Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons
BAY CITY, MI. – For stop number four of the NPFL season, the anglers and their families make their way North to Saginaw Bay for the first Great Lakes tournament on the NPFL trail. Hosted by Bay City, Michigan, anglers will compete starting Wednesday June 29th through Friday July 1st and the playing field features a heavy dose of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Saginaw bay is on the Eastern side of Lake Huron and with 1,143 square-miles of water, anglers will have their choice to stay put, or run for hours in attempt to find the biggest bags of bass.
About the Lake
Saginaw Bay and Luke Huron combined feature over 24,000 square feet of fishable water and is home to some of the best bass fishing the NPFL anglers will have experience. With a massive population of both large and smallmouth bass, anglers will have the option to fish their strengths as multiple waves of the spawn are taking place and the option to run from Saginaw Bay in search of bigger bass is an option. Although the largemouth population is vast, some anglers believe the green fish alone will not be enough to take the victory this week in Michigan.
Making his home just 7-hours from this week’s playing field, Ryan Davidson is a “northern guy” and has a vast experience fishing the big waters of the Great Lakes. He believes the smallmouth are doing a variety of the things and can be caught both shallow and deep.
“I would look for the spawn to be going away as a lot of them spawned a month ago, but some of the big fish will probably still be shallow. I think some are also going to be off shore and deeper as well as the typical transition areas.”
With a variety of shallow cover, the largemouth population is strong and the NPFL anglers could opt to stay local and pick apart cover in hopes of finding some bigger bites. In pre practice, Davidson spent some time looking shallow but isn’t exactly sure if the size will be enough to carry someone for the win.
“At the recent college tournament, one of the top teams caught almost 20-pounds a day and during my pre practice, although I never got to 20-pounds, you could catch as many largemouth as you wanted to catch. The quantity wasn’t the problem, but I never found the biggest quality, it’s obvious they live there, I just think it’s more mid to high teens versus the 20-pound mark.”
Based on practice, Davidson is hopeful to target smallmouth in the open water but is weary of any wind playing a factor in some of his best water being fishable. That factor alone will make having some largemouth as a backup an ace in the hole depending on how the event unfolds.
“In Saginaw Bay, nothing is protected if the wind has any north to it. I really want to fish shallow, but the wind keeps that in the back of your mind. Regardless, I was here for a short time and I caught them well. I am looking forward to it, this event is going to be spectacular.”
Coming to Saginaw Bay right from a tournament at Lake St. Clair, Drew Six knows a lot about fishing the Great Lakes and the North and believes that although bed fishing will be a factor, the post spawn funk this is real. Six expects the fish to be in all phases of the spawn but depending on what group of fish anglers find, some may not be as easy to catch.
“Practice is going to tell me a lot but the big males and females are definitely still active and the bed fishing bite will still play to some extent. The largemouth are here but this a three-day event and you will need to have too many fish to compete with the smallmouth.”
Six notes the wind is both a blessing and a curse on the Greak Lakes. Practice looks a little bumpy and the event forecast is looking somewhat decent. Six is hoping for some wind to bite but not enough to affect the fishability.
“A little chop is key and I am not too concerned about the forecast. For me, the different stages of the spawn will play a bigger factor and I think it’s going to be at least 60-pounds to win this week. The weights will be tight in the middle and separated up near the top. The fish are here and we’re going to catch a lot of bass.”
Buck Mallory lives about 3-hours from this week’s playing field and although he only has a little experience on Saginaw Bay, he is very “familiar” with the area. Mallory believes the spawning fish locked on beds will be a factor but that it likely will not last for all three days.
“You can literally go out with a blindfold on and pull into any bank and catch largemouth. And a lot of them; a lot of good fish. Guys win a lot of money just fishing largemouth. But I think brown fish are going to win this week and the spawn will be a factor in some capacity. For me, I hope to catch all smallmouth, if possible, but it likely could be a mix bag.”
The weather is on his mind like the other anglers and Mallory is looking for some sort of West wind to allow him to fish how he is comfortable.
“As of now, it looks good. If its West, and guys can get to where they want to go, everyone should catch them well and we will see a lot of limits weighed in. As I see it, 15.5 to 16-pounds will cash a check and with very few “mega bags,” the top 40 will be tight with 16 to 19-pounds. I think low to mid 20-pound bags a day will probably win if the weather cooperated. Any bait is fair game, you can catch them however you want.”
Weather looks good as of now and I need to have some west wind. Everyone should be good and catch a limit, unless they break down its very hard. And to cut a check it may take 15 to 16 pounds and that’s very good. Probably not a lot of mega bags and very tight for the top 40 16-19 pounds. Probably take mid 20’s to win on average but the weather had to cooperate and its fickle. Anything is fair game, you can catch them on anything you want, jerking, spinnerbait, spy bait, tube.
How to Watch
Check out the LIVE Weigh-ins, here!
See the Results from Watts Bar, here!