Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 22, 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 2
(Editor’s note: This is part two of a six-part series looking at each state’s qualifying teams entered in the upcoming AIM National Championship Shootout, and how they got there.)
It bears repeating, the five teams below will tell you. And the best in tournament walleye fishing will say the same: Be yourselves and have fun. That’s the continuing message teams in the AIM Weekend Walleye Series, who qualified for this year’s National Championship Shootout will tell you.
“Sure, everyone’s nervous when the throttle goes down. Did we make the right moves? Will everything aboard work? Will the weather cooperate? But when you get down to it, fishing AIM is about fun, camaraderie, and have a good time with friends,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “It’s a formula that breeds success, as these next five team members can attest.
“This year’s championship location, Minnesota’s Lake Miltona, is a question mark for most teams, including our Minnesota qualifiers. That’s exactly why we picked it. Everyone has a shot at that beautiful Warrior 1898DC, with that beautiful 150 Yamaha four-stroke on the transom, and that beautiful Garmin electronics on the dash. If you’re wondering whether you’ve got what it takes to join them, take a look here. The five anglers below qualified by Team Of The Year points, not by winning every contest. AIM is a lot less complicated and intimidating and a lot more rewarding than you may think,” Fox added. “Each one of these teams started in the same space, wondering the same thing you are. Each one flipped the lens and moved forward. Let’s see how.”
Joe Mans has been around. And he’s got plenty of national and Midwest championships to show for his experience. Several of each, in fact. Which is exactly what the Peshtigo resident recommends that any team needs. Experience, that is. The awards come along. And, AIM, he feels, is the place to get it.
“I would tell anyone, it’s the best circuit on the planet,” Mans said. “Number one it’s a great place for camaraderie, and to learn. In the grand scheme of things, this circuit has got a lot of really good human beings,” he said. The kind of anglers, he added, that would even invite newcomers unfamiliar with a tournament location to jump aboard for a day of pre-fishing with someone who is.
“It happens. Simply put, you’re not investing a ton of money. That’s why I say AIM is the best out there, bar none. Not to mention, safety is also Number One with AIM,” Mans said.
Be sure also that you and your partner are compatible, he added. He and partner Scott Hausauer from Algoma will be on Miltona in their boat equipped with Garmin Livescope in the electronics mix, and he describes their on-water partnership as being like an old married couple: each knows what the other is thinking, with never a disagreement in tactics. They finished third in Team Of The Year to qualify. Mans admits the learning curve is steep, however, that experience prior is what sets the table to learn even more.
And often, he agrees, it’s the most relaxed team out there that all the others worry about. The ones not out to prove anything. The ones who just want to have fun.
Scott Bleck’s partner is Jason Kircherer. Scott’s from Weyauwega, and Jason lives at Fremont along the upper Wolf River, site of many an AIM spring opener. Their boat is powered by a 250 Yamaha, and Bleck says that because they both work, AIM is the perfect series for them.
“The AIM format really does meet our lifestyle. We’re both employed and fishing is our passion, but it’s not our way of making a living. So the format gives us an opportunity to fish competitively, and with that publicity, AIM’s seen as a respected league to participate in,” Bleck said. “The timing of Sunday tournaments has worked out well. That gives us a chance to find a little success along the way. It’s a family friendly circuit.
“My advice for someone is to look at the series and find that date that is most familiar, and to have fun. Learn from other anglers that have like interests. Jason and I both pull information every day that reaffirms what we’re doing, and also gets us to think about other ways to fish. Denny (Denny Fox) and the rest of the organization give it that excitement. There are good anglers at AIM events and you’re meeting some of the best in the state,” he said.
Miltona, he said, will be a new body of water and he’s using the same tactics others are, meaning there will be a whole lotta local Miltona anglers who will be getting calls from AIM anglers this year. That, and experience on similar lakes may win the thing, he said.
“Proven tactics that produced on most bodies of water, whether it be concentrating on clarity or structure; that will be how we set up our approach, and develop a game plan,” Bleck said. “But we also try to do something just a little off-center just to try it. We found success with the key knowing when to adjust or continue with the grind and knowing that a spot will produce with time.”
Dylan Peotter is always someone to contend with. He and Anthony Englebert, from Kaukauna and Little Chute, Wisconsin, respectively, began their 2021 season taking first at the Fox River, fishing near the upstream limit dam. The rest, he said, were “just mediocre finishes,” but enough to qualify for the championship in TOY Points at fourth place. They like casting and jigging, but forcing themselves to try tolling, Peotter said, saved them at last year’s state championship.
They also count experience on the water as a key, if not THE key.
“I think you need to invest in a lot of time. I’ll say it many times, you can’t replace time on the water because you can learn so much every time you’re out. Figure out what patterns are. What the weather is, what the wind is like,” he said. “We have to adapt to all sorts of conditions, and I think that’s what brings us our success.”
Being anxious when they started, and wondering if they ‘had it’ is, Peottter said, something he knows all about. “Anthony and I were always afraid. We wanted to fish a bigger series. We wanted to be fishing with what we thought at the time were the “’big shots,’” he recalled. In 2019 they jumped in. They landed Team of The Year as rookies.
“It’s not like we caught these monster bags. We just happened to be on the right fish,” he said. “If you know what you’re doing, and do their own thing, they’ll do just fine.”
“I’ve met a lot of people in our three years of fishing AIM, great teams and people I never would have met. It opens up a whole new world of being able to connect with others with the same interests.”
Matt Bootz of Wausau is partnered with Sam May of Crandon, and they’ll be at Miltona in their Mercury Pro XS-powered boat equipped with LiveScope. They’ll follow their own advice and prepare.
“We take them one at a time. Weather is obviously a huge factor. You study each body of water. I look for structure, number one. Whether they’re going to be pre-spawn, post-spawn, in spawn,” he said, depending on time of year, and at Miltona, he’s betting it’ll be one of the three in early June, north central Minnesota.
“Patterns are huge. What are the water temperatures, especially in spring? What are their migration patterns? What is the forage? Approaching this one, my partner and I will rely on people from the area to see about how locals typical would fish them, and we’ll also review maps and spots. Research, and put your time in. Even if you’re just driving around looking for fish, and if you go back the next day, see if they’re still there.
“And we try to keep it fun. We’ll go out and have as much fun as we can. If you’re interested getting in tournaments, get into some local events. Watch videos of past tournaments.,” Bootz added. “Some of our friends were already fishing AIM and that’s how we got started.”
Ryan Pizzi and partner Don Rideout are both “go big or go home” kinda anglers. Pizzi and Rideout, both from Phelps, fished every tournament to win. And they were successful in 2021, getting in that 10th spot for Team Of The Year that anchored their Shootout spot.
“Last year when we saw the schedule, we were really excited. The locations and times of year we thought were pretty good. There was one tournament we were especially excited about, and we zeroed on that one, so fishing is fishing,” Pizzi said. “We took third at Winneconne last year and that’s what got us thinking that we had a legitimate shot at qualifying. We’re very excited to go fish for a new Warrior boat.” He appreciates AIM being the most lucrative affordable walleye tournament around.
“This is a very easy and financially friendly series to get into and at least try and decide if you really like it. I would very much recommend trying out an AIM tournament,” he said.
Pizzi agreed that there’s little background to rely on when planning for Miltona. “From studying our maps, it sets up very similar to some of our lakes back home. A lot of similarities. The biggest thing we try to find out is what the walleyes are doing to figure out what they want to eat.” Yup, Ryan, that’s on everyone’s homework schedule.
As the date, and the official season opener gets closer, AIM will have more on this and all events at its Facebook page from each state team. 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.
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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