AWWS North Dakota State Championship Tight As The Devil, with Team Aarfor Winning By A Pound
Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 4, 2021
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
AWWS North Dakota State Championship Tight
As The Devil, with Team Aarfor Winning By A Pound
John Aarfor and son Chandler promised just before this prairie fish show began that while they may not win, they would fish harder than any other team in the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Yamaha Motor Corp USA North Dakota State Championship Friday and Saturday, July 30-31. Well, they did, and they proved it by taking the state championship, earning $5,000, and an automatic entry into next year’s AIM National Championship Shootout.
“John Aarfor told us last week he and Chandler were living the AIM dream and that they were privileged to go up against some of the best teams in walleye fishing, and now they can count themselves new members of that group,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Good going guys, to land 37.63 pounds. The second-place team almost caught you, but they ended up with a big bonus, winning North Dakota Team Of The Year and that new Yamaha 9.9 four-stroke kicker to boot. We’ll talk about that later this week. Right now, let’s zero in on the championship on Devils Lake, which showed its evil side a bit on Day Two, when the wind kicked and both our first- and second-place teams did it with equipment issues.”
AIM interviewed John Aarfor, who’s from West Fargo (Chandler is from Milnor) prior to the tournament, and he said he didn’t think he’d get another chance to tell the tale. Think again, John. So, where’d they end up going?
“We found the fish in Pelican (Pelican Lake, which is actually part of Devils), and we found them trolling crank baits. Number 5 Salmo Hornets pulled by Offshore planer boards. And because he did it, he may be eligible for some Offshore Tackle cash.
“Pre-fishing, we went in and pulled the railroad tracks and some roadbeds, and got into a big, long flat and that was 10 to 12 feet deep, and we got those Salmos away from the boat and hammered on’em pretty good a few days, and then left it alone,” John Aarfor continued.
Let’s stop there and remind everyone that Devils Lake really has submerged tracks and roads, plus a lot more, due to its nature.
“Then we went back in the day before and we popped two and got right back out of there. We needed one other spot so we went looking for two that we could pull crankbaits in and found these spots. But it was all depending on the wind, and what it was going to do. It was hot and calm and those three spots produced fish, so we were worried,” he said.
Another thing that worried was when their bow electric quit, so even if they wanted to switch to a different presentation, they were now committed to those Salmos, Aarfor added.
On Friday, Day One, their worries at least were calmed a bit, when at their first spot, they had five smallish fish on the card by 9:30, but could not get an upgrade.
“It was kind of disheartening because we knew there were nicer fish there. The problem was the northern pike moved in and it was one after the other. We felt the northerns were muscling the walleyes for our cranks. We tried spots two and three and they did not produce,” he said. They ended Friday in 11th place, only a few pounds out of real contention, but worried because of predicted northeast winds for Day Two.
Despite that, they went back to their first spot on Saturday and had their first good fish by 8:15, a 23-1/2-incher. After catching a 16-inch there, they went to their second spot, and bingo. “We caught three fish quicker than you could shake a stick,” or even a fishing rod.
“We had the five on the card and went to our third spot and made one pass, then decided to go back to our first and look for one big fish. We knew we had at least an hour and we had to make a good 30-minute run back to the dock,” he continued.
“At 12:50 Chandler was driving and he went further west into our troll and when he spun the boat around and I set the boards, I popped two northerns back-to-back. As I was unhooking, Chandler’s planer went off and he pulled in a 25-1/4 inch walleye, and that was that one big fish we were looking for. We kept going on the same troll and my planer went off and lo and behold, it was another 25-1/4, so our gamble paid off. Then we carded that one and turned around and picked up a 20 and a 19-3/4-incher, so that one decision gave us four upgrades,” he said.
“When we caught that first 25-incher, we thought we’d have a shot at fifth place. We just wanted that shot at the National Championship (the top five from each state championship are invited to the AIM National Championship Shootout),” he said.
“And when we pulled in that second one, I looked at my son and he looked at me and said, let’s win this thing. I don’t think we sat down in the boat again,” he added. “It was a day of days, something I’ve never experienced before. This was our second full year of fishing AIM, the 10th tournament. And to experience it with my son, that was even better.”
Back at the dock, they were hopeful. “We were in the middle of the other anglers, all asking how’d you do. They started saying ‘we did this and that,’ and we started doing some quick math, and Chandler said, ‘Dad, I think we won this.’ I said just wait. When they announced third place, Chandler looked at me and said, ‘we got it.’ It was pretty crazy.”
Aarfor said both are already pumped about the championship in 2022. No matter where it will be, they’ll be ready.
“We can’t wait until after the first of the year” when the location will be announced, he said. “Then it’s put your investigator cap on and do that scouting.”
The second-place team of Justin Krieger and Rick Ellingson of Williston, ND, rode out the waves on Day Two fishing a different technique than they did on Day One.
“Pre-fishing, we found lots of different spots,” Krieger said, eventually settling in some rocks and a productive point that took them into second place and $2,500 in their Mercury 350-Verado-powered boat, despite those fish and the waves being a bit finicky, and an injured bow electric.
“We put the boat in Thursday and found them in some rock piles so we were feeling pretty confident,” he said. Then on Day One, they headed to the pile that won them Team of the Year in 2019. However, nobody was home.
“We gave it about two hours, which was two too many. Then we headed to a point on the lake and the fish were there. We got five decent fish, 17- to 20-inches, with the idea of just putting five on the card, nothing huge, and then just decided to fish spots we hadn’t,” Krieger said.
Oh yeah. That idea also helped them secure their second AIM Team Of The Year (TOY) title in two years.
Pulling bottom bouncers with spinners, they got those five fish and about noon, went into the main lake, and with only a half-hour left on Day One, stuck a 26-1/4-incher.
That rounded out their bag of 19s and a couple of 17s and put them into second place with 17.10-pounds, about four behind the leaders, who eventually finished fifth. Day Two had a few surprises in store almost from the get-go.
“Day Two we went back to that point again. We went to drop the electric down and realized quickly that we had lost a blade on the prop somehow,” Krieger said. “We had to adapt quickly and dropped our kicker and pulled bottom bouncers with big leeches into the waves at about .5 mph with bottom bouncers.
“It was the best way to slow down our presentation. They really wanted’em (their rods) in the rod holders rather than holding onto them trying to crawl them over the snags. We actually caught all our fish there. We came in with a couple in the 20-inch range, including another 26-1/4-incher. The fishing was good and with the motor being the way it was we weren’t going to leave,” he added. But they felt the needed some better fish, so they ended up doing just that.
“We left around 1:30 to fish a main point in the main lake, right outside of Creel Bay, and the wind got so bad we couldn’t use the kicker motor and ended up putting a drift sock down,” he said. Their count from there? Not a thing.
They weighed in on Day Two with 19.43 pounds and were figuring they’d finish in the top 10, which also may have dashed any chance at making a run at that TOY title. They were far from right. “I was very surprised. We weren’t expecting to be in second by any means, but I guess the fish weren’t just cooperating for others,” he added.
More from Krieger on what their Team Of The Year finish meant to them later this week.
Finishing out the others in the Top Five, third place and $2,000 went to Brandon Van Dusen and Dalton Walsh of Minot, who boated 35.25 pounds. In fourth with 34.03 pounds and winning $1,500 were Lonnie Jacobs of Douglas, and Mitch Lang of Turtle Lake. In fifth, Matt Lang of Turtle Lake and Bryan Lang of Devils Lake finished with 31.83 pounds, good for $1,000.
Thanks to all teams who participated this season, and to the championship host resort, Woodland Resort on Creel Bay of Devils Lake.
Great job all teams, regardless of where you finished this season. Figuring out each lake, the bite, multiple locations, getting gear and your boat ready for anything the water and weather can throw at you, and worrying about all the uncontrollable elements you not only think you’ll run into, but know you will, is hard work, taxing almost all your emotions.
That’s what makes each of you a great competitor, and all North Dakota AIM Weekend Walleye Series teams should be proud. See you and a lot more of your fellow teams next season!
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