LAKE AUDUBON - For the second consecutive year the national publication, "Bassmaster" has placed Lake Audubon on the Top 100 list as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the U.S. Lake Audubon was ranked 71st in the U.S. a year ago. It came in at 87th in the May issue of Bassmaster.
"It still made the list. Based on the research that I saw it is extremely healthy and has a ton of smallmouths in it," said James Hall, Bassmaster editor in Birmingham, Ala. "It certainly deserves to be in the Top 100. The population of "smallies" really puts Audubon up there and there's some good ones too."
No question about that. Lake Audubon has been turning out good-sized smallmouth bass for several years running. Yet, despite high numbers of quality smallmouth, most anglers pass on the chance to catch them in favor of chasing walleyes.
"I'm always amazed at that, especially on the northern lakes where you don't see many people targeting smallmouth bass," said Hall.
The North Dakota Catch-and-Release Club has seen a growing number of smallmouth bass entries in recent years. The Badlands Bass Bandits, a club devoted to fishing bass, hosts at least one tournament a year on Lake Audubon. It ranks as one of their most productive events each summer.
"Right now, nationally, it is the golden days of bass fishing," remarked Hall. "Lakes are as healthy as they've ever been. Typically bass fishing in every state in the nation is better than it's ever been."
Lake Oahe, S.D., ranked 55th on the list. Fort Peck reservoir in Montana came in 75th. Rated No. 1 was Lake St. Clair, Mich.
"It is No. 1 because the smallmouth fishery there is historic and always one of the best in the nation," explained Hall. "The difference now is that you can have just as good a day on largemouth bass in the shallows. Couple the two together and it's crazy, impossible to beat. It certainly deserves to be No. 1."
The selection process for this year's Bassmaster Top 100 differed from the inaugural list in that 3,500 regular bass fishermen, not touring professionals, were asked to supply information about what they consider their most productive bass lakes. One lake new to the list is Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., a lake that gained national recognition in the movie comedy "What About Bob."
"That one rated incredibly high on the surveys from anglers in that region," noted Hall. "It's hard to argue with success. I was inspired to agree with them."
According to North Dakota Game and Fish Department records, smallmouth bass were first stocked into Lake Audubon in 1990 when 84,000 fingerlings were released. Jason Lee, NDG&F fisheries biologist, annually surveys smallmouth bass on Lake Audubon. Last year's survey revealed that Lake Audubon's ""smallies"" were doing very well.
"The catch rate last year, compared to past years, was right up there," said Lee. "We check several different sites every year for bass population. The size looks good and there are a bunch of younger fish, too. We do get natural reproduction of smallmouths in Audubon."
In the winter of 2011-12 there were several Whopper Club smallmouth entrants taken from Lake Audubon. This past winter creel surveys confirmed that ice fishermen who targeted smallmouths did well. Lee says he expects smallmouth fishing to remain strong at Lake Audubon this summer.