Minnesota Bass Fishing Pro Guide: 12 Best Local Spots

Coty Perry

It’s often said that finding an excellent bass fishery in Minnesota is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

In fact, the unofficial nickname of the state, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, isn’t without reason.

Picture this: the state has 11,842 lakes in total, along with rivers and smaller ponds. Among the bass, the largemouth is the dominant species and is found in more than 2000 lakes.

Sounds impressive, right?

But with so many options, choosing the right spots for a Minnesota bass fishing trip isn’t an easy task.

To make things easy for you, we researched the best bass fishing lakes in Minnesota to list the top ones.

After checking the available fishing data and consulting local anglers, we filtered out the spots where the bass density wasn’t as per our standards.

To be honest, picking one spot over the other wasn’t easy. After some hot debates and comparisons, we managed to pick the top dozen.

So, let’s get down to it.

Going fishing in Minnesota? Then give a read to our Minnesota Fishing License guide.

12 Best Minnesota Bass Fishing Spots

1. Lake Minnetonka 

Lake Minnetonka - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

Located in Hennepin and Carver counties, this vast lake is around 15 miles from Minneapolis. With a surface area of 14,528 acres and a shoreline of around 125 miles, this water body is rich with a diverse fish community.

As per some records, Lake Minnetonka is one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the US. A significant number of smallmouths are also found.

Locals report that 3 to 4-pound bass are common in these waters.

The primary period for bass fishing is between May and August. However, the boat traffic during this period is high and the boat ramps remain crowded.

For shore fishing, there are plenty of docks, weedy zones, and rock bars around the lake where surface lures and spinnerbaits produce great results.

2. Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

If there’s another lake that can beat lake Minnesota in terms of bite density, it’s Mille Lacs Lake. It’s the second largest lake in the state with an area of 132,516 acres. 

This world-class bass fishery is a dream for bass anglers and the smallmouth can be found almost anywhere.

Being a glacial lake, it’s bordered by massive rocks that are the favorite spots for the smallmouth.

Beyond that, trophy-size largemouth bass is also available here. Other game fish like walleye, pike, and muskie are also available. And the best part is, the angling pressure on the lake is minimum.

Quite simply, for anyone looking for a “big lake” smallmouth bass fishing experience, Mille Lacs Lake is the perfect destination.

Make sure to check the catch and release fishing regulations before you visit.

3. Whitefish Chain of Lakes

Whitefish Chain of Lakes - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing
(photo source: https://whitefish.org/)

This chain consists of 13 bodies of water covering an area of 14,272 acres. The good news is, every one of these lakes has a significant population of largemouth bass.

That makes it a great spot for newbies as well as veterans.

From dense weed lines to sunken islands, bars, and docks, these lakes have a wide range of features where the bass haunts.

That allows you to use a wide variety of lures depending on the season.

During my fishing trip in the main Whitefish Lake and Cross Lake, the largest largemouth I pulled out was around 3 pounds. While the big bass isn’t easy to find, the overall fish density is incredible.

And, it’s also a great destination for a family trip.

4. Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

Situated along the United States and Canada border, this freshwater lake is one of the best spots for big smallmouth bass in Minnesota.

It’s a beautiful lake that has light fishing pressure, especially during spring.

In spring, the smallmouth is found in large numbers around the sand and gravel spawning flats. Using a wide range of jerkbaits is a good option in these conditions.

In case that doesn’t work, try soft plastics or crankbaits.

There are plenty of islands with rock faces and drop-offs in the lake that hold smallies in summer. Other than that, the reefs are great spots to find schools of smallmouth.

This year, there have been reports of extensive flooding on the lake. So, check the fishing conditions before you visit.

5. The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

The Upper Mississippi River is a prime spot where several bass tournaments are held each year. With numerous smallmouth lurking in the waters, it’s a bass lover’s heaven.

Shore fishing from the banks and piers between St. Cloud to Dayton is a good way to catch smallies beyond 15 inches.

Beyond that, the backwater lakes around the Mississippi River Pool 2 are also great spots. 

However, the river characteristics keep changing. So, you might want to take the help of a local to find the “sweet” spots.

The popular lures are crankbaits, jigs, and spinnerbaits. For the best smallmouth action, fall is a great time to visit.

6. Lake Vermilion

Lake Vermilion - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

This is a freshwater lake in Saint Louis County with a surface area of 39,271 acres. The smallmouth in the lake is eager to bite and great bass above 20 inches are not uncommon.

The smallmouth action in the lake starts in early spring. The areas around the bays and rocky shorelines are ideal spots to use jigs and minnow baits.

In addition, the weeded zones and lily pads in the back end of the bays are also home to some big largemouth bass.

Since the average depth of the lake is around 25 feet, the smallmouth is relatively easy to catch in summer too. Jigs and live baits work well in the deep holes near a reef.

7. Leech Lake

Leech Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

This is the third largest lake in the state and is a part of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota.

Surprisingly, the lake is often ignored by bass anglers, though it’s one of the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in Minnesota.

As per locals, the pockets around beds of wild rice and bulrush are good spots to target the bass in spring. Spinnerbaits and jigs are the best options in this period.

For smallmouth, head to the areas around Rogers Point or Diamond point.

Keep in mind, the water clarity and depth in the lake can vary. So, carrying a wide range of baits is a good idea. The lake also has bluegill, walleyes, crappie, and panfish in large numbers.

8. Kabetogama Lake

Kabetogama Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing

The Kabetogama Lake in St. Louis County is a favorite spot for bass anglers during spring and fall for smallmouth bass in Minnesota.

With an area of 25,700 acres and a rocky shoreline, the lake has numerous spots ideal for bank fishing.

Locals mention that using finesse plastic baits with drop-shot rigs is one of the best ways to catch bass in the 3 to 5-pound range.

In reality, 6-pounders aren’t so uncommon either. 

The rock piles along the shoreline are common spots where the smallies congregate. Or else, seek out a weed patch and drop some surface baits. 

Other than bass, the lake is also an excellent fishing destination for walleye and pikes.

   9. Prior Lake

Prior Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing(photo source: https://www.priorlakemn.gov/government/departments/public-works/water-resources-stormwater-management/lakes)

Located close to the Twin Cities metropolitan area, this is a healthy bass fishery with a significant largemouth population.

The lake is divided into the upper and lower Prior lakes with a combined surface area of more than 1100 acres.

Reports say that the number of largemouths has been increasing steadily over the years. Anglers prefer using spinnerbaits and soft plastics for the best action in deeper waters.

Smallmouth is also available along the shorelines.

The average size of the bass found here is around 12 inches. Since the maximum depth of the lakes is around 60 feet, carrying a fish finder in your boat is a good idea.

10. Lake Waconia

Lake Waconia - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing(photo source: https://www.waconia.org/478/Lakes)

At 3,080 acres, Lake Waconia isn’t among the largest Minnesota Lakes. Even so, it’s a top spot for largemouth bass fishing. Locals mention that the chances of finding a 20-incher are high in these waters.

The best time for bass fishing is during spring and summer. In spring, the weed flats and structures around the lake are ideal spots for using spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.

As temperatures rise during summer, the bass heads towards drop-off in the mid-lake area.

The lake is located in Carver County and has a shoreline of around 11 miles. There are multiple recreational opportunities, making it the perfect year-round destination for families.

11. Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing (photo source: https://www.burnsvillemn.gov/1666/Crystal-Lake)

This is a relatively small lake with an area of 280 acres in Burnsville in Dakota County. Many anglers visit the lake for its high black crappie and muskie population.

However, the lake doesn’t disappoint when it comes to largemouth bass.

The average size of the largemouth is around 17 inches and you can easily catch a few weighing more than 3 pounds in a day. Choose the period between late spring and summer for the best action

You’ll find plenty of aquatic vegetation along the west shore of the lake where creature baits and weedless frogs can be the ideal baits.

There’s also a fishing pier on the north shore for anglers who prefer a more relaxed approach.

12. Chisago Lake

Chisago Lake - Best Minnesota Bass Fishing 
(photo source: https://www.edinarealty.com/land-lots-for-sale/xxx-maxwell-road-chisago-lake-twp-mn-55013-5496991)

If you prefer bass fishing in shallow waters, this lake is the perfect weekend destination.

Located a short drive away from the Twin Cities metro area in Chisago County, it’s an excellent largemouth bass fishery in Minnesota.

The waters have plenty of logs, sunken stumps, and lily pads, along with ample cover that are the ideal spots to look for bass.

Generally, anglers can easily catch bass within the 3 to 4-pound range in these waters.

Note, the water quality remains stained throughout the year. Coming to the baits, Texas rigged worms, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits are some of the best options you can try.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can you fish for bass in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, the bass fishing season starts in early May and extends to fall. 

Is Minnesota good for bass fishing?

Minnesota is one of the top bass fishing destinations in the country.

In fact, Lake Minnetonka, Mille Lacs Lake, and Leech Lake were ranked among the top bass fisheries by Bassmaster in the past years.

What lake in Minnesota has the biggest bass?

Mille Lacs Lake, Lake Waconia, and Kabetogama Lake are some of the best spots for trophy bass in Minnesota

Final Thoughts

There you have it.- the top 12 locations for Minnesota bass fishing.

More and more anglers across the country are discovering the top-quality bass fishing options that Minnesota offers. In fact, some reports suggest that the bass population is expanding in the state.

Unlike Texas, Florida, or California, it may not be the best option for bass fishing nuts looking for those 10-pounders.

But the sheer abundance of bass in the best bass fishing lakes in MN makes angling a thrilling experience.

And isn’t that what you want?

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