St. Lawrence River named best bass fishery in the U.S.

Ben Seaman, left, loads a smallmouth bass into a bag that Dante Piraino is holding on the first day of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Northeast Regional at Whittaker Park in Waddington. Bassmaster magazine has named the St. Lawrence River the top bass fishery in the nation. (Provided photo — Christopher Lenney, Watertown Daily Times)

MASSENA — When it comes to best bass fisheries, the St. Lawrence River is tops in the nation, according to Bassmaster Magazine.

The magazine announced Monday that, for the first time ever, the St. Lawrence River earned the top spot in the nation in its 2019 rankings.

“Over the past seven years, this incredible smallmouth fishery has cracked the Top 10 in Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings two times. In both 2015 and 2018, the St. Lawrence (also known as the Upper St. Lawrence River) ranked eighth on the list. This year, though, the New York fishery would not be denied as the No. 1 bass fishing destination in the country,” Bassmaster officials said in a news release.

“The St. Lawrence is not only healthy right now, but seems to be showing off,” James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine, said in a statement.

“There have been years where a spirited internal debate was required to assign the top spot in the rankings. This year was easy after looking at the unbelievable weights being produced at the Upper St. Lawrence River. And on top of that, the scenery is stunning. If you are looking for the best angling experience in the country right now, the St. Lawrence River should be your next destination,” he said.

Bassmaster officials cited the recent Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops as one of the reasons why the St. Lawrence River earned the top spot.

“In this event, a 26-pound, 6-ounce limit of smallmouth was weighed in. However, the most astounding statistic is that the average weight of the entire 149-team field was 20.3 pounds. The winning team from Sam Houston State University averaged 24 pounds, 4 ounces per day. The Carhartt Big Bass Award for that event was a 6-pound, 7-ounce giant. Suffice it to say, the St. Lawrence not only has big smallmouth swimming around the many islands dotting its waterscape, but a lot of them,” the magazine article stated.

“What a great thing it is to get that recognition,” town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said. “It’s been a lot of work to get this recognition. We’ve always had this unknown jewel out there. We’ve worked hard to promote it. We’re also working with the New York Power Authority to build facilities (at the Massena Intake) so people can get access to it.”

Donald Meissner and Linda McQuinn have traveled to various shows and produced videos to promote Massena’s fishing opportunities, and Mr. O’Shaughnessy said those efforts have paid off. Massena is hosting four tournaments at the Massena Intake this year — Bass Nation on July 13 and 14, Cashion Rods on Sept. 7, the 2019 Costa FLW Series northern division tournament from Sept. 19 to 21 and the Big Bass Blowout on Oct. 5 and 6.

The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Waddington Aug. 15 to 18.

Hall said the process of creating the rankings takes more than two months. State fishery agencies across the U.S. are polled and rank the fisheries in their states based on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access. Then, B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors add to the potential lakes list based on the thousands of tournaments they hold across the country. And finally, the data from dozens of tournament organizations, as well as big bass programs from various states, are analyzed to create the ultimate list of the Top 100 lakes.

The rankings are debated by a blue-ribbon panel of fishing industry insiders, and the final result of this research and debate is Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings published in the July-August issue of the magazine.