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Juan Grande

Mille Lacs Smallies

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Went out with Pat Burch (guide) last Thursday on Mille Lacs. Tried for some walleye, but they weren't cooperating so we were happy to chase smallies.

We boated 30-35 fish on the day with an average size of 18". Caught three over 20" with 20.5 being the biggest. We fished some rock reefs near Hunter's Point and Doe Island and caught fish on X-Raps, tubes (brown & green), Mepps and crawlers fished under bobbers.

We saw hundreds of fish swimming around, but most of them were pretty neutral and would not commit to our baits. Most fish came off large boulders. The weather was great and the water was so calm and clear it was like fishing in an aquarium.

Didn't think of it while we were out there, but it might have been fun to try drop shotting some of those lookers. We tried throwing some poppers, but no takers. Would these shallow smallies be more likely to surface in the early AM?

Pat was a great guide and I highly recommend his services.

Here are some pics:

Double (18" and a 20")

Smallie_Double.jpg

20 incher on the tape

measure.jpg

19"

John2.jpg

20.5"

John1.jpg

20.5"

Hass1.jpg

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What a picture perfect day on Thursday. We were out on Saturday to chase Muskie and Smallies, but the weather was making things difficult. We were able to boat 2-14" ones, but had a tough time getting the presentation right with the wind. To answer your question about the a.m. takers on poppers..it all depends on the reason they were so shallow. They could have been chasing crayfish on the rocks so they were looking down. Maybe a spinnerbait would have worked well just over the big boulders. It is always fun to catch that numbers of smallies..Nice Job!!

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The reason they were there is to spawn. You can get them to take topwater but not as well as a little later in the year. If you stay far enough away, you might be able to get one to commit, no matter what the light conditions.

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Cecil,

The water was in the low 70s, would the smallmouth still be spawning? We were fishing pretty dense rock piles and the fish seemed to be roaming around. Do they spawn on rock or do they need a sand/silt bottom?

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They do need some sand next to rock, but yes they are still spawning. Did they seem to stay in the same general area when roaming? Last week they were still on shallower reefs, the main lake fish seem to still be cruising and not locked on yet. That might have changed with last weeeks weather. That lake is so big it takes a long time for the water below the surface to heat up.

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Yeah, most of them did roam in a general area until we were right on top of them.

I know it depends on the day (weather) but if I hit them again in mid July, would they likely be on these same shallow reefs or would it depend on the time of day?

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Yes, they should come to the same ones, or ones similar to them. Mille Lacs is not your typical Minnesota Smallmouth lake. My best days have been the hottest, brightest days you can find. The rocks get warm, the crayfish come out and the bass feed. Just remember to be quiet, clear shallow rocky water and noise do not make for happy bass.

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Juan,

If it's calm and bright, no matter what time of day, and the fish are relatively shallow, I like a topwater. It doesn't work everytime, but I have caught plenty of noon-time smallmouth on topwaters. With that being said, if the fish are up to spawn, topwaters are not my first choice (or tenth for that matter).

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Ray,

What tactics would you use for those finicky spawning bass? We tried plastics, grubs, topwaters, cranks, jerkbaits, tubes, etc. but nothing got consistently bit except live bait.

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I was up on Friday and fished the rocks on the south end. I found the artificial bait bite to be tough, too.

Got a couple on a watermelon senko rigged wacky style, but the fish couldn't turn down a juicy leech under a bobber. Last fish of the day was my biggest ever, a 20" brute.

(I know some discourage the use of live bait for bass, but if you use a wide gap hook and don't let them run with the bait it's a non-issue. My fish had the hook in the corner or top of their mouth. Also worth mentioning that removing one hook is a lot easier than working out multiple trebles).

DB

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DB- Dont sweat the live bait and smallmouth bass. It is a well known fact that a J U M B O leach under a bober, or drug on a lindy/floater rig can be the best method for boating big smallies.

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We got a couple on leeches, but whole crawlers seemed to work better for us.

Our guide wanted us to fish live bait under bobbers from the get go, but we threw a bunch of fake stuff first. I did get my first fish ever on an X-Rap which was pretty cool. That $7 price tag doesn't seem so bad after you finally break it in wink

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I use a stick worm when they are picky. Either texas or wacky rigged.

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DB- Dont sweat the live bait and smallmouth bass. It is a well known fact that a J U M B O leach under a bober, or drug on a lindy/floater rig can be the best method for boating big smallies.

Artificial bait is part of what makes up the sport of bass fishing. I think using live bait takes away from the challenge and thus the magnitude of the accomplishment.

As far as the smallie spawn on Mille Lacs goes, it's really hard to follow. Keep in mind that not all smallies spawn at the same time. I have been catching bedded fish that are locked on since late May in different parts of the lake. Even fish in the same general area can be in different phases. I personally wouldn't waste my time trying to catch the roaming pack fish but would rather concentrate on loners that are much more likely to take a bait. One thing is for sure, they are getting pounded on this year. I didn't catch a single fish without a hook sore in it's mouth on my last trip. Thank you DNR for setting the length minimum at 21 inches! 22" would have been even better.

Ron

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I agree that I'd rather catch them on artificials, but I'd also rather catch 30-40 fish on live bait then 5 on artificials.

Mille Lacs is an awesome smallmouth fishery. Not many places that are two hours from the metro where your average fish is 3 pounds. I agree the 21 inch minimum is a great thing.

How big is that one in your avatar Recoil?

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Juan,

I have no problem whatsoever with livebait. I don't use it a lot because of the inconvenience factor in summer. I will agree with Cecil, that a slowly worked wacky stick worm is hard to beat. Did you think about a large crappie jig under a bobber? Just throwing that out there.

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To each his own.

Not sure on the length. She was a decent one though... solid 20" probably pushing 21".

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Some people think fishing bedding fish might border on unethical, but just like live bait it is legal.

Like you said, Recoil, to each his own.

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Yeah, not sure how I feel about the bedding fish thing. From what I've read in this thread, you'd have to wait until mid July for the spawn to be completely done. I haven't fished smallies enough to be able to tell if those fish we were on were bedding or not.

Put it this way, if I saw a bass (green or brown) that was obviously guarding a nest then I would leave it alone.

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I have not had a fish out there this year on a bed that I could not catch and I do not use live bait. There have been some cruisers that I have not caught, but I don't think you could catch them on live bait either.

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Juan,

I wasn't implying right or wrong. I honestly have no opinion either way. I was just trying to point out that there are lots of different options for catching smallmouth and using one technique over another doesn't make you any more or less of a bass fisherman than the next person.

If it works and is fun, then you have accomplished something!

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I always find myself, when fishing, in the constant struggle of trying new techniques vs. catching fish. For me trying new baits rarely leads to catching fish. I always know I can tie on a senko and catch bass because they work well and are my confidence baits. Fishing the same thing all the time gets boring though.

Kind of the same thing with live bait, I don't usually bring it but when I do it's usually a last resort to putting fish in the boat but it usually works.

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