BANGOR CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The Midland High School team of Brady Pinwar and Alec Albrecht defended their home waters of Saginaw Bay on Saturday afternoon, catching 23 pounds, 4 ounces of smallmouth bass to win the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors.
The second-place team of Brayden Ruckman and Nate Helmreich from Freeland High School, also a local program, took second place with 20-14, and Hank Sturm and Mitch Straffon from Fenton High School finished third with 20-12.
“It’s amazing,” Albrecht said. “All of our buddies are going to Nationals, so it will be cool to go along with them. We set the bar high and went for 25 pounds, but 23 pounds is just fine. We fish out here a lot of the time but the wind is crazy. It took forever to get in.”
Unexpected storms moved across the region around mid-day, creating some rough conditions for competitors, who were allowed extra time to navigate back to the weigh-in. That, however, didn’t stop Pinwar and Albrecht from getting to their spot and sight-fishing for bedding smallmouth.
“We made a long journey today up North and we got onto a rock flat and caught the bed fish that were there,” Albrecht said.
While some were postspawn, Pinwar said they could see most of the bass they caught. They were throwing an X Zone Lures Finesse Slammer on a drop shot, a Poor Boys Baits Erie Darter on a darter-head jig and a black hair jig, which produced their biggest bass.
“They were late spawners more out deep,” Pinwar said. “Some of them might have been guarding the fry. We executed great. We only caught seven or eight fish, but we only fished the ones we thought we needed.”
Ruckman and Helmreich took a similar approach, fishing for bedding smallmouth in deeper water. Their day started slow, but after bouncing around through some different areas they found a couple of smallmouth that were willing to bite.
“We couldn’t get the first two or three to go,” Ruckman said. “After that, it was kind of lights-out for three or four fish. Then we had a standstill for a while and finally started picking back up. We culled our one 2-pounder we needed to cull out.”
The Freeland High duo caught smallmouth in 10 to 12 feet of water, using a drop shot for the spawners and a crankbait to pick up a couple of postspawners.
“If you could get to them without them seeing you first, you could catch them normally,” Helmreich said. “We marked them in practice and today we would go look for them and cast to them.”
Ethan Gilbert and Carson Aarup from Downeast Fishing Club in North Carolina earned the Big Bass of the Tournament award with a 5-1 largemouth.
The top six teams punched their ticket to the 2021 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, which will be held on Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tenn., July 29-31.
The final regular-season High School Series event of the year will be held next week at Lay Lake.
The tournament was hosted by Bangor Charter Township in partnership with Great Lakes Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation.