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Bass Fishing Colorado - The Best Spots in the State

  • By KayakPro
  • Last Update: July 1, 2020

Good things come to those who bait. The Western state of Colorado is home to jillions of bass, catfish, panfish, walleye, and bluegills. To fish or not to fish is a dumb question.

The state’s water bodies have an oversimplified image of only harboring trout. While the cold water of Colorado does reduce the growth season for other fish as compared to the southern states, there are still plenty of other species to be had. The best example of this is the record largemouth bass at 11 pounds 6 ounces caught in 1997 by Jarrett Edwards.

Why Choose Colorado for Bass Fishing?

Whether you are high altitude sailing at lake Dillon, Cliff Camping in Estes Park, Canyoning in Ouray, or just sitting on the banks of a lake, Colorado is perfect for fishing bass.

Abundance of Lakes

Miles and miles of fishable lakes, rivers, and streams may be one answer. Colorado is the abode of over two thousand lakes and reservoirs and about six thousand fishable miles of rivers, streams, and estuaries flow through the land, making it a fisherman’s heaven.

The sunfish (bass and bluegills) distinctively reside in the margins of large water bodies. In springtime, many lakes offer boatless fishing from the shoreline.

Another perk of these lakes is that several organizations host tournaments in these lakes and rivers. Colorado Parks and Wildlife now maintain fisheries for trophies due to increased demand for quality largemouth bass fishing.

Fly Fishing

Bass dwell in the shoreline and remain within easy casting range in the summer months and springtime in the state. This enables anglers to lure fish with artificial flies by casting using a fly rod, reel, and specific weighted line.

While it may be considered tougher than other fishing techniques, fly fishing is partly mental and partly physical work and does not necessitate using a boat.

As they say, life is a game but fishing is serious. Rejuvenate, relax, and patiently fish in blue lakes bordered by views of the Craggy mountain peaks.

Best Colorado Bass Fishing Spots

At the end of the day, there are tons of great bass fishing spots littered throughout Colorado. However, if you’re looking for the best of the best, we’ve got you covered. We have listed the five best lakes and reservoirs to go bass fishing in Colorado.

Pueblo Reservoir

Pueblo Reservoir is home to abundant largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, walleye, and trout that can be gamed all year round. Spring is a perfect season to fish bass as they head to shallow waters for spawning.

Located west of Pueblo, the lake is located at a high altitude of 4690 feet and is spread across 4500 surface acres, lined by 60 miles of shoreline.

The lake is filled by the Arkansas River, and the bountiful foliage on the margins provides the bass with a desirable spawning environment. All three variants of bass are well-nourished in the vicinity of this ideal merger of food and water.

The fish here are typically at a minimum of fifteen-inches in length. Smallmouths longer than twenty inches and even larger largemouth bass are easily spotted. An exceptionally long spotted bass holds a state record from this lake.

The lanky waters provide anglers with some mind-blowing opportunities to the eye and then aim the cast for a particular fish. Surface flies and lures of various types are used for fly fishing. Spinning gear and wacky-rigged unweighted Senkos are ideal flies to use on the surface of the water.

Subsurface lures should be shad or crayfish imitations. Smallmouths are easily spotted in the upper surfaces of water. Largemouths are found deeper and spotted bass are found even deeper.

The lake is served by two boat ramps, several campgrounds, two marinas, and many day grounds. Fly fishing in the early hours of summer and spring season is popular here though, so no boat is typically needed. If you do choose to go the boat route though, it can only be used on the lake after it has been inspected.

The boaters should ensure that their boat, the trailer, and all adjoining equipment must be clean and dry as the lake houses zebra mussels. Boaters must also pay attention to the boat inspection timings. 

Horsetooth Reservoir

The fall is a wonderful time to fish bass at the Horsetooth Reservoir. The spring spawn timing is affected due to the generally colder six and a half-mile long reservoir that lies to the west of Fort Collins. 

This lake spans across nineteen hundred acres but the western portion is divided by a number of coves that attract fish because of a relatively warmer temperature of the water. Other factors that attract smallmouth bass to the coves are the presence of crayfish and forage fish in the lanky cove water.

Another spot to locate bass is the backs of the creeks, also on the west end of the lake.

Horsetooth is home to those sleek cylindrical rainbow smelts, spot tail shiners, emerald shiners, gizzard shad, and of course some Colorado bass.

Aim for the rocky portions of the lake to catch bass. Underwater rock humps and rock points are bass’ favorite spots. When bass fishing, use lures that imitate the local feed of bass, resembling rainbow smelts and gizzard shads.

If you choose to go here, you’ll be able to The admittance to the reservoir is provided for a light day fee. There are multiple day grounds and many options to stay overnight as well. Camper cabins and boat-in campsites are available, and boats can be rented on the lake’s marina too.

McPhee Reservoir

Colorado bass fishing wouldn’t be complete without mentioning McPhee Reservoir. McPhee is a large lake in southwest Colorado. It is a ten-mile long lake with a surface area of 4470 acres and fifty miles of shoreline.

It is at a little distance from Mesa Verde, Dolores, and Cortez. McPhee abounds in smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, rainbow trout, walleye, northern pike, kokanee salmon, and perch. Anglers primarily use boats to fish at this lake, with a boat ramp for easy access.

The main fishing spots are at Big Ben, Sage Hen, Dolores, and Dry Canyon. Depending on the release of water, the tailwater under the dam structure also provides ideal access.

Anglers use your standard baits here, with trout available all year round, and walleye abound in the spring months. The period of turnover from spring to the summer season is perfect for smallmouth bass fishing.

The lake regulations impose limits on the number of fish that may be caught. Trout is limited to four, kokanee salmon is limited to ten per bag, while walleyes and northern pike can be bagged limitless.

For bass fishing, small and largemouths of ten to fifteen inches long are not allowed to be caught, while big bass over 15 inches are limited to five. What’s cool about McPhee Reservoir is that guided fishing trips and boat rentals are available on the spot.

There are seventy-one campsites at McPhee campground, twelve tent sites, and two sites accessible for the handicapped.

If you want to get in a little education while you’re there, a museum of archaeology and local history, the Anasazi Heritage center on the southern margin of the lake, depicts prehistoric Native American cultures.

Chatfield Reservoir

Smallmouth bass and Trout are the predominant species found at Chatfield Reservoir, with a surface area of 1500 acres and a shoreline of twenty-five miles. The two-mile-long lake is popular for fishing, boating, camping, and hiking.

A perfect warm waterbody, this lake provides an ideal home to walleyes, yellow perch, bluegill, channel catfish, carp, sunfish, crappie, sunfish, rainbow trout, and bass.

Similar to other spots on this list, Chatfield Reservoir has marinas and boat ramps available for use. However, some of the more fishable portions of the lake are better accessible by hiking even though the state lake is a popular boating location. There are also numerous spots at the margin to fish from. Also, there is a special accessible portion for fishers with handicaps.

Chatfield is quite close to Denver and is a recreational hotspot. When you’re not bass fishing, swimming, waterboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing, motor boating, sailboarding, paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing are prevalent on the lake in the summer months.

If you are on the hunt for some Colorado bass though, early morning and late afternoon is the suggested time for anglers to set sail.

Rifle Gap Reservoir

Rifle Gap is made up of 350 acres and provides all year round lakeside campgrounds open for bass fishing, while boats are limited to April through October.

Situated 6000 feet above the sea, this reservoir abounds in trout, smallmouth, largemouth, pike, and walleye.

The smaller coves along the north shore and the shallow rocky waters are ideal locations for fly fishing. The rocks are housed by crayfish which attract bass and are easily approachable from the ramp.

The smallmouth spawn in the shallow waters of the coves. Run crayfish baits and flies for those ten to fourteen-inch bronzeback smallies. Crayfish crankbaits and 4-inch senkos are perfect for fishing near the ramp.

If the water is off-color, use green lures or crawdad candy for bass fishing. This state lake is also famous for ice fishing.  The lake, on both sides of the Rockies, promises a great time of fishing in Colorado.

Aurora Reservoir

This waterbody of 800 acres holds a record for the largest smallmouth bass both by weight and by the length in the state while largemouth bass, rainbow trout, walleye, and catfish also reside in abundance.

It is common to find largemouth over seven pounds in these waters. Most fishermen around this place go for trout, the bass remains your game. 

The fish are plenty in the jagged and covered portions of the lake, eastern and southern edges. While there are many jagged spots on the eastern edge, there are majorly three coves on the southern side.

A paved trail surrounds the lake so the banks are easily approachable. Work along with the points and in the depths of the coves and in shallow flat areas.

Boats and kayaks are allowed on the lake as long as they are not gas charged. Electric and non-motorized boats are allowed.

The yellow perch, spot tail shiner, crankbaits and jerk baits that all look like small perch are ideal choices of the lure. Watermelon and brown colored crayfish baits are also very useful. The bass fishing season starts in April and peaks in May.

What to Get for a Great Day for Bass Fishing?

Layered Clothing

In Colorado, a hot sunny day can turn into a chilled night with no warning. Your dress up is usually the last thing you think over when planning a day of great fishing. Don’t depend on the weather forecast and take our advice.

On extra sunny and hot days, wear board shorts over compression pants to ensure protection for the blazing sun. Trust us, no amount of sunscreen will stop your skin from burning. Stay cool in breathable and comfortable clothing.

Often, the weather will be cold in the morning and will eventually warm up. Wear breathable and waterproof bibs and jackets over your shorts and upper. Dressing in these layers gives you the advantage of peeling off the top layers as the day gets hot.

Fishing in winter and cold water will require more insulation. Wear muck boots with long over the knee wool socks, fleece pants, and waterproof insulated bibs. A close-fitted thermal, thick upper, and a waterproof insulated jacket will protect your upper body from freezing.

You could catch a cold or fall in the water, so always carry extra clothing. Wear your outermost layer on arriving at the lake and use hand warmers to protect your hands from freezing.

It is advisable to dress in three layers:

Base layer: Wear thermal innerwear in winter and light innerwear in summer.

Mid-layer: Wear full sleeves of arms and pants. Probably compression suits that’ll keep you covered and protected from sun damage. Use a thick pullover hoodie in winter.

Heavy layer: Wear a  waterproof and insulated outer bib and jacket. If you are fishing through a tough day on the water, be prepared in keeping your body warm.

Wear Sunglasses: They’ll protect your eyes from sun exposure, make your vision comfortable, and more focused on fishing. Sunglasses also serve to protect your eyes from injury by the many fishing hooks around you. Amber or copper tinted polarized sunglasses work best at the lakeside.

Lures and Their Variety

One extremely important advice when it comes to bait is, to simplify your attack. It is important to stay comfortable and light. For this, use a few lures that work for multiple species and just one or two fishing rods.

Crankbaits work well for covering water. Jig heads work best at different depths. General stick baits and rigged plastic baits are useful in heavily weeded waters where they don’t get stuck.

Short anglers should use a strong braided line. It should be small in diameter to permit longer casts and strong enough to pull back a lure caught up in weed or some other obstruction.

We have listed some popular and useful lures for you to choose from based on your requirement:

Bass Jig: A big bass will most often bite this jig than other lures. Jigs are versatile and cover entire water bodies in all seasons. They can be useful in almost all types of fishing environments. That’s why they are generally used bait. 

Jigs can be flipped, skipped, pitched, and swum. Most people prefer arkie jigs.

The bass jigs are used in combination with a trailer that is an imitation, like a grass pig.

It takes time to learn the different ways and techniques of using jigs and it is worth it.

Spinnerbaits: These lures can attract bass while covering the whole water. They are simple to fish and do not get stuck in weed. The bass is attracted by their flash and spin blade action and vibration, even from a distance of many yards. 

The different types of blades in the market, Indiana blade, Colorado blade, Willow blade, will affect the traveling speed of the bait.

The depth you are fishing at determines the weight of the bait. It is common to attach a trailer along. ⅜ oz spinnerbaits are most commonly used.

Plastic worms: Rubber worms look and feel like real worms. When a bass holds on to this lure longer than it does other lures because it feels like it’s real food. This lure is capable of avoiding weeds the best. And there is less chance of losing it as the hook fits into the worm’s body firmly. There are innumerable varieties of plastic worms to choose from and attract the fish.

Crankbaits: This lure can cover a whole water-body in less time and can be used in both shallow and deep waters. The shallow water crankbaits are available in three sizes and a large variety of colors. 

Topwater baits: These baits are used on the top of the water. The bass aims and leaps to grab them which is fun to watch. 

They create ripples on the surface of the water and create splashing sounds which the bass is unable to resist. These baits are best used early morning, late afternoon, and at night when the light is low and the lure is easily visible to the bass.

Get a Colorado Fishing License

Bass Fishing Colorado

It is easy to obtain a Colorado fishing license. You can register for different types of fishing licenses through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. The registration can be made for both in-state Colorado residents and out-of-state non-Colorado residents.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife department needs the following details:

  • Name, residency, a little personal information
  • Choice of the type of license: Duration of acquiring the license and the number of rod permits
  • Verification of purchase and delivery method selection

The following are some facts you must know:

Completing these steps will make you a permitted fisherman in Colorado. The website remembers your information if you re-register for an expired license.

The following are the types of fishing licenses offered in Colorado :

  • Single-day
  • Annual
  • Additional day
  • Extra rod stamps

Non-residents of Colorado are only eligible for five-day licenses. To apply for the license, you also have to purchase a ‘Wildlife Habitat Stamp’. All people older than 16 years need to acquire a valid license.

Residents with disabilities and army veterans over 60 percent disabled can apply for a free fishing license. The first weekend of June, every year, is a free fishing day in Colorado.

You can order your license online, on phone (1-800-243-5613), or from a licensed retailer or CPW location. A short-term fishing license doesn’t have a paper copy. A long-term fishing license must arrive within fourteen days by mail.A Short-term license will expire at midnight on the last day of validity.

An annual long-term license needs to be renewed before 31 March the following year to continue fishing. The state of Colorado does not share the fishing license with other states.

Best Time for Fishing in Colorado

Springtime

Spring is the perfect time to go bass hunting in Colorado. Because of the state’s higher altitude, the season does arrive later than other states, but the water temperature starts increasing by the end of May and the beginning of June.

The bass begins to feed closer to the shore in shallow warm waters to prepare for their annual spawning. Springtime is calmer than Summer owing to the absence of recreational sports on lake waters.

Wintertime

The prime ice-fishing time in Colorado is from December to February. Many lakes including the lake Aurora, Pueblo reservoir freeze during the winter months so that you can get on to the lake and fish out trout, bass, and walleye.

It is important to stay safe and wear warm, layered, and comfortable clothing while going out for sport in the cold. Most lakes put up ice-rescue stations for this season. 

Conclusion

Decorated by river canyons, snow-capped Rockies, bone-dry desert, and splendid waterbodies, Colorado is home to a ballet of outdoor adventure and thrill. If you are a fan of bass hunting, you’d definitely want to catch it amidst a high altitude lake surrounded by mountains. Tight lines, soft breezes, good friends, plenty of bait, it doesn’t get any better.

Survival Pocket Knife FAQs

Colorado is situated at a higher altitude. The warmer lakes do have a shorter growth time for the fish, but there still are excellent opportunities for anglers to catch bass. 

There is abundant bass in the shallow flat lines and coves of all these grand lakes in springtime although it is possible to fish them all round the year. The record largemouth bass of 11 pounds and 6 ounces was caught in Colorado.

There is abundant smallmouth bass in Colorado. Pueblo Reservoir, McPhee Reservoir, Rifle Gap Reservoir, and Aurora reservoir have bulks of smallies in their waters. You’ll spot thousands of them near the shore if you visit during springtime.

No. Neither of the three varieties of bass, (smallmouth, largemouth, spotted) is native to Colorado. The native fish of the state are Cutthroat trout, Brook trout, Lake trout, Kokanee Salmon, and Mountain Whitefish.

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