Big Stone Gives It Up At AIM Minnesota Season Opener, As Local Anglers Athey And Dockter Earn $8,100 Sunday
Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 26, 2021
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Big Stone Gives It Up At AIM Minnesota Season Opener,
As Local Anglers Athey And Dockter Earn $8,100 Sunday
They say it takes one to know one, and in this case it also took two to win one on Minnesota’s Big Stone Lake Sunday, when a team from the lake’s south end, barely into South Dakota, crossed the border to take the season’s first Minnesota Division AIM Weekend Walleye Series/Warrior Boats/Center Powersports and Marine Open, earning $6,500 from AIM and $1,600 more in side pot cash.
“Monty Athey and Steve Dockter put on a clinic for fishing the weeds where any walleye likes to set up an ambush for a meal,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “They put that local knowledge to work, went all the way north and came back down the lake to stick one more, but they had plenty of competition, and won by the weight of a walleye’s tooth, with the second-place team right behind them in more ways than one.”
While many teams trolled in mid-lake or elsewhere, Athey and Dockter, both from Big Stone City on the lake’s southwest shore, turned their Mercury 175 Verado north, set their Garmin Panoptix with Livescope GPS to waypoints they marked earlier, and boated 23.76 pounds, winning over Bryce Nilson and Bryce’s father Victor of Graceville, MN, by .08 pound. How?
“It’s kind of a local trick,” Athey confided. He should know. He’s been fishing Big Stone for 50 years. That “trick” is the technique that brought them the win. They fished above the lake’s bottom weeds on the Minnesota side, pulling gold baitfish-pattern crawler harnesses behind a half-ounce bottom bouncer, just enough to keep those spinners out of the weeds, and just enough to entice the fish hiding in them.
“I think for a lot of the teams the weeds got in the way, but we’re used to them out here,” Athey said. “We were in the first two miles of the lake. I like fishing there. There are a lot of big fish there and I feel that if you’re going after big fish, it’s at the north end. We spread our Offshore planer boards wide,” he said. The other key was finding that stained water that often proves the difference between fish in the boat and a zero. They found it north.
“We started running north and south, with and against the wind. Once the wind died, we were able to run east and west along the weed edge and that seemed to be a better bite,” he said.
Well, don’t know how much better it can be when within the first 10 minutes, they had carded their first fish, a 16-1/2-incher.
“Then we had a 17-1/2, a 21-1/2 and a 19-3/4-incher. We had all those in the first hour with crawlers,” he continued. As often happens, there was a lull for about an hour.
“Then we caught a 22-1/2-incher, and we just got done processing that one (measuring, photographing, and releasing with AIM’s exclusive Catch-Record-Release™ format) when a board went back, and we had a 25-3/4-incher, back-to back,” Athey said.
Then the wind died, clearing the water, and the last hour they ran south to the lake’s last mile, netting a 21-1/4-incher upgrade that probably won them the tournament.
“The water was just a little dirtier there because we had two days of wind prior,” Athey said. They went back to the launch hopeful. “I figured we’d done well. I knew we needed five over 20 to win, and that was the main reason we went north. We had caught some the day before in mid-lake, but they weren’t as big. We had better ones going north where we caught three over 20 the day before.”
Athey said they’d like to get into the next two Minnesota qualifiers, June 13 at Mille Lacs and July 11 at Leech Lake. However, both are full. They’re still looking at the last Minnesota qualifier, Aug. 1 on Duluth’s St. Louis River. He’s also sold on the AIM format and fished the last time AIM was at Big Stone.
“I love the format. It’s good for the lake. Tournaments get a bad rap, and this eliminates all that,” he said.
Finishing in second place with 23.68 pounds, good for $2,800 plus $960 in side pot cash, were Bryce Nilson and his father, Victor, in Bryce’s Mercury 225 Optimax-powered platform. They, like Athey and Dockter, also went north, getting their fish about a mile from them, using the same basic technique.
“We were fishing the bottom five feet, pulling spinners and crawler harnesses over the tops of the weeds. And we actually got most of ours on spottail minnows being trolled with bottom bouncers. We used a shorter lead to the planer board, so when a fish hit, it took the boards under pretty much every time,” said Nilson, who lives about 20 minutes from Big Stone.
“We were 24 miles up the lake near the team that got first. We actually got’em good Friday during pre-fishing. We fished a tournament Saturday, and the fish were gone. The water had cleared up big time. Then the wind blew in from the north and we knew the north end would be muddier again.
“We made the long run on a prayer and put all our fish in the boat in two hours and we were done when the water cleared again,” he said. Their first was a 20, right off the bat. “We had a big run of fish for 20 minutes when we got most of them. Then there was a lull, and it sure picked up when we landed a 26-1/2, and that brought our spirits up. If you weren’t in the right spot in the first two hours before the water started to clear, you probably weren’t going to get them,” Nilson said. Like the winners, they too then ran all the way south and upgraded with a 22-1/2-incher within a mile of the launch, barely missing first place.
This was his first AIM tourney, and Nilson says C-R-R is way better than catch-and-keep. “I like it because you’re not beating the fish up all day in the livewell. You make a 20-mile run and I can’t believe it’s very easy on the fish, especially on a hot day. I’d like to see a lot of the tournaments go this way,” he said.
The rest of the Top Five finished this way: Corey Reiffenberger, of Montevideo, MN, and Corey Joyce of Benson, landed 17.83 pounds for third place, $2,000 and $6,40 in side pot cash. Fourth went to Chris Berglund of Grand Rapids, MN, and Scott MacKenzie of Big Lake, MN. They landed 17.2 pounds and $1,600. Fifth and $1,300 went to Patrick Miller and Cody Enger, both of Madison, MN, for boating 16.71 pounds.
So, where’s the AIM parade headed next? To the one that rules them all, the AIM National Championship Shootout, June 4-5 at Wisconsin’s long, and walleye-liscious, Lake Petenwell. What’s the winning team there going home with? That beautiful Warrior V1898DC with a 150 Yamaha on the back and Garmin electronics on the dash, of course. It’s a package worth well over $55,000.
What’s next after that? The cash flow continues June 10-11 with the first of two Quest For The Best tourneys, this season, this one on Minnesota’s legendary Lake Mille Lacs, where big weights WILL happen, and where there’s the potential for a $30,000 first-place check with a full field. Headquarters will be the equally legendary McQuoid’s Inn in Isle. Both QFTB tourneys are sponsored by Minnesota’s Quality Flow Systems.
Stay close, and hang on, Fan Nation, because this is gettin’ good.
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, Berkley, X2Power by Batteries Plus, Abu-Garcia, Fenwick, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Quality Flow Systems, Gemini Sport Marketing, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, McQuoids Inn, Marinette, WI