After failing to make Bassmaster’s top 10 list for the previous three years, and not even making the top 100 list in 2012, Santee Cooper is back, in a major way. The lake system, consisting of Lakes Marion and Moultrie, and locally referred to as the Upper and Lower Lakes, is ranked number two on the list of best bass lakes in the nation.

Part of the reason for the jump in rankings is a stellar performance by FLW tournament angler Bryan Thrift last March. Thrift won the 3-day event with a total weight of 79-15, and he was one fish shy of the limit on the second day of the tournament. 

Thrift’s last trip to the scales in that tournament was five fish that weighed 30-7, better than a 6-pound average. During the same tournament, another angler weighed in five fish for 32-1, and during a Fishers of Men tournament last May, it took 32 pounds to win.

The Santee Cooper Lakes were known as a bass fishing hotspot in the 70s and 80s, but hit a lull for quite some time due to a number of factors, so it’s good to see it’s back, and getting the credit it deserves.

Here is the complete Top 10 for 2016:

1. Toledo Bend, Texas/Louisiana [185,000 acres]

2. Santee Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina [110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively]

3. Clear Lake, California [43,785 acres]

4. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo]

5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California [1,100 square miles]

6. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota [132,000 acres]

7. Lake Berryessa, California [20,700 acres]

8. Rodman Reservoir, Florida [13,000 acres]

9. Falcon Lake, Texas [83,654 acres]

10. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles]