Traveling Angler – Bass Lake

Traveling Angler – Bass Lake

Feb 1, 2013

Bless the Regs – Bull Bluegill of Bass Are Back!

By Mike Pehanich

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” says the proverb.

Anglers paraphrase it to fit the waters.

“The fish are always biting on the other end of the lake.”

Jeff Sundin, Early Bird Guide Service, led us to a great small waters ice fishing adventure, then back to outstanding bluegill fishing in our backyard!

Jeff Sundin and I quickly recalled the aphorism as we rejoined our group on Bass Lake in late afternoon. Tom Neustrom popped out of his Frabill shelter holding up a slab-sized bluegill and urged us to work a neighboring hole and join in the fun.

Jeff Sundin (Early Bird Guide Service; ) had traveled not to the far side of Bass Lake, site of our home base at the handsome, rustic cabins of Hidden Haven Resort, but to a distant corner of Itasca County for a small waters adventure.

Make no mistake. The fish rewarded Jeff and I richly for our sled trek through a foot-plus of fresh snowfall to one of the many small natural lakes in the area.  The lake teemed with plump Northwoods panfish. (See Grand Rapids Small Waters Ice Adventure). But as we watched Neustrom, Frabill project engineer Tim Makos pop bluegill after plump bluegill from the ice, we understood clearly that we might well have enjoyed the same action if we had just plopped onto the ice in our Hidden Haven backyard.

Renowned outdoor photographer and recent Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame inductee Bill Lindner had his tireless photo crew working the lake that day with legendary Northwoods anglers Marty and Scott Glorvigen, Brian Brosdahl, Tom Neustrom and some of the top guides of Minnesota and Wisconsin, including Pat Kalmerton and Rid and Nik Dimich. The Lindner crew had no shortage of human or piscatorial stars to shoot that day.

Bull bluegill are a rare and precious resource. Fortunately, Minnesota DNR bag limit regulations are protecting Bass Lake's outstanding population of platter size 'gills.

Big bluegill, including a good share of honest-to-goodness “bulls,” inhabit many of the Grand Rapids waters. Bass Lake is one of several marquee panfish lakes in the region that almost guarantee a return of platter-sized bluegill to the diligent angler due to the Minnesota DNR’s enforcement of a five-fish limit on the species.

Bass Lake had long been renowned for their output of bull bluegill. But extreme angling pressure threatened the supply of top-end bluegill. Rather than risk losing true “trophy bluegill” waters, the DNR imposed the current limits, which restored the greatness of the lake and several other Grand Rapids area waters with similar histories.

The response today is unanimous: the bulls of bass are back!

In addition to 2,407-acre Bass Lake, Itasca County holds countless small waters that yield outstanding panfish as well. Many host good bass populations as well.

By the time I had wrapped up interviews and a photo shoot, I had six minutes to locate a rod and bait, tie on a jig and find a hot hole.

Not to worry. I accomplished all the above, and still caught two fat gills before Jeff sounded the buzzer.

A hole away, Great Lakes smallmouth guru Joe Balog had taken a knee. I had watched him yank one orange belly after another on a tungsten jig rigged with a soft plastic Nuggy while I was filming, and he was back at it again. We both marveled at the action.

Joe Balog was as comfortable pulling bluegill through an ice hole as he is catching Great Lakes smallmouth. "Just one more fish," Balog said...again and again.

“I could do this all day long!” said Balog, a truth buttressed by the 15 bluegill he caught and released after begging: “Just one more fish!”

Bob Barton notes an abundance of 8- and 9-inch bluegill in the lake as well as the periodic eye-popper slab.

“It’s just as good in summer when guys sneak out to sunken island and other prime areas where the bull ‘gills hang out,” said Bob, who owns and operates Hidden Haven Resort with his wife Katie. “Some top spots are close to the resort, too.”

Hidden Haven Resort, Bob and Katie Barton, Cohasset, MN. Phone: 1-866-246-8989 or 1-218-246-8989; email:; website: www.hiddenhaven

Contact Jeff Sundin and his Early Bird Guide Service at 218-246-2375; email: .  Jeff chronicles his outings and provides up-to-date fishing reports on his website:



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