Mille Lacs Smallmouth Tips

World Class Smallmouth Bass Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota

Let’s go over a few Mille Lacs smallmouth tips. You’ll find some of the best trophy Smallmouth Bass fishing in the world on Lake Mille Lacs. Ranked the #1 bass lake in North America by Bassmaster Magazine 2 years in a row. Mille Lacs offers opportunities for Smallmouth Bass that are hard to find anywhere else. Mille Lacs is truly special because it is home to not only a large population of Smallies but, also a large number of trophy-sized fish. Largemouth bass fishing also produces some very large fish and is often overlooked. 

Mille Lacs Smallmouth Fishing Tips

Seasonal patterns when fishing Mille Lacs will dictate how you approach your gear and tackle. You essentially have 4 separate seasons within the open water months. Each seasonal pattern offers a different opportunity of getting on smallies at Mille Lacs.

  1. Early Spring – Prespawn
  2. Post Spawn
  3. Bug Hatches
  4. Fall

Early Spring: End of May to Mid June

Smallmouth bass season in Minnesota usually opens the Saturday before Memorial Day. Opening day, you might find pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn conditions depending on the particular year and weather conditions. Some years the bass will be spawning and “locked” in on the nest, other years you might find pre-spawn fish feeding to prepare for the stress of spawn. Because of Mille Lacs’s massive size [132,516 acres], what you will usually find is a combination of pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn fish all at the same time. Water temps and winds are the dictating factors.

Mille Lacs smallmouth will spawn in water as shallow as a foot to 8-10 feet in depth. Popular lures for this time of year are lipless crankbaits (pre-spawn), hard and soft stick baits, tube jigs, spinnerbaits and finesse worms. Grizzly Coolers Pro Angler, Matt Peters says, “it’s all about the juice” when talking about fishing at Mille Lacs Lake. You can check out their recent Mille Lacs Smallmouth adventure in the video above.

matt peters holding a smallmouth bass caught at mille lacs lake minnesota
Grizzly Coolers Pro Angler, Matt Peters

Match the Hatch Or Not - Bug Hatches | June thru August

Mille Lacs is famous for its Mayfly, Midge, and other lake bug hatches. You can attempt to match the hatch or as noted in another article – throwing something unique could bode well during this time of the year. The hatches can occur anytime from June to August. Bug hatches do influence the bite.

Usually, within 24 hours of the beginning of the hatch, the lake will start to show signs of dead bugs floating on the surface. These hatches are mother nature’s way of feeding the small young year classes that hatched in the spring as well as providing an easy meal for the larger fish. With a sudden abundance of food, bass and other species take advantage of this new source of forage and stuff themself with lake bugs. When this happens the angler must slow down their tactics and fish super slow.

Mille Lacs Smallmouth Tips, smallmouth bass caught on mille lacs lake

Fall - Cooler Temperatures

Cooling water triggers a major migration of yellow perch to the shallow weedy areas of Mille Lacs. Smallmouth bass begin to change their forage preference from crayfish to perch and other small fish. Nature is sending a message to these smallmouths to feed heavy, to add body mass in order to sustain them through the harsh winter ahead.

Look to find smallmouth ambushing prey along weed edges in 3 to 10 feet of water. Spinnerbaits, small swim baits, chatter baits, or small crankbaits, jig n worms are a good choice. This is also an excellent time to throw a texas rig with a creature bait too. Especially if you can find where they are hiding. This tactic works very well at bringing these ambush predators out for a fast strike!

matt peters holding a smallmouth bass next to a teal grizzly cooler
Grizzly Coolers & Matt Peters

Mille Lacs Smallmouth Tips, Gear, and Regulations

Mille Lacs Lake has special fishing regulations that differ from (MN) statewide or border water regulations. Specifically for smallmouth bass, the regulations are: Beginning May 15, 2021 through May 28, 2021, all bass must be immediately released. Beginning May 29, 2021, all bass greater than 17 inches must be immediately released. Limit of three in combination. Smallmouth harvest ends Sunday, Sept. 12.

There are several other regulations in place including bait restrictions and night closures. You can read the full fishing regulations for Mille Lacs lake by clicking this link.

Using both spinning and baitcaster equipment to catch smallmouth will work. The rod should be setup for what you are targeting and how you are fishing. However, a fast tip that is 6’6 to 7′ in length is recommended. Fishing Line is always a difficult subject to discuss and make recommendations on. However, using SpiderWire Camo-Braid w/ Fluoropolymer Treatment is an excellent choice. Quality polarized sun glasses is a must while on Mille Lacs. Especially during the pre-spawn season where sight fishing is a necessity.

Finally, having a quality fishing cooler is a must. Not only for your food and drinks but a cooler that is versatile and offers multi-uses when fishing. Hard-sided coolers from Grizzly Coolers are a fantastic choice. As they offer the ruggedness for just about any abuse you can put them through. They are excellent for standing on while casting as Matt Peters demonstrates in this video. They also include a debossed ruler right on the lid for a quick measurement of your catch. 

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