There’s a simple reason that bass fishing is fun and easy for beginners: Bass aren’t picky. This warm-water species lives in all kinds of conditions—meaning, practically everywhere—and they are territorial fish that bite on a wide variety of baits. And when they bite, especially smallmouth bass, they put up a good fight.
Bass like shade and cover (think fallen logs, grassy areas and lily pads), and western Pennsylvania’s reservoirs have you covered for these conditions. You can fish year-round, but bass are most active mid-March through the end of November. Once you’re equipped with an easy-to-use setup (think about a versatile, user-friendly spinning rod and reel combo plus a few spinner baits), head to one of the lakes below to try your hand at bass fishing. Your skills won’t outgrow them either; each offers a bass habitat thriving enough to host regular fishing tournaments and even some kayak bass fishing tournaments.
Be sure to pick up your fishing license before heading out and know the state regulations—you can fish for bass year-round, but generally you cannot harvest bass between the second Saturday in April through the second Saturday in June.
North Park Lake
Best for: bass, trout and bald eagles
A mere 8 miles southeast of Public Lands’ Cranberry Township store is North Park, a mini multi-sport mecca anchored by North Park Lake. Its 75 acres provide great largemouth bass fishing, but its size and city proximity mean that it can get overfished. If you’re ready to move beyond bass fishing, North Park Lake is also stocked with trout. You’ll have more competition for the catch, namely bald eagles known as Ms. Star and Mr. Stripe, who have their own Facebook page. While you’re there, try mountain biking the 9-mile, singletrack North Ridge Loop (Red Trail). Or hike a portion of the iconic Rachel Carson Trail (blazed yellow), which continues all the way to Harrison Hills Park on the other side of the county.