By Tayler Michels
The upper Midwest is home to arguably some of the best largemouth bass fishing when you consider the sheer volume of unpressured fish. In regions like Minnesota and Wisconsin where walleye have long dominated the fishing scene, bass on many lakes hardly get noticed but the tides are beginning to change.
Accessible fishing opportunities are getting more attention with the advent of the growing popularity of high school fishing teams and leagues. In a region where bass were once held in much lower regard, there is a much larger appreciation for the green fish that is building. While the upper Midwest might not produce as big of bass as what you might find in Florida, Texas, Tennessee or the Ozarks, the quality to be found in the “walleye belt” is still impressive. If somebody put a gun to your head and told you to catch an eight pound plus largemouth… you might not pick a state like Minnesota. If the mission however was to catch at least ten bass in a day over three pounds… there would be few areas better.
The best largemouth bass fisheries often occur on natural lakes that have good water visibility that coincides with good weed growth. After interviewing a list of highly respected anglers that love to target north country bass, they collectively stressed that If you are going to catch these northern bass, you need to learn how to fish weeds. These insights are worth sharing. The question posed to these professional anglers is simple: how and where to catch upper Midwest largemouths.
Jason Mitchell, host of JMO TV
Can’t go wrong finding tall stands of coontail along sharp breaking contours next to deep water that might be between fifteen and twenty-five feet deep depending on the lake. My confidence bait for catching big fish in tall weeds is a simple jig and craw or a magnum worm or creature bait on a Texas Rig. That is often the first rod I pick up on a good spot where I think there is a big fish. Classic Strike King Hack Attack Jig rigged with a SCHEELS Outfitters 4-inch Beaver in black and blue works so well on so many Minnesota lakes. For catching numbers of fish along weed edges, you just can’t go wrong with a Ned Rig.
Recreational boating activity will often push fish further down the weed line particularly at midday and you need to find those taller weeds in deeper water. Thick mats of wild rice on the northern lakes can also hold a lot of fish shallow and fishing weedless spoons on top can be a fun way to fish. The most important aspect of fishing the rice is getting the right angle so you can throw with the grain of how the stalks are laying just so you can get as far back in the rice as possible and fish it through without disturbing anything. A push pole can help get into some locations better and the push pole is much quieter than the electric trolling motor when you must fish water that is less than two feet.
John Cox, FLW Touring Pro with over 30 top ten finishes
Many good Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin largemouth lakes have an abundance of docks to fish. Early in the season, flip a Dirty Jig HP Flipping Jig rigged with a Berkley Maxscent Meaty Chunk to catch big fish. For numbers of fish, use a spinning rod to flip a weightless Berkley General up under the dock. Rig the plastic Texas rig if there are weeds and wacky rigged if there is open water under the dock.
Early in the season, look for docks that have poles as bass will often bed around the poles. As the season progresses, bass will start to guard their fry where throwing a topwater like a Berkley Choppo down the sides of the dock works extremely well to trigger a reaction.
As you get into summer, look for docks that stick out further or into deeper water. Also look for docks that have lights. Rod holders on a dock often indicate a sunken brush pile. Don’t be afraid to lighten up to eight or ten-pound test and use smaller plastics when flipping docks if there is a boat that has fished these docks in front of you. Timing can be everything when fishing docks as fish position below the dock as the sun changes angles.
Matt Johnson, Minneapolis Area Guide and Pro Staff Coordinator for Blackfish Gear
Fishing metro bass lakes around Minneapolis is all about fishing the heavy Milfoil. Look for thick matts of milfoil and look for pockets of rock or gravel inside the milfoil when looking for bass in the summer. These pockets of rock will be cooler and often hold some really big bass. Confidence bait for the milfoil is an All Terrain Tackle Grassmaster Jig with a creature bait on the back.
Because the milfoil can be so thick, finding rock inside the weeds can be difficult. Learn to read the second and third bottom echo on your electronics by manually adjusting the range out. Punch your jig through the weeds and work areas quickly.
The other prominent pattern is deep weed lines where you find nice stands of coontail in 20-24 feet of water. Look for weeds on your electronics particularly if there is a point or some type of deep structure. Off the deeper weed edges, classic jig worms, Ned Rigs, Neko Rigs and drop shot rigs all work well.
Josh Douglas, FLW Touring Pro and Minnesota State BASS Federation
On many Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes, you will catch a lot of bass on deep weed lines, under milfoil or by fishing docks but something I absolutely love to do especially when the summer gets hot is fish the lily pads with a hollow belly frog. We have so many shallow bays and shorelines that have lily pads and dollar weed. Sometimes we will find bass relating to large areas with lily pads where other times we will find a big fish that is living on an isolated patch. The key to finding the bass in these pads is to find the bluegill. You can sometimes hear the bluegills popping at the surface or physically see them. A weedless frog like the Spro Bronzeye Frog tied direct to 50-60-pound Power Pro is tough to beat for fishing the lily pads.
If you’re serious about catching big bass out of lily pads, disconnect the transducers from your electronics and work hard to be quiet. Make longer casts and keep your trolling motor on low or even use a push pole. Sneak into these locations and pick them apart. You will often find a pattern where the fish might be relating to the outside edge, the bank or in the middle. Slow down and identify the best cover. The hot sunny days are often the best time to fish these pads as fish might move ten feet to hit a lure when the fish are on.
Nothing beats a frog for making long casts and covering water. Not to mention that this is a fun way to fish. If the fish are along the deeper outside edges or in milfoil, I switch up to an Outkast Tackle Feider Jig rigged with a BioSpawn VileCraw or simply Texas rig the BioSpawn VileCraw with a ¾ ounce Tungsten weight that is pegged. Top colors are black and blue or green pumpkin and I rotate between those two colors.