Lake Vermilion Fishing

Lake Vermilion Fishing

Lake Vermilion Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Early June was the time and Minnesota was the destination with my son Greg and longtime friends Tom Morgan and Tim Parnell. The trip was for a much anticipated Lake Vermillion Minnesota Fishing excursion for big smallmouth bass. It did not let us down.


According to Wikipedia, “The Ojibwa originally called Lake Vermilion Nee-Man-Nee, which means “the evening sun tinting the water a reddish color”. French fur traders translated this to the Latin word Vermillion, which is a red pigment. Lake Vermillion is located in the heart of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region. This 40,000-acre lake is a great fishing destination for walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch, muskie, bluegill & crappie.

We came for the smallmouth. This lake has some nice fish. In a recent Cabela’s North American Bass Circuit tournament a bag of five smallies weighing 20.11 lbs. was weighed. The winners’ two-day total was 40.6 lbs. Tenth place was just shy of 18 lbs. Lake Vermilion has been fishing great of late and we wanted to check it out.


Tim and I began our first-afternoon fishing an island shoreline. There were smallmouths bass eating crawfish in the shallows. We quickly learned this because the fish would regurgitate their recently acquired meal into the dip net. This also told us what color to use. The crayfish were orange and brown. I found the perfect bait in a tube made by my old friend Gary Hardwick. I dipped the tail of his brown tube in orange/garlic die and the Lake Vermilion smallmouth bass loved it. The bass was running from two to four pounds with a few small males thrown in. We also caught some of the largest rock bass,  I’ve ever seen.

Look for Lake Vermillion smallmouth bass to be tight to cover. A big boulder or tree can hold a few big smallmouth so take your time. Each type of smallmouth bass cover calls for a different bait. The boulder might call for a spinnerbait or swimbait slow retrieved past it to draw hungry bass from below. The lay down might call for a popper or small texas rigged worm. A great bait for a laydown is a small jig and trailer. Work the jig through the tree tapping each limb with the jighead as you go. The heavy jighead will help you work the jig loose if it hangs on a limb. Be ready though because oftentimes a smallmouth will pounce just as the jig gets free.


We were staying at the Timbuktu Marina. Tom has been coming to this lake for more than 25 years and considers this resort with cabins and a marina to be in the best section of the lake. He was our tour guide and kept me from getting lost. Matt Clines, the owner of Timbuktu is an all-around fisherman who hails from Indianapolis, Indiana. He is also a veteran bass tournament angler.

The Clines began coming to this northern Minnesota lake with his father. He liked the area so much that he bought this resort and moved here. This area is remote with no Wi-Fi and with one bar of cell service. The cabins are nothing fancy but all four old anglers could want. Our cabin was a great place to sleep on a rainy night. The marina has some groceries, fishing tackle, snacks, beer, and ice cream.

If you’re looking for a great place to get away at an affordable price be sure to check out Timbuktu Marina on the shores of Lake Vermilion. Located in the Oak Narrows between the East and West ends of the lake you can go right or go left to great Lake Vermilion fishing or sightseeing. Great for the whole family. If you’re looking for a great destination for your next vacation give Timbuktu Marina a call. You won’t be disappointed.


Tom and Greg fished another area using a white tandem spinnerbaits made by Hardwick. They used a twin-tail grub trailer. Gary Hardwick and I fished Red Man tournaments about the same time. I didn’t know him, back then, but I knew his name and reputation. He has tinkered with baits most of his life and came up with some very true running spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and plastics. In fact, he tests each spinnerbait in the water before it goes in the package. Hardwick is old school and doesn’t have a website but his lures are top-notch. He has a prototype lure he developed called a Scared Frog in 3/8 and ½ oz. I can’t wait to try it.



The water is clear making it much easier to catch bass shallow with cloud cover and wind. I like to face the boat into the wind so as to move at my desired speed. It also gives me great control of the boat. I was using a Ranger with a Johnson motor and a 12/24 volt trolling motor. This rig was loaned to us by Mark Mroz and was a much better fit for this big lake than my aluminum Bass Tracker with a 40 hp motor. A GPS is a must on this confusing body of water with 365 islands.


Clines advice was to try Whopper Ploppers early and on cloudy days. Conditions were right on Monday and the hits were explosive on these topwater lures. We all caught bass on top early and late in the day. There is nothing more fun than the explosive topwater strike of a big Lake Vermilion Smallmouth Bass. The Whopper Plopper has been popular of late but the old standbys still work. A Zara Spook, Popper or an original Rapala floating minnow twitched on the surface can generate strikes that startle even the hardest core angler. 


We were advised by Clines to go with Senkos or three-inch Ned Rigs in the middle of the day. I added two bb split shots to my Sinko and it stayed pretty much snag-free. With all the rocks, I had to swim the Ned Rig and still got snagged a lot. Tim made the Ned Rig work for him. I didn’t try it.

Tim and I graphed some fish out from a spawning bay in 12-14 feet of water. We had planned on vertical jigging a drop-shot before the weather turned sour. The weather has been ever-changing with one front after another. We had two 80 plus degree days and one in the low 60s. Another front brought rain in the afternoon of our fourth day. We awoke the next morning to 50 degrees, strong winds, and more rain. We decided to break for home.


Lake Vermilion, known as the Big V, offers many angling opportunities. From veteran angler to novice, Lake Vermilion is a great fishing destination. You can fish for walleye, bluegill, Northern pike, musky, crappie and

  • Walleye
  • Northern
  • Large and Smallmouth Bass
  • Musky
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Perch

Drop-offs, sand-bottom, rock bottom, sunken islands and reefs offer a fishing challenge. With over 40,000 acres of water, hundreds of bays and coves, and 365 islands to explore, you can have a new fishing experience every day of your visit. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources maintains the lake with a walleye hatchery and muskie stocking programs.

Please check out Timbuktu Marina on Google. Also, The Lake Vermillion Resorts



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About Rick Bramwell 37 Articles
Grew up in rural Indiana fishing farm ponds and hunting woodlands. Bramwell has been writing outdoors for 48 years. He harvested the record typical whitetail for his county and hunts rabbits with his beagle Tramp. He fished bass tournaments, including Red Man, until 1989. Bramwell has put together an ultra-ultra light system for catching panfish that mostly involves tight-lining a small jig. He attended college at Indiana State and Anderson University. Bramwell has two sons in their 50s, Brian and Gregory. A daughter Jourdan age 27. His greatest memory: fishing trout, salmon and halibut in Alaska. Bramwell's passion, apart from the outdoors, has been coaching high school age fastpitch softball.

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