Mille Lacs gets high marks from tourney anglers

By Brett Carlson
Contributing Writer

Onamia, Minn. — For better or for worse, Minnesota’s smallmouth secret is officially out. After the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year Championship, Lake Mille Lacs is the talk of the nation’s bass-fishing community.

The consensus among the best anglers in the world is that Mille Lacs is one of, if not the best, smallmouth fishery in the country. Outside of the lake itself, the star of the three-day tournament was Minnesota’s Seth Feider, the only Minnesotan in the 50-boat field. Feider won the tournament with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 76 pounds, 5 ounces, an average of over 5 pounds per fish.

While the tournament drew large crowds that aided local businesses, the exposure the lake and the region received should provide a much-needed long-term boost to the area’s many resorts, tackle shops, and guiding operations. In addition to social media coverage, the tournament will be televised later on ESPN2. Daily takeoffs were held out of Eddy’s Resort, and daily weigh-ins took place at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.

Throughout the final weigh-in, anglers pleaded with the sporting public to exercise conservation and take care of the resource.

Some comments from pro anglers:

“You guys have the best smallmouth fishery in the world. Take care of it; protect these fish.”

— Brandon Palaniuk

“You spend more time reeling them in than fishing for them. It’s unbelievable.”

— Steve Kennedy

“I live on Lake Guntersville, one of the best lakes in the country. This is one of those special places. You definitely have a gem. What an amazing place.”

— Jordan Lee

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I’ve never seen limits of smallmouths like this. This is sick, awesome, and so cool. I hope we get to come back.”

— Skeet Reese

Feider, a Bloomington, Minn., native, caught his fish by drop-shotting a 1⁄2-ounce tungsten cylinder weight with a soft-plastic stickbait rigged on a No. 2 hook. These baits were fished on 6-pound fluorocarbon line. Feider targeted the biggest boulders he could find in 15 to 20 feet of water.

“I had a blast,” Feider said. “It was a special week. After La Crosse (the Mississippi River tournament held last month where he finished second), I felt like this was meant to be. The trophy stays in Minnesota!”

Feider drew a significant crowd both on and off the water. His fan following was termed the “Mullet Militia,” a reference to his long, blonde hair. Feider himself is now referred to as the “Amazing Feiderman” by Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer, a pun on the Spiderman comic.

“It was really special being here this week,” added Feider. “I loved showing off this fishery. This is the best lake in the world and we need to take care of it. I’m glad I got to showcase what this lake is made of.”

As the last event of the Elite Series season, Angler of the Year was also determined. The coveted award went to Alabama pro Gerald Swindle, who was the most consistent fishermen all year. This marked Swindle’s second time winning AOY.

The biggest bass of the Mille Lacs tournament was caught by California pro Brent Ehrler. His smallmouth weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces. Ehrler finished second.

The heaviest stringer of the tournament was a five-bass limit caught by Japanese pro Takahiro Omori that weighed 26 pounds, 7 ounces.

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