Top Places for Bass Fishing in Arizona

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Bass, Bass Fishing, Lunkers, Trophy BassBlack bass reign supreme as the most sought-after game fish in America and also the most aggressive. With voracious appetites and short tempers, black bass readily feed on small fish, crayfish, worms, lizards, insects, mice, small birds and frogs — anything they can get into their large mouths. Primarily considered residents of the Midwest and Southeast, bass also call the lakes of the southwestern U.S. home, and fishermen pursue them with great zeal. Bass are usually found in and around cover, typically hiding next to logs, docks, underwater ridges, submerged brush and rocks, or near abrupt drop-offs.

Here are your best bets for bass fishing in Arizona.

March marks the transition from cold winter waters into warming spring waters in most southwest lakes, which serves to stimulate bass appetites and reproductive urges, creating a bass fisherman's Nirvana. According to Hookup Outfitters Guide Brian Senick, bass move up to shallower water, cruise around scouting for a suitable spawning location, and finally move into the coves and flats and the spawn begins. Spawning can last 3-4 weeks or more. March finds bass in all three phases of the spawn. It is an exciting time to be on the water.

Senick offers the following tips: Early in pre-spawn, fish begin to stage on primary points — jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits and jigs are very effective then. Sometimes you should let suspending jerkbaits rest for up to 30 seconds and other times keep them moving continuously. Lipless crankbaits are usually run with a fast pace and jigs are worked fairly slowly. Use the same lures plus spinnerbaits as the spawn advances, but simply speed up a bit.

Once fish are on beds, soft plastic baits such as crayfish, lizards, and jigs continue to work. If sight-fishing bedded fish, simply toss the bait on the bed and work it based on the fishes' reaction, trying to irritate them into striking.

Once fish move off the beds into post-spawn mode, topwater baits begin to shine. Also, continue to fish jerkbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs at this time. Crayfish and shad colors are popular.

Although not a consensus, the following suggestions represent what some of the bass experts and Game and Fish Department officials consider to be the top southwest bass destinations.


Arizona can rival any place for quality bass fishing and is home to some serious lunkers. March bass begin to shake off winter lethargy by late February, depending on weather and water conditions, and prepare for the spring spawn by staging in schools. As the water warms, they begin to push up into shallower water.

Lake Havasu State Park

Most experts consider Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River, to be a superb largemouth impoundment and one of the best smallmouth lakes in the nation. About 450 miles of shoreline highlight this 25-mile long lake. Havasu's reputation is well deserved. Excellent smallmouth fishing just keeps getting better. Russ Engle, Arizona's Fishing Program manager in that area, has said 4- to 5-pound largemouth are not uncommon. Thousands of bundles of brush have been placed throughout the lake as part of a habitat improvement program. Because this is a federal waterway, there are currently no licensed guides on the lake.

Havasu bass will be found around any kind of cover. The Bill Williams area in the southern end would be a good place to start. Also, check out Mesquite Cove, Havasu Springs and up in the Topok Gorge. Look for largemouth in and around shoreline cover, but search rocky points and under canyon walls to locate smallmouth. Explore the canyon areas, around rocky points and Parker Strip below Parker dam for smallmouth. There are a number of fishing access points on the lake, to include fishing docks. Surface lures may be the best bet in the spring during low-light conditions, but during the day, bass seek deeper water. Jigs and deeper lures are the best bet then. For information, contact BassTackleMaster in Lake Havasu City at (928) 854-BASS.

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake, in Tonto National Forest, lies about two hours northeast of the Phoenix complex, struggling to quench the city's unending thirst. Bass experts agree that the bass here are always anxious to bite. A nutrient-rich forage base of shad and bluegills grows bass quickly. Warmer water and shallow, brushy coves create great spawning beds as well. The bass population really exploded in 1990 with the implementation of a slot limit.

March likely will find the Salt Arm and Tonto Arm murky with runoff. Local expert Rory Aikens recommends fishing turbid waters slowly with noisy, scented lures. The northern shore of the Salt Arm is characterized by rocks and drop-offs where bass can be found. They gather near the northern shore around Salome Cove as well. The southern shoreline is marked by numerous brushy small coves — perfect for spawning bass and a good choice for shoreline fishermen. Guide Kyle Mayes, from Hooked Up Outfitters, recommends the submerged mesquites in Salome Cove, the back of the hump at Windy Hill near the middle of the lake, and Rabbit Island in the west. Rabbit Island has a brushy shoreline and vegetative cover that hides some rod busters.

There are lots of submerged trees and bass just waiting to wrap your line around those trees where Tonto Creek enters the lake. The rest of the lake is marked by coves, reefs and the dam section. Early spring bass move up into these shallow coves and flats. Plenty of smallmouth are found in deep, cold water near the dam and also around Bass Island. Warm, sunny days encourage them to move into shallow, warmer water around points and drop-offs.

Patagonia Lake State Park

About an hour's drive from Tucson lies a sleeper lake that regularly produces large numbers of bass and not infrequent 5- to 8-pounders. Patagonia is a largemouth-only lake, small in size at some 250 acres. Plentiful sunfish, shad and frogs grow healthy bass. It is likely that extra pounds result from snacking on cold-season trout stockings. Shoreline brush and water vegetation, such as cattails, provide cover for the large bass population. Several Christmas tree bundles have been placed in the lake for additional cover.

Don Mitchell, regional Fisheries Program manager, recommends hitting Cattail Point in the Ash Canyon Cove at the west end of the lake. Fish the cattails and the submerged acquatic vegetation just past the cattails. He also says the breaks between bunches of cattails hold lots of bass. For big rodbenders, Mitchell says "flip" worms or jigs right into the cattails. Across from the marina is a shoreline with large rocks. Big fish are often taken there. Early spring will find lots of smaller bass congregating at creek inlets yearning for a small lure to attack.

Cold water will push them into deeper water, while warm, sunny days tempt them into warmer, shallow waters. Mitchell says Patagonia is a boat-friendly lake with limited shoreline access. There is a campground, marina and boat launch on the lake. An automatic entrance gate closes at 10 p.m. and doesn't open until 4 a.m. Contact the Lakeside Market & Gift Shop for information at 520 287-6965. It sells day-use and annual permits.

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