TOWER — The B.A.S.S. Nation resumes its 2020 season today through Friday with its TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on Lake Vermilion.
The tournament, hosted by Fortune Bay Resort Casino, is one of five regional championship events B.A.S.S. Nation originally scheduled around the country this year.
“Vermilion has long been known as one of Minnesota’s top smallmouth bass fisheries, providing loads of action and potential trophies nearly everywhere throughout the lake,’’ according to the Vermilion Dam Lodge website (vdl.com). “Smallmouths are also feisty, willing biters that respond to a wide variety of tactics throughout the fishing season. The key is usually being in the right places at the right times of year, and then just getting something tempting in front of their noses to garner strikes.’’
According to Minnesota’s Austin Felix, a rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit, throwing a crawfish-imitating bait could be the key to winning the Northern Regional at Vermilion.
“It has the most crawfish I have ever seen in any lake,” Felix said. “It is one of the few lakes (where), if you drag a jig or tube around for a little while, you will reel up your bait with crawfish hanging off the end of it.”
Event host Fortune Bay Resort Casino is looking forward to the event.
“We are very pleased to be a proud sponsor and the host site for the 2020 B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Region Championship,” said Brian K. Anderson, Director of Sales and Public Relations for Fortune Bay Resort Casino. “The B.A.S.S. team has been great to deal with and we wish nothing but success to all of the anglers coming to Lake Vermilion. These are definitely challenging times for all of us, but our staff and the B.A.S.S. staff are taking all of the necessary steps to ensure the safety of everyone. We expect a fantastic tournament here at Fortune Bay Resort Casino on beautiful Lake Vermilion.”
Pro angler Felix predicts Vermilion bass will be in “the very end of the summertime pattern,” and if the weather starts to cool, some fish will start hitting topwater walking baits. “If I were going to fish that tournament, I would try to find one or two schools of smallmouth out (14 to 20 feet) deep and drag a tube or drop shot around on rock outcroppings,” Felix said.
Boat docks will also be a key target for Vermilion bass during the regional. “Vermilion is probably the best dock-fishing lake in Minnesota for both smallmouth and largemouth,” Felix said. “It is not uncommon to catch 10 fish off of one dock.” Flipping a Texas-rigged tube bait or a jig is the best tactic for catching bass around the docks.
Felix has noticed Vermilion has produced good bass fishing for the last five or six years. “It is just far enough from the Twin Cities that it doesn’t get the kind of fishing pressure you would expect from Mille Lacs or any other closer smallmouth lake,” he said.
The lake contains a robust population of both smallmouth and largemouth bass. “There are a lot of 4-pound smallmouth swimming in that lake,” Felix said. He notes the lake also has several 3 1/2- and 4-pound largemouth, and a 5- or 6-pound largemouth could be weighed in during the tournament.
“It is not uncommon to catch 20-pound bags of largemouth, but there is not a ton of largemouth habitat for them and with the number of guys in the tournament it will probably get beat up quickly enough,” Felix said.
“While smallmouth bass tend to draw most of the bassin’ attention, Vermilion is also home to a surprising number of big largemouth bass, with fish of 5 to 6 pounds not uncommon. Interestingly, you seldom catch largemouths in the same areas as their close cousins, smallmouth bass. But if you know where to look, your chances of connecting with bigmouths are better than you might expect,’’ according to vdl.com.
The Elite Series competitor thinks it will take 17 1/2 to 18 pounds a day of mostly smallmouth bass to win the regional.
Felix suggests the main basin on the eastern half of the lake should produce best because it contains the most smallmouth. “I would be shocked if the tournament wasn’t won on that main basin or just off of it,” he said.
From watching the first boats take off at 6 a.m. today to the winning weigh-in announcement on Friday at 2 p.m., all events are being held at Fortune Bay Resort Marina.