Dakota Posey and Trent Buchholz made the 20-hour drive to Michigan fully intending to try their hand at smallmouth fishing during the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Saginaw Bay presented by Bass Pro Shops.
But when boat problems caused them to miss a day and a half of practice, the Lamar State College Orange duo decided to fish exactly how they do in Texas for largemouth.
So far, the audible has paid off as Posey and Buchholz landed 20 pounds, 14 ounces on Day 1 to land in third place, just 2 pounds back of the leaders Tucker Smith and Logan Parks from Auburn University.
“We came up here and bought all smallmouth baits. We wanted to catch smallmouth, but when we got here the wind was bad and the trim unit went out on my motor,” Buchholz said. “We got that fixed and decided it was best to stay in the river.”
Buchholz and Posey have found an area in the Saginaw River that looks identical to what they are used to fishing around East Texas and have felt at home throwing the same baits they normally do.
“We got in our area and had it all to ourselves first thing in the morning. Right when we put the trolling motor down it was happening. We hit a couple different stretches and caught some good ones. The bass were biting all day, and we were catching size and finally when we started catching duplicate 3-pounders we got off our stuff and tried to start saving it.”
The Texas duo weighed in the best largemouth bag of Day 1. And while many teams weighed in all largemouth, including a 19-13 bag from Adrian College’s Owen Januszewski and Matt Mosby as well as a dueling 18-15 bags from Lafe and Matt Messer and UNC-Charlotte’s Eion Patterson and Brennan Kenison, quality smallmouth were the story of the top five.
Four of the top five teams, including the leaders Parks and Smith, weighed impressive smallmouth limits. For the second-place team of Brian Linder and Nathan Thompson from Minnesota State-Mankato, it was a no-brainer to go for smallmouth and the Mille Lacs natives caught 21-1 of smallmouth on Day 1 at Saginaw Bay.
“We had all smallmouth last year, and we decided to stick to that,” Thompson said. “I know there are thousands of largemouth in here, but I don’t think there is the size to win a tournament.”
Linder and Thompson grinded out their bag, only catching six keeper bites throughout the day. Similarly to Smith and Parks, the Minnesota duo also did well in last year’s event and some of that experience has translated to this event.
“We grew up in Northern Minnesota, so this lake makes us feel like we are at home,” Linder said. “We just put our heads down and grinded because we know how to catch.”
Tyler Christy and Trey Schroeder from McKendree University were just 1 ounce shy of a 20-pound bag with their smallmouth and landed in fifth place. They found a group that they thought would go largely untouched.
“We fished here last year, and we didn’t get on a big enough bite to compete,” Schroeder said. “We thought we only had five or six fish found out there, and it worked out really well. We saw more fish than we thought we would.”
The bass the McKendree duo are catching are bedding smallmouth, and with more fish there than they originally anticipated, they are hopeful things will continue to work out on Day 2.
“I think this will be the last wave of smallmouth we will see on beds,” Christy said. “Water temps are 65. After this (wave), you’ll start catching them a little deeper, and I think some guys are already doing that.”
While they believe smallmouth will ultimately take the victory, they have a backup plan if things don’t work out.
Hopefully we can put another limit of smallmouth together, and if we don’t, we’ll go for largemouth late in the day and try and fill it out that way,” Christy said.
You can catch all the action on Bassmaster.com and the live weigh-in will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET.