Minnesota bass angling: Almost heaven
In my travels to fishing destinations throughout the country I have discovered that the bass is king.
In Minnesota, the Dakotas and the Great Lakes states there is a definite preference for walleyes, but almost everywhere else, even in many of the Western states the largemouth bass gets the accolades. That's not a bad thing for those in Minnesota who like chasing bass, because they don't have anywhere near the competition they would have in a state where it's all about bass. With the bass resources we have here in Minnesota, bass anglers are about as close to heaven as they can get.
There is a distinct difference between the walleye angler and the bass angler. Walleye fishermen like deep, aluminum boats with a lot of electronic gear hanging off the console. Bass fishermen use shallow, deck-style boats and wouldn't be caught on the water without their bow-mount electric motor.
Walleye fishermen use live bait. Coolers full of leeches, buckets full of minnows, and cartons full of nightcrawlers take up the floor space in their boats. Bass anglers proudly catch all their fish on artificial lures. There is no bottom to their boats because a large deck covers it. But under those deck doors are lots of tackle boxes full of jigs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits.
Soon the lakes will be loaded with these high-powered fiberglass boats zooming from one productive spot to another, an angler on the big front deck with his foot on the electric motor's control pedal quick-firing casts to the productive cover. For them the real reason to be on the water is almost here.
As I said earlier, bass anglers are in bass heaven because of the tremendous resources we have in this state. Let's look at a few lakes to flesh that statement out a bit.
Gull Lake in Brainerd has been a vacation destination for decades for walleye anglers who want to rent a cabin at a resort and drag some live-bait rigs on the structure. It is also one of the finest bass lakes in the state hosting countless fishing tournaments during the past few years.
For me Gull Lake means topwater and shallow spinnerbait techniques. This is one of my favorite lakes for morning and late-afternoon topwater fishing in the pockets and around the edges of the lily pads and bulrush.
Late morning and early afternoon is when I cast a half-ounce spinnerbait into the cabbage and catch bass there.
Anyone who wants to tie on an 1/8-ounce Fireball jig and tip it with a 3-inch twister tail can catch all the two- to three-pounders they want from the docks on the lake.
Another popular vacation destination that has been discovered by the state's bass anglers is the Alexandria Chain of Lakes. There's not a lake on this chain that doesn't produce great bass fishing. They may not be lunkers, but I can have a lot of fun catching a dozen two to three pound bass every hour on a light spinning setup there.
Slow-roll spinnerbaits in the cabbage patches, drag a jig/worm on the sand-grass or rip a deep-diving crankbait on the heavier weedlines to catch bass on this popular chain of lakes.
While Lake Minnetonka had been touted by southern bass pros as one of the top five bass lakes in the country, there are some that prefer smaller lakes in the metro area. Tim Lesmeister, an Outdoor News columnist and a guy who always tries to turn his walleye fishing outings with me into bass fishing trips spends more than a few hours on Lake Minnewashta, near Excelsior.
"It's total catch and release for largemouth bass," Lesmeister said. "Since the DNR put those restrictions in place, there are plenty of big bass. I seldom make a trip to Minnewashta where I don't land at least one or two bass in the five-pound range."
Lesmeister incorporates a heavy live-rubber jig on Minnewashta because, like Minnetonka every where it can grow you find milfoil. "Tip the jig with a scented-plastic trailer and just flip the lure into the heavy milfoil and let it sink to the bottom. You can't help but feel the jolt when one of those big bass pick up the bait."
Another big-bass pond south of the cities is Prior Lake. The best way to get to those big bass there is using deep-diving crankbaits on mid-lake structure to battle with largemouth in the six-pound range. Those big largemouths out in deep water never get much fishing pressure. Most bass anglers prefer fishing the shallower bass in the weeds, but if you want to catch the "hawgs" you gotta go deep.
So it won't be long and the season will be open. The growing numbers of anglers that have been short-changed by the two-week wait between the walleye/pike opener and bass opener will get to get a little closer to their heaven on earth.