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2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship


This is it! The big conclusion to a competitive 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule!

Tour Review

What an Elite Series season!

We just wrapped up the 2016 season with an unbelievable event at Mille Lacs Lake. Man, what a fishery!

That place is remarkable. It is loaded with giant smallmouth and is the best lake for big, brown fish that I’ve ever fished.

As good as it was when we were there the best is yet to come. The fishing at Mille Lacs will get better in a couple weeks when those smallmouth start schooling up and putting on the serious feedbag.

The lake provided an exciting venue for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of Year Championship. Congratulations to Gerald Swindle for locking up his second Toyota Angler of Year title following a really strong season of consistency.

It was a pretty decent season for me, and it’s hard to believe I’ll be starting my 27th year as a B.A.S.S. pro next January.

Unlike previous years, next season we will fish two regular season events prior to the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe.

But there is still plenty of work to do in 2016 for most Elite pros.

A lot of people think that after our season ends, we just slide into an easy chair, prop up our feet and watch football.

That’s hardly the case. The truth is I’ll be busier with promotional functions in the coming months than I was during the tournament season. For example, I fly to Alaska today to treat a sweepstakes winner with a fishing trip. When I come back I will be filming a lot of TV fishing shows, commercials and attending several media events for sponsors. I also have a smallmouth trip with the winner of the Bassmaster Sweepstakes in northern Michigan coming soon.

And then there’s the business end. With next year’s Elite Series beginning before the Bassmaster Classic, we have to get our new boats rigged and ready earlier than normal, renew sponsor contracts and start planning for the following season.

My wife Sherry will be equally busy plotting the logistics of the spring promotional season, working with sponsors on appearance dates and making travel arrangements for the 2017 tournament season. That in itself is a full-time job for most Elite wives who handle booking of flights during travel, lodging for the tournament sites as well as other obligations we face during the fishing season.

Most people only see the major company sponsors on our jerseys as we walk across the stage at a Bassmaster event and think it’s all about making a living while fishing. It’s not all glamor; to get to that point, there is a ton of work involved behind the scenes that takes away from family life and other non-tournament activities that recreational anglers get to do.

You have no idea how badly I just want to grab my bow and climb into a treestand during bow season, or hook up my boat and spend a week chasing fall smallmouth in northern Michigan without any obligations.

Having said that, I also know I have the greatest job in the world, one that I absolutely love, am passionate about and feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.

Because, after all, it’s all about the attitude!

What an amazing smallmouth fishery!

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!

KVD with GMAN, AOY 2016!
2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship
Mille Lacs Lake, Mille Lacs, Minnesota
Sep 15 - Sep 18, 2016


Seth Feider - 76-5
1. 25-8, 2. 24-11, 3. 26-2
Brent Ehrler - 69-13
1. 25-5, 2. 20-14, 3. 23-10
Dave Lefebre - 67-12
1. 21-2, 2. 23-7, 3. 23-3
Tommy Biffle - 67-5
1. 21-2, 2. 24-8, 3. 21-11
James Elam - 67-3
1. 23-8, 2. 21-1, 3. 22-10
Alton Jones - 67-0
1. 22-9, 2. 22-1
Jason Williamson - 66-8
1. 25-8, 2. 19-11
Matt Herren - 66-6
1. 23-14, 2. 24-9
Drew Benton - 64-15
1. 21-14, 2. 21-8
Kevin VanDam - 64-3
1. 23-1, 2. 20-13
Brandon Palaniuk - 63-14
Boyd Duckett - 63-14
1. 21-10, 2. 22-7
Takahiro Omori - 63-11

History & Notes;

Big Bass

Day 2: Casey Ashley: 6-0

Day 2: Brent Ehrler: 6-10