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— The word is now out on one of the region’s small hidden gems and one of the best bass fishing spots in the country. Lake Columbia, nestled just outside Magnolia and built in 1986 as a freshwater source and recreation area, has been named to Bassmasters annual listing of the top 100 bass fisheries in America.

The 2,950-acre lake may not boast enormous size — some inlets and coves on other lakes listed are actually bigger than Lake Columbia as a whole — but what it lacks in area, it more than makes up for in wall-hanger-sized bass.

Columbia ranked 21st on Bassmasters’ list among the central states. The area includes most of the Midwest and mid-south. Out of the 25 lakes named in each region (Central, Western, Southwestern, and Northeastern), the top 100 bass fisheries were compiled.

“Things are good right now at Columbia,” said Jason Olive, a biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

According to AGFC’s own “A-Tip” tournament reports, Lake Columbia in 2018 was the number one bass fishing lake in the state. It is again on pace in 2019 hold that title.

“Probably the first thing [Bassmasters] looks at is tournament results,” Olive added.

Bassmasters leans heavily on its state contacts within game and fish organizations as well as B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and “far-reaching” searches for bass tournament data to determine its top 100 list. Bassmasters monthly magazine has traditionally revealed its annual list every July. Lake Columbia appears in this month’s issue, along with the rest of the ranked lakes. It is the lake’s inaugural appearance among the top 100.

The bass fishing organization also uses sampling results as a determining factor for its list.

“You’ll find great fishing in this small lake near Magnolia, Arkansas,” said the Bassmasters description of Lake Columbia. “Biologists report 10-percent of the bass they shocked up were longer than 20 inches, and 2018 creel surveys revealed 60 percent of anglers caught at least one bass topping 5 pounds. And to win tournaments here, you generally hit the mid-20-pound mark.”

Over a five-year period, AGFC A-Tip report records indicate that Lake Columbia ranks only behind Millwood Lake near Ashdown for bass fishing in Arkansas.

So why now? What’s made Lake Columbia gain so much notoriety? Simply put, big bass and lots of them.

“Columbia has had some really phenomenal tournament results over the last couple of years,” said Olive. “When the lake re-flooded, we got some really good spawns in those first few years. Those are the 4- and 5-pounders we’re seeing now.”

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