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Traveling Angler – Mille Lacs Lake

Traveling Angler – Mille Lacs Lake

Oct 1, 2012

Minnesota pilgrimage answers anglers’ prayers for new baits and boats

By Mike Pehanich

Autumn reigned on my annual angling pilgrimage to Minnesota last week.

Minnesota is an angler’s dream with its mix of big destination lakes and rivers and countless small and often underfished lakes and streams.

This won't be the last walleye Tony Roach catches on live bait, but he assures us that fishing with jigs and minnow-style soft plastics in Northland Fishing Tackle's Impulse line has changed his entire approach to walleye angling.

But this year’s target water was Mille Lacs Lake. At 132,516 acres, it is the second largest “pond” in the Land of 10,000 Lakes!

I met up with top bass and walleye pros and TV personalities from Northland Fishing Tackle and Ranger boats. If you don’t mind the name-dropping, our roster included George Liddle, Brian Brosdahl, Tony Roach, Eric Naig, Chris Morgal, Chip Leer, Janet Parker, Matt Raynor, Jeff Benton, Mark Courts, and Ken McKoyd, to name but a few.

In between the walleye and smallmouth bite, Nature turned bold and brilliant, putting on her autumn regalia right before our eyes. Bald eagles flew overhead with such regularity that I thought I was viewing some orchestrated aerial show.

With such abundant natural beauty, who needed to catch fish?

Well, me, I guess. And though the fishing started out slowly, it got good, great and even frantic by trip’s end!

As I sort photos, topics and video footage for coming SWF coverage, let me share a few highlights:

Jerkbaits and tube jigs proved magical for bass pro Janet Parker on Mille Lacs smallmouth in 2011, but jig and soft plastic combinations proved to be the ticket for smallmouth and walleye in 2012.

Mille Lacs remains a hot destination! No lake in Minnesota attracted more attention than sprawling Mille Lacs this year. The walleye fishing started out hot at the May opener and stayed so into late summer. The deep basin bite has since cooled off, but now the marble eyes are up on the rock humps and grass edges with smallmouth bass and northern pike. Janet Parker and I rode a hot walleye and smallmouth bite on the north end Tuesday, and we didn’t find a small fish in the bunch! The action picked up where it left off on Wednesday morning when I joined In-Fisherman writer Cory Schmidt on the west shore for several hours.  More fat smallies and big walleye! (We’ll have details and video soon in SWF.)

Evangelists spread the word – and whack walleye! – The Northland Fishing Tackle pros were on a mission not just to expand awareness of the company’s line of Impulse Reactionary Baits but to spread word that walleye can be just as receptive to soft plastic lures as the black bass clan is! Brian “Bro” Brosdahl and Tony Roach were the most ardent evangelists. Bro noted that more Top 10 finishes in walleye tournaments came from anglers using jigs and soft plastics this season than any prior year. Tony explained that field-testing the Impulse minnow-style baits with aggressive jigging techniques the last two seasons has transformed his entire style of fishing. “I can fish much more quickly, just like bass anglers do!” said Roach. Like bass anglers, they call their approach “power fishing.” We’ll have profiles of their techniques and jig-and-plastic combinations, employing the Impulse soft plastic lures impregnated with Northland’s proprietary fish attractant in coming weeks.

Parker’s monster smallmouth – Janet Parker came within a hair’s breadth of becoming the first female angler to earn a spot on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail last fall. She might have made Minnesota history this fall as well if she had officially weighed in the Mille Lacs smallmouth she landed two weeks ago. Length-girth formulas for the 22-3/4-inch smallmouth put it well within the range of the Minnesota state record. Photos and details to come!

Ranger pro staff anglers Janet Parker and George Liddle show off a pair of fall smallmouth caught from Mille Lacs.

Ranger and Stratos entry level and mid-range bass boats – The Ranger name has become synonymous with full-size, fully equipped high-end tournament bass and walleye craft. But this season the Flippin, Ark.-based boat maker is touting smaller and more economical models of recent introduction. In addition to its latest flagship upgrade, the Z520C, Ranger displayed its updated 1850 LS. At 18’, 8 inches, it is three inches longer than its predecessor and four inches wider, too! Also on display was a Ranger sister craft, the Stratos 176, an entry-level fiberglass boat with all the big-boat trimmings but at a fraction of the cost! The Stratos 176 is rapidly becoming a favorite with serious bass anglers whose home waters have horsepower restrictions!

Ranger has a tiller model, too! –  Multi-species anglers in the North Country have always had a soft spot for tiller-controlled craft. Ranger has touched their hearts and answered the clamor with the Ranger 175T Angler. Why the tiller? Lots of interior space to move around, for one! Musky anglers like the fact that they can walk the entire perimeter of the boat to perform a figure 8 and fight their fish. Control from the stern enables precision trolling along weedlines and structural elements. And that 50-inch livewell will fit trophy pike, musky and catfish, too.

By the way, we stayed at Izaty’s resort on the south end of Mille Lacs. The food and accommodations matched the consistent quality of Mille Lacs fishing.

Take advantage of the hot fall bite on the big water for walleye, northern pike, musky and smallmouth bass.

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