If you don’t mind a few steep grades, sharp curves and gravel roads, hook up your boat and hit the road for Apache Lake. This smallmouth bass hot spot is a 17-mile-long impoundment that winds through spectacular desert scenery 32 miles from Apache Junction, east of Phoenix. The last 10 miles are gravel and some folks refuse to trailer their boats over this stretch, but keep in mind that over the past decade Apache has gained a reputation as one of the best smallmouth bass lakes in the West. Three- to four-pound fish are caught regularly. In March, both shad and bass move into the shallows, so find the baitfish and you’ll find the bass. Throw diving crankbaits, jigs or Rat-L-Traps-just as long as the lure is something that resembles a shad. Crayfish are abundant as well and crankbaits in crawdad patterns can also draw smallmouth strikes. Apache Lake has a marina, a restaurant, three motels, boat rentals and two campgrounds. A resident fishing license is $18. Nonresidents pay $51.50 for the season, $12.50 for one day and $26 for five days. Contact: Arizona Game and Fish Department (480-981-9400); Apache Lake Resort (520-467-2511).