Mille Lacs will again host the  B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Championship. Dates for the big event are Sept. 14-17.

In 2016, the 50 anglers who qualified for the tourney weighed 729 bass from Mille Lacs, totaling nearly 2,900 pounds.

New this year is a $25,000 payout for the heaviest three-day limit. Also, 36  berths in the 2018 Bassmaster Classic will be awarded based on the final AOY rankings. The full field will compete three days.

Fan-appreciation day — aka Bassmaster University — will be held in the parking lot at Grand Casino, where the pros will give seminars and sign autographs.

Grand Casino and Mille Lacs Tourism will host the event.

B.A.S.S. also announced the return of the Classic Bracket event. This year, instead of having the event midseason, the live-streamed tournament will begin shortly after the conclusion of the AOY Championship. The eight contestants vying for a Classic invitation will be the first eight just outside the Classic cut, giving one angler a last-chance invitation to the sport's premier event.

The Classic Bracket tournament will take place at Pokegama Lake near Grand Rapids, Minn., Sept. 19-22. It will not feature a daily weigh-in; rather each bass will be weighed by a B.A.S.S. official on the competitor’s boat and immediately released.

The contestants wil fish for a five-bass limit from their own boats, and brackets will be set based on AOY points leading into the event.

“This is the first time B.A.S.S. will host a tournament on Pokegama Lake, and we are excited to show the national audience what a great fishery it is,” said Megan Christianson, executive director of Visit Grand Rapids.

Meanwhile, the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (MLSA) said this week it is happy the DNR tightened bass regulations somewhat on Mille Lacs for the coming season. But tougher limits are needed still, the group said.

“We did succeed in reducing the total harvest to three fish, rather than four,” said Jim DaRosa, MLSA president. “That’s a 25 percent gain and the year prior it was reduced from six to four, so we have two years of progress in the right direction. That’s something to celebrate even if it isn’t everything we wanted.”

The 2017 regulations allow one of the three harvest fish to fall in the “over 21-inches” category, and the MLSA would prefer to protect the largest and oldest bass. “I feel like what we got was a step in the right direction, but we won’t know the full impact until we see the increased traffic after the AOY Championship which showcased the fishery to a wider group of anglers,” added George Liddle, tournament bass angler and a full-time guide on Mille Lacs. The MLSA advocated for a two-fish limit (with no overs) and a closed or catch-and-release spring and fall season.

While the season is closed in the spring (it opens with the walleye season for catch-and-release, and harvest opens May 27) it will remain open in the fall, when the big fish can be  vulnerable.

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