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Mohave Smallies

If you are looking for a rod-bending experience, consider casting your favorite bass bait into the crystal-clear waters of Lake Mohave. Long in the shadow of Lake Mead, one of the West’s premier bass fishing destinations, Lake Mohave is quickly earning its own unique reputation for producing big bass that will let you know they took your bait.

Historically, largemouth bass were the only species of black bass found in Lake Mohave, but today it is the Micropterus dolomieu variety that is capturing the attention of anglers visiting the fishery. Considered by many to be America’s best-fighting freshwater game fish pound for pound, the species is commonly known as smallmouth bass. But you might also hear anglers refer to the fish as a smallie, bronze back, brown bass, brownie and bronze bass among others.

Mohave does give up some bronze-colored smallies, but the reservoir has a growing reputation for producing fish with a strikingly mottled complexion in olive colors ranging from very dark to light. Some anglers consider Lake Mohave smallies to be among the prettiest around. In this part of the country anyway.

Smallmouth bass are native to central and eastern North America, but today there are few states where populations of this popular game fish have not been established. The first reports of smallmouth bass being caught in Lake Mohave came from anglers in 2008. Then in 2009, biologists officially documented the presence of smallmouth bass in the reservoir. Today smallmouth bass consistently account for a significant portion of the fish weighed in during competitive bass fishing tournaments held at Lake Mohave.

The current lake record smallmouth bass weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces and was caught by Tim Myers of North Las Vegas in March 2019. There also is a rumor that a young angler from Southern Nevada reeled in a fish from Mohave that surpassed the 8-pound mark. There are some who believe the reservoir will soon produce the new state record smallie, but that will require a fish weighing in at more than 8 pounds, 11 ounces. The smallmouth bass that set that mark came from Sheep Creek Reservoir on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation.

What bass angler would not want to battle the fish that will best that mark?

When asked why smallmouth bass seem to do so well in Lake Mohave, Lisa Ozborn, NDOW fisheries biologist, attributed their success to the simplicity of the habitat found in the reservoir. That, along with its clarity and rocky nature favors smallmouth bass.

“Compared to Lake Mead, the shoreline at Mohave is less complex. There are no large water in-flows like the Las Vegas Wash that create shallow, slow-moving, and turbid environments. The water that does enter the reservoir at Hoover Dam moves quickly through its length. Coves on Lake Mohave are relatively small and exposed to the water of the main channel. Much of the shoreline consists of rocky points and submerged ridges, which is perfect habitat for smallmouth bass,” said Ozborn.

Though its smallmouth bass are attracting the attention of anglers looking for a good fight, Lake Mohave remains a popular destination for largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish and panfish. Bluegill and green sunfish can provide anglers with some good action.

Like largemouth bass, smallmouth bass are a predatory fish that eat any critter small enough for them to swallow such as other fish or crayfish. Anglers can catch smallmouth bass using conventional fishing gear with soft plastic baits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs and topwater lures. Fly fishing gear is also effective.

Due to the rugged nature of its shoreline, access from land is limited. For those who own a boat, launch ramps can be found at Willow Beach, Cottonwood Cove and Katherine Landing. Each of the three marinas also provide a livery service where anglers can rent a boat or paddle craft.