ONAMIA, Minn. — The Top 50 bass anglers in the world will compete for their share of a $1 million purse. The rankings will be based on points earned from their finishes at the eight previous events, including how well they finish at Mille Lacs during the AOY Championship. This tournament is not won by the angler who weighs the largest limit of bass; rather, the top angler in the AOY standings after the championship will be awarded $100,000. The remaining $900,000 will be handed out to the other 49 pros based on where they finished in the points.
There will also be a minimum of 36 berths in the 2017 Classic up for grabs. Spots will be awarded to the Elite Series anglers based on their AOY rankings.
This is the first time the Elite Series has ever visited Mille Lacs, which has garnered the reputation of being one of the finest smallmouth-bass fisheries in the nation. In fact, Bassmaster Magazine’s panel of experts picked the central Minnesota lake as No. 6 on the 100 Best Bass Lakes of America for 2016.
Mille Lacs is located about 100 miles north of Minneapolis, and with 132,516 acres, the giant lake is the second-largest inland lake in the state.
Minnesota fishing guide and Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens angler Josh Douglas thinks Mille Lacs will show her true colors during this event.
“It’s been a wet summer, and the lake is a different color than what’s considered normal,” Douglas said. “I don’t think that will slow the bite, however. I believe the fish will be feeding heavily in preparation for winter, so we could see some of the largest smallmouth of the year. There will be numerous limits near, if not exceeding 25 pounds.”
Douglas said while unlikely, a 30-pound limit of five smallmouth bass is certainly a possibility.
“I know a 6-pound average is possible with the resident smallmouth. I’ve caught them like that in the past, but a limit that heavy would surprise me,” he said. “The largemouth will be a factor, too. I just don’t think a guy will likely find 20 pounds of them each day over a three-day period. But, it is possible.”
Anglers will fish Thursday and Friday, Sept. 15-16, and on Saturday all 50 anglers will be on-site for Bassmaster University and Military and First Responders Appreciation Day. Bassmaster University, a series of seminars from professional anglers and B.A.S.S. staff, will offer meet-and-greets, bass-fishing advice as well as discussions on products and services from local vendors and sponsors.
The anglers will return to the water on Sunday, Sept. 18, for the final day of competition, with the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year being crowned at the final weigh-in.
From watching the first boats take off and the final weigh-in at Grand Casino Mille Lacs on Sunday, to participating in the family-friendly Bassmaster Elite Series expo with many national and local vendors, the activities planned throughout the weekend are free and open to the public. Companies like Mercury, Nitro, Skeeter, Triton and Yamaha will have booths at the expo and will offer demo rides. Toyota, Minn Kota, Humminbird, Livingston Lures, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Carhartt, Lowrance, Huk, Power-Pole and Shimano will also exhibit.
Other activities planned throughout the weekend at the Bassmaster AOY Championship include games and prizes for attendees, Kids Zone, and angler autograph and photo sessions.
Takeoffs will occur daily at 6:40 a.m. out of Eddy’s Resort in Onamia, Minn., and weigh-ins will take place at Grand Casino Mille Lacs beginning at 3:45 p.m.