MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With a giant lunker for a roadside landmark, Mille Lacs got its reputation as a walleye factory.
But Thursday — it’s all about the bass!
One-hundred-thousand dollars is at stake for the pro angler who bags the 15 largest fish in the three-day Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship.
This is the first time this elite series has chosen a Minnesota lake.
“After the show airs on ESPN, the area will be known as, Mille Lacs will be known to the world as a bass producer, basically,” said Eric Lopez, director of events for Bassmasters. “So the residual effect will continue on.”
The Beckermann brothers came from Sauk Center to soak it all in.
“We watched them catch a really nice 4-pound largemouth right in front of us, so that just goes to show you that there’s great largemouth in here, too,” said spectator Mark Beckermann.
Mille Lacs businesses hope the tournament draws both crowds and commerce. The area has been hit hard by its troubled walleye fishery.
Brad Parson of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it is proof that angling opportunities go well beyond just one fish.
“It’s been amazing, and it just showcases not only the quantity of fish we have out here but the tremendous quality that’s out,” Parsons said.
At the official weigh-in, bags of big bass delight a crowd of every-day anglers. It is evidence of a fishery quickly earning a reputation of its own.
“It just shows the great multi-species fishery we have here,” Parsons said.
This will be repeated Friday and Sunday. But on Saturday, all the pros hold what is known as Bassmaster University, consisting of free clinics to teach people how to catch those lunkers.
Bassmasters’ decision to bring the big, season-ending tournament to Mille Lacs goes to show how the reputation of the lake is changing.
The pros are all saying proof of that is in the catch. Thursday’s top angler pulled in five fish with a total weight of 26-and-a-half pounds.
Gerald Swindle, of Guntersville, Alabama, holds first place in the tournament as of Thursday night.