Top lures at Mille Lacs

Twenty-pound smallmouth limits—23 on Day 1 and 24 on Day 2—with a 4-pound average on Day 1. Gerald Swindle mustering the confidence and skill to win his second Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. The lake playing a starring role in the show at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. All of that added up to a memorable season finale for the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series. <p> <i>All Captions: Craig Lamb</i>
Photo: James Overstreet - Twenty-pound smallmouth limits—23 on Day 1 and 24 on Day 2—with a 4-pound average on Day 1. Gerald Swindle mustering the confidence and skill to win his second Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. The lake playing a starring role in the show at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. All of that added up to a memorable season finale for the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series. All Captions: Craig Lamb
Once upon a time, Mille Lacs Lake was Minnesota’s centerpiece world-class walleye fishery. Not so much anymore. You still can catch walleye and lots of them. Now the bass fishermen will follow. Tournament winner and Minnesotan Seth Feider proved the point. He won the tournament with an epic, all-smallmouth catch weighing 76 pounds, 5 ounces.
Photo: James Overstreet - Once upon a time, Mille Lacs Lake was Minnesota’s centerpiece world-class walleye fishery. Not so much anymore. You still can catch walleye and lots of them. Now the bass fishermen will follow. Tournament winner and Minnesotan Seth Feider proved the point. He won the tournament with an epic, all-smallmouth catch weighing 76 pounds, 5 ounces.
Drop shots, jerkbaits and crankbaits. They all caught smallmouth, from shallow to deep. Here’s a snapshot of some of the top baits used at Mille Lacs.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Drop shots, jerkbaits and crankbaits. They all caught smallmouth, from shallow to deep. Here’s a snapshot of some of the top baits used at Mille Lacs.
<b>Seth Feider</b><br> “Big ‘un dude! Giant!” Watch the LIVE coverage and you heard that all week from Seth Feider. The native son came to Mille Lacs on a mission. “I wanted to showcase this place as the best smallmouth fishery on the planet.” Mission accomplished. Feider exuded the same unflappable confidence this week as last, where he finished runner-up on the Mississippi River.
Photo: James Overstreet - Seth Feider “Big ‘un dude! Giant!” Watch the LIVE coverage and you heard that all week from Seth Feider. The native son came to Mille Lacs on a mission. “I wanted to showcase this place as the best smallmouth fishery on the planet.” Mission accomplished. Feider exuded the same unflappable confidence this week as last, where he finished runner-up on the Mississippi River.
This week Feider ran away with the win—including a blowout Day 3 limit weighing 26-2—by spending the tournament doing what he does the best. That is fishing offshore for trophy smallmouth. In many cases he head hunted individual fish using his electronics. While many anglers used a drop shot, Feider included, his twist was a wacky rig. The lure of choice was a Gary Yamamoto Custom Lures 5-inch Senko, blue/silver flake.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - This week Feider ran away with the win—including a blowout Day 3 limit weighing 26-2—by spending the tournament doing what he does the best. That is fishing offshore for trophy smallmouth. In many cases he head hunted individual fish using his electronics. While many anglers used a drop shot, Feider included, his twist was a wacky rig. The lure of choice was a Gary Yamamoto Custom Lures 5-inch Senko, blue/silver flake.
He rigged the Senko to a No. 2 VMC Ike Approved Neko Hook, alternating between 3/8- and 1/2-ounce drop shot weights, rigged 12 inches above the hook. “A small drop shot hook is key for my finesse presentation,” he added. “While low profile, this hook is very effective.” Indeed. Feider can only remember losing two smallmouth in all his years of using the hook.
Photo: Thomas Allen - He rigged the Senko to a No. 2 VMC Ike Approved Neko Hook, alternating between 3/8- and 1/2-ounce drop shot weights, rigged 12 inches above the hook. “A small drop shot hook is key for my finesse presentation,” he added. “While low profile, this hook is very effective.” Indeed. Feider can only remember losing two smallmouth in all his years of using the hook.
<b>Brent Ehrler</b><br> Brent Ehrler, a veteran West Coast angler and top pro on the Bassmaster Elite Series, capped a great comeback of a week by catching a smallmouth weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces, to take the Phoenix Bass Big Bass of Day 3. As a result, the tournament runner-up qualified for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
Photo: James Overstreet - Brent Ehrler Brent Ehrler, a veteran West Coast angler and top pro on the Bassmaster Elite Series, capped a great comeback of a week by catching a smallmouth weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces, to take the Phoenix Bass Big Bass of Day 3. As a result, the tournament runner-up qualified for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
“I had just caught a couple 3-pounders off a boulder that I found on my side scan,” he said, of applying the Humminbird Side Scan Imagery with his Helix bow unit. Big smallmouth were attracted to the extra cover provided by scattered, large boulders. Those were located on a reef sloping from 16 to 22 feet on the sides.
Photo: Bassmaster Marshal - “I had just caught a couple 3-pounders off a boulder that I found on my side scan,” he said, of applying the Humminbird Side Scan Imagery with his Helix bow unit. Big smallmouth were attracted to the extra cover provided by scattered, large boulders. Those were located on a reef sloping from 16 to 22 feet on the sides.
To catch those smallmouth, Californian Ehrler applied a proven California-borne tactic. He chose a 4.5-inch Straight Tail Roboworm (Watermelon Magic or Green Shiner), rigged to a 1/0 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot Hook and 1/4-ounce Reins TG Tungston Drop Shot Sinker.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - To catch those smallmouth, Californian Ehrler applied a proven California-borne tactic. He chose a 4.5-inch Straight Tail Roboworm (Watermelon Magic or Green Shiner), rigged to a 1/0 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot Hook and 1/4-ounce Reins TG Tungston Drop Shot Sinker.
Alternatively, he wacky rigged a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits 5-inch Thin Senko, green pumpkin, using the same hook and weight size.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Alternatively, he wacky rigged a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits 5-inch Thin Senko, green pumpkin, using the same hook and weight size.
<b>Dave LeFebre</b><br> Dave LeFebre, a Lake Erie smallmouth guide, applied his offshore fishing skills on Mille Lacs to finish third. To cover water he used a 4-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Lures Senko. His key lure was a Rapala Shadow Rap. “It’s a tiny little jerkbait that when it sinks has the same tantalizing look as a Senko,” he said.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Dave LeFebre Dave LeFebre, a Lake Erie smallmouth guide, applied his offshore fishing skills on Mille Lacs to finish third. To cover water he used a 4-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Lures Senko. His key lure was a Rapala Shadow Rap. “It’s a tiny little jerkbait that when it sinks has the same tantalizing look as a Senko,” he said.
<b>Tommy Biffle</b><br> From pitching into inches deep of muddy water, to fishing offshore smallmouth water, Tommy Biffle’s namesake lures prove their worth. At Mille Lacs he fished a Gene Larew Lures 4.25-inch Biffle Bug, Sooner Run in color. He rigged that with an 11/16-ounce Biffle Hardhead jig.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Tommy Biffle From pitching into inches deep of muddy water, to fishing offshore smallmouth water, Tommy Biffle’s namesake lures prove their worth. At Mille Lacs he fished a Gene Larew Lures 4.25-inch Biffle Bug, Sooner Run in color. He rigged that with an 11/16-ounce Biffle Hardhead jig.
Biffle slowly dragged the rig across rocky reefs for his fourth-place finish.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Biffle slowly dragged the rig across rocky reefs for his fourth-place finish.
<b>James Elam</b><br> James Elam chose a trio of Jackall Lures to cover the varying moods of the bass defining his pattern. Those choices ranged from reaction lures to finesse baits.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - James Elam James Elam chose a trio of Jackall Lures to cover the varying moods of the bass defining his pattern. Those choices ranged from reaction lures to finesse baits.
The fifth-place finisher used a Crosstail Shad, Rhythm Wave swimbait and Muscle Deep crankbait.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - The fifth-place finisher used a Crosstail Shad, Rhythm Wave swimbait and Muscle Deep crankbait.
<b>Alton Jones</b><br> To finish sixth, Alton Jones relied on a YUM Warning Shot soft plastic finesse bait. He rigged the bait to a No. 2 hook and 1/8-ounce weight. “The small weight keeps the bait from getting snagged in the rocks,” he said. “A 12-inch leader also helped impart more action in this lure, which is really productive for smallmouth.”
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Alton Jones To finish sixth, Alton Jones relied on a YUM Warning Shot soft plastic finesse bait. He rigged the bait to a No. 2 hook and 1/8-ounce weight. “The small weight keeps the bait from getting snagged in the rocks,” he said. “A 12-inch leader also helped impart more action in this lure, which is really productive for smallmouth.”
<b>Jason Williamson</b><br> Jason Williamson fished this Buckeye Mop jig and trailer to finish seventh. For success he dragged the jig along the bottom of isolated rocks on offshore reefs.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Jason Williamson Jason Williamson fished this Buckeye Mop jig and trailer to finish seventh. For success he dragged the jig along the bottom of isolated rocks on offshore reefs.
<b>Matt Herren</b><br> Matt Herren experienced a fantasy week on Mille Lacs. “I’ve never been around a school of fish that big,” said the eighth-place finisher. “It was the most phenomenal area I’ve ever seen.” Herren connected with those smallmouth using this soft plastic fluke.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Matt Herren Matt Herren experienced a fantasy week on Mille Lacs. “I’ve never been around a school of fish that big,” said the eighth-place finisher. “It was the most phenomenal area I’ve ever seen.” Herren connected with those smallmouth using this soft plastic fluke.
<b>Kevin VanDam</b><br> Kevin VanDam closed out a successful 25th season on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail using a familiar lure. The Michigan pro and smallmouth expert chose a Strike King KVD 300 jerkbait to finish 10th at Mille Lacs. “During practice I caught six bass over 6 pounds,” he said. “That is amazing, just amazing. ” Those are high accolades from one of the greatest bass anglers of all time.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Kevin VanDam Kevin VanDam closed out a successful 25th season on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail using a familiar lure. The Michigan pro and smallmouth expert chose a Strike King KVD 300 jerkbait to finish 10th at Mille Lacs. “During practice I caught six bass over 6 pounds,” he said. “That is amazing, just amazing. ” Those are high accolades from one of the greatest bass anglers of all time.
<b>Boyd Duckett</b><br> Boyd Duckett finished 12th at Mille Lacs, targeting bass with a reaction lure of his design. The choice was a Castaic BD Series Crankbait.
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Boyd Duckett Boyd Duckett finished 12th at Mille Lacs, targeting bass with a reaction lure of his design. The choice was a Castaic BD Series Crankbait.
<b>Randall Tharp</b><br> Randall Tharp fashioned a drop shot using a No. 2 VMC Ike Approved Neko Hook with a 3/16-ounce weight. A Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm completed the rig. The 34-place finisher focused on smallmouth holding on offshore reefs.
Photo: James Overstreet - Randall Tharp Randall Tharp fashioned a drop shot using a No. 2 VMC Ike Approved Neko Hook with a 3/16-ounce weight. A Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm completed the rig. The 34-place finisher focused on smallmouth holding on offshore reefs.
<b>Greg Hackney</b><br> Greg Hackney favored a tube jig for the lure’s ability to cover more territory. He did that by dragging the lure over sandy reefs with isolated rockpiles, ranging in depth from 18 to 20 feet. He chose a 3 1/2-inch Strike King Coffee Tube rigged with 3/8- or 1/2-ounce weights. “I tried a drop shot in practice with no luck,” said the 36th-place finisher. “The smallmouth I found were feeding on the bottom, on crawfish.”
Photo: Darren Jacobson - Greg Hackney Greg Hackney favored a tube jig for the lure’s ability to cover more territory. He did that by dragging the lure over sandy reefs with isolated rockpiles, ranging in depth from 18 to 20 feet. He chose a 3 1/2-inch Strike King Coffee Tube rigged with 3/8- or 1/2-ounce weights. “I tried a drop shot in practice with no luck,” said the 36th-place finisher. “The smallmouth I found were feeding on the bottom, on crawfish.”
<b>Gerald Swindle</b><br> The 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year started the tournament intending to fish offshore with a drop shot. It didn’t work. Swindle only managed to catch three keepers each on Days 1 and 2. Then he switched to what he does the best for Day 3.
Photo: Thomas Allen - Gerald Swindle The 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year started the tournament intending to fish offshore with a drop shot. It didn’t work. Swindle only managed to catch three keepers each on Days 1 and 2. Then he switched to what he does the best for Day 3.
For Swindle, that is fishing confidently and with a jerkbait. The choice was a Lucky Craft Pointer modified to closely match the baitfish in his area. That required using a black marker pen to make black stripes down both sides of the jerkbait. Another key adjustment involved the hooks.
Photo: Thomas Allen - For Swindle, that is fishing confidently and with a jerkbait. The choice was a Lucky Craft Pointer modified to closely match the baitfish in his area. That required using a black marker pen to make black stripes down both sides of the jerkbait. Another key adjustment involved the hooks.
Swindle replaced the stock hooks with Gamakatsu EWG 2X trebles. The switch wasn’t a knock on the lure brand. Smallmouth are notorious for their acrobatic leaps and subsurface runs that can throw a lure in a hurry.
Photo: Thomas Allen - Swindle replaced the stock hooks with Gamakatsu EWG 2X trebles. The switch wasn’t a knock on the lure brand. Smallmouth are notorious for their acrobatic leaps and subsurface runs that can throw a lure in a hurry. "When using a two-hook jerkbait for smallmouth I always switch out the hooks," he explained.
On Day 3, when it mattered the most, Swindle settled on a large reef with a depression that provided deeper water for the smallmouth. When the jerkbait bite slowed he switched to an all-white Chatterbait he found on a trip to California. To the Ladies Man Custom Lures model he added a Zoom Super Fluke. The change-up paid off. Swindle’s limit on Day 3 weighed 22 pounds.
Photo: Thomas Allen - On Day 3, when it mattered the most, Swindle settled on a large reef with a depression that provided deeper water for the smallmouth. When the jerkbait bite slowed he switched to an all-white Chatterbait he found on a trip to California. To the Ladies Man Custom Lures model he added a Zoom Super Fluke. The change-up paid off. Swindle’s limit on Day 3 weighed 22 pounds.