Mille Lacs: Premier Smallmouth Destination

Central Minnesota's Mille Lacs historically has been known as one of the nation's best walleye lakes, but it's quietly making its mark as a premier destination for smallmouth bass.

And September is a great month to catch numbers of those fish as well as a true monster. During a national bass tournament at the 128,000-acre lake in Sept. 2016, the winning angler weighed in 15 smallmouth bass that averaged more than 5 pounds apiece.

"There's not many places on the planet like this right now," said professional bass angler Kevin VanDam.

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While the lake is huge, its smallmouth bass relate most closely to rocks. Anglers can locate those rocks — some of which are as big as small vehicles — using their electronics, and then fish close to them.

Careful fishermen will be able to spot the fish on their electronics, too. Drop-shot rigs are especially effective if the smallmouths are hanging tight to the rocks or are eating crayfish.

mille lacs

Swimbaits or spinnerbaits can be especially effective if the fish are scattered or keying more on eating baitfish, which occurs as the water temperature drops in the fall.

In an effort to protect the lake's smallmouth bass, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has instituted special regulations.

The possession is three bass (largemouth and smallmouth combined) and only one can be longer than 21 inches. All bass measuring between 17 and 21 inches must be released immediately.

— Joe Albert

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