Minnesota welcomes back bass tournament that wowed the pros

The 2016 tournament put Mille Lacs Lake in the spotlight: fishing pro after pro raving about hauling in multiple four-pound-plus smallmouth bass, a rainbow extending down to the water and the crowds turning out in force to see Minnesota’s own Seth Feider win the 2016 championship.

The return to Mille Lacs of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship means that once again, the public can attend and watch some of the best bass anglers fish a lake Minnesotans have long prized as a multi-species fishing destination and one Bassmaster calls a “world-class smallmouth bass factory.” This is the first time the tournament will happen in the same location two years in a row.

“Lake Mille Lacs is a premiere fishing destination for anglers from across the United States,” said Lt. Gov Tina Smith. “We are excited to have America’s greatest anglers return to Mille Lacs next year for the Toyota Bassmaster tournament, and show off the fishing found only in Minnesota.”

The event takes place Thursday, Sept. 14, to Sunday, Sept. 17, with competition on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, spectators can attend an outdoor fan-appreciation day at Grand Casino Mille Lacs, where the pros will be giving seminars, signing autographs and engaging with fans on a personal level, according to Bassmaster.

At the tournament, weigh-ins on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and the Saturday fan-appreciation day, are free for the public to attend and take place in the parking lot of Grand Casino Mille Lacs.

“The energy of this tournament is fantastic, and we’re often in awe of the fishing ability of some of these pros to haul in so many huge, trophy bass,” said Don Pereira, fisheries chief with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “But then, we’ve long known this was a quality smallmouth bass fishery and it wouldn’t surprise me to see more anglers out this summer trying to catch some of the same fish the pros will be after.”

The catch-and-release tournaments follow changes in fishing regulations that the DNR made in 2015 to attract larger bass tournaments to the lake.

“The pros raved about how many huge fish they caught here, with overall weights unprecedented in past Bassmaster tournaments,” said Brad Parsons, DNR central region fisheries manager. “This spotlight on Mille Lacs strengthens the community and celebrates our state’s great fishing tradition.”

Mille Lacs Lake is one of the premiere bass fishing lakes in the country, with a smallmouth bass fishery that attracts anglers from all around the United States in search of a lunker ready and willing to put up a fight. The lake also offers abundant largemouth bass, trophy sized walleye, northern pike and muskellunge.

“Fishing has long been a main reason Mille Lacs is such a draw for tourists and out-of-state anglers,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. “The area additionally offers lots of ways people can enjoy the area’s natural beauty on hiking, biking and ATV trails, watching wildlife, golfing or visiting a Minnesota State Park.”

Bassmaster also announced it would schedule a Classic Bracket tournament in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on Pokegama Lake, from Sunday, Sept. 19, to Wednesday, Sept. 22. More information on that event is available at www.bassmaster.com/news.

Hunting and fishing in Minnesota support 48,000 private sector jobs, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More information about Mille Lacs Lake is available at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.