Plan Early for Mille Lacs Smallmouths

If you love fishing for bass, you probably pay attention to the tournament circuits and know that B.A.S.S. selected Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs for the first time to host the Toyota Angler of the Year Championship in 2016.

It was an historic event in terms of the numbers of big fish caught and released by the top 50 professional anglers competing in the tournament. The national publicity for the lake meant area resorts and businesses catering to anglers were busy and will continue to be so when the gamefish seasons open May 13.

Traditionally known as one of Minnesota’s finest walleye fisheries, in actuality, Mille Lacs features four top gamefish species: muskellunge, northern pike, bass and walleyes. And while smallmouths are getting all the press these days in terms of their giant size and overall numbers, you’ll be able to find plenty of largemouth bass to angle. A structure fisherman’s dream, you can choose from a variety of locations to catch by casting or trolling the shallow sandy shorelines and numerous rock reefs or deep gravel bars and mud basin.

You’ll want to start planning now if you’re traveling from out of state to experience this bass mecca. While Minnesota bass anglers have known the bounty of Mille Lacs for years, the vast majority of travelers drive right by Mille Lacs en route to destinations farther north. True, numerous fantastic fishing destinations lie elsewhere, but if smallmouths are your addiction, you won’t find a better spot right now to cure you.

The numbers don’t lie. Look at a year-over-year comparison of the 2015 AOY Championship held on Sturgeon Bay and the 2016 Mille Lacs event. Both events featured the top 50 qualifying pro anglers, each angling for five-fish limits over three days of competition. Both tournaments were held in mid-September of their hosting year.

Sturgeon Bay, absolutely one of the finest smallmouth spots in the nation, yielded the following stats:

         • Four, Day One limits exceeding 20 pounds

         • A 19-pound Day One limit secured fifth place

         • A 20th place bag on Day One, weighing 13 pounds, 2 ounces

         • A 30th Place bag on Day One, weighing 10 pounds, 3 ounces

• The 40th place bag on Day One weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces

         • A Day Three winning weight of 53 pounds, 4 ounces.

         • Two anglers broke the 50-pound mark over three days.

The 2016 Lake Mille Lacs results comparatively:

• A 30th place bag on Day One, weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces

        • The 40th place bag on Day One that weighed 16 pounds, 14 ounces

        • A Day Three winning weight of 76 pounds, 5 ounces

        • Forty-one anglers broke the 50-pound mark over three days.

Lake Mille Lacs is a fishing lake, first and foremost. This body of water boasts a storied history and will be featured and documented for an upcoming MidWest Outdoors “Legacy” article. Its waters has had bass fishing taking center stage on a national scale and has incredible numbers of walleyes, the Minnesota state fish.

Families will find plenty to enjoy in the region as well with a variety of accommodations and price points, local shops and artisans, summer beaches and water sports, golfing, fine dining, bars and community events, all to inspire the fishermen who vacation here. Launch charter fishing is a popular option for groups as well as for individuals seeking an affordable way to access Mille Lacs. These are offered by many of the resorts on the lake. Typical trips run four hours for less than $40 per person, with fishing gear and bait provided. Excellent professional fishing guides are available for hire to help you learn the hot spots and current tactics for boating the most fish. Local bait shops and sporting good retailers will help you rig up with the hot lures and gear.

Many prime spring and summer dates are filling up fast at Lake Mille Lacs. Now is the time to start researching resort websites to get your questions answered and to find the perfect spot for your fishing vacation at one of Minnesota’s top multi-species lakes.