What a fishery. What an incredible smallmouth fishery!
We’re here of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of Year Championship on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota, and I’m blown away by the quality of the smallmouth in this lake.
And to think we’re not even hitting it at the best time!
I’ve fished for smallmouth all over the Great Lakes, Canadian waters, New York and all the way to Maine. My home state of Michigan has absolutely some of the finest smallmouth in the country.
But what is happening here is something very special. I’ve never seen so many big, old smallmouth in one lake.
This is my first time here, and while I had heard the stories, seen TV shows filmed here and knew it was pretty good, I had no idea it had this many giant smallies.
What’s crazy is the fish are in transition, meaning they’re starting to move from summer to fall haunts, so they are scattered and not concentrated in specific areas. The fishery isn’t even at its peak like it will be in a couple of weeks.
Yet, in my 2 1/2 practice days, I caught six bass over 6 pounds! And just look at the weights the first day – there were 23 limits weighing 20 pounds or more and 31 limits weighing over 19 pounds. Keep in mind this is only a 50-boat field, so nearly half the competitors caught 20 pound bags the first day.
Mille Lacs has long been known as a walleye lake and for good reason. However, the walleye fishing has suffered in recent years due to a variety of environmental factors and the Minnesota DNR has taken steps to bring it back.
In the meantime, the focus has shifted to the phenomenal smallmouth fishery that has gone overlooked for years which is why the lake is so full of giant, albeit older, bass.
I don’t know how old these big smallies are, and I’ve heard some locals claim they are 15 to 20 years old. All I know is the fish I’ve caught appear physically to be older than what we see in Michigan and the Great Lakes. They are built like giant sunfish and don’t look like any smallmouth I’ve ever caught.
Without question, this tournament is going to put this lake in the spotlight and will no doubt bring more bass traffic to the region.
For that reason, it’s critical that the Minnesota DNR and the local anglers do all they can to manage the fishery because these trophy smallmouth are not a renewable resource.
I think the state DNR realizes that and will take all the precautions to protect it from a collapse similar to what happened to the walleye fishery. State officials were at the AOY tournament rules meeting and let us know that everyone is working hard to not only showcase the fishery but manage it properly. In fact, the DNR is recording data on every fish we catch to help them get a handle on what lives here and how to manage and protect it for the future.
So my hats off to them and here’s hoping that Mille Lacs remains a tremendous smallmouth fishery for years to come!
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!