Are Largemouth Bass Native to Virginia? Northeast Bass History

Last update:
Sharp Top Mountain's base, with clouds mirrored in Abbott Lake, Bedford, VA.

Largemouth bass are native to the southern half of Virginia and most of the Southeast and Midwest. The majority of Virginia has native populations, which makes it an excellent state to fish for largemouth bass. Largemouth bass are also in the areas of Virginia without native populations. 

Largemouth bass are part of the backbone of sport fishing in the United States. While they aren’t native to the entire country, many parts of the Midwest and East Coast, including Virginia, have native populations.

Native Largemouth Bass in Virginia

Everything south of Albemarle County has native populations of largemouth bass. Everywhere from the coast to the state’s border shared with West Virginia is filled with native populations. 

While the state has an impressive native largemouth bass population, stocking programs regularly occur to keep the numbers safe. Largemouth are one of the state’s most heavily targeted freshwater fish. Because of this, the Virginia Game and Fish Department works hard to keep populations healthy. 

Where to Catch Native Largemouth Bass

Lucky for bass anglers, Virginia has over 170,000 acres of public lakes for anglers to fish. While not every lake has largemouth bass, many do, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them. 

Buggs Island Lake 

Buggs Island Lake is the largest lake in Virginia. With nearly 50,000 acres of water to fish, anglers have no trouble catching healthy largemouth bass. This reservoir is located on the southern border and falls into North Carolina. 

While it doesn’t host a ton of trophy largemouth bass, it does have decent-sized fish that average in the 12- to 18-inch range. Since it is a reservoir, water levels fluctuate, so be prepared to travel back into the creeks when the water is high and stick near the main lake when the water is low. 

This lake gets especially hot during the spring spawn, so make sure you fish it then. 

Burton Lake

A southern lake that’s known to hold large fish is Burton Lake. Some experts say that nearly 25 percent of the bass in Burton Lake measure over 20 inches, so you have a great chance of landing a trophy. 

The lake is catch-and-release only for largemouth bass, so if you hope to mount or keep any of the bass you catch, I suggest you fish elsewhere. 

After fishing Burton Lake, I can attest to its excellent bass population. I enjoyed the chase of those larger fish. I could be more picky with the methods I used to entice some of those giants. It isn’t guaranteed, but with patience, landing a 20-plus-inch fish is possible. 

Smith Mountain Lake & Smith Mountain, in Virginia, USA.

Smith Mountain Lake

For years, largemouth bass fishing tournaments have taken place on Smith Mountain Lake. This 20,000-acre lake is in the southern part of the state and fishes like Buggs Island. Being that it’s another reservoir, you’ll find that water clarity and depth change often. 

During the spawn, try to fish in the lower part of the lake since it’s clearer and easier to navigate. Outside of the spawn, you’ll have plenty of success in the upper part of the lake as long as you can locate the fish. They can be hard to find, but you won’t be able to get them to stop biting once you do.

How to Catch Native Largemouth Bass

Native largemouth bass will be savvier than stocked fish. Native populations of bass are still around for a reason. They’re strategic and don’t fall for poorly presented baits.

You shouldn’t have to drastically change your methods if you want to land them. Be more precise, and you should be okay. 

Be Pesky

Native largemouth bass may not fall for your lure the first time. They often need a bit more convincing than one good cast. If you know there are fish where you’re casting, don’t give up after a few minutes. Present your bait from different angles and retrieve it at different speeds. 

Since bass spend so much time in cover and structure, it can take a while to figure out exactly how they want the bait presented. I’ve found that the angler willing to work a “fishy” section of water will catch more fish.

I’ve lost plenty of lures and become extremely frustrated on several occasions, but when I know fish are around, I don’t give up until they’re in the boat. 

Fish the Spawn 

There’s no better way to learn about native bass than fishing them during the spawn. The bass are in the shallows, sitting on beds, and overly protective of their area. They bring out their territorial personality and often strike at anything near them. 

They aren’t biting your lure out of hunger. They’re biting based on pure aggression. If you want a great chance at landing a native bass, fish the spawn.

When in Doubt, Find Structure and Cover

Native bass are good at hiding and ambushing their prey. If you’re new to a body of water, start with whatever structure and cover you can find. Docks, rock piles, submerged logs, and vegetation are great places to start.

Native largemouth bass do not venture out into open water. They sit and wait for their prey to swim by, and then they use their speed to make the kill. 

Close-up pic: Lake fish Largemouth Bass with rocks, underwater.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Keep Native Largemouth Bass in Virginia? 

Yes, you can keep up to five largemouth bass daily in Virginia. Most lakes don’t have a size limit, but some do, so make sure you check local regulations. 

What is The Best Time of Year to Bass Fish in Virginia? 

Spring and fall are the best times to fish for bass in Virginia. In the spring, bass are spawning, and in the fall, bass are fattening up for winter. 

Does Virginia Have Good Bass Fishing? 

Yes, Virginia has phenomenal bass fishing. Due to their high native populations, you’ll find that they continually produce big largemouth bass.

What States are Largemouth Bass Native to? 

Largemouth bass are native to the Great Lakes Region, Hudson Bay Region, Mississippi Basins, and parts of Southern Quebec. Almost every state east of Texas has pockets of native largemouth bass, except for some Northeast states. 

Are Largemouth bass invasive? 

Yes, largemouth bass can be invasive. Lakes that have non-native largemouths introduced undergo an adjustment period. Since largemouth are predators, they can wipe out smaller fish populations and eradicate some native populations.


Today, native fish populations are becoming more heavily protected. Thankfully, largemouth bass are tough fish that can withstand various changes. Southern Virginia is home to a large population of largemouth bass ready for anglers to enjoy.

Follow the Game and Fish Department’s guidelines, and the native population will be in place for anglers to enjoy for generations to come.

Danny Mooers Avatar


Leave a Comment