Smallmouth smackdown! A look at the monsters of Mille Lacs Lake

ONAMIA, Minnesota – I should’ve known it was going to be a Gong Show when the first boat pulled into the parking lot at the Grand Casino on Day 1 at the AOY Championship set the tone: Seth Feider.

The Mille Lacs Mauler.

The Amazing Feiderman, as B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer has dubbed him.

Feider pulled his first fish out his live well – a 5 1/2-pounder – hoisted that brown beast over his head like he was Leonidas in the movie “300” … and then proceeded to do that with all five fish he caught that day. 25 pounds 8 ounces.

And I whispered a quiet “Holy shit”.

It’s a phrase I repeated dozens of times in three days of shooting at a tournament that I consider far and away the best of the 2016 Elite Series and FLW Tour seasons.

Chris Zaldain, 26-1 pounds. Holy shit.

Brent Ehrler, 25-5 pounds. Holy shit.

Jason Williamson, 25-8 pounds. Holy shit.

Takahiro Omori, 26-7 pounds. Holy shit.

Randy Howell, Brandon Palaniuk, Drew Benton, Tommy Biffle, Matt Herren, Justin Lucas. On and on and on and on, a conga line of 23-, 24-, and 25-pound sacks.

When the dust finally settled, Feider had the heaviest three-day total (76-5) and Gerald Swindle had earned his second AOY trophy.

A memorable way to end the Bass Nomad tournament season, for sure. I don’t know what B.A.S.S.’s plans are for 2017 AOY and beyond, but I hope those plans include another visit with the monsters of Mille Lacs.
-Joel Shangle