Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 15, 2022
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
AIMing For The Target: Wisconsin’s 10 Best
Reveal Why They Are Championship-Bound, Part 1
(Editor’s note: This is part one of a six-part series looking at each states “Qualifying teams” entered in the upcoming AIM National Championship Shootout, and how they got there.)
Friendship. Confidence. Knowledge. Consistency. Family. And Fun.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be an angler in the AIM Weekend Walleye Series, and whether you’ve got what it takes to join them, take a look here. You’re about to find out it’s a lot less complicated and intimidating than you think, as we highlight the first five teams in this year’s National Championship Shootout, about what it took to get there.
“Remember those first words above. You’re going to hear these teams voice the same things in several different ways,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “I was speaking with an angler the other week, and he said that fishing a particular series allowed him to expand, fish for more and bigger. Fan Nation, and especially those on the fence wondering if you’ve ‘got what it takes’ to be an AIM angler: You Do. Just read the words below. You’ll see.”
Take Vince Moldenhauer of Onalaska Wisconsin and partner Ryan McShane, from Colgate, WI. Moldenhauer guides on the Mississippi. McShane is a police officer. You’ll find them this June 3-4 on Minnesota’s 6,000-acre, walleye-filled Lake Miltona. They’ll be running, among others, the Garmin Livescope electronics and Mercury 300 Pro XS that got them there. Consistency was one of their keys to get to Miltona. And good teammates. AIM entrants can team up with others to cover more water pre-fishing so anglers can concentrate on what they know best on a water body. Many others go it alone.
“My partner and I were always talking about entering events way before this, and we teamed up with some pretty good boats last year,” Moldenhauer said. “We put a lot of time on the water and we forced ourselves to use our Livescope, and that was a big tool. We didn’t feel like we had winning fish dialed in, but we didn’t let that discourage us.”
The pair had three top 11 finishes last season. “We had the second most consistent season of anybody,” he said. “Compared to a couple of years ago, we fished more confident. And we kept doing what we were good at. We fished the pattern, not the spot.
“It almost never goes like you plan but we were able to find the patterns and make it work. We like to use artificial baits. We trolled at times and neither one of us have a ton of experience pulling cranks, but we recognized what we had to do so we did it,” he said.
“You can definitely do it,” Moldenhauer told anyone thinking about entering an AIM event this year. “This (2021) was only our second year. We just go fishing. We never pay attention to the other boats on tournament day; we just go do our thing. We were trying to find something new to do and this was a way to go do something new.”
They’re already starting to look at Miltona, through maps, reports and calling locals. “There’s not much information out there on that body of water. I really don’t know what the class sizes are. We’re going to go and break it down as much as we can. It’ll be fun.”
Greg Reckelberg’s partner is his 23-year-old son, Max. Both are from Luxemburg, WI. They like fishing the nearby Bay of Green Bay and relied on their knowledge and pre-fishing two days prior to last year’s championship to take third and secure a spot in the Shootout. They fished one area the entire time.
“We got information from some of my buddies. They don’t fish tournaments but have a lot of knowledge about the bay,” Reckelberg said. “Our strong point is trolling, deep-diving cranks on and off structure.
“Get as much information as you can from local shops and spend time on the water. That’s how we learn. Look at maps and use your Navionics,” he continued. During a recent tournament on unfamiliar water, the pair even spent time at the dock, asking anglers coming in who had walleye, then went out to see if they could also catch more.
“We’ve pretty much fished all our lives, that’s why my son’s my partner. We wanted to get into tournaments, and we tried a couple of bass events and did pretty well and then started fishing walleye. You learn as you go,” he advised.
One of those lakes new to both will be Miltona, where pitching jigs may come into play, he said. “We’ll adapt to it. I’ve already started doing a lot of research on the internet, looking for fishing reports and people I might know who live in the area. I already bought a map of the lake and we’re checking out areas and points. Normally if we find fish in an area, they may be within 50 yards or so of the same vicinity the next day. Our Livescope is awesome. We’re just starting to use it jigging more than trolling and it was helping out quite a bit. It’s an awesome piece of equipment.”
Lynn Niklasch’s partner is Mark Kumorkiewicz. Lynn’s home base for his guide service is Oconomowoc, WI, and Mark is in Pleasant Prairie. On Miltona, they’ll be in their Mercury 400 Verado-powered boat with Garmin Livescope in his electronics mix.
“I make my living guiding mostly on (Winnebago and Green Bay), but it’s different to take a customer bass fishing and using that information for the tournaments. I don’t book a guide trip on Winnebago for instance because there’s a tournament there next week. I do whatever I need to do with my customers and plan a couple of days depending on the water body and past history,” Niklasch said.
“If you don’t know a lake, you’d definitely be studying maps and research. Is the water clear, is it stained, that time of year? If you don’t have the days and years on the water, you get that by talking to others. People are pretty friendly as long as you’re not asking for their coordinates,” he added.
He’s planning to be on Miltona the entire pre-fishing days allowed. “Through the years you kinda learn. You may not know exactly where someone won a previous tournament, but you know that the winner was, for example, up by the islands (on Green Bay) or along the Cedar River shore. You dedicate some time to that area and either eliminate it or move on it. This year it’s going to be a little different.”
Jon Ohnesorge of Hartford, WI, is also a guide, and fishing AIM, he’ll be on the water with partner Vince Johnson, also from Hartford. He’s in it for the fun, he said.
“I’ve always looked at this as something fun to do and to meet people. There is a business side, and I don’t have a bunch of sponsors and all that other stuff. I foot the bill for my fishing endeavors,” Ohnesorge said. And, he adds, that shows anyone can fish an AIM tournament and just have fun. Often, that’s what it takes to win.
“You do have to spend your time and do your research. I grew up and cut my teeth on fishing the central Wisconsin area, also Green Bay. My family’s got three generations in Door County (the peninsula on the Bay of Green Bay’s east shore). That really helped me last year with the tournament there and that’s where we made our move to secure a spot for the championship.
The pair finished fifth overall last year, second in the Marinette event. What’s his go-to to start researching new water?
“The first thing I turn to is my Navionics. I really like that chip. I look for certain structure. I’ve gone through research on the internet for fishing the same time of year. I always reach out to friends in the tournament world,” he said.
“With Lake Miltona, not many have fished it at all so it’s going to be very interesting. I’ve spoken to some local guides and we’re going to sit down prior and discuss the lake and hopefully utilize some information,” he said.
He’s not quite sure what will work there, but he’s open to stepping out of the box if needs warrant. That’s another key. “I actually experiment with every single aspect, and if I had to choose one, I’d probably say I like casting a variety of things, jigs, swim baits, lipless cranks,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge and I think we’re up to the challenge. I do it for the love of competition.”
Can You Do It Too?
“Each person needs to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Truly find out what they need to work on and devote time fine-tuning all aspects,” he added. “Learn about walleye migration, effect of water temperatures, reading current, bait selection, rods for various techniques, how line affects bait action, weather patterns, boat position and control, driving in rough conditions, knowing your electronics and utilizing it effectively. Anyone can enter but those who grasp all aspects and make changes on the fly if needed will truly have the most success.”
Guy Engebretson of Wausau will be fishing with two partners, and they just happen to be 18-year-old son Cole, a freshman at Marquette University and 16-year-old daughter Julia, a junior at Wausau West High. Cole will fish one day, Julia the other. They’ll be in the family Yamaha 250 SHO-powered boat, using their Navionics-equipped electronics to help find those ‘eyes.
“We double-qualified for the Shootout by finishing first in the Wisconsin championship (Julia and me), and by winning Team of the Year (all three were in on that one),” he said.
“I grew up fishing with a flyrod for bluegills out of a canoe with my grandfathers and salmon fishing on Lake Michigan with my dad. Fishing as a boy held my most beautiful memories. It’s my therapy. It’s my escape. I competed in a local tournament on Lake TuBay as a teenager with my best friends and won a coffee mug. I have that mug to this day,” he said.
He’s a run-and-gun angler, he said. “Fast-paced fishing. And moving my bait fast. Whether it’s trolling in a river or ripping artificials casting.
Yamaha-powered boats quickly turned into their vacation home on wheels. The information they learned from the first club tournament when Cole was seven, he said, poured fuel on that fire to learn more. In 2017, he and Cole won the AIM Wisconsin championship. With Cole in college, Julia has stepped in.
“Competing with her brought me to tears in a way that was different than the tournaments with Cole. She brings an enthusiasm and energy to our practice days that keeps me from getting too serious or stressed. Her smile is like sunshine on the roughest and coldest days. They both represent the future of this sport. The future is bright,” Guy said.
So, have you got it? What it takes, we mean. Sure you do. Now all you need do is go to AIM’s website, click through how to enter, and start planning to be on the water this year in the most lucrative affordable walleye tournament around. Start asking friends. Ask your son or daughter, and through practice, develop that confidence that may just bring you to the podium. That’s how everyone starts. And how you can, too.
As the date gets closer, AIM will have more on this event at its Facebook page from each “state team.” Stay tuned, and if you’re on the gunwales about whether to sign up for a 2022 qualifier, give AIM a try. Registering is easy, and it’s all at AIM’s website.
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™) is a unique tournament organization created and owned by many of the most accomplished and recognizable professional walleye anglers, along with others who share the mission of advancing competitive walleye fishing and making it sustainable into the future.
AIM is committed to marketing excellence on behalf of its tournament competitors, the tournament host communities, and the brands that partner with it.
AIM is also committed to maintaining healthy fisheries across the nation by the development of the exclusive AIM Catch-Record-Release™ format which is integral to its dynamic events and unparalleled consumer engagement. For more information about AIM™, AIM Pro Walleye Series™, AIM Weekend Walleye Series, AIM sponsors and AIM anglers, visit www.aimfishing.com.
AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats inc.
AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Garmin, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Gemini Sport Marketing, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, McQuoids Inn, Marinette, WI, Explore Alexandria, Rosemore Outdoor Gear