Who We Are

MLSA Free the Fighter Logo

Our Approach

The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance membership consists of conservation-minded anglers of all skill levels, Mille Lacs businesses, fishing guides, fishing clubs, tournament organizations and those who enjoy being in the outdoors.  Our “Free the Fighter” signs have been placed throughout the lake, in local businesses and sport shops, to educate the angling public as to the benefits of Catch and Release.   At the same time we are not opposed to well thought-out selective harvest plans that will keep the trophy population of Mille Lacs Smallmouth Bass healthy for all to enjoy for many years to come.

Our Story

The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance is a 501(c)(3)  charitable non-profit organization, recognized under IRC 401(a).

Who We're Not

How You Can Help


  • The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance is not a political conservation group.

  • Checking old attitudes at the door, we're not on a quest to harvest as many fish as possible.

  • We'd never measure a successful day in pounds of fish killed.


First: Sign up to be a member of the MLSA! Your tax-deductible membership will go a long way in furthering our mission.

Join us. We can't do it without you.

Second: Check with your employer to see if they have a charitable match program. Many companies match dollar for dollar!

Third: The MLSA is always looking for donations of money or product that can be used in funding the organization. Annually, we host the Bronzeback Blowout - our biggest fundraiser of the year. Items such as sporting tickets, times shares, outdoor hunting or fishing items, gift certificates for products and services are welcomed. If you have an item(s) to donate to our auction or raffle for the Bronzeback Blowout, please email info@millelacssmallmouthalliance.com

Angler Education

One of the ways to preserve and maintain this World-Class Trophy Smallmouth Bass Fishery is to educate best-practices. Check back right here often as we will post about new topics!

Proper Fish Handling 101
The MLSA promotes Free the Fighter - but there is more to it than just releasing the fish. Proper handling will give the fish a better chance of surviving after being released. Here's a list of DO's and DON'Ts:


  • Hold big fish with 2 hands - not just by the jaw
  • Wet hands before touching fish
  • Be quick to remove hook, take pictures and release - 60 seconds or less is best
  • Cut the line if the hook is deep in the fish. Studies have shown that leaving the hook is less stressful to the fish than trying to remove it and causing bleeding/tearing
  • Always handle fish carefully
  • Release with care


  • Don't hold big fish with only one hand. It puts too much stress on the jaw
  • Don't smack fish against boat or drop on the floor - this will damage the protective slime coating. Using a net can be damaging to a fish as well. If possible, don't use a net
  • Don't keep the fish out of the water for longer than 1 minute - taking photos, measuring etc
  • Don't remove hooks that have gone deep into the fish - it's best to cut the line and leave the hook
  • Don't throw fish back into the water

B.A.S.S. Fans Impressed with the #1 Bass Lake in the Nation

We've known it all along, and now the world does, too.

Seth Feider
In 2017, Lake Mille Lacs was named the #1 Bass lake in the nation! Mille Lacs continues to shine as a top 5 smallmouth lake in the nation. MLSA is only four years old as an organization, but we've accomplished much to draw attention to preserve and protect this fishery.
  • In less than four years we have been able to work with the MN DNR in reducing the number of smallmouth bass from 6 under 18” (2015) to 3 fish under 17” (2018). That’s a 50% reduction in harvestable bass.
  • Got the spring catch and release season for smallmouth bass restored in 2017.
  • Launched a comprehensive marketing and angler education initiative to promote Mille Lacs as a world-class trophy smallmouth bass fishery through roadside billboards, Facebook, print media in local newspapers, and our website and social and electronic media.  Our message is simple: Free the Fighter.
  • We exhibited at the NW Minneapolis Sport show for two years and gave seminars to inform the general angling public the challenges Mille Lacs faces from over-harvest. Our goal has been to create angler awareness of our issues to preserve and protect this wonderful fishery.
  • MLSA is continuing to work with the MN DNR because this trophy smallmouth bass fishery deserves lake management discussion and decisions to be based on sound scientific data -- not speculation or political agendas.
  • MLSA volunteers assisted the MN DNR in conducting a comprehensive smallmouth bass population study on Mille Lacs.   Click here for the results that study.
  • Working with our sponsor Scheels, we’ve promoted catch and release of the trophy size fish by offering a free life-size print for releasing any 21” or longer trophy smallmouth bass back to the lake. Discount pricing for 17” up to 20 15/16”.
  • Working with our sponsor Frabill, we are providing aerated weigh-in bags to tournament organizations on Mille Lacs.  These bags assure fish transferred from the boats’ live wells to the weigh-in stage are handled with utmost care and returned to the lake in good condition.
Now that the bass anglers everywhere are aware that Mille Lacs is one of the best smallmouth bass lakes in the nation, we must continue to protect this resource so that our children and their children can enjoy a very special trophy smallmouth bass fishing experience.