There’s a lot of information out there about how to catch a fish. With populations and lake clarities changing quickly, sometimes you need to go to the source – the anglers who truly know the water. Omnia Asks is a series featuring local experts offering their unique perspectives on challenging and contentious questions.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass have become increasingly common target sport fish on Lake Mille Lacs. In 2016, Seth Feider won the Toyota Angler of the Year Tournament on the Northern Minnesota lake with a fat sack of smallmouth bass. This only helped solidify the fishery as a great place to catch bass.
Whether Mille Lacs is your home water or you travel to this incredible fishery, it’s a big lake and conditions are always changing so it helps to get an insider’s perspective on what’s working. In this installment of Omnia Asks we asked our panel of professional anglers and fishing guides:
“What is the best way to catch a Spring Bass on Mille Lacs?”
Below, our experts dive into favorite techniques, lake attribute, and products to use in the Spring on Lake Mille Lacs. We hope these suggestions will bring you confidence and lead to a more successful day on the water!
Seth Feider is a current BassMaster Elite Angler with sponsorships from Rapala, VMC, Simms, Daiwa, and Outkast Tackle. Feider, a Bloomington, MN native won the 2016 Toyota Angler of the Year Tournament on Lake Mille Lacs in northern Minnesota (You could say he knows his way around Lake Mille Lacs!). He has helped launch the custom Feider series technique-specific rods with Diawa and line of jigs with Outkast Tackle. You can learn more about Seth and see his favorite gear HERE.
“I always recommend a slow, steady retrieve for Spring fishing on Mille Lacs. I’m looking for shallow flats and relatively shallow humps on my sonar and fish at the first break (in 8-12’ of water). Fish are still moving slowly so the slow, steady retrieve is key.
I recommend the Daiwa Tatula casting rod and reel with Suffix Line. This is a pretty great all-around rod set up for the baits I use for Spring Bass. For tackle, I use the Outkast Feider Fly in black, the Rapala Deep Shadow Rap in silver, the 360 GT Swim pre-rigged in natural colors, and an Outkast Golden Eye swim bait in green pumpkin with Biospawn ExoSwim in natural colors like the Feider Shad.
That feels like a lot of products that I’ve either designed or have my name on but they work and they’re my go-to baits for Spring fishing on Mille Lacs! Keep in mind that zebra mussels have filtered the water over the last few years so natural-colored baits will work best for the clear water.”
Read more about Seth’s Spring Bass Essentials for Lake Mille Lacs HERE
Ron DaRosa is a professional Bass fishing guide on Lake Mille Lacs. Ron’s guiding career began in 1985 when he was recruited to be a Bass specialist at Ron and Al Lindner’s renowned Camp Fish in the popular Leech Lake resort region of Minnesota. Ron spends his winters fishing for trophy Crappie and Cass in Southern Illinois on Rend Lake, Kinkaid Lake, and Crab Orchard Lake. To learn more about Ron’s guide service CLICK HERE!
“Spring on Mille Lacs is awesome! Opener can bring a variety of style options that make a range of tackle products very effective. Here’s a couple of my favorites for picking up Spring Bass:
First, I like suspending jerkbaits on offshore reefs as a great starting point. I usually throw on 8 lb. fluorocarbon line with a spinning rod and reel.
Another great option is the football head jig with a speedcraw trailer or similar plastic. The football head is versatile and can be used deep on the reefs and shallow as they move up to shallow water. I like to throw the football head setup on at least a 7 ft. baitcaster with medium heavy action and 17 lb. fluorocarbon.
The ned rig and tubes always work as well. As another alternative, hairjigs like the Feider fly can be great, and seem to help trigger inactive fish. I also like spinnerbaits on a small frame over dark reed beds as fish roam in schools before dispersing to spawn. Bass are often found shallower than where they actually spawn. One huge key is finding rock and sand edges or transition zones between sediment types. This is true from 3 to 20 feet.
I typically outfit a spinning rod and reel with 10 lb. braid and 8 lb. fluorocarbon leader. My rod is typically a 7 ft. medium weight with fast action. My reel of choice is a 3500 or 4000 size.
Note: not all fish spawn shallow on Mille Lacs. I have worked with the MN DNR on a population study on Mille Lacs and they have told me they see spawning activity down to 15 feet while diving so keep this in mind finding Bass during the spawn as the water warms.”
Steve Pennaz is a friend of Omnia. He is one of the world’s highest-regarded multi-species anglers and the host of the popular series Lake Commandos. He has successfully fished thousands of locations around the world in both fresh and saltwater. Steve is highly skilled at finding and catching fish on new waters but calls Minnesota his home. He was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2016.
“In Mille Lacs’ clear waters, you’ll find giant Spring Smallmouth tight to big boulders or roaming shallow flats. Baits like the 4-inch PowerBait MaxScent The General stick worm rigged wacky are hard to beat for fish holding tight to cover. For roaming fish, cast a bare 1/8 or 3/32 oz. black marabou jig using a 6 lb. braid with a 4-foot leader of 6-pound flouro for distance/invisibility. Fish slowly, off the bottom, pausing often to let the marabou “pulse.” Don’t be surprised if you pick up a few bonus Walleye!”
Jim lives on Like Mille Lacs during the open water fishing season and has been targeting Smallmouth Bass for over 20 years. He started guiding exclusively for Bass in 2006. Jim guides from the fishing opener until the middle of October and spends approximately 100 days on Mille Lacs Lake each year. He specializes in artificial baits instead of using live baits or trolling. He is a licensed Master Pilot Guide, certified by the State of Minnesota. You can find more from Jim HERE.
“Spring fishing (Pre-Spawn and post-spawn): At ice out (Mid May – water temps at 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit) Smallmouth Bass are coming out of their winter haunts and begin to stage in depths of 6-15 feet around rock reefs. Good bait choices are 1/2 to 3/4 oz All Terrain football head jigs tipped with Zoom Speedcraws. Another good choice is a jerkbait fished at various speeds and rhythms. I recommend letting Bass tell you how they want it. Change up cadence with fast to long pauses to identify what works in the moment. I like suspending jerkbaits like Berkley Cutters in 90 and 110 sizes in natural colors like clown, perch, silver/purple, and silver/pink.”
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