Get Up, Get Out, As Minnesota Teams Head To Big Stone For State’s First Warrior Boats Open Qualifer Of The Season

Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Get Up, Get Out, As Minnesota Teams Head To Big Stone For State’s First Warrior Boats Open Qualifer Of The Season


What great timing for the AIM Weekend Walleye Series to be heading to Minnesota’s Big Stone Lake. It’s a little after the statewide opener, and the lake is hot for the first Warrior Boats Open tournament of the season Sunday (May 23). But will a looming cold front throw a damper on the fun?

“All reports coming from this lake that’s in both South Dakota and Minnesota are that we couldn’t be here at a better time,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “AIM was  here in 2016 on almost the same day in May when trolling won it. We’ll see if that holds true this time. This lake has loads of winners waiting for our teams. One of the draws about Big Stone is that it may be half in South Dakota and half in Minnesota, but your license from either state is good.”

Artie Arndt of Artie’s Bait & Tackle at the south end in Ortonville confirms that its 26 miles of water making up the headwaters of the Minnesota River is ready.

“Fishing in the last week has blown up,” Arndt says. “The lake is hot. Over the last weekend we saw a lot of 18- to 22-inchers, and a variety of techniques are working. Fish are being caught at all depths. It’s full of forage and the fish are very healthy. Typically, the north half is more productive early and then they start to migrate. We’re post-spawn right now so the fish are pretty spread out. There was a local tournament here last Saturday and both north and south had some big weights.”

Big Stone is a one-over-20 lake (regs are four in possession daily with one allowed over 20 inches), and Arndt says that with AIM’s Catch-Record-Release format, that upper end size limit is just a place-holder.

“We love that AIM format. I always like it because you’re able to score all the big fish. We’ve seen an above average number of eight and nine-pounders caught already his spring here. Last time AIM was here it took 29 pounds to win and I expect a similar weight this year,” Arndt says.

Bjorn Horgan of Ham Lake, just north of Minneapolis, will be there in his Mercury 400 Verado-powered boat, finding those ‘eyes with his Garmin Panoptix eyes.  It’ll be his first visit in 18 years, and he’s aware that the lake is pushing out a healthy population of his favorite fish.

“They’re definitely there. My teammate was there this past weekend, and he caught some very quality fish,” Horgan says. “It’s a shallower water lake (deepest is about 16 feet), with a lot of fish in the rocks. It’s mostly a trolling pattern there with primarily crank baits this time of year, either Berkley Flicker Shads or Shad Raps. A lot will probably weigh limits.

“The south half tends to be better for numbers. And how it will typically play out is, three-fourths of the field will be fishing there. The north half is known for weeds, and a few will venture there, but predominately the south is where most will spend the day. Covering ground here is a big thing, and you’re mostly fishing weed edges. It sounds like most fish have left the shallows because we’ve had such a quick warmup,” he adds.

John Gildersleeve from Frazee will be behind the wheel of his 300 Merc Pro XS-powered boat with partner Kyle Manteuffel of Coon Rapids. Gildersleeve will be pre-fishing starting Wednesday. He’s been fishing Big Stone for nearly 20 years and says that a cold front moving into the area midweek and hanging on through the weekend, bringing rain along for the ride may be a significant factor. The lake in his experience at least, is weather-dependent. He agrees that it may cause that strong population of big fish to get lockjaw. He’s ready to go in any case.

“There are four major ways to fish Big Stone. Bobber setups with leeches, minnows and crawlers. The second is trolling crank baits in the basin (mid-lake) in the 13- to 14-foot range. It’s kind of a standard go-to setup once the water gets about 60, and the last I heard it was in the low 60s already,” Gildersleeve says. Other SOPs are of course pitching jigs and crankbaits. Lots of casting.

“I’m guessing about 10 teams will go north, some will be north of Mallard Point (north of Lagoona Beach) fishing specific shoreline areas, and others will be there and near Hartford, SD fishing mid-lake trolling over the rocks, and the rest will be south towards the islands,” he predicts.

Those are his main paths to the podium. But that weather will be a big decider, and a big bag decider, for many. At a recent tournament, he said, a cold front came through, shutting down the bite for many teams. And, who gets what will be determined by who figures out the weather bite.

“I’m guessing that if the bite’s on, you could see as high as 35 pounds, and if it’s marginal, it would be in the low 30s, and if it’s off, someone could get 15 to 20,” he said.

Will that cold front cause everyone to scuttle Plan A, and scramble to Plan B? We’ll see Sunday after all boats come back to Ortonville City Park starting at 3 p.m. Boats leave from there starting at 7 a.m. following inspections beginning at 5:30 a.m. The Saturday evening rules and registration meeting begins online at 7 p.m., with the awards ceremony online starting at 5 p.m. at AIM’s Facebook page.

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 


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