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Top Places for Bass Fishing in South Dakota

Top Places for Bass Fishing in South Dakota
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Samsel

Nothing warms a spring day like a screaming drag and a jumping smallmouth, and after this winter, we can all use a dose of warmth. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few destinations that promise to serve up extra good bass fishing in South Dakota this year.

Lake Francis Case

Walleyes are easily the most popular species to target in this big impoundment of the Missouri River, but that's not due to lack of smallmouth opportunity. In truth, while less than 4 percent of anglers fishing Lake Francis Case specifically target smallmouth bass, the population is outstanding, with large numbers of fish and great size distribution. Early in the season, fish locations shift, with many fish moving to the lake's upper end to spawn. That spells angling opportunity because the smallies stack up in predictable places, including riprap banks and other rocky areas, and they tend to get a little dumb for a while. Boating and bank-fishing anglers alike enjoy great smallmouth action early in the season.



Lake Sharpe

Lake Sharpe, which is located immediately upstream of Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River, also offers outstanding smallmouth fishing. Smallmouths were stocked in Sharpe in the 1980s, and the population has since become well established throughout the reservoir. Along with growing in numbers, smallmouths have grown in angler interest and are second only to walleyes in popularity at Lake Sharpe. The smallmouths move shallower than normal during May and June, spawning on hard-bottom areas, and provide the best opportunities of the year for anglers working from the bank to get in on good smallmouth action.

Duo Realis Crankbait M65-8A

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 8 feet

A highly detailed crankbait, the M65 confronts bass with a realistic baitfish appearance plus sound generated by a metal plate and steel ball. Available in two models and a variety of colors, this crankbait is effective in both stained and clear water.

Price: $12.99

Sebile Action First Bull Crank

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 4-7 feet

Patrick Sebile's Bull Crank is an excellent lure, especially at that low price point of $6.95. The Xternal weight system helps to keep a low center of gravity, dig deep, and stay on track, reducing the need to tune. It features a wide body to increase visual presence.

Price: $6.95

Storm Arashi Silent Square Bill

Length: 2 1/8 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 3 feet

The Square Bill's self-tuning line tie lets you burn it and still have it track straight. The circuit board lip provides strong vibration up the line and helps the lure deflect well in cover, especially downed trees.

Price: $8.99

Gary Yamamoto Chikara

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 2-4 feet

This popularly-priced, rattle-equipped crankbait is designed to be worked through heavy cover and still get the job done. The Chikara features internal 3D holographic foiling that provides flash and cannot be chipped. The lure's value is enhanced by Mustad Triple Grip treble hooks.

Price: $7.99

Strike King KVD-1-5-Flat Side

Length: 2 ¼ inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 8-10 feet

This flat-side crankbait has a good thumping action and a tight wobble, and that means it's a great crankbait for cooler months or highly pressured lakes. Adding some weight to the hooks helps to cast the relatively light Flat Side on baitcasting gear, especially in windy situations.

Price: $5.79

Rapala Scatter Rap Crank

Length: 2 inches
Weight: 5/16 ounce
Depth: 6-8 feet

On a medium or slow retrieve, the Rap Crank is amazing: it tracks straight, then pops laterally and juts back onto the original track, ready for the waiting strike.

Price: $8.99

Spro Baby Fat John 50

Length: 2 inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 0-2 feet
Spro Baby Fat John 50

This smaller version of the established Fat John effectively imitates smaller forage, and works on spotted and smallmouth bass as well as largemouth. It runs shallow at any speed, and its fiberglass lip makes it kick out and 'hunt ' frequently before returning to true.

Price: $12.03

Bass Pro Shops XPS Square Bill

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 5 feet

It's a good-looking lure, and fine quality for a hard-to-beat price. The XPS rattle is subdued, which is nice for spooky bass. The oval split on the line tie helps it run straight and avoid line slipping between rings.

Price: $4.29

Megabass Knuckle Jr

Length: 2.2 inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 1-3 feet

You'll be a megafan of Megabass lures because of their innovation and uncanny attention to detail. The Knuckle Jr.'s two-position adjustable bill really gives you two lures in one, making it easier to swallow the premium price.

Price: $4.29

Livetarget Bait Ball Square Bill

Length: 2 3/8 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 3-4 feet

The Bait Ball is a crankbait with realistic 3D baitfish bodies inside the main body. The smaller lures inside cleverly mimic a school of shad. This crankbait casts very well and has a tighter wobble than most square bills, making it a perfect crank for clear water.

Price: $14.99

Prairie Lakes

Horseshoe Lake covers only 600 acres, and very few anglers would know its name if it had not yielded a new state-record smallmouth bass last October. It did, though, and Derek Valnes' 7-pound bass wasn't the only big smallie he caught that day.

That said, Horseshoe shouldn't nab all the attention. In truth, dozens of natural lakes of various sizes in the northeastern corner of the state serve up outstanding bass fishing. Among those best known for bass are Roy, Clear and Enemy Swim lakes, but the very best prospects are probably in some smaller lake with a name that remains little known — so far! Smallmouths generally are the main attraction. That said, several of the prairie lakes also support plentiful largemouths.

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