Crane Lake: Simple Tips for Summer Smallmouth Success

The Crane Lake area is known for its lakes. Endless possibilities of water for one to explore and recreate on – one of the fan favorites of course is fishing.

We interviewed Butch Eggen of Butch Eggen Wilderness Guide Service. Butch calls Crane Lake home and has been guiding for more than five decades. We discussed tips for summertime smallmouth bass success, including location, presentation, and other important factors. Butch’s experience and simple recipe for success are helpful for any angler looking to target smallmouth bass during the summer months throughout the Voyageurs National Park area.



How did you get started with fishing and ultimately guiding?

I loved to fish as a kid. My step-grandfather and uncle both had a resort, and my dad had a guide service. By the time I was 12, I was guiding with dad and uncle on various occasions. By the time I was 15 to 16, I was guiding on my own. My first trips were into the Canadian side of the Crane Lake area including Thompson Lake and Lac La Croix.

When I was in late high school, I was a seasonal guide on Lac La Croix. I was given the opportunity to guide more and was able to use this as opportunity to fund my college. I was also guiding through Nelson’s Resort at this age.

I guess I didn’t know any different. I have spent the last 50 years or so in the back of a guide boat.


Tell us about your Guide Service.

My guide service is called Butch Eggen Wilderness Guide Service. I’ve been guiding for over 50 years. My dad had a guide service and general store that serviced local residents and visitors. My guide service has been around since the 1980s. I’ve never billed myself specifically as a fishing guide or hunting guide, I go out fishing to have fun. It’s about the adventure and catching fish is the icing on the cake.

I like to keep a journal of all my clients, where we went, and how the day went.

Nelson’s Resort was historically the home of Crane Lake guides. When I was growing up, there were 12 guides that were available to their guests. At this time, there’s roughly 8 guides. At the present time, all of the Crane Lake area guides are independent contractors.


What lakes do you guide on in the area?

I am based out of Crane Lake, but we fish Crane Lake, Sand Point Lake, Namakan Lake, Loon Lake, and Little Vermillion Lake.


What species do you guide for?

I guide for walleyes, saugers, smallmouth bass, crappies, and anything that bites.



Smallmouth bass live in a variety of locations during the summer months. Where are you starting your search? Do water temperatures play a role in your decision? What about weather conditions?

I start with the calendar. That is going to dictate where I start.

In this area, the second and third of June you can catch smallmouth on topwater. Say it’s June 12th, strong NW wind, high of 58 degrees, and overcast. With these conditions, it would be a tough day for smallmouth. First, I would try to get out of the wind. Next, I would focus on find a spot that holds fish. I would use a variety of topwater and light tube jigs to cover the area.

I tell everyone that comes up here for a few days – whatever pattern you find in the first day of fishing, that will set the tone for the rest of the trip. Repeat it.

Water temperatures do play a role in my decision. More for comparing fishing spots based on temperature differences and how the fishing plays out.

Weather and wind direction are very important. I start looking at the weather as soon as I get out of bed. Wind dictates a lot of my fishing and the locations I’m fishing. It not only dictates where I’m fishing, but whether or not I can get my clients on fish safely. Watching the wind direction and how its shifting throughout the day will help me decide which places I’m fishing at which times.


What structure types seem to be the most consistent throughout the summer in this area?

I look for a rocky shoreline. And there’s rocky shorelines just about everywhere, but I look for shorelines that have what I like to call skull rocks. These are rocks that are roughly the size of basketballs and volleyballs. It doesn’t have to be a half mile of that kind of shoreline, but just large enough to hold fish. I will often pass certain areas because I want to find the right spot. I rely on the wind to help make my decision.


butch-eggen-fishing-guide-crane-lake-minnesotaSmallmouth bass are known to be targeted by a plethora of techniques. What are your favorite techniques for summer smallmouth? If you had to choose a favorite one, what would you say it is?

Topwater and small tube jigs are my favorite techniques. The list of techniques that work goes on and on. Honestly, you can try anything in your tackle box. You’ve got to feel good about what you are putting on your line.

I really don’t have a favorite, but if I had to take just one it would be a jig and a tube or a jig and a plastic.

I chuckle at the folks that show up with several different tackle boxes. I like to carry just a small medicine bottle type tube and have a handful of colored jigs in different sizes.


What rod, reel, and line set ups do you recommend for fishing in the summer months?

A rod in the 7 to 7.5 foot range, Medium Light-Medium power would be ideal for bass fishing and walleye fishing. A mid-size reel would be a good size, and I use 6 to 10 pound test line. A lot of guys like braid, but I’m a mono guy.

My goal is to teach people and give them the best experience.



What kind of size structure do you find for smallmouth bass on Crane Lake and the surrounding area?

That’s a tough question. Crane, Sand Point, and Namakan are all different lakes. Namakan seems to have the overall bigger fish. There’s a wide variety of sizes, depending on which lake and which area you fish.


Anything else that would be helpful for an angler heading to Crane Lake to target smallmouth?

Late in the season, like August timeframe, put on a rig with floating jig head and tip it with a leech. Take that rig out to the rocky shoals and humps and the bass will just gobble it up. It’s definitely not a traditional way of bass fishing.



How can people get connected with you and your guide service?

You can contact me via phone at 218-993-2909 or via Nelson’s Resort at 218-993-2295. My email is


If you would like more information about the Crane Lake area or to access our Visitors Guide, please visit our Contact Page. Thank you for your interest in our beautiful area.

Crane Lake Visitor & Tourism Bureau
7511 Gold Coast Road
Crane Lake, MN 55725
800-362-7405 · 218-993-2901

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