Opportunities abound in the Magnolia State for busting bass. Mississippi is full of time-proven lakes of the highest rank. Whether it’s lily pads in a cove, stands of cypress trees, flooded, dying timber, deep creek channels, grass beds, submerged trees or fields of stumps — we have it all.

“When I think about classic Mississippi bass fishing, I’m thinking Ross Barnett,” said bass pro Brock Mosley of Collinsville. “Some people have mixed feelings about that, because it can be tough, but bass fishing anywhere in Mississippi can be tough. I like Ross Barnett though, I always have.”

Large lakes and reservoirs like Ross Barnett draw a lot of attention, anglers and tournament fishing, and fishing them can be tough.

Fortunately, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks operates 20 lakes across the state that offer another option for anglers to get in on some fishing that’s unmatched. These intensely managed lakes cover more than 4,000 acres of water.

Take a look at five of them, and some effective, old-school lures that will land you in the middle of some great bass fishing.


Calling Panther Lake

When bass fishing is discussed, one of the first lakes that come to mind for Magnolia State anglers is Calling Panther, which is 5 miles west of Crystal Spring in Copiah County. It has become one of the state’s hottest bass-fishing destinations. There are a lot of bass and some ridiculous-sized bass hiding out in the 512-acre state lake.

To grow really big bass, there must be an abundant food supply. 

“The lake holds an excellent forage base, with threadfin shad, crawfish, frogs, and bluegill bream being the primary food sources,” said Ryan Jones a regional biologist for MDFWP.

The area’s topography consists of steep hills and deep hollows, which provides a lot of features to target below the surface, a tremendous amount of cover and structure for the bass to hide and hunt for food — and that includes your favorite lure. When the lake was initially filled, there was a significant amount of standing timber along with numerous deep creek channels.

Jerry Brown, MDWFP’s state lakes coordinator, remembers when the lake first opened

“It looked like a flooded forest,” he said.

A time-tested lure that works well at Callling Panther is the plastic worm — like an original Mister Twister purple firetail. Rig it Texas-style, and it won’t be prone to hang up in the underwater timber.

Elizabeth Moree, a pro staffer for Fishing Frenzy, said, “I like a black, Zoom Trick Worm fishing the structure at Calling Panther; junebug red also works as well. And, sometimes, I will go to a Senko.”

Rig a Senko wacky style, let it fall into a channel and get ready. Top colors are classic watermelon, junebug or other natural colors.

“My favorite time to fish here is spring for big bass, but when the July weather turns hot, I will target the creek channels,” Moree said.


Lake Bill Waller

Located in Mississippi’s Coastal Region, 7 miles southeast of Columbia in Marion County, Lake Bill Waller is an old state-fishing lake that’s been renovated twice. 

Covering 168 acres, the lake was impounded in 1975 and blew out in the 1983 flood. It was repaired, restocked and reopened in 1985. It closed again in 2004, was renovated and opened back up in 2007.

If you like structure, Bill Waller is your lake. 

“Standing timber still remains throughout the lake providing an enormous amount of structure for bass anglers,” said Stephen Brown, an MDWFP biologist. “The ample stick-ups, stumps and standing timber make it fun to fish, but not for the faint of heart if you worry about dinging your fiberglass boat.”

The lake has lotus, white lilies and watershield that provide pads of all sizes. In addition to standing timber, three creek channels provide some deeper edge habitat for bass throughout the summer.

Bill Waller is well known for providing anglers with a good chance at trophy bass as well as catching numbers.

“Bass fishing in south Mississippi begins to heat up in January, which is markedly earlier than in the large central and northern reservoirs of the state,” Brown said. “Despite all of the obstacles presented through timber and vegetation, Lake Bill Waller produces a great bass population providing anglers a better than average chance of landing an 8- to 10-pounder in late winter and early spring,”

The water remains clear throughout the year. It becomes stained right after large rain events but clears quickly. Clarity in July will be high.

Proven lures that produce are the Heddon frog or classic chartreuse Scum Frog worked across the pads. Uncle Josh’s Pork Frog, rigged as a trailer on a weedless spoon, could tempt a lunker, too. Pulling a Jitterbug or twitching a Hula Popper next to the pads works as well. Hit the standing timber with a short rod and a Mepps spinner.


Simpson County Lake

Acquired from the American Legion in 1961, this lake was closed and drained for repairs in 1991. Restocked and reopened in 1993, it’s well known for its quality largemouth bass.

“The water is mostly clear, but it’s fertilized during growing season,” said biologist Jones. “During this time, clarity typically stays above 20 inches with a shade of green.”

A healthy and diverse forage base is available for Simpson’s bass: bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth, golden shiners, frogs and crawfish, according to Jones.

The lake has plenty of areas for anglers to target bass: shallow coves with numerous stumps, creek channels, points extending into mid-depths and deep water, and deep structure along the levee. Big bass are sure to be under the grass beds along the margin and hanging out near the deep ledges in the main-lake area when the weather is warm.

A lure that works well — and shockingly, a lot of anglers don’t have in their tackle boxes — is arguably one of the best lures of all time: the original floating Rapala.

The Rapala can be fished from the surface to the darkest of depths. It’s effective as a topwater lure fished as a wake bait at slow speeds just below the surface or as a twitch bait, almost like a popper. It goes subsurface on a fast retrieve and can be fished at a steady speed, burned or presented as a jerkbait. Colors that will produce strikes at Simpson are original shad, shiner, and fire tiger.

Fish the edges all the way around the lake, which should keep you busy for a while. Try the shallow coves early and in evenings when it’s cooler. Be patient, there’s bass of a lifetime in Simpson Lake.


Lake Jeff Davis

Lake Jeff Davis has been a bass-catching honey hole since opening in 1963. The 100-acre lake was completely renovated in 2010, with Florida-strain largemouth bass used to restock the lake. The MDWFP also increased the number of bream in initial stockings to help boost the forage base for bass. Today, the main food sources for bass are bream and crawfish.

Willow trees grew in shallow areas and in coves while water levels were down during renovation. Since then, they have stared dying off from being submerged. The dead trees remain under the surface and provide excellent habitat for bass.

Lake Jeff Davis provides anglers opportunities for both numbers of fish and trophies. 

“(This) has been a good year at the lake for bass anglers, with several large fish being caught,” Jerry Brown said. “I expect that to continue as the initial stock of bass ages.”

Good places to target bass are plentiful. Several patches of grass are located along the shoreline, along with fishing pier pilings and stumps in coves. Fishing the outside edges of the willow trees in deep water is a good idea during the summer.

Fish attractors were added earlier this year. The GPS coordinates are listed at www.mdwfp.com/fishing-boating/fishing-reports/lake-jeff-davis/.

“The water is clear at times in Jeff Davis; it can be so clear that it takes long casts so the bass won’t see you,” said angler Preston Dean from Lawrence County. “When it’s hot, I will go to a medium- or deep-diving crankbait next to the levee.”

The good ol’ Bomber Model A works well in Jeff Davis. It’s a go-to lure for July bass. Try one that’s chartreuse with a black back. Dean also fishes white spinnerbaits in deep water close to structures.


Lake Bogue Homa

The largest state fishing lake, Bogue Homa, is at the top of the list as one of the best bass hot spots in the region. The fishery is thriving, and large fish are common. Anglers will find good numbers as well as fish with trophy potential.

Cypress trees, knees, and stumps abound in Bogue Homa providing great bass habitat. 

“It is a shallow but expansive reservoir with large flooded cypress trees in the middle to upper end of the lake. The lake contains submerged vegetation and some lotus and white water lilies,” said biologist Brown.

MDWFP has reduced the amount of invasive plants to open up large areas of the northern end of the lake so some of the creek channels can be accessed. 

“Since removing a large portion of the water hyacinth that was causing access problems, the water clarity has declined a bit,” Brown said. “However, usually the lake is clearer in July when the rain lessens. It’s a typical southern Mississippi lake with a clear to tannic brown tint due to the pine forests in the watershed.”

Cypress trees that line the upper main channel provide perfect ambush areas for largemouth. From summer into early fall, bass tend to hide on the shady side of the big trees.

Standing the test of time, the vintage Rat-L-Trap is a perfect go-to lure for Bill Waller. 

“The shallow depth of the lake makes it perfect for lipless crankbaits,” Brown said. “For a change of pace, try 8- to 10-inch plastic worms in motor oil and junebug colors fished along the gradual slopes of the channel and bounced around the cypress stumps,” Brown said.


The last word

A wealth of new lures are marketed every year, and anglers often bite on the latest-and-greatest fad. Most “new” lures aren’t really new at all — just modifications to what was invented years ago. We tend to overlook or forget about the classics. Our great state flourishes with classical bass fishing waters and you will probably find all the time-honored lures needed in your tackle.