There probably is not another walleye lake in America that can rival Lake Erie’s fame other than sprawling Mille Lacs Lake in northeastern Minnesota.
Stop number three on the H2H Professional Walleye Series, Mille Lacs is everything a walleye lake is purported to be:
And at 132,516 acres (that’s 207 square miles, folks) there is more than enough spots for our 32 competitors to fish without seeing another boat.
Long before there were national walleye tournament circuits, Mille Lacs hosted many events including Governor’s Cups and the Minnesota walleye championships. From those tournaments came a score of anglers who honed their fishing skills and eventually became the “who’s who” of Midwest walleye pros and fishing guides. Today, some of them are in the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and many others in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame. The Nisswa Guide Service was known throughout North America as were the launch captains who guided tens of thousands of tourists for walleyes over the past century.
Ron and Al Lindner based their In-Fisherman empire there, showcasing Mille Lacs to the angling world through their magazine, Lindy Rigs, fishing show and eventually the Professional Walleye Trail and currently Lindner’s Angling Edge. Several other fishing shows soon followed hosted by Babe Winkelman, Bob Jensen, Ron Schara to name a few and the whole walleye world eventually knew about magnificent Lake Mille Lacs.
But they weren’t alone. And if you wanted to win a tournament at Mille Lacs, you had to compete against them all: guys like Gary Roach, Randy Amenrud, Jerry Andersen, Steve Fellegy (winner of the first PWT on Mille Lacs), Mark Dorn, Ted Capra, Chris Carlson, the McQuoids, Olmsteads, Houles and so many more. All of them fished the MWC and PWT in the early days. It was a special time to be sure, and Mille Lacs never disappointed.
During that era of tournament competition, leeches on slip bobbers and Lindy Rigs were the order of the day if you wanted to win at Mille Lacs. But that was then, and this is now. As Nick Schertz and Isaac Lakich have proven – you don’t need live bait to catch walleyes and win tournaments. After two river/reservoir tournaments the challenges will be quite different this time with new techniques, lures and presentations. In recent years, some tournaments have been won with non-live bait presentations on Mille Lacs. But which one will work best?
With anglers only being able to fish one rod, in accordance with state law, trolling will still be a player, although one fouled crankbait means constant checking, which burns up lots of time in a short day. That said, I expect to see many H2H anglers trolling leadcore around the edges of mud humps and break lines in deeper water. Some might pull spinners dressed with Powerbait in these same areas; others will be casting jigs – both hair and soft plastics on wind-blown rocks or snap jigging the edges. One or two will be fishing slip-bobbers with custom-made hair jigs or plastics. Casting and retrieving spoons or blades on the right structure will also be a player – and could be a winner.
If Mille Lacs in 2021 is anything like the Mille Lacs of old, I expect to see some big walleyes caught and big numbers as well. But I also expect some windy days that will help some anglers and hurt others. Over five days there will be at least one tough day when the lake is either flat calm or a big cold front blasts through out of Canada. A hot, calm June day could also create a bug hatch of Biblical proportions slowing down the bite. One year they were so thick that they highway department was plowing them off the road with a snowplow. In the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, never expect Minnesotans to do anything in a small way.
This is going to be a fascinating tournament. From a lake that has produced so many fishing legends in the past 60 years, who will the next one be?