Day One Begins at Saginaw Bay

Stop number four kicks off this morning in Bay City, Michigan at Saginaw Bay.

Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons

The first day of the National Professional Fishing League tournament on Saginaw Bay has finally arrived, and the anglers are ready to tackle what the bay has to offer this go around in Bay City. In 2022, it was smallmouth angler Gary Adkins who dedicated his entire practice period offshore and was able to secure the victory by a slim margin over Trent Palmer.

This year, expect Palmer and Adkins to once again bring smallmouth to the scales which will drastically outweigh the plentiful population of largemouth bass living in the bay. The problem will be, can they get to their fish all three days with the wind forecast?

Palmer narrowly missed the victory last season after a tough day two but rallied back with two big mixed bags to finish in second. This year, Palmer will once again fish for both species of fish but expects the smallmouth to play.

“If I am fishing for largemouth, it is strictly because I am unable to get the smallmouth to bite in the wind,” said Palmer. “This week, pending the weather, I will fish for both species, but the smallmouth are much heavier and I just need to hope the wind gets the fish set up where I can fish for them. 

Adkins also mainly focused on locating smallmouth throughout the practice period and noted the fishing was tougher than he expected coming in.

“I spent some time offshore and it was tough to find the right fish,” said Adkins, winner of the event in 2022. “However, I do have a few things figured out and I believe it will be 21-pounds per day average to take the win.”

Palmer added that most of the field will be focused on largemouth which will allow those who tackle the big winds some flexibility and overall, less fishing pressure.

“There are not many other boats around me out there, and I am guessing 63 to 64 pounds will win this week,” added Palmer. “The bay is more blown out and it’s not fishing the same as last year. I sampled a bit of stuff and there are only a few areas where the largemouth are biting, and the fishing is going to get tougher with multiple anglers rotating through.”

Landon Tucker notched a top ten in 2022 and spent all three days of practice focusing on smallmouth bass. With tougher conditions than expected for smallmouth, and the largemouth areas are no better than the previous year, he expects the check weights to be significantly lower this year.

Matt Massey had shifted his focus solely to the largemouth this time around. He had struggled with smallmouth in the past and was determined not to repeat those mistakes. Confident that the bay could pump out some big largemouth bass, Matt had located several promising areas provided the water levels remained stable. 

“I am trusting my gut on this and feel like I have a shot,” said Massey. “I do think big bags of smallmouth could be had; I am sticking to my plan. I think a mixed bag per day and around 58 pounds gets it done this week.”

Dan Blackert is familiar with Saginaw Bay and although coming into the event he had his doubts, he now believes that as long as the weather allowed them to fish for them, there was a better chance of success with smallmouth. 

“We all know the smallmouth weigh more, but getting to them and catching them is not easy,” said Blackert. “Having a backup plan will be key to staying consistent this week as we are expected to face the possibility of adverse conditions. Given the unpredictable weather, my cautious estimate for a winning weight is 51 to 52 pounds for three days.

AOY Race

Progressive AOY leader Timmy Reams encountered a different Saginaw Bay throughout practice and noted the event will be a lot different with the water being a foot low. Couple that with dirty water in the river, it’s making fishing a little tougher for everyone. 

“I still found plenty of fish; I am not sure if they will be 2-pounders or 3 to 4-pounders,” said Reams. “The wind is going to play a huge factor this week and it looks like It’s supposed to blow for 2 days. If we get stuck in the river, the weights will be lower. If the smallmouth guys can get to their spots, it will take 17 pounds a day to win. I fished both species and to have a backup plan with largemouth is crucial. Largemouth are the sure bet, but if you get on the right smallmouth, you can blow it away.”

Behind Reams, the points are tight as only 46 points separate Reams from tenth-place angler Darrel Robertson.

Here is a look at the top ten:

Timmy Reams 744
Todd Goade 736
Jesse Wise 732
Brad Staley 717
Brandon Perkins 716
Sheldon Collings 712
Dustin Smith 707
Keith Carson 703
Will Harkins 700
Darrel Robertson 698

Weather Watch

Anglers will launch into cloudy skies while thunderstorms are expected to develop in the afternoon. Temperatures will reach the low 80’s while the wind is expected to blow southwest at 10 to 20 MPH.

How to Watch 

Tune in daily from July 20 through 22 to watch daily action from Saginaw Bay, with Live Coverage here and on the FREE PHYX TV App beginning on Friday.   

Follow along and watch the daily LIVE Leaderboard, LIVE Blog, and on-the-water photo galleries and blogs of the anglers on Saginaw Bay.   

Under the Go Live Tab, choose LIVE Broadcast or check out the real-time leaderboard on the Weigh Live Tracker with estimated weights entered by the anglers on the water and join us for the LIVE Weigh-ins, here!   

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