Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Four Arkansas lakes are on Bassmaster Magazine’s recent release of the publication’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings.
This year, the rankings highlight the Top 12 fisheries in the nation regardless of location. The remaining lakes are ranked within one of four regions (Northeastern, Southeastern, Central and Western), so readers can easily identify the Top 25 lakes nearest them.
In the Central Division, Arkansas’s Lake Dardanelle comes in at No. 17; Millwood Lake is No. 20; Lake Ouachita is No. 22; and Bull Shoals Lake is No. 24.
Lake Dardanelle is one of the most accessible and attractive recreation areas in Arkansas. Located about half-way between Little Rock and Fort Smith, the lake stretches some 50 miles as part of the $1.2 billion Arkansas River Navigation System. With just over 34,000 acres of boating and fishing waters, 315 miles of shoreline, and rimmed by choice picnic and camping areas, it offers many recreational opportunities. Parks offer drinking water, toilet facilities, boat launching ramps, parking areas, and tables. Several have trailer dump stations, electrical outlets, and group picnic shelters. Public boat docks offer boat and motor rental services, fuel, food, and other supplies and services. Some 250 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campsites are available around the lake, plus Lake Dardanelle State Park welcomes visitors at two shoreline locations. With no closed season and mild winters, fishing is good year round. The lake has one of the most consistent bass habitats in the Arkansas River system. Experts will tell you that Lake Dardanelle at Russellville toward the upper end of the river is the place to go for big largemouth.
Millwood Lake, on Ark. 32 nine miles east of Ashdown in southwest Arkansas, was formed when the state’s longest earthen dam (3.33 miles) was completed across the Little River. Millwood is a renowned fishing lake, with much of its more than 29,000 acres being flooded timber that provides exceptional cover for its wide variety of fish, including largemouth and spotted bass, crappie, white bass, striped bass, channel and flathead catfish and bluegills. Boat lanes lead the way through the timbered waters, and there are 5,000 acres of open water near the dam. Each year, the lake hosts numerous bass fishing tournaments and fishing derbies held by local and out-of-state organizations.
Lake Ouachita, the largest lake (40,100 acres) located entirely within Arkansas, is renowned for its scenic beauty and clear waters. Created when Blakely Mountain Dam impounded the waters of the Ouachita River near Hot Springs, the lake is virtually surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest and has one of Arkansas’s most pristine shorelines at some 970 miles. Available rentals include houseboats, sailing crafts, fishing rigs and more. Contributing to make the lake one of Arkansas’s finest outdoor destinations are Lake Ouachita State Park (with cabins), commercial marinas and resorts, and more than 400 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ campsites. For anglers, Lake Ouachita is well-known for its prolific fishing opportunities, especially for striped bass and largemouth bass fishing.
Bull Shoals Lake and the White River below its dam, are synonymous with fishing in Arkansas. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, located in north central Arkansas on the Missouri-Arkansas state line, enjoys a wide reputation for lunker bass fishing along with its twin, Lake Norfork, just to the east. Bull Shoals Dam, completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1951, is the fifth largest concrete dam in the United States. Including the portion located in Missouri, the lake totals some 45,500 surface acres. Almost 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline is open to visitors and 60,000 acres of public land provide a variety of opportunities.
Over 20 parks developed through the cooperative efforts of local, state and federal agencies are located on the lakeshore. Commercial docks on the lake have boats, motors and guides for hire. Scrappy largemouth bass, spotted bass and white bass abound in the lake, along with crappie, channel cat, bream and walleye.
Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes will be published in an 11-page section of the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings will also be featured on Bassmaster.com.