Minnesota’s World-Class Bass Fishery
– The Best Bass Fishing Lake in Minnesota –
Mille Lacs was recently ranked 10th in 2015’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” (Bassmaster)
As the news about this gem of a bass lake continues to multiply, it attracts bass anglers from all across the United States. Lake Mille Lacs’ area fishing guides have known about the lake’s excellent bass fishing for many years. Tony Roach, the owner of Roach’s Guide Service, is a guide as well as a tournament angler and outdoor communicator, and he said his “smallmouth trips are up tenfold.”
“Mille Lacs should come with a warning label,” cautions Roach. “Smallmouth bass fishing on the lake is highly addictive and can consume anglers’ thoughts and minds."
The lake’s size and its abundant smallmouth structure are factors in Mille Lacs’ growing fishing popularity.
“After being named Top 10 Bass Lake, we began seeing more anglers at the dock, but you don’t encounter many anglers on the water,” says Roach. “Mille Lacs has very little angling pressure—it’s a bass angler’s dream. It’s a huge lake with lots of structure and, not only lots of fish, lots of really big fish that are always biting. The growth rate of bass in Mille Lacs is slow due to the water’s cold temperatures. A 20 to 21-inch fish may be 11 to 15 years old.”
Another area guide and resort owner, Terry McQuoid, with McQuoid’s Inn, has been fishing Mille Lacs for more than 25 years.
“Bass fishing on Mille Lacs is phenomenal,” says McQuoid. “There are always 4 to 6-pound bass—even 7-pounders are very common. It’s continued to get better over the last 15 years and now the publicity is catching up with it.”
Most bass fishermen in the area practice catch and release and there is an active chapter of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (MLSA). At a recent MLSA banquet, McQuoid said the quality of Lake Mille Lacs’ smallmouth fishing was compared to a hidden jewel with the possibility of becoming the “Lake Fork of the North”—the iconic bass lake in Texas known for trophy bass.
“What’s a good day of bass fishing?” says McQuoid. “30 to 100 bass, probably with 20 to 30 of them five pounds and up on a fairly regular basis.” Even on what McQuoid would call a “mediocre day,” it means 25 to 30 smallies in the four to five-pound range.
When you hook a smallmouth on Mille Lacs, be prepared for spectacular leaps and determined dives unrivaled among freshwater fish. They put up a big fight and there’s nothing more exciting than a Lake Mille Lacs smallie exploding from the depths to strike a topwater lure.
And the best part of fishing smallmouth on this huge lake? There’s plenty of lake—and bass—to go around.
Tips for Smallies on Lake Mille Lacs
Tony Roach’s Tips:
One of my favorite techniques in the spring and fall is jerk baits. I love throwing x-raps #10s. Some of my best colors are white, pink, clown, and yellow perch. The key to catching big fish is long pauses. Most of the bass hit on the pause. The colder it is, the longer the pause. You can easily rack up a 100-fish day pretty quickly when they are on the chew.
Seasonal Tips from Tutt’s:
Early Spring to Mid-June – On opening day (May 14–27 catch and release only, May 28 may keep four fish, with only one over 21 inches), pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn conditions vary from spawning to being “locked” in on the nest, to pre-spawn feeding. Due to Mille Lacs’ size, there is usually a combination of conditions. Water temps and winds are the deciding factors. Mille Lacs smallmouth will spawn from one foot deep to 8–10 feet. Popular spring lures are lipless crankbaits (pre-spawn), hard and soft stick baits, tube jigs, spinner baits, and finesse worms.
Mid to end of June – This is the toughest time to pattern fish. Usually after the spawn, the bigger females retreat to recover. Locating big fish can be challenging. Smaller males can be caught on the nest guarding the fry. Search areas where fish spawned early. They will get on their summer pattern earlier than their late-spawning relatives.
End of June to September:
This is a favorite time of the year to catch lots of smallmouth on Mille Lacs with more stable weather and the fish locked in on the structure, becoming predictable. “Connect the dots” using the marker buoys and fish the easy-to-find, shallow rock reefs scattered throughout the lake.
Popular lures are topwater baits:
buzz baits and poppers, spinner baits, crankbaits, soft plastic stick baits (Gulp sinking minnows), and tubes, spider grubs, or any jig plastic combo that imitates a crayfish. When jig fishing the rocks, keep the jig size light—heavier jigs hang up. Fish the tops early and late (low light) and the sides and breaks as the day progresses.
The fish tend to school, foraging on crayfish and small perch. Later, when young minnows show up by the thousands, smallmouth go after the easy prey.
The other summer pattern is in deep-water. Many believe there are huge schools of smallmouth sharing deep water with the walleye. Most of these fish have never seen artificial bass bait. Good electronics will find them, then try deep cranking, drop-shotting, and finesse jigs.
Cool water triggers a migration of yellow perch to the shallow, weedy areas of Mille Lacs. Smallmouth bass begin to change their forage from crayfish to perch and other small fish. Smallmouth ambush prey along weed edges 3 to 10 feet deep. Try spinnerbaits, small swim baits, chatter baits, small crankbaits, or jig-n-worms.
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