Hit a Minnesota river for smallmouth bass action

By C.B. Bylander

Jun 25, 2018

Minnesota has many unique opportunities for smallmouth fishing throughout the year and across the state. Many Minnesota rivers are excellent for smallmouth bass fishing. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has many resources to select your next fishing spot.

Minnesota’s rivers are often over-looked as fishing destinations because lakes are so abundant.

Yet rivers deliver spectacular fishing. These waters literally take you away, and many especially enjoy them because natural scenery is more common and docks, boat lifts and the like less common.

Perhaps the most fun river species to catch is the smallmouth bass. A true fighter, the “smallie” is known for its bulldog strength, acrobatic leaps and rod-bending dives. Smallmouth bass are common in many rivers, and that makes them a great species to seek.


Where to fish in Minnesota?

That’s up to you.  Many stretches of the major rivers – the Mississippi and St. Croix, for example, - are suitable for big boats but these and other rivers, especially during low water stages, are also full of stretches best fished from a canoe, kayak, drift boat or flat-bottomed boat with short-shaft outboard motor. Wading can be a good option, too. In fact, a smallmouth bass wading technique that can be effective is for one angler to toss a surface lure while the following angler pitches a lure that fishes deeper, such as a spinner or light jig. This way, even if a fish misses the surface lure it will reveal its location, thereby allowing the second angler to tempt it with a different approach.

Though not a fishing website, you can get a real feel for Minnesota’s rivers by visiting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources State Water Trail pages. These paddler pages provide helpful maps, water level information and even video and snapshot tours of the kind of places you’ll experience. The DNR’s website also has a Twin Cities area river fishing chart that details the relative abundance of smallmouth bass and other species in the Cannon, Minnesota, Mississippi, Rum and St. Croix rivers.

Quality smallmouth bass water include:

  • The Cloquet River in St. Louis County, especially the 10 miles between Highway 53 and the St. Louis River.
  • The Big Fork River in Koochiching County, especially the 50 miles or so below Grand Falls in the town of Big Falls to the Rainy River.
  • The North Branch of the Root River in southeast Minnesota.
  • The lower Mississippi River, from Hastings down to Iowa, which is big water chock-full of wing dams and backwaters. Also, the upper Mississippi, in the Brainerd, Little Falls, St. Cloud and Monticello areas.
C.B. Bylander
C.B. Bylander
C.B. Bylander is a long-time Minnesota angler who has extensive fishing experience throughout the state. He is a former outdoor magazine field editor, daily newspaper outdoor editor and Department of Natural Resources fisheries communication specialist.