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Top Places for Bass Fishing in Minnesota

Top Places for Bass Fishing in Minnesota
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Samsel

Walleyes draw the most headlines, but don't let that fool you. Countless rivers and lakes in all parts of Minnesota offer outstanding opportunities to catch largemouths and smallmouths alike from the season opener through well into fall. Here's the scoop on three of the best bets for bass fishing in Minnesota.

Duo Realis Crankbait M65-8A

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 8 feet

A highly detailed crankbait, the M65 confronts bass with a realistic baitfish appearance plus sound generated by a metal plate and steel ball. Available in two models and a variety of colors, this crankbait is effective in both stained and clear water.

Price: $12.99

Sebile Action First Bull Crank

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 4-7 feet

Patrick Sebile's Bull Crank is an excellent lure, especially at that low price point of $6.95. The Xternal weight system helps to keep a low center of gravity, dig deep, and stay on track, reducing the need to tune. It features a wide body to increase visual presence.

Price: $6.95

Storm Arashi Silent Square Bill

Length: 2 1/8 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 3 feet

The Square Bill's self-tuning line tie lets you burn it and still have it track straight. The circuit board lip provides strong vibration up the line and helps the lure deflect well in cover, especially downed trees.

Price: $8.99

Gary Yamamoto Chikara

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 2-4 feet

This popularly-priced, rattle-equipped crankbait is designed to be worked through heavy cover and still get the job done. The Chikara features internal 3D holographic foiling that provides flash and cannot be chipped. The lure's value is enhanced by Mustad Triple Grip treble hooks.

Price: $7.99

Strike King KVD-1-5-Flat Side

Length: 2 ¼ inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 8-10 feet

This flat-side crankbait has a good thumping action and a tight wobble, and that means it's a great crankbait for cooler months or highly pressured lakes. Adding some weight to the hooks helps to cast the relatively light Flat Side on baitcasting gear, especially in windy situations.

Price: $5.79

Rapala Scatter Rap Crank

Length: 2 inches
Weight: 5/16 ounce
Depth: 6-8 feet

On a medium or slow retrieve, the Rap Crank is amazing: it tracks straight, then pops laterally and juts back onto the original track, ready for the waiting strike.

Price: $8.99

Spro Baby Fat John 50

Length: 2 inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 0-2 feet
Spro Baby Fat John 50

This smaller version of the established Fat John effectively imitates smaller forage, and works on spotted and smallmouth bass as well as largemouth. It runs shallow at any speed, and its fiberglass lip makes it kick out and 'hunt ' frequently before returning to true.

Price: $12.03

Bass Pro Shops XPS Square Bill

Length: 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 5 feet

It's a good-looking lure, and fine quality for a hard-to-beat price. The XPS rattle is subdued, which is nice for spooky bass. The oval split on the line tie helps it run straight and avoid line slipping between rings.

Price: $4.29

Megabass Knuckle Jr

Length: 2.2 inches
Weight: 3/8 ounce
Depth: 1-3 feet

You'll be a megafan of Megabass lures because of their innovation and uncanny attention to detail. The Knuckle Jr.'s two-position adjustable bill really gives you two lures in one, making it easier to swallow the premium price.

Price: $4.29

Livetarget Bait Ball Square Bill

Length: 2 3/8 inches
Weight: 1/2 ounce
Depth: 3-4 feet

The Bait Ball is a crankbait with realistic 3D baitfish bodies inside the main body. The smaller lures inside cleverly mimic a school of shad. This crankbait casts very well and has a tighter wobble than most square bills, making it a perfect crank for clear water.

Price: $14.99

Lake Minnetonka

Extreme convenience to the Twin Cities and a long-standing reputation for excellent fishing keeps fishing pressure heavy on Lake Minnetonka. Fortunately, this 14,000-acre lake can handle the attention well and yields excellent largemouth fishing year after year. Tournament anglers consistently enjoy big success on Minnetonka, with bass that average approximately 2 ½ pounds.

Minnetonka is a complex lake, with multiple basins that vary in depth, bottom make-up and even fertility. What that means from a practical standpoint is that you can catch fish a host of different ways and that a good bite is pretty much always happening somewhere. Focus on shallow vegetation early in the year and follow the fish to deeper weeds as the year progresses.

Mille Lacs

Walleye anglers curse Mille Lacs smallmouths, but bass fishermen drive long distances to do battle with big, mean bronzebacks. Love 'em or hate 'em, big bronzebacks call this 128,000-acre lake home in a big sort of way, and they serve up outstanding fishing through the warm months. Any rocky reef is likely to have smallmouths huddled about it through much of the summer. Assorted soft plastics and big walking topwater lures draw the bass' ire.

With smallmouths flourishing and walleye populations down, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has put into place controversial new regulations that will open the smallmouth harvest.

Lake Vermilion

Walleyes, muskies and pike garner the most lake attention at Lake Vermilion, which spreads across 40,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota and is dotted with rocky islands, but smallmouth bass absolutely abound in lake's dark waters. Although Vermilion is vast, its many cuts and channels allow you to pick a section and treat it almost like a smaller lake. Focus on rocky points and reefs, and it shouldn't take long to find some cooperative smallmouths. Most are 2- to 4-pound range, but any fish that bites could turn out to be genuine giant.

Also, don't overlook the Vermilion River, which flows out of the lake, and big smallmouths that get even less pressure than those that live in the lake!

Don't forget to share your best bass photos with us on Camera Corner for your chance to win free gear!

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