The 2016 Bassmaster Angler of the Year tournament, made possible in large part through an investment by Grand Casino Mille Lacs, put Lake Mille Lacs in the national spotlight as the nation’s best bass anglers raved about the fishing.
Angler Skeet Reese said, “I’ve been all around the world chasing fish, and I’ve never seen a smallmouth fishery that kicks out this many five-pound smallmouth. Your secret fishing hole is now a community fishing hole. These guys will be coming back. I’ll be coming back.”
His words proved prophetic in February when Bassmaster announced its unprecedented return for the 2017 Angler of the Year tourney Sept. 14–17.
Grand Casino General Manager Tracy Sam was quoted in the Bassmaster announcement of the return: “Last year’s Bassmaster tournament showed the world what an incredible jewel Mille Lacs Lake is to the fishing community. This championship has never been held at the same location two years in a row, so building upon last year’s success, we look forward to making the 2017 Bassmaster Angler of the Year tournament the best one yet.”
The news release explained their rationale: “The decision to return to the state’s second largest inland lake of 10,000 was easy after the unprecedented output in 2016. Across the three competition days, the Top 50 anglers caught 729 bass, which produced 139 limits and amassed a total three-day weight of 2,878 pounds, 5 ounces.”
Word has gotten around, as anyone who pays attention to boat landings can attest. Even when walleye fishing was closed earlier this summer to protect the resource, parking lots at land- ings were surprisingly full.
Minnesota DNR creel survey data confirm an increase in anglers coming to Mille Lacs to fish for bass.
In June, Bassmaster Magazine named Mille Lacs the best bass lake in the country — in part because of what they learned at last year’s tournament. “This fishery really got our attention last September during the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in
that topped the 20-pound mark,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “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.”
Last year’s event brought thousands to the parking lot of Grand Casino for vendor booths, food, autographs and “Bassmaster University” classes. Given the publicity from last year’s event, this year’s crowds are expected to be even larger.
The highlight of the tournament, as the name implies, is the crowning of the Angler of the Year. The event is the final tournament of the season, which means it is where the annual championship is decided. Last year the winner was Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Ala., who clinched his second title at the Mille Lacs tourney.
Long-time Mille Lacs resorter Terry McQuoid was quoted in May giving credit to bass fishing for keeping the local economy afloat. “It’s probably our savior right now,” McQuoid told Minnesota Public Radio. “Because in this past week, most of the people that we’ve had here are all smallmouth oriented. And they’re all out of state, so they come for three to five days, or sometimes a week.”
Catch the Action
Takeoff begins Thursday, Friday and Sunday at approximately 6:40 a.m. at Eddy’s Resort.
Weigh-ins will occur at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Sunday at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.
Saturday, all 50 anglers will participate in the expo and Bassmaster University event where fans can meet their favorite Elites. The Mille Las Community Festival will run from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 16 and noon until the end of the weigh in on Sunday, September 17. The expo will be in the front parking lot of Grand Casino Mille Lacs.