High School: Tithof and Hardebeck win at Saginaw Bay

Carson Tithof and Maverick Hardebeck take the win at the 2024 Strike King Bassmaster High School Series at Saginaw Bay with 17 pounds, 4 ounces.

Carson Tithof and Maverick Hardebeck of Grand Haven Bassmasters have won the 2024 Strike King Bassmaster High School Series at Saginaw Bay with a total of 17 pounds, 4 ounces.

BAY CITY, Mich. — The big waters might have been off-limits due to weather Sunday for the Strike King Bassmaster High School Series at Saginaw Bay, but Carson Tithof and Maverick Hardebeck had no problem catching a big limit in the confines of the Saginaw River and clinching the tournament title.

Tithof and Hardebeck, fishing as part of Grand Haven Bassmasters (Mich.) Fishing Team, caught five bass totaling 17 pounds, 4 ounces, giving them an 8-ounce edge over the field of 60 teams competing in the one-day derby in northeast Michigan.

The duo won $1,006 cash for placing first at Saginaw. The boys also qualified for the Strike King Bassmaster High School National Championship, which is scheduled for Aug. 1-3 at Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tenn.  

The Saginaw system might be in their home state, but Tithof and Hardebeck have only fished it once before. Still, they were completely confident river fishing on Sunday — something they do several times a week on the Grand River back home in western Michigan.

“It’s pretty much exactly the same,” Tithof said. “We didn’t plan on going into the bay at all, so that being off-limits didn’t affect us. We knew we wanted to fish in the river because it’s what we’re used to doing.”

The boys’ day started strong, with a limit of bass in the livewell within 30 minutes of their first cast. They culled a few times over the next few hours, but by 10 a.m., their bite was done. Luckily, they already had enough weight to be atop the leaderboard by that time.

“It really was a grind for a while,” Tithof said. “And it was hard to fish in the wind, as hard as it was blowing.”

The victors threw white swim jigs on about 90% of their casts. They looked for breaks in current, typically near logs and other floating structure, where a mix of largemouth and smallmouth bass were stacked.

“We mixed in a beaver (creature bait), too,” Hardebeck said. 

The combination was just what they’d have done on the Grand River, and the similarities paid dividends. They weighed three largemouth and two smallmouth, with one of the smallies (4-10) winning Big Bass of the Tournament honors. 

The High School National Championship berth is the first for both Tithof, 17, and Hardebeck, 15. They previously competed in the Bassmaster Junior Nationals a couple of seasons ago.

A whopping 44 of 60 competing teams caught limits. Behind Tithof and Hardebeck, top tandems included second place, Landon Gabby and Kolby Baker, Marion (Ill.) High School Bass Fishing Team, 16-12; third, Olevir Johnson and Allen Moore, Oldham County (Ky.) High School Bass Team, 16-10; fourth, Oliver Neumann and Wyatt Feiguy, Zimmerman Thunder (Minn.) Bass Team, 16-3; and fifth, Michael Harris and Kayden Waller, Mt. Juliet (Tenn.) Fishing Team, 15-7. 

The derby was the last of the 2024 Strike King Bassmaster High School regular season, with tournaments previously held at Clarks Hill Reservoir in Georgia, Douglas Lake in Tennessee and Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas. 

Go Great Lakes Bay hosted this week’s events.