Bassmaster Magazine Names Mille Lacs Top Bass Fishery in Nation

Anglers head out for the 2016 Bassmaster Tournament on Mille Lacs Photo: KSTP/File
Anglers head out for the 2016 Bassmaster Tournament on Mille Lacs

June 29, 2017 07:41 PM

Mille Lacs Lake, long known as a premier walleye fishing hub, is also getting recognition as a top bass fishing destination.

Bassmaster Magazine has named Mille Lacs the top bass fishery in the country, the publication announced Thursday. 

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The lake jumped from number six on the list last year to the current top spot, where it sits ahead of Texas's Sam Rayburn Reservoir, California's Clear Lake and North Carolina's Shearon Harris Lake.

At 132,516 acres, Mille Lacs is the largest in the 2017 Bassmaster top 10. 

The announcement was welcome news for Gov. Mark Dayton, whose administration has overseen the most stringent walleye restrictions the lake has ever seen in an effort to rebound a struggling walleye population.

Said Dayton via a release Thursday: "With tremendous bass fishing, terrific family-owned resorts, and many other recreation choices, Mille Lacs is a great lake for the whole family to visit."

RELATED: Bassmaster Angler of the Year Returning to Mille Lacs Lake 

Yet as honored as some Mille Lacs resort owners might be by the award, they say it can't take away the sting of two summers of lost revenue they attribute to restrictions which don't allow anglers to keep any walleye.

In an effort to mitigate what some resort owners say amounts to an economic crisis, the state last year invested $4 million in economic development and tourism promotion in the area. 

Linda Eno, who along with her husband has owned Twin Pines Resort on Mille Lacs the past 23 years, said the designation as the top bass lake is thrilling – and the lake needs all the promotion it can get.

"We are thrilled for the bass publicity and for Bassmasters' recognition, and we are hoping that it draws bass fishermen from all over the world to Mille Lacs," Eno said. "But there are not enough bass fishermen in the world to take the place of the walleye fishery we have lost, and to recover from the walleye business that I have lost.

"We appreciate them coming, and please come," Eno added. "Somebody prove me wrong. But I know I'm not wrong. That's how it is."

RELATED: Fisheries Scientists to Review Mille Lacs Fish Count

But the lake's bass chops are legit.

The magazine cited the good attention last year's Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship brought to the lake.

"The fishery really got our attention last September during (the tournament), when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in that topped the 20-pound mark," the magazine's editor, James Hall said in a release. "Had that been a four-day event, eventual winner Seth Feider may have topped the 100-pound mark with smallmouth, a feat that has never, ever happened before."

The magazine noted it wasn't just the tournament that put Mille Lacs on top. 

"Thirty-pound limits were weighed in during five team events last fall, inclduing two limits breaking the 36-pound mark," Hall said. "Remember, these are limits of smallmouth. Just incredible."

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Michael Oakes

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