Fishing at sunset

Head South for Outstanding Bass Fishing

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Fishing at sunset / Ulrike Schorn-Hoffert
Fishing // Southern Minnesota // Article

Head South for Outstanding Bass Fishing

By C.B. Bylander

Bass anglers who visit southern Minnesota can easily hook into some outstanding fishing.

The southernmost area of the state is known for its variety of lakes as well as the Mississippi, Minnesota and other rivers that pop up in and around the area’s small towns.

Man holding a white bass

Showing off a white bass caught while winter fishing in Red Wing / @sieglerphoto

On the eastern side of the state, the Mississippi River’s sprawling backwaters and mile-wide pools offer excellent opportunities for catching largemouth and smallmouth bass. Slightly inland, the Root River is a great choice for those who want to pursue smallmouth bass while taking in the historic Bluff Country scenery.

In south-central Minnesota, the Waterville, Faribault and Waseca areas are among the go-to destinations for largemouth bass in the region. Southwest Minnesota—encompassing the prairie and Minnesota River Valley areas—features mostly shallow lakes better suited for ducks than bass. Still, anglers have options.

An advantage of fishing southern Minnesota lakes in the spring is that they warm more quickly than northern lakes. As a result, bass spawn earlier and begin biting sooner. Catch-and-release smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing begins on inland lakes and rivers in mid-May, but the actual bass fishing season (when you can keep what you catch) opens in late May. (Season dates vary across the state, so check the DNR website for specific dates.) The statewide bass limit is six.

Ready to cast your line? Explore these options.

Where to Go Bass Fishing in Southern Minnesota

Largemouth bass Mississippi River Winona

Largemouth bass pulled from the Mississippi River in Winona / Jennifer Weaver

Mississippi River

The bass fishing season never closes on the Mississippi River’s Minnesota-Wisconsin border. The continuous season enables bass anglers to fish year-round from Hastings all the way south to the Iowa border. That’s roughly 150 miles of fishing.

One of the most popular destinations is Lake Pepin, a spectacularly wide pool nestled below towering bluffs that serves as the eastern boundary of Lake City. Lake Onalaska, a 7,688-acre pool further south at Dresbach, is another popular angling destination.

Root River

This popular river has three branches: north, south and middle. All are shallow wading and drifting waters that meander through scenic hardwood hills and valleys. Some stretches are home to brook and brown trout.

Good fishing can be found on the North Branch downstream from a canoe access just west of Chatfield on Highway 2. Similarly, there’s good fishing on the South Branch downstream from the charming city of Lanesboro, where canoe rentals are available.  

Big bass

Largemouth bass / Brett McComas

South-Central Lakes

There’s also good fishing just east and west of the I-35 corridor. Clear Lake in Waseca—a catch-and-release only bass fishing lake—contains largemouth up to 20 inches long. Mazaska Lake northwest of Faribault is a great all-around fishing lake. Nearby Cedar, Shields and French lakes are excellent options as well.

The Jefferson Chain of Lakes and connected German Lake are popular bass fishing destinations near Mankato. Nearby Washington and Madison lakes are also good for bass anglers.

Southwest Lakes

Those looking for a quiet little lake should consider Del Clark Reservoir at Stonehill Regional Park near Canby. No waterskiing is allowed, making it a peaceful place to fish and camp.

Big Stone Lake is home to plenty of white bass and some largemouth in its sound end. This large lake is 27 miles long and covers more than 12,000 acres along the Minnesota-South Dakota border. The bass angling season is continuous on this border lake.

C.B. Bylander

C.B. Bylander is a hunter, angler and outdoor enthusiast. He lives on a small lake in Crow Wing County. Now retired, he spent much of his career working for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.