Minnesota Top Class in Bass
By Greg Breining
Some of the best bass fishing you can find, you'll find in Minnesota. Yes, in Minnesota, the walleye state. Yes, in Minnesota, where nary a bass fisherman speaks with a southern twang.
Granted, walleyes may be the state fish. And Minnesota doesn't cough up 10-pounders in the bass department. (The state record largemouth bass, caught in 2005, weighed 8 pounds, 15 ounces). But, for numbers of bass, and amount and variety of fishing waters, Minnesota is hard to beat.
"It's really amazing," says Steve Quinn, an editor of In-Fisherman magazine. "Often we'll have visits from lure-company representatives and they are literally blown away by the action. How many you can catch in a day is far greater than in some of the states that are known for bass fishing."
"Quality and quantity," says National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame angler Al Lindner. "I've fished all over the country. There's no comparison to the overall average bass fishing - our lakes are loaded with them, all sizes."
Largemouth bass occupy the shallow lakes of southern Minnesota's farm country. Big bass swim Minneapolis lakes within sight of downtown skyscrapers. The state record was caught on the fringes of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Largemouth also live in almost every large lake in central and northern Minnesota's resort areas, such as Brainerd, Park Rapids, and Grand Rapids. For that reason, it's easy to combine bass fishing with a family vacation of golf, sightseeing and other recreation.
Overlooked in the Land of 10,000 Lakes are 69,000 miles of natural streams. Many of these waterways harbor hard-fighting smallmouth bass - and some big ones at that.
"We have huge smallies swimming in some of the most scenic settings imaginable," says author and fishing guide Tim Holschlag. Many of Holschlag's repeat clients travel from other states to spend a day or two casting flies to smallmouth bass on a wild Minnesota river or the wilderness lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. "So many big fish in such uncrowded, beautiful settings," says Holschlag, "does it get any better?"
Going bass fishing in Minnesota isn't hard. Any resort can put you in touch with an experienced fishing guide. If you'd prefer to go out on your own, you won't have trouble, either. Minnesota has pursued an aggressive program to provide public access to state lakes and streams, so nearly all good fishing water is easy to reach. Many lakes have fishing docks for shore-bound anglers. Many of Minnesota's state parks provide good bass fishing close to campgrounds and activity areas such as hiking and biking trails, so nonanglers can have fun too.
Best time of year? Fishing is often hot when the season opens in May through early June. (Season dates vary across the state, so check regulations on DNR website.) Good fishing usually lasts well into fall.
Given the wide variety of bass waters in the state, tackle and tactics vary. In the fertile waters of southern Minnesota, where weed growth is heavy, opt for buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and worm rigs with heavy line and stiff rods. But in the clear water of many northern lakes, light lines and more subtle presentations often work better.
For smallmouth on the state's streams, light baitcasting or spinning tackle with small plugs and jigs work well. Medium-weight fly tackle with popping bugs and streamers is also effective.
If anything, it's becoming easier to catch big smallmouth in Minnesota. Why? As anglers realize Minnesota's smallmouth are an angling treasure, catch-and-release has caught on and is showing results. "It amazes me how good our fishing continues to be," says Lindner. "The other day I caught four."