After an extremely tough year, there's finally some reason to cheer for those on Mille Lacs Lake.
The Minnesota DNR revealed Friday that the popular lake has secured the rights to host the "world-premiere" Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championships next fall.
Held between September 15-18, it is one of the 12 events that comprise the national Bassmaster Elite Series, and will see some of the country's best bass anglers descend on the lake.
"We are very pleased that Bassmaster has recognized something we’ve known for years – that Mille Lacs Lake is a world-class smallmouth bass fishery," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said. "We’re thrilled that anglers from all across the nation will get to experience and see what Mille Lacs Lake and the surrounding community has to offer."
In its announcement, B.A.S.S. Bassmaster CEO Bruce Akin said picking a new venue such as Mille Lacs "will expose the sport to new fan bases," adding that "our Elite Series angles are sure to enjoy the new challenges the lake presents."
Crucially for businesses that have been struggling this year because of the fate of another lake inhabitants – the walleye – bringing the tournament to Mille Lacs is expected to generate an economic boost of $3.4 million.
Because of tight restrictions by the DNR in a bid to boost fish stocks, anglers reached the annual limit for walleye on the lake in early August, proving a significant blow to lakeside businesses as the season ended early.
This winter's ice fishing season will be heavily restricted too, with a one-catch limit in place.
It's hoped the lake will see an upturn next year, and will be helped by hosting the first professional B.A.S.S. tournament to be held on the lake, even though it's been ranked as the 10th best bass lake in Bassmaster Magazine's top 100 for 2015.
The DNR notes it made rule changes specific to Mille Lacs relating to how tournament anglers possess and sort their catches so it could encourage larger bass tournaments to come to the lake.