Top Smallmouth Lakes in Minnesota that Aren’t Named Mille Lacs

Minnesota has received some serious smallmouth bass recognition nationally over the past two years, resulting from the coverage of the Bassmaster Elite Series events on Lake Mille Lacs and Lake Pokegama in Grand Rapids.

It’s been well documented that Mille Lacs is one of the best smallmouth ponds in the world! But what about other lakes throughout the state? Minnesota contains a great number of clear, hard structure filled lakes that offer ideal habitat for smallmouth bass. Let’s take a look at a few other smallie options that aren’t named Mille Lacs.

The first body of water that comes to mind is Lake Vermilion, and for good reason. Vermilion offers ENDLESS amounts of smallmouth habitat and the bass population has responded. Rocky shorelines, docks, points, islands and large mid-lake reefs are plentiful on Vermilion. You might not find as many five and six pound fish as you would on Mille Lacs, but the number of quality two to four pound fish is incredible. Tried and true smallmouth techniques will always get the job done on Vermilion, but one pattern that stands out is the topwater bite. When conditions are right, this lake can provide some of the most intense topwater action on schooling fish that an angler could hope for.

Sticking to the far north, Rainy Lake and Lake Kabetogama are two bodies of water that sport seemingly endless amounts of smallmouth structure. Rainy is fairly well known in the bass world as some of the larger state/regional tournaments take place there each year. Just south of Rainy is Lake Kabetogama which is a bit overlooked by serious bass anglers. Both of these large shield style lakes are loaded with brown bass which can be caught on a wide variety of techniques. If you’re willing to make the trip to the Canadian border, you won’t be disappointed.

Woman Lake near Longville, MN has certainly made its case for one of the top smallmouth lakes in the state, especially when considering big fish. In recent years, tournaments have exposed just how good fishing can be on Woman especially during the spring, when five fish limits of 25 pounds or more are common! It’s a strange body of water though due to the fact that after the spawn the lake loses a lot of attention. Smallies are certainly still caught, but they spread out on deep water structure and aren’t found in large numbers during the summer months or at least not as often as other lakes during this period.

Two lakes that are most likely a bit closer to home which kick out quality smallmouth year after year are Green Lake near Spicer, MN and Lake Minnewaska in Glenwood, MN. Both lakes have seen ebbs and flows when it comes to smallmouth. Green Lake contains a large number of reefs, flats and other hard bottom structures that hold smallies.

In the eyes of most bass anglers, its best days have come and gone, but Green is still a very legitimate option for someone looking to battle smallmouth bass. Minnewaska on the other hand has seen an increase in the quality of its smallmouth population. Smallies have always played a role here, but the recent arrival of Zebra Mussels has cleared up the water and allowed smallmouth to flourish. The lake doesn’t have a ton of traditional smallmouth structure, but expansive sand and gravel flats hold plenty of two to four pound bronzebacks.

Our next lake isn’t a lake at all. The Mississippi River winds through much of Minnesota north to south, eventually creating the Minnesota, Wisconsin border and continuing on from there. This is a tough one to wrap your head around because the Mississippi is far different in Brainerd, MN than it is in Winona.

Bottom line is that there are loads of smallmouth bass in the entire system. Whether you’re small river fishing from a Jon Boat on the upper Mississippi or flying across Lake Pepin in a 20 foot bass boat, the smallmouth fishing is world class. River smallies are a different breed… They are typically long and slender with large tails due to their constant battle with the current. They fight hard and can be difficult to find at times, but in terms of diversity and overall fish population, nothing beats the Mississippi River.

Luckily for Minnesota residence these are just a handful of high quality smallmouth fisheries in the state. There are several more! We are certainly spoiled when it comes to our smallmouth population and even our quality of bass fishing in general. But if you’re a smallmouth guru, expand your reach a bit this season and see what other lakes these mean brown bass call home.