I’ll Have A Walleye On The Rocks, Please: Following The Bait On North Dakota’s Audubon Wins AIM Qualifier 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™)
I’ll Have A Walleye On The Rocks, Please: Following The Bait
On North Dakota’s Audubon Wins AIM Qualifier Sunday
What do you do when it’s rainy and windy, and the walleye are lazy? Following the bait being pushed by the prairie wind was the key for Andy Skalicky and Jason Hallof, who nailed a win during Sunday’s (May 23) second AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Mild2Wild North Dakota qualifier on Lake Audubon.
“We’ve seen it time and again. When the wind blows, watch for baitfish to be blown with it, and where the bait is, you’ll find walleye every time,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “That and being cool-headed even in the rain and nimble. It’s almost always going to win the day.”
That’s basically what Skalicky and Hallof, both from Minot, did, turning what could have been a struggle in the weather into 22.81 pounds, $4,200 and Yamaha Motor Corp. Team Of The Year points.
Skalicky, who is in his second AIM season, said he was pretty familiar with Audubon since he lives about 40 miles away, but perhaps he wasn’t familiar with what the lake put up: waves and rain that shut down the fish for him. At least at first.
“The fish just weren’t really active. So we left our first spot, and took a gamble on some past experience with an east wind,” Skalicky said. That meant running to the rocks along the embankment of U.S. 83 separating Audubon from where AIM will be headed next in Dakotaland, Lake Sakakawea, not far from the start.
“We first went north to The Cabin (water near Cabin Sites Boating Access in a bay off the main lake) and put in a 13-incher in the first half hour, then there was a lull. We were graphing a lot, but they weren’t active. At 10, we decided to leave for the rocks,” he said.
The wind was throwing Audubon into the rocks. They continued pulling Number 11 Berkley Flicker Minnows anywhere from 2.5 to 2.8 mph, that fast to stay off the embankment. Gray, with a red tail tip, if you’re curious, and it’s the same lure he caught an 8-1/2-pounder at the first AIM tourney in Bismarck/Mandan.
“In the spring everybody tends to go small, and I went up to an 11 with a little more control because we wanted the line a little closer to the boat with the wind. We were running them behind about 75 feet in anywhere from 12 to 16 feet of water.
“We popped a 24-inch there but when water started coming over the bow, we decided it wasn’t safe, so we headed to Three Mile (Three Mile Corner access) and got an 18, a 21 and a 14,” he said. At 1:45, they decided to run back to what he said was their big fish spot. Where? Back to the rocks. And turned out, it was their big fish spot.
“We went back to pulling cranks and in a couple of passes we popped a 29-incher at about 2:15, and that was the last fish of the day. They probably heard us in Wisconsin when we got that one. We were right near the boat ramp, a half-mile away. We were watching everybody coming in and at about 3:05 we decided to come in just to be safe,” he said.
They came in not thinking they’d won. “North Dakota has some great anglers and I thought someone could come in with a big bag,” he said. Turns out, the winners (them) had just shy of 23.
“That wind was pounding the rocks and there was a lot of bait fish pushed up there. After a couple of days of the water blowing into those rocks, I figured there had to be something there and I’m glad I went,” Skalicky said.
You’ll next see Skalicky and Hallof on June 20, trying to pull a double on the other side of U.S. 83, in Lake Sakakawea. They’re fishing each AIM NoDak event.
“I love the AIM format. I think the greatest thing about is having slots on the card and spending most of the day upgrading. It’s a wonderful format. We took 21st in Bismarck with about 16 pounds so we’re probably now going to be in the top 10 for Team Of The Year. Ultimately the goal is to really work for that,” he said. “Garrison is my home water, so I’m pretty excited for that one on the other side of the highway.”
In second place was Scot Swain, who did the deed using ¼ ounce jigs and creek chubs, and he’s not sayin’ what color just yet, because he’s both feeling good that AIM will be back at Audubon next season and feeling good that those jigs will do it next time. His five weighed 19.39 pounds, good for $2,000. He split that with partner Jessie Schiele of Norwich.
“We filled our card with all 20- to 22-inhers and left to find bigger. We went up into Three Mile Bay, and we got a lot of 18- to 19-inchers. Audubon is a clear lake and only certain colors will work,” said Swain, who’s from Minot.
“It was blowing on that side of the island for four days straight, so the wind favored us. Big waves bring big fish. It’s tough when you’re working jigs in 2-1/2-footers though, and the wind with that four-pound mono line whipping around.”
But there’s a rainbow on the other side of that wind: Team Of The Year points.
“From what I’ve looked at, I think we’re sitting in second. I’m not shooting for Team Of The Year. I’m going for top five in the state because I want to go to the nationals and battle it out.”
Ok, all you North Dakota guns. You’ve got about a month to decide. And this is a no-brainer decision. A full field of 100 will bring along with it an $8,500 first-place prize, a chance to get into the AIM National Championship Shootout in 2022 and earn those coveted Team Of The Year points.
You’ve got to play to get the pay. The next show is on Lake Sakakawea, prime walleye water that many of you know. Time to show up and have some fun. Think about it as you watch the results for the upcoming Shootout in Wisconsin next month. It could be you there next year.
Meantime, here’s how the top five rounded out:
In third place with 19.06 pounds, and $1,500 richer, are Rick Ellingson and Justin Krieger, both of Williston. Fourth went to Cody Cerkoney of Belfield and Jay Northrop of South Heart, finishing with 18.02 pounds, earning $1,300. Fifth place and $1,100 went to Joshua Gerhardt of Almont, and Jeremy Olson of Alexander, for boating 17.14 pounds.
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