass fishing arizona

Being one of the closer large water bodies to the Phoenix Metro area, Lake Pleasant is a popular recreational destination for people engaging in a wide variety of outdoor activities. Although water sports, camping, and other forms of recreation can be had at Lake Pleasant; the fishing is what it should be more known for.

The biggest draw to Lake Pleasant is the trophy flathead catfishing and abundant striped bass fishing. Largemouth bass also inhabit this lake and provide quite the draw to anglers. Largemouth Bass in this lake have all the potential to reach upwards of 10 pounds thanks to an abundance of forage fish including sunfish, bluegill, and gizzard shad.

Striped Bass are a large predatory schooling fish. These large schools of striped bass key in on schools of smaller baitfish in this lake. The best way to target stripers is to locate these schools of baitfish; whether they are deep or on the surface in obvious boils. Fishing lures or small baitfish to imitate the shad in these scenarios should yield good results.

7. Alamo Lake

alamo lake arizona

Located on the western border of the state, Alamo Lake is a dammed reservoir along the Big Sandy River just east of Lake Havasu City. Featuring some of the warmest overall weather in the state, lakes in this area are well-known for their largemouth bass fishing potential. Alamo Lake is absolutely no exception to this rule and this particular water is traditionally known to stake claim to some of the best largemouth bass fishing in Arizona. Large fluctuations in water level daily can complicate some fishing knowledge and tactics to target bass are always going to vary widely dependent on a variety of factors.

Generally speaking, target bass in cooler months by fishing the deeper and slightly warmer waters. Access these deep hiding holes with crankbaits, swimbaits, and jigs; all using a slower retrieve than you would in the active months.

With the onset of spring and summer, bass will become more active to feed and eventually spawn. The shallower water becomes more attractive to bass during these times and anything from plastic worms to topwater buzzbaits can lure bass out of hiding. As always, try to target some sort of structure, as bass are going to gravitate towards cover.

In addition to being known as a great largemouth bass fishery, Alamo Lake also has a reputation as a great Black Crappie fishery that has potential to grow substantially sized specimens.

Finals Thoughts

Bass fishing in Arizona is just about as good as it gets. It’s where I caught my first bass, and it’s where countless others are catching there first bass, and many others after that.  Any one of these locations will get you into the fish. It’s just up to you to make time to get out there and make it happen!

If you’re interested in reading more about fishing in AArizona offers a fantastic trout fishery.  Be sure to check it out!

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Arizona’s Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips.

Arizona's Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips
  • 181 of Arizona's prime fishing spots
  • Maps
  • GPS Coordinates and Directions
  • Insider Tips
Buy Now on Amazon
02/18/2024 02:53 am GMT

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Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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