Click here to continue 1 / 23 The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship is this week on Mille Lacs Lake out of Onamia, Minn. The event features the top 50 Elite Series anglers based on their finishes in the point standings accrued during the nine regular-season events. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 2 / 23 Mille Lacs, a 207-square-mile lake roughly 100 miles north of Minneapolis, was site of last year’s AOY championship. On the line there is the AOY title and chunks of its $1 million payout as well as qualification to the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, and for some, requalification to the Elites. Also this year, the angler with the top weight over the three days receives the winner-take-all $25,000. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 3 / 23 The anglers will take off Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 6:40 a.m. CT from Eddy's Resort, 41334 Shakopee Lake Rd., Onamia, Minn. The public is invited to come watch free of charge. Photo: Google maps 4 / 23 At 3:45 p.m. CT on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the weigh-ins will be held a short ride up the road from the launch at Grand Casino Mille Lacs, 777 Grand Ave., Onamia, Minn. On Saturday, the casino will host the expo and Bassmaster University event where fans can meet and mill about with their favorite Elites. All Bassmaster events are free. Photo: Google maps 5 / 23 This is only the second B.A.S.S. event on Mille Lacs, which had been known for its incredible walleye fishing. When that population plummeted in the past several years, anglers took to smallmouth, which were large and abundant. After finishing sixth last year in Bassmaster Magazine’s rankings of the 100 Best Bass Lakes, Mille Lacs took the top spot when the rankings came out this summer. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 6 / 23 In 2016, B.A.S.S. visited Mille Lacs for the first time, and the output of smallmouth was unprecedented. Over the three days of competition, the 50 anglers weighed in 139 limits totaling 729 bass. Those fish weighed 2,878 pounds, 5 ounces, for an average of 3.95 pounds. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 7 / 23 Brent Ehrler averaged more than 23 pounds a day (69-13) and finished second in 2016. Ehrler had the overall biggest bass of the event — a 6-10 caught on Sunday. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 8 / 23 It was a coming out party for hometown favorite Seth Feider. The Bloomington, Minn., pro completed a spectacular finishing stretch to his season. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 9 / 23 Feider finished second on the Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wis., in the previous event, climbing from 69th in the AOY points to 50th and becoming the last angler in the championship. After Day 1 on Mille Lacs, Feider was tied in second place as his momentum in the northern waters continued. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 10 / 23 Literally and figuratively, there was definitely a special kind of light focused on Feider at Mille Lacs. He caught another big bag on Day 2, took the lead with 50-3, and headed into the third and final day up by almost 2 pounds. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 11 / 23 Feider saved his best for last, bagging 26-2 to total an astounding 76-5. The next closest angler was Ehrler, 6-8 back. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 12 / 23 Dubbed “The Amazing Feiderman” by emcee Dave Mercer, Feider would later say his end-of-season spurt allowed him to continue in competitive fishing. He had all but resigned to quit on his dream of fishing the major circuit before his late season successes. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 13 / 23 Another dramatic story played out at Mille Lacs -- the AOY title. Gerald Swindle went into the event with a 43-point lead over Keith Combs. Problem was, Swindle faltered on Day 1, bringing in only three fish, standing 49th to leave the door somewhat open. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 14 / 23 Swindle was visibly upset with himself as he was on the brink of a second title and not closing it out in style. Climbing over Swindle was a tall task for Combs, who would have to finish 43 spots ahead of him just to tie. Combs was in 41st after Day 1, gaining only 8 points, then climbed to 35 before finishing 30th. Swindle knew the odds were with him, but he was a bit perturbed anyway. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 15 / 23 Swindle, who won his first AOY in 2004, wanted to close in style, and he did with a 22-0 bag on Day 3, putting him in 46th. Swindle surely gained more dignity than points as he became only the 11th angler to win more than one AOY. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 16 / 23 The AOY title is again on the line this week, and the race is a tighter with Brandon Palaniuk leading the way. With six Top 12 finishes on the season, Palaniuk has 811 points. He finished 105th at Lake Okeechobee, and if Palaniuk wins, that would top Aaron Martens’ 85th at Sabine in 2013 as the lowest finish of an AOY winner. Photo: Courtesy Brandon Palaniuk 17 / 23 Jason Christie, coming off a victory on Lake St. Clair in the regular season finale, is 15 points back with 796 points. He made it a much closer race by gaining 28 spots on Palaniuk in the last event. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 18 / 23 Jacob Wheeler, an Elite Series rookie with a season-opening win, is the only other angler who is still mathematically in the race. He stands third with 778 points, 33 behind Palaniuk. Last year on Mille Lacs, Palaniuk finished 12th and Christie was 18th. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 19 / 23 Fletcher Shyrock shows off a good one he landed while pre-practicing on Mille Lacs this summer in case he made the top 50 -- sadly, he didn't Anglers can expect to catch big smallmouth this week, but it might be somewhat more difficult after a year of added fishing pressure. Photo: Courtesy Fletcher Shryock 20 / 23 Feider said his home lake isn’t fishing its best because of the added pressure of the Elites showing out and its high ranking. He said before where he’d see three or four bass boats on the lake, now on weekends there’s about 20 on the spot from where he won. That fishing pressure is making the fish more skittish. “You can only catch them so many times,” he said. Photo: Courtesy Seth Feider 21 / 23 Visitors are coming from far away to fish for trophy smallmouth, and the launches are staying busy. Feider is part of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance that espouses catch and release and allowing only two keepers, but the state DNR gave anglers a daily limit of three fish, with only one over 21 inches. All bass between 17 and 21 inches must be released. Tournaments receive special exemptions to weigh in five fish per angler. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 22 / 23 Feider said having bass anglers come up has certainly helped the local economy, but he wished anglers could return their focus to walleye. Walleye have been pretty much off limits this summer, with catch and release periods as well as times when they could not be targeted at all. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo 23 / 23 It’s odd, Feider said, because he’s caught the most walleye in the 10 years of steady fishing he’s done on Mille Lacs. Feider believes there’s some politics going on in the state with the fish, and about the only things not being limited in their fishing is these cormorants. Photo: B.A.S.S. photo The top 50 Elites are back in Minnesota for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship.