The world cup of bass fishing swims into Bay City this summer

Two different fishing tournaments are catching the eyes of world-class bass anglers, luring them  to the Saginaw River, Saginaw Bay, and Lake Huron in July and August.

Even if you don't fish, you may still notice the tournaments. Each tournament is expected to generate around $2 million for local businesses. While the fishermen are in town, the community is planning events to keep spectators entertained.

The National Professional Fishing League brings its bass fishing tournament to this area on July 16-22. Then, from Aug. 1-6, Major League Fishing invites the top 80 anglers in the world to participate in a tournament in Bay County.

Local fisherman Ed Clements says one of the benefits of fishing here is a wide range of techniques are effective.Experts estimate the economic impact of each tournament at about $2 million. And that’s just the week the professionals are here. The publicity the tournaments generate is likely to encourage amateur anglers to travel here for the next few years to fish the same waters where they saw the pros.

The area has long been known for walleye. For a decade or so, local anglers have been catching sizable smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Saginaw River, Saginaw Bay, and Lake Huron, says Clements, a fishing enthusiast and the 8th Ward City Commissioner.

“For the last 10, 12 years, we’ve had just this awesome bass fishery that really nobody knew about,” says Clements, who created the Bay City Fishing Committee that tries to raise awareness about the fisheries here.

Now, the committee’s work is paying off and the bass fishing world is noticing our community.

“It would be like having the Detroit Lions play the Green Bay Packers at Central High School Stadium,” Clements says. “That’s how big bass fishing is.”

Michael Mulone, who works for Major League Fishing, says the organization chose Bay City as a tournament host for several reasons.

The most important factor is the quality of fishing available. Major League Fishing puts tournaments only in the best bass fishing spots in the country. While Mulone himself hasn’t fished our waters, he’s been hearing from fishermen who have visited here.

“One of our anglers came and said ‘You should take a look at this, the fishing is pretty good here,’ ” says Mulone, the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for the League.

Each of two major bass fishing tournaments taking place in this area in July and August are expected to generate about $2 million for the local economy.Clements says what’s unique about our fishery is both smallmouth and largemouth bass swim through the Saginaw River, Saginaw Bay, and Lake Huron. The different types of water also offer anglers a variety of places to fish. 

“Fishermen all have something they’re good it,” Clements says. “There’s 25, 40, 50 different ways to catch a fish. Everybody is good at some things and not so good at other things. Here, with having the Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw River, any kind of fishing you like to do, you can do here. You can fish 50 different ways.”

The second factor Major League Fishing considers is the attitude of the community.

“Is the host destination interested in bringing the tournament to town?” Mulone asks.

Bay City met both qualifications.

“It’s a diverse water,” Mulone says. “People think it’s just the river or the big water, but there’s some great backwaters there.”

Mulone says he’s also been pleased with the response from the community. Local leaders are working with Major League Fishing to make the tournament fun for spectators. A festival and concert are being planned for the week that Major League Fishing tournament comes to town.

“Our job from the League is not just to facilitate the tournaments, but also to educate and entertain and engage with our fans,” Mulone says.

Mulone says he’s headed here this spring to finalize details.

The League puts on about 200 tournaments a year. The competition coming to Bay City is its highest level of tournament. Mulone expects the 80 best anglers in the world to converge on the community.

The winner of the Bay City tournament will walk away with $100,000 in prize money. Also during the tournament, the League will announce its Angler of the Year. That person also wins $100,000.

“We’re looking for a great destination that has great fishing to highlight the best anglers in the world and put Bay City on a national platform,” Mulone says.

“We’re coming at a great time of year and what we think is going to happen is people will say ‘I want to go on vacation to Bay City.’ We’re going to show beautiful shots around town on livestream and broadcast on MO (My Outdoor) TV.”

Clements agrees. Already, he sees cars trailering boats from all over the country pulling into launch sites. He attributes those to people who noticed college tournaments in the area in recent years.

The two professional-level tournaments should attract even more attention.

“It’s cool to bring the tournament here, but the bigger thing for the area and for the local economy, is after the tournament,” Clements says. “This will really pay dividends for the area for the next 10 years.”

Between the quality of the fishery and the enthusiasm of the Bay City Fishing Committee, Mulone expects the community to shine during the tournament.

“We’re inviting our sponsors to come to this one. We think this will be a great ending to the year,” Mulone says.  “We’re looking forward to it.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at