No matter what species you chase, everyone loves catching big fish!
There’s a reason why we post pictures on social media and hang mounted fish on our walls. We love the trophies, whether it’s a 10 pound walleye, big bronzeback, torpedo musky, or even a massive catfish.
The most important ingredient in the pursuit of trophy-sized fish is fishing where they live. More important than using big baits and selecting the ideal feeding window is making sure you’re in waters that have the potential to produce the caliber of fish you’re targeting.
Many times, trophy fishing destinations = big water, but that’s not always the case. While big water makes up the bulk of this particular list, we are also sharing some of our favorite river fishing opportunities for bigtime catfishing.
Keep in mind, many of these “top picks” are objective. There are always hidden gems and comparing fisheries is often apples and oranges – and fisheries always change from year-to-year.
These are just a few of our favorite trophy destinations that we have first-hand experience on.
Trophy Walleyes – Saginaw Bay
In Michigan, Saginaw Bay’s trophy walleye numbers are off-the-charts, thanks to successive years of high walleye hatches and excellent recruitment.
These days, the ‘Bay’s walleye population is 100% naturally-producing and doesn’t require supplemental stocking.
Where to fish? The Charity Islands, off Point Au Gres and Tawas Bay, and the Inner Bay all produce excellent fishing from April through fall.
In terms of tactics, trolling cranks, spinners, and spoons on boards consistently puts big walleyes in the boat.
Trophy Smallmouth Bass – Mille Lacs Lake
With five-fish bags totaling 25 pounds, the 2016 BASS Elite Angler of the Year tournament made a big name for Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake.
The lake’s got all the right stuff for trophy smallies: reefs, rocks, weeds, and shallow-to-mid depth flats.
And hiding under those boulders? Lots of crawfish to grow these fish big, old, and fat.
There’s really no bad place to fish — Just launch your boat and start looking. This time of year, scan the clear, shallow waters for roaming wolf packs, then grab a topwater rod and hold on!
Four pounders are average, fives routine, and fish pushing six – even seven pounds are possible.
Trophy Muskies – Green Bay
Many experts believe the next world-record muskie could come from Wisconsin’s Green Bay — waters that consistently produce 50-plus-inch fish and giants in the 40-50 pound class.
But the Green Bay muskie scene hasn’t always been so bright. The fish were pushed to near extinction by the mid-1900s.
Yet, concerned anglers and biologists managed to turn the fishery around through an aggressive stocking program of the Great Lakes spotted muskie strain.
Since then, natural reproduction has taken off, turning Green Bay into a world-class fishery.
Trolling’s the name of the game for locating fish on the expansive waters — from Rapala Super Shads to foot-long or better baits.
But don’t forget your casting gear. Double bucktails and big plastics fished around the Bay’s many reefs also produces its share of trophies.
Trophy Catfish – Minnesota/Mississippi/St. Croix Rivers
While the Deep South is catfish country, the North is gaining attention for drag-busting flatheads and pot-bellied channel cats.
Meandering over 300 miles of holes and logjams, the Minnesota River is one of the highest-quality flathead fisheries in the country.
Biologists report Minnesota River fish tend to live long, and catch and release has sustained an incredible trophy fishery with lots of 30-50 pounders.
In 2016, angler Jake Robinson caught a new state record on the Minnesota – a mammoth 49-incher with 33-inch girth estimated between 62 and 64 pounds.
Many believe it’s only a matter of time until a 70-pounder is produced.
The Mississippi River is another catfish gem. From Minneapolis and St. Paul’s Pool 2 south through Pool 4, Old Man River kicks out monster flatheads and channels, too.
A stone’s throw from the Twin Cities, the St. Croix River is yet another option. Whether fishing upstream or downstream from Stillwater, anglers scour holes and report monster flatheads the entire year, with trophies in the 50-pound class.