This Father-Son Team Went South For “The Winner,” At Last AIM Weekend Walleye Series Qualifier, Collecting $7K

Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


This Father-Son Team Went South For “The Winner,” At Last AIM Weekend Walleye Series Qualifier, Collecting $7K


When last we left you prior to the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Wisconsin Division Garmin Open on Sunday (July 18) in the Bay of Green Bay off Marinette, the big debate among teams was, ‘which way do I go: north, south, or straight?’ That was answered in spades Sunday (July 18) when the father-son team of Eric and 17-year-old Caden Akey took it all and $7,000 in the mud in the south.

“The two wrapped up the state qualifier season by going south ‘for the winner’ and using their Garmin Panoptix Livescope to find the ‘eyes they needed to slide into Homeplate with 40.65 pounds,’”quipped Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “I’m saying that because the second-place team was behind them by a only a quarter-pound, and they were using Berkley cranks, and the winners crawler harnesses, which tells you a little about the opportunities this bay has to offer. We’ll be back here in a little over a month for the AIM Wisconsin State Championship, and I’m gonna guess that it’ll be won from a totally different spot.”

This was Eric Akey’s first tournament win ever, in his third year on the AIM circuit with son Caden. They began pre-fishing on the Tuesday prior, spending as much as 13 hours a day on the bay. Like many, they surveyed the northern waters first, but the bite there wasn’t consistent enough to go back on Sunday. But, he said, he’ll probably concentrate there next month for the championship.

When they headed south into the mud in the bay’s southern climes, they found that sweet spot. “We got a 26, a 27 and a 22 and got out of there. “There” was an area between Suamico and Pensaukee Shoal.


That’s around north of Little Suamico and south of Oconto, where AIM has been before.  They also had tried the east shore, and tallied 12 cats, 10 sheep and one walleye. That ruled that out.

On Sunday, team Akey pushed the throttle forward on their Mercury 400 Verado and turned south to that spot, about a 35-minute ride at 60 mph. They discovered a whole bunch of other fun fishermen were there too.

“So we dropped on the inside of them, about ¼-mile away, and by 8:30, we had six fish on the card,” Eric said. What size? How about the first being a 27-incher, then a 15, an 18, a 17 and a 14? They then moved even closer inside, anywhere from 24 to 27 feet of water, and nailed a 28-1/2, their biggest, and close behind came another 27, and a 26. Around 9:30 they began changing out harness blades. “When I troll up here usually all we use is gold, but that didn’t work that day. It was all bright colors like chartreuse.”

“By that time it was around 2 p.m. and it seemed like then we started getting sheepshead and catfish. We added up what we had, and we were like 39-something, so we went 20 minutes north and on our first pull caught a 27-1/4-incher, and that was enough for us to win by very little,” he said. Yup, as in ¼-pounder burger size. Running back to Marinette, they were far from confident.

“I thought usually on the other AIM tournaments we fished out here sometimes these guys come in with 50 pounds, so I figured we’d be in the top 10 and there was no way we thought we won because there are so many good sticks here. Everyone in AIM is good. What did it was, we didn’t mess up on the net. We didn’t boot any fish,” he said.

Back on shore at the awards ceremony at Marinette’s Menekaunee Harbor, he heard other teams talking, and that upped his figuring to hoping they’d be among the top five.

“The more I talked with the more I thought we’d be close. Then someone said a team brought in 40 pounds, but when Denny was rifling off the teams, and he called second place, I looked at Caden and said ‘those aren’t our fish,’ and that’s when we knew,” he said.

The Akeys are already looking forward to returning to the same time, same place on Aug. 27 and 28 for the Wisconsin state championship. But he’ll be turning north that time, almost guaranteed, he said.

“We’ll be there, and it’ll be won north, that’s my guess,” he said, and it’s no doubt the guess of the other teams who will be in that event. “Anybody out there could have won this. We did good. A father-son team came through. It was a good day.”

Finishing second were Jon Ohnesorge and partner Vince Johnson, both of Hartford, WI. They also went south to about the same area after looking northward. They too realized that the northern bite wasn’t consistent enough to win yet. They too were running Garmin in their Mercury 250 Pro XS-powered platform.

“We knew there were fish in the mud so we concentrated our pre-fishing on other options. Our last day of pre-fishing we went south and dialed in a program in the mud that worked for us,” Ohnesorge said. They hit the fish hard with Flicker Minnows and other Berkley cranks that he didn’t specify. They trolled in the 28- to 40-foot range after confirming the marks they were seeing were walleye. That’s how good electronics are getting these days.

“We caught a couple of fish there pre-fishing between 26 and 30 inches and realized we’d have to grind it out there, basically,” he added. ‘We stumbled upon a few different pods and instead of starting by the main pack (the same group the Akeys were near), we started just south. We were one of the first boats to go through the area where we got our fish the day prior and immediately we caught a 30-incher. I was like ‘okay, this is looking better now.’”

They also sorted through a lot of 22-inch footballs, he added. They were just gorging themselves,” but because of AIM’s exclusive Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ format, they didn’t know if they were taking alewives, flies or another menu choice.

“We stayed in that area running the same path. Our first two passes there was a little ripple on the water, then things absolutely died. It got real hot and the water calmed and we went basically from catching 10 fish in a pass to one upgrade each time. It made us think a little about should we try a different area. We managed to upgrade just about on every pass. We lost one I know was well over 28 and two others that came off that were straight down below the boat about 30 feet. I was like, ‘oh boy, it’s big,’ and it just went ‘plink’ off the hook. A lot were just barely hooked,’ Ohnesorge said.

The second place netted them $3,000 and the first-place side pot cash of $1,700, but it was still tough knowing those lost fish could have done it, he said. “We really didn’t make any mistakes missing a fish with the net or tangling lines. I told Vince we’ve got a chance, we were going to be close, because that 30 really helped. If we could have had just one of those upgrades, it would have been a slam dunk.

“I was just glad for a good finish. Our other team members took fourth. We’ll be back most definitely for the championship, and we expect the same results (at least size-wise). For sure we’ll be north,” Ohnesorge said.

Finishing in third and earning $2,500 plus $1,020 in side pot cash were Brad Zahringer of Sherwood, and Gary Zahringer of Hilbert, with 38.17 pounds. The fourth-place team of Buck Gehm of Crivitz, and Louie Apitz of Appleton took home $1,700 and $680 in side pot cash for boating 37.69 pounds. Fifth was filled by Kevin and Tim Wetmore of Wisconsin Rapids, with 37.23 pounds, good for $1,200.

Okay, Fan Nation, Wisconsin’s on to its state Championship co-sponsored by Garmin and Berkley in August. Minnesota’s last qualifier, the Warrior Boats Open, is Aug. 1 at Duluth, and then it’s on to see who’s top gun on Aug. 20-21, and who finishes atop the Team Of The Year standings at the Minnesota Division Mercury Marine state championship.

But wait, there’s more! Hey North Dakota, you’re up! Check those lines and double check those knots. Because you’re going to the devil this coming Friday and Saturday, July 30 and 31.

Devils Lake, that is, for the Yamaha Motor Corp. state championship to also see who goes home with that prize, and also Yamaha Team Of The Year honors, and that beautiful Yamaha 9.9 kicker that goes with it, and also to TOY champs in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  AIM’s going all the way to the end of August, so hang on. What a great ride so far!

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 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