FANTASYFISHING.COM INSIDER: Your Saginaw Bay picks should include AOY frontrunners and VanDams - Major League Fishing

FANTASYFISHING.COM INSIDER: Your Saginaw Bay picks should include AOY frontrunners and VanDams

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Stage Seven fantasy teams should include can't-misses, VanDams and clever wild cards.
July 27, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

BAY CITY, Mich. – The time has come to close out the 2023 Bass Pro Tour season, and Michigan’s Saginaw Bay and Saginaw River should be exciting venues to end the tour’s fifth go-around. Minn Kota Stage Seven Presented by Suzuki will showcase one of the premier fisheries in the Great Lakes region, and Saginaw Bay’s largely unpublicized fishing quality is sure to turn heads.

Since there is no history of major tournaments on this fishery for the field to fall back on, my approach for picking my fantasy squad is to stick with some Bally Bet Angler of the Year points leaders, wild cards with nothing to lose and anglers with hometowns in the region.

The AOY Contenders

Jacob Wheeler is in the mix for a third straight AOY after finishing six spots from the bottom at Lake Murray in Stage Four. That’s an almost unheard-of comeback, but here he is, 7 points back of Alton Jones Jr. heading into the final event.

I’m picking Wheeler and Junior this week because they both have a lot on the line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both make a run at a Championship Round appearance, but I think Wheeler will find some magic and win his third straight points title.

Another contender that I’m adding to my team this week is Matt Becker. Although he’s shown he catches them all across the country, smallmouth fishing is right in Becker’s wheelhouse. Most pre-tournament predictions are that largemouth in the river will dominate most of the action on SCORETRACKER®, but the smallmouth on Saginaw Bay will run a bit bigger on average. I’m willing to bet that’s what Becker will be after. If he finds them, he has a good shot at the win and an outside shot at the AOY title.

Alton Jones Jr. will look to set the hook on the right kind of fish at Stage Seven.

Heavy on the Great Lakers

Because the competition waters for Stage Seven are unknown for just about everyone in the field, it makes sense to go with anglers who have experience on similar fisheries with northern-strain largemouth and smallmouth mixed in.

Two easy picks are the Michiganders, Kevin and Jonathon VanDam. If anyone has some tricks up their sleeves on this fishery, it’s these two, who live just a few hours away in Kalamazoo. Jonathon has been tapped for several preview stories for this event and boldly stated, “Saginaw Bay is the best fishery in Michigan right now.”

Sticking with the upper-Midwestern theme, Cole Floyd is another angler who should shine here. The Ohio pro likes to get shallow and flip, pitch, and frog, and there will be plenty of that happening in the season’s final event. He’ll be able to fish his strengths as he looks to lock up a REDCREST berth. (He enters the event in 35th place in the points).

Wild cards with nothing to lose

There are several anglers down the standings with nothing to lose this week. They are too far out to have a real shot at REDCREST, but they shouldn’t have to worry about re-qualifying for the BPT. Among this group are Dave Lefebre and Fred Roumbanis. These veteran pros are 67th and 71st, respectively, and could be surprising this week.

Lefebre is a northern angler who always seems to do well on northern-strain largemouth fisheries, and this one is right in his wheelhouse. Roumbanis is a frog guru, and Saginaw Bay should allow him to throw a frog all day long if he chooses. Both of them should feel right at home in Bay City.

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