College: Will smallmouth or largemouth prevail at Saginaw Bay?

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Brian Linder, Nathan Thompson
Kyle Jessie

Brian Linder, Nathan Thompson

When teams arrived in Michigan to begin practice for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops regular season finale at Saginaw Bay, the main question was would smallmouth bass or largemouth bass be the best way to catch a big bag?

After Day 1, that question remains open for discussion. Four of the top five teams after yesterday’s weigh-in, including the leaders Clent Blackwood and Bryar Chambers from Wallace State, caught all smallmouth bass that weighed over 21 pounds.  

While the big smallmouth showed up, they weren’t easy to catch for many anglers. Blackwood and Chambers reported that once they got to their first spot, they caught a keeper but proceeded to go about two hours without a bite before catching their limit of 21-15 in nearly consecutive casts.

“We were thinking this would be tough,” Blackwood said. “We knew what was in this lake, and we didn’t find anything in practice. We found some largemouth but nothing of size. In practice, we only saw one smallmouth and we took a gamble this morning and made a long run.”

The duo of Brian Linder and Nathan Thompson from the state of Minnesota caught 21-7, but only had six bites all day.

“The smallmouth definitely seem to be a quality (deal),” Thompson said. 

However, it did take the fourth-place team of Zach Salters and Jenson Kay from Adrian College only an hour-and-a-half to catch their limit of smallmouth, a bag that weighed 21-4. 

Meanwhile, the second-place team of Tyler Vanbrandt and Jarrod Layton, also from Adrian College, proved that largemouth could compete in this event, catching 21-10 of all green fish. 

“Today we pulled up to our areas and fished them a little differently than most people would and caught 4-pounders. It was a crazy day. The conditions were perfect,” Layton said.

Many other teams also went after largemouth and caught bags between 14 and 16 pounds with some anglers catching over 18 pounds of largemouth. When briefly asked on stage by tournament director Hank Weldon how many total largemouth they caught that day, several anglers reported they caught upwards of 50 bass.

Whether smallmouth or largemouth, the leaderboard is tight, and if anglers can find a couple better than average sized bass in either species, they can make a huge jump up the standings. 

Fortunately for all anglers, winds are relatively calm across Saginaw Bay for Day 2, allowing anglers to access the entire playing field. A champion will be determined at weigh-in today from Independence Boat Launch at the USS Edison Battleship. Teams will begin crossing the stage at 3 p.m. with the last flight due in at 4:30 p.m.