Sunset and a single boat on Lake Mille Lacs

Nothing Tops Lake Mille Lacs For Bass Fishing

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Sunset and a single boat on Lake Mille Lacs / Douglas Anderson
Fishing // Central Minnesota // Article

Nothing Tops Lake Mille Lacs For Bass Fishing

By C.B. Bylander

Named the nation’s number one bass lake in 2017 by Bassmaster Magazine, Mille Lacs continues to deliver high-quality catches. Take it from me, a former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources professional who has fished the lake for more than 30 years.

Here is how to make the most of its many prime smallmouth bass spots.  

Seth Fieder, Bassmaster Tournament, Mille Lacs

Seth Fieder at Mille Lacs' Bassmaster Tournament  / B.A.S.S.

Scout From Home

Hit the web before you hit the water. You can net a boatload of insightful information by reading the blogs of local fishing guides Tony Roach, Jim DeRosa, Brad Hawthorne and others. Mille Lacs can be daunting due to its size – 132,516 acres – so arrive with a plan.

Bait Wisely

You may have tackle galore, but a quick stop at a local bait shop is smart. Tutt’s Bait and Tackle in Garrison is a particularly good source for up-to-date fishing information, including the lure colors, sizes and styles currently producing the best results. Reeds Family Outdoor Outfitters at Onamia and Johnson’s Portside at Isle are also fine places for gear and advice.

Children fishing, Father Hennepin State Park, Lake Mille Lacs

Children fishing at Father Hennepin State Park

Fish the Rocks

You’ll find smallmouth bass along rocky reefs, scattered boulders and wherever crayfish, a preferred prey, are located. Presentations that mimic crayfish are very effective. The Ned Rig, a jig and plastic body combination, is a go-to lure. So is a drop shot rig. Topwater lures can be hot at times, including calm evenings.

Stay and Play

Fishing resorts with food service are on all sides of the lake. For additional amenities, check out Appledoorn’s, McQuoids, Eddy’s, Izatys and Grand Casino Mille Lacs. Campers will find modern facilities at Mille Lacs Kathio and Father Hennepin State Parks, the latter featuring a boat ramp into the lake. The Mille Lacs Area Tourism Office in Isle is your best source for recreation information, including where to rent boats.

Mille Lacs Memories

My last trip to Mille Lacs was a good one. It was August. Hot. Barely a breeze.

As the sun sank into the treetops, fishing partner Grant Becker suggested we cozy-up to a rocky shoreline to toss topwater lures. Soon a near-football-sized bass rocketed from below, smacked my Spook and arched into the air. It leapt two more times before surrendering to the net.

As I released the brute, I thought again how Mille Lacs makes memories, and excellent ones at that.


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.