Mille Lacs Regular Takes Home A Record 20Gs In AIM’s Quest For The Best: Consistency, Big Chubs Key

Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Mille Lacs Regular Takes Home A Record 20Gs In AIM’s

Quest For The Best: Consistency, Big Chubs Key


Knowing your water body, being consistent and calm when a wad of cash is staring at you, and using the right bait. That combo is a sure path to payday, and that held true during this season’s first Quest For The Best Thursday and Friday (June 10-11), for teammates Brian Collins and Mike Zimmerman, who demonstrated that and more by winning $20,000.

“Not a bad day for the first tournament you’ve fished all year,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “These two knew the water, knew where the winners were, and they held it together both days when the pressure could have done them in. The win brought not only the cash but also an end to a podium drought they’d been going through.  Fantastic job, guys.”

Collins, who’s from Moose Lake, MN, and Zimmerman, from Sturgeon Lake, MN, returned to the water on Sunday’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series Minnesota State Qualifier, also cashing a check for a 9th place finish. But, Collins admitted, they were still basking in that big Quest win after chewing up the lake in their Mercury 400 Verado-powered boat, and then giving sore jaws to 75.58 pounds of fish from a patch of cabbage weed on the lake’s southwest side, beating a field that had some of the best walleye sticks on the water.

Collins grew up fishing Mille Lacs. There’s that knowledge. He didn’t have to find that cabbage. He knew it was there and knew that’s where he and Zimmerman needed to go. He also knew the bait he’d need: five-inch chubs and creek minnows to make the sometimes shy bigs eat.  

“It’s a spot I fished for many years. It’s a big cabbage weed bed, and it has pockets where the vegetation is sparse, or it has none. The fish would come to the edges to feed, and we could see them on our electronics, and when we’d see them, we’d pitch to them, and they’d eat,” Collins said.

Sounds pretty easy, but, he said, patience was also key, as was believing in their plan. They only had 11 bites all day Thursday, and nine on Friday.  But they were the right ones.

During pre-fishing, he said, he stuck a 28-incher in those weeds, proving the fish he knew would be there were, and then left it alone.

“We went into this thinking we’d need 70 pounds at least,” he said. Day One, ran to their spot, and had two fish in the first 10 minutes, a 26 and a 25. After an hour lull two more. They had their five by 10 a.m. and made a couple of upgrades with those five-inch sucker and creek chubs they bet on to weed out the smaller fish. They were right. They came in with 38.49 pounds. They were in first place.

“You can’t win a two-day event on Day One, but you can lose it,” Collins explained. “We came in after Day One and we had confidence knowing we’re going to be right in the mix. We set ourselves up for Day Two to be consistent.” There’s that consistency factor.

On Day Two, they went out on the second flight, concerned that others would be on their spot first. “We were surprised there wasn’t anyone there,” he said, although he’d have company later. Having a boat-motor combo that would hit 65 mph helped. Just a bit.

“The fishing was a bit slower, but the quality was the same. Their first fish came in only 20 minutes, a 26-1/2. “Once we got that first, we knew the fish were still there. In the weeds there’s so much life so all the predatory fish are there,” he said. They also stuck plenty of northerns both days and donated at least a dozen jigs to them, but they knew that if they stuck it out there, they’d be wearing those Quest For The Best championship belts.

That and using those big minnows, something that’s been in play for winners before. “Using those bigger minnows, often, smaller fish aren’t going to eat them,” Collins said. That proved true later when other boats joined them, but were using smaller shiners, and getting smaller fish.

“We went out Friday saying we needed 35 to even be in the top five. We got back to the dock and we didn’t hear any team with anything over 37 pounds, and knew folks would need a 40-pound bag to catch us. It was cautious optimism at that point,” Collins said.

They were right again. They weighed 37.09 pounds, and never looked back. Collins brought his kids, Eli and 11-year-old Jack, to the stage. Jack wore the belt off.

“It was awesome to share it with my kids. It was pretty special,” Collins said.

He’s a big believer in AIM’s Catch-Record-Release format, especially on Mille Lacs, which has so many special regulations. “It’s nice to weigh the five biggest fish. AIM is ‘let’s go mano y mano’ and catch the five biggest, and C-R-R is the only format that provides that opportunity,” he said. “It feels good. This is super-validating. There were some big names in this tournament, who you see fishing on TV, and it’s always awesome to compete against the best,” he said.

The pair will also be at Leech Lake when AIM visits for the Minnesota qualifier there on July 11. And, in Duluth on Aug. 1. He now lives on Leech. And, he knows that lake as well. That a message? We’ll see July 11.

In second place and winning $12,500 were John Hoyer of Orono, MN, and Kyle Minke of Lindstrom, MN, who boated 71.72 pounds of Mille Lacs gold.

Hoyer said the pair hopped around the southern part of the lake, but always focused on six to 12 feet of water, and the weeds, rocks and sand therein. Both days they casted plastics, such as Number six or five Berkley Hollow Belly swimbaits, and Champ Swimmers, among other swimbaits, depending on the light conditions. Hoyer used ¼ to 3/8-ounce Berkley Swimbait jig heads because, he said, it’s the only jig head with a big 5/0 hook which was a key.

Casting those enabled them to card a fish every half hour. “I knew we’d be in the top five after Day One,” Hoyer said. They sat seventh as the sun rose Friday. They caught around 20 walleyes on Day Two, and they made what he called a “key adjustment” that day to upgrade two fish, which brought them that second place cash.

The rest of the top five were: the third-place team of Dustin Romann and Cody Orth, both of Princeton, MN, who boated 70.21 pounds and $7,500. Just behind them in fourth were Kent and Adam Andersen of Amery, WI, winning $5,000 with 70.07 pounds. In fifth place and winning $4,000 for boating 69.41 pounds were Brent Knutson and Erik Walker, of Princeton, MN.

This week, we’ll also be providing a roundup on last Sunday’s Minnesota qualifier winners, followed by a preview of the next AIM qualifier, on North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea this Sunday, June 20. See you there!

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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