Pennsylvania is a bass angler’s dream come true, with 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and lakes that provide a variety of opportunities to pursue largemouth and smallmouth bass. Now is the ideal time to investigate the finest locations and methods for capturing these highly sought-after game fish, as the weather warms and the fishing season gets underway.


  • Pennsylvania offers excellent bass fishing for both largemouth and smallmouth species.
  • Top largemouth spots include Marsh Creek Lake, Raystown Lake, and Lake Arthur.
  • Prime smallmouth waters are the Susquehanna River, Juniata River, and Youghiogheny River.
  • Effective lures include plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater baits for largemouth; tube jigs, crankbaits, and live bait for smallmouth.
  • Anglers should follow regulations, practice catch-and-release, and support conservation efforts.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass thrive in the slower, warmer waters of ponds, lakes, and sluggish rivers. These aggressive predators are known for their explosive strikes and powerful fights, making them a favorite target for anglers of all skill levels.

Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass

Top Largemouth Bass Fishing Spots

  • Marsh Creek Lake (Chester County): This 535-acre lake within Marsh Creek State Park is renowned for its excellent largemouth bass fishing. Anglers have landed trophy-sized bass, including some over 40 inches long.
  • Raystown Lake (Huntingdon County): One of the premier bass fishing destinations in central Pennsylvania, Raystown Lake offers ample opportunities to catch largemouth bass, with many fish exceeding the 15-inch minimum size limit.
  • Lake Arthur (Butler County): Located within Moraine State Park, Lake Arthur is a popular spot for largemouth bass fishing, with plenty of structure and cover for these ambush predators.

Read More: The Complete Guide to Pennsylvania’s Best Fishing Hotspots

Largemouth Bass Tactics

When targeting largemouth bass, anglers should focus on areas with abundant cover, such as fallen trees, submerged logs, lily pads, and boat docks. These fish are ambush predators, so casting near these structures can often trigger explosive strikes.

Effective lures for largemouth bass include:

  • Plastic worms (Texas or Carolina-rigged)
  • Crankbaits
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Topwater lures (poppers, frogs)

Live bait, such as minnows or crayfish, can also be highly effective, especially when fished on the bottom or under a bobber.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass prefer the cooler, faster-moving waters of rivers and large streams, thriving in areas with gravel bottoms and rocky structures. These hard-fighting fish are renowned for their acrobatic leaps and relentless battles, making them a favorite among fly anglers and lure enthusiasts alike.

Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass

Top Smallmouth Bass Fishing Spots

  • Susquehanna River (Eastern Pennsylvania): The Susquehanna River is a smallmouth bass hotspot, with special regulations in place to protect and enhance the fishery. The stretch from Sunbury downstream to Holtwood Dam is particularly productive.
  • Juniata River (Central Pennsylvania): Flowing through wilderness and mountain areas, the Juniata River offers excellent smallmouth bass fishing opportunities, with catch-and-release regulations in place from Port Royal downstream to the mouth.
  • Youghiogheny River (Southwestern Pennsylvania): This 134-mile river, known for its whitewater rafting, also boasts diverse habitats and rock formations that make it a prime destination for smallmouth bass anglers.

Smallmouth Bass Tactics

When targeting smallmouth bass, anglers should focus on areas with rocky bottoms, ledges, and current breaks. These fish are opportunistic predators, so presenting lures or bait in a natural, enticing manner is key.

Effective lures for smallmouth bass include:

  • Tube jigs
  • Crankbaits
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Topwater lures (poppers, walking baits)

Live bait, such as crayfish, minnows, or hellgrammites, can also be highly effective when fished on the bottom or drifted in the current.

Regulations and Conservation

Pennsylvania has implemented various regulations to protect and enhance its bass fisheries, including:

  • Big Bass Program: Special regulations on designated waters to increase the chances of catching trophy-sized bass.
  • Catch-and-Release Seasons: No-harvest periods during the spawning season to protect spawning bass.
  • Size and Creel Limits: Minimum size limits and daily creel limits vary depending on the water body.

Anglers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the current fishing regulations and practice catch-and-release whenever possible to ensure the sustainability of Pennsylvania’s bass populations.


Whether you’re a seasoned bass angler or just starting out, Pennsylvania offers a wealth of opportunities to target these exciting game fish. From the tranquil waters of state park lakes to the rushing currents of renowned rivers, largemouth and smallmouth bass await your next cast. So, grab your tackle, check the regulations, and get ready to experience the thrill of bass fishing in the Keystone State.

Remember, responsible angling practices and conservation efforts are crucial to preserving these fisheries for generations to come.

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