Okay Minnesota Anglers, Back To Play: AIM Guns Head To Leech For Season’s Third Qualifier Sunday

Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Okay Minnesota Anglers, Back To Play: AIM Guns

Head To Leech For Season’s Third Qualifier Sunday


Okay, Fan Nation, enough of that work stuff; it’s back to play for pay, as the AIM Weekend Walleye Series returns to tickle some ‘eyes on Minnesota’s Leech Lake for the season’s third Warrior Boats Open qualifier Sunday (July 11), and a cool 9K for the winners, who may be needing to card near 40 pounds to get it done.

“We’re going back to Leech with a full house of 100 boats, some great sticks, great weather to do it all in and for sure a great lake filled with hungry walleyes for our angers to beat up on,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director.  “Most of the big mayfly hatches are over, meaning the fish are ready for dessert, and our teams are ready to set the table.”

Here’s what three teams looking to repeat, and/or add to Team Of The Year points are saying about the who, with what, and the where about what will happen Sunday.

Past champions at Leech Will Pappenfus of Shevlin, MN, and partner Nick Cekalla of Emily, MN, are of course a little close-mouthed about the “where” of that equation, but Pappenfus is reporting quite a few fish still in the shallows, and also out deep, so it’s anyone’s game at this point. Sunday will tell the tale of where their Mercury 400 Verado-powered, and Garmin Panoptix-equipped boat will be cruising. The hot temps of the past weeks have slowed fishing a bit, but the cooler weather that moved in may wake them up and get them active, he said.

“It’s kinda tough right now with water temps in the 80s, so anything can help. The temps may push fish back up shallower, and I think they’re going to be feeding pretty good.

“This time of year, it can be with anything from spinners, to cranks, to corks, to pulling big minnows. It could be a smorgasbord, so anything could win it,” Pappenfus said. At least right now he’s looking hard at the main lake basin.

“All the bait seems to be moving into the middle. We’re wrapping up the mayfly hatch so the fish should feed better since there aren’t so many bugs now,” he added. One presentation, he said, is just about as good as every other one. “You’ve just got to get bit. You’ve got to get the right bait.”

Past AIM National Championship Shootout qualifiers Daniel Swenson, of Deer River, MN, will be manning the tiller of his Merc 250 Verado DTS with Jeff Braaten of Grand Rapids, MN aboard, and is also mentioning water temperature as a factor in where fish will be. On his home water nearby, surface temps have hovered in the high 70s and have hit the 80s, and he says fish may act a bit different. He’s also seeing fewer cabbage weed on Leech for ‘eyes to launch surprise attacks from, and keep cool in, in summer.

“It’s one of those events where a lot will fish Walker Bay and look for five fish. A lot of the technology aboard now where they’re hunting individual fish and trying to figure out how they can get them to bite,” Swenson said. “The key is whether it’s going to be windy and overcast. Walker has water clarity but when those waves are going, Walker may not be.”

He’s seeing the lake fishing differently depending on where you are. “If you’re down in the very southeast part is very different than if you’re north in Portage Bay where they can be in anywhere from 10 to 25 feet of water. Some teams will be heading to the known community spots. Tommy Skarlis used to fish’em in 45 feet with a leech” and do well too, he said.

“Then you’ve also got a lead core program there. I’ll be up Thursday morning and I’ll fish the whole lake, and when I pre-fish Walker will be my last stop. After the bug hatches Leech can really shut off, but usually Walker Bay is somehow more consistent,” he said.

Current AIM Minnesota Team Of The Year leaders Chris Berglund, of Grand Rapids, and partner Scott MacKenzie of Big Lake are also running Garmin Panoptix. Berglund lives only 40 minutes from a Leech launch and is there often. He feels consistent mild temperatures will help stir the fish to help teams bring in big bags.

“Right now there’s a lot of 16- to 20-inch fish in the system. The vast majority. And teams will be able to do what they want, creek chubs, crawlers, leeches, this is kind of anybody’s game,” Berglund said.

“What I’ve been seeing is you catch a fish or two in the same area and they’re pretty much done. The fish are kind of everywhere and because of that this is one of the most exciting tournaments this year, because of all the options available. You’ve got community holes where you can find fish, but the problem is if you want to fight other boats to find them. I want to focus on the spots I’ve found in the last couple of weeks. My goal is to start at other places.”

Berglund’s betting that a bag in the upper 30-pound range will likely take home that $9,000 first place money and those first-place TOY points.

“From what I’ve seen a 25- to 27-pound bag could get in on the money. The mayfly hatch just disappeared and that’s really going to be good. Those fish are going to be hungry,” he said.

Is that coveted AIM Team Of The Year title on his mind? Yuppers.

“That’s always going to be in the back of your mind, putting five on the card to stay consistent. I’d be lying if I told you not,” he said.

Here’s the event rundown for Minnesota’s third AIM qualifier: following the virtual rules and registration meeting Saturday, teams check in for inspections at Horseshoe Bay Lodge in Walker starting at 5:30 a.m. The first flight leaves at 7 a.m., and the boats 51-100 take off at 7:15. The first will be due back starting at 3 p.m., and the awards ceremonies begin at 5 p.m. at Horseshoe Bay Lodge.

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