Bass Fishing Lake Minnetonka 101: How To Catch Fish All Season Long

Lake Minnetonka (or Tonka as the locals call it) is the crown jewel of the twin cities. With 16 interconnected lakes and over 14 thousand fishable acres, Tonka features some of the best bass fishing within the Minneapolis metro region. Chad Smith, a Minnetonka, Minnesota native, put together a seasonal bass fishing guide to fishing the famed but highly pressured suburban waters. Learn how to locate, pattern, and catch more bass from Lake Minnetonka. 

With so many lakes, Minnetonka offers different types of vegetation, structure, and cover. This rich diversity allows anglers to play to their strengths while fishing in multiple areas using various techniques. Some may prefer to fish offshore while others feel comfortable flipping soft plastics along the grass-lines closer to the bank. Here is what to look for and areas you should think about targeting on Lake Minnetonka 

The Keys To Unlocking More Bass On Lake Minnetonka

Water Clarity – Starting out early in the season, most of the lake is fairly clear, then as the summer progresses the west side of the lake tends to get dirtier. Start off with natural colors and transition to darker or brighter options as the lake’s water churns and water dirties up later into the season.

Grass – Lots of different grasses on the lake, but the 2 I primarily try to focus on is going to be coontail and milfoil.

Milfoil – Stringy, long, and more feathlike grass common throughout the shallow bays. Milfoil grows in thick clumps throughout the lake. Flipping jigs and Texas rigs around sparse or open patches of milfoil is an easy way to find bass during the summer months.

Coontail – Thicker, bushier, and more Christmas tree-like grass found in similar areas you might find milfoil. Look for deep patches of thick coontail and fish the edges with drop shot baits, Neko rigs, and Texas rigged soft plastics.

Structure – There are tons of different rock piles around the entire lake, most leading into some grassy points or flats, these can quickly be labeled a “HOT SPOT.” With so much abundant structure, look for areas that combine structure and ample vegetation. These areas will hold the most life and biodiversity.

Cover- Tonka is FULL of docks, bordering nearly every bit of shoreline visible. There are also some laydowns and things around in some back little pockets of bays along with sea wall channels that connect each bay all around the lake. Skipping jigs, plastic stick worms, and minnow style baits is an easy pattern for anyone looking to find a few largemouth. Docks near deeper water will generally hold the best fish so focus on those areas first.

Now that you know what to look for, where to fish. Let’s break down bass fishing on Lake Minnetonka based on seasonality. 

With bass activity being highly dependent on weather conditions and seasonal patterns, we decided to help break down bass fishing Lake Minnetonka by the seasons. Here is an inside look at how to approach bass fishing on Minnetonka from the season opener in May until first ice, which can be as early as Thanksgiving.

Bass Fishing Lake Minnetonka In the Spring

Exostick Biospawn

Spring time fishing in Minnesota is one of the most exciting times of the year, with having an actual “Opener” everyone is chomping at the bit to get out chasing bass when in season. With that, it is one of the best times to catch some of the biggest fish of the year as they are feeding, moving shallow, and getting ready to spawn. Lake Minnetonka is full of shallow cuts and bays that the bass flock to this time of year as the water temperatures get into the 50s & 60s. Fishing shallow around any kind of docks and shallow cover or areas not quite fully filled out with vegetation are great starting points to locate these early season largemouth. 

Something that can be overlooked are the areas just outside these shallow bays, though.  Looking for steeper breaks just outside these spawning flats and fishing some baits to cover some water can really pay dividends for a good day of fishing.  

My personal favorite top spring baits are going to consist of a wacky worm (BioSpawn ExoStick,) swim jig paired with a BioSpawn ExoSwim, and a bladed jig with a 10,000 Fish Yoto Worm and always need a bed fishing bait on the deck. One that is quickly becoming a “go-to” is a Bed Bug (or white) 10,000 Fish Sukoshi Bug – they just can’t resist it.

I’ll Usually start with covering water with a swim jig or bladed jig in these areas seeing if I can pick up on how active the fish are. I’ll then fish an ExoStick basically around any target-specific structure like laydowns, docks or even just casting it long distances in the shallows. 

I am always looking around in the water, this time of year especially. You never know when you might roll up on a fish locked onto a bed. That’s when I’ll grab my Sukoshi Bug, move off the bed, and pitch at the fish.

My favorite part of fishing Lake Minnetonka in the Spring is that you don’t necessarily need to have a boat to have a great day of bass fishing. There are lots of public areas to shore fish from and I used to do this all the time growing up. I still think I’ve had some days where I could give some hard-core tournament anglers a run for their money without even being in a boat.

Post Spawn Bass Fishing Lake Minnetonka

Bass Fishing Lake Minnetonka

You may have all heard the “Post-Spawn Funk” but there are a few things to look for this time of year that can really up the numbers of fish you put in the boat when the bass get off their beds and are all beat up.

I like to think of one thing — weightless. These fish get finicky and are either starting to move out to their deeper summer areas or are sticking around the shallows to recover and thinking about targeting their next meal. The illusive Tonka Smallmouth can be a great alternative this time of year as they will be on beds a little later than the largemouth will be. 

Targeting smallmouth can be a blast. They will be on deeper flats on beds, and you can never go wrong with looking around buoys.  They are aggressive and if you keep your distance, you can have pretty good odds in getting them to attack anything you throw their way.

For the largemouth, a lot will be hanging around some more main lake docks and inside weedlines, especially any sandy areas.  Whether they are guarding fry or just cruising around here are some of my favorite ways to catch them:

I always have a frog on my front deck this time of year. The bluegill will be spawning and there are always going to be bass around that activity. Casting a frog around any kind of shallow vegetation is a great way to get the blood pumping with some topwater strikes. Other topwater baits like a popper or a walking style bait are never a bad call in some more open water scenarios with a little less surface vegetation. 

Again, a wacky worm does great.  I’ll toss around a BioSpawn ExoStick a lot still this time of year. Finding larger, shallower flats on my map and looking for open areas in the weeds,  inside weedlines, and sandy areas are great starting points. If that doesn’t seem to be working, then I’ll move into the docks close by.

If you want to target some fish that are starting to move out deep, getting to some weedlines outside some of the big flats is a great starting point. Again – thinking weightless, a drop shot with a Biospawn Plasma Tail can be just a straight-up fish catcher. Otherwise Flipping around a Texas rig or a jig on the edges of the weeds can be very productive as well. 

Summer Bass Fishing On Lake Minnetonka 

Bass Fishing Lake Minnetonka

Bass fishing Tonka in the Summertime is personally one of my favorite times of the year. The fish are deep and there are tons of ways to catch them and a lot of them. It’s the time of year they get schooled up offshore on weedlines, rock piles and if you catch one, it’s no surprise to catch multiple. A big thing is looking for weedline to rock transitions and when you do get a bite, you better be ready to throwback to the same spot as soon as possible, because chances are there are more. I’ll try to figure out if the fish are more in the weeds, on the edge of that transition, or out on the rock a little more. I will generally start out on the rock and work my way in closer to try to pinpoint what the fish are relating to. Another great way to catch them is any kind of milfoil you can find.  Flipping milfoil is personally one of my favorite ways to catch bass, period. The deeper weed edges will typically consist of coontail growing all the way out to 20 feet deep, where you will find the Milfoil typically in that 10 foot or less range. Don’t forget – the cleanest, greenest weeds are your friend. Fish those areas thoroughly when you find them.

I’ve got three approaches I always have on my deck in the summertime:  

  1. Flipping baits – Texas Rigged craws (BioSpawn Vile Craw)
  1. Jig – Finnesse (weedlines and rock)
  1. Jig Worm – A mushroom style jig head and threading on either a ribbon tail or straight tail worm with an exposed hook.

Fall Bass Fishing On Lake Minnetonka

Bass Fishing Lake Minnetonka

Things change fast in the fall and so are the fish’s feeding habits.   It’s hard to beat flipping tall milfoil out on tonka this time of year, but it seems that as the years have gone by, lately there has been less and less. Finding some steeper breaking coontail edges and flipping those can be just as effective in early Fall. I love flipping around a jig,  but will always keep a Texas-rig nearby.

Another way I like to target these fall bass as the weather gets colder is going to be things like a chatterbait, squarebill, swim jig, and a lipless crankbait up on some shallower flats as the weeds start dying off. The fall is a great time of year to cover some water and pick up a lot of bites doing so.

Last but definitely far from least is going to be fishing deeper docks in the fall.  The docks are going to hold some heat as the water gets colder along with it being a great ambush point. Flipping a jig or Texas rig around these is a great way to fish them efficiently and have your shot at a big ole Fall Tonka Donkey.

Last Cast

Lake Minnetonka has had a name as one of the best bass fishing lakes in Minnesota for a long time.  It can be daunting at times, with all the boat traffic and fishing pressure, but there is a reason it’s still such a profound fishery all across the board. It’s just straight-up chalked full of them with plenty of bait to keep them coming back and flourishing year after year. I hope next time you are thinking of tackling Tonka you keep some of these tips in mind and I hope you find yourself boating a few extra bass. I’m still continuing to learn every day I can out there, but it’s still the lake I’ve grown up fishing on and I think these tips will show true time and time again. 

Looking for more? Find Chad Smith Fishing on his Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube channels.
Feature Image Credit: Above Lake Minnetonka

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