What’s Going Down At New Town? These AWWS Anglers All In For 2021 Say It May Be All ‘Eyes On Van Hook Sunday

Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


What’s Going Down At New Town? These AWWS Anglers

All In For 2021 Say It May Be All ‘Eyes On Van Hook Sunday


With predictions of 35-plus pounds to win it on the table and stable temps leading up to Sunday’s (July 11) Warrior Boats Pure Powersports Open, lots of eyes are on the ‘eyes in Lake Sakakawea’s Van Hook Arm to produce it.

“Van Hook Arm, just a short run from where we launch at New Town, is always a target for walleye, and our fourth stop on AIM’s North Dakota tour has a target way-pointed on it again,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “The dock talk is that there are some big fish to be had there this time of the year, so our North Dakota contingent is bringing it all home for this final event before the state championship July 30 on Devils Lake.”

And that’s not just Fox’s opinion. Three AIM teams who’ve fished every event this year say that the ball game just may be won there.

Eric Harmel of Williston left Montana’s Fort Peck and the governor’s cup there to head to Lake Sak in his Mercury 350 Verado-powered boat, with partner Todd DeBoer of Bismarck, and he agrees: It’s all about The Hook.

“We have a cabin in Parshall and just from seeing what’s going on in the Van Hook Arm right now, it’s obviously started to fire in the last week-and-a-half. I feel there’s probably going to be a very good bite going on. It’s a 40-mile run from New Town so some will fish the river from New Town there, but I think the majority will probably go into Van Hook,” Harmel said.

“It’s been kind of a weird deal. We’ve had very hot temps and with that happening the bite is still relatively shallow, but it pushes out deeper in the daytime,” he added.

Here’s where some opinions diverge. Harmel says you’d better have live bait aboard if you plan to be in the money Sunday. “I think It’ll be a live bait bite but there’s always a chance for cranks, but I think a lot will be baiting.”

And, he said, be prepared for company. The word’s out about Van Hook being the place to be, he agreed.

“With the weekend activity in the Arm there will be a lot of competition for fish, there’s no doubt about it. It usually starts Thursday to Sunday,” Harmel continued. “You talk about Shell Island and Fox Island, and it’s also a lot of timing on the fish. They are eating at certain times and you’re going to rifle through a lot of smaller fish.

Harmel also expects the winning weight to be in the mid-30s. “Absolutely. It’s (the Arm) firing and when they fire it’s nothing to rack up 15 to 20 pounds in a short amount of time,” he said.

Harmel’s been fishing AIM events “solid” for two years now. He qualified for the National Championship Shootout and is currently sitting in seventh for North Dakota Team Of The Year, within striking distance coming into the last event.

What lures him back season after season? AIM’s exclusive Catch-Record-Release format. “There’s no way to keep those fish healthy other than that. The other reason is how the events are put on. That camaraderie of the people.”

Another team who feels Van Hook will be the spot are Pearl and Scott Gillespie of Parshall, who will be at New Town Sunday with their Mercury 400 Verado power, and running for their home waters in the Arm.

Here’s the best part: They’re not pre-fishing. At all. On the other hand, they’ve been pre-fishing most there in their spare time most of the season. They’ll be in a South Dakota tournament Saturday and will make the five-hour drive north to their home water in time to launch from New Town Marina with the rest of the teams. They’ll be attending the Saturday rules meeting virtually from the road on the way back. In other words, watch these two.

“We’re going to Van Hook Arm, that’s where we live,” Pearl Gillespie advised. She’s expecting the rush of cool temps that hit the area earlier in the week not to affect the fishing much, and also is expecting some big production. Her prediction: right on 34 pounds to win.

“The fish are so healthy this year. Somebody’s going to come in with a limit of 26s and a kicker. This time of year, there’s fish there both shallow and deep so I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to which will be better,” she said.



Terry Wilson, also of Parshall and partner Ryan Fagan of Bismarck, also will be heading there in their boat, powered by a 250 Merc Optimax two-stroke. He’s been fishing the area since 2010, and will have fished all four qualifiers, as he has off and for several years.

I’m going to come around to the Van Hook Arm and decided that’s where I’m gonna spend my time prefishing. I’m expecting most to come this direction,” Wilson said.

‘A lot of the fish held up further north longer and they’ve now kinda moved in, and there’s good numbers going. You can catch a hundred in a few hours there. The big fish are on the move and staying with them is going to be key,” he added. I’ve been out a few times over the weekend running around and we’re going to head back again Thursday and pre-fish the next three days.

He predicts that this is primetime for Lake Sak, meaning you come and fish with the style you’re comfortable with, but it’s what’s going to get those Big Five on an AIM card that will be the difference. “You can do anything you want here. I pull a lot of cranks and pitch a lot of Jigging Raps. I don’t have too much live bait in my boat. That might shoot me in the foot but I would be surprised if I have live bait.

He agreed with the others. It’s going to take north of 30 pounds to win this thing. Forecast is for Sunday to be a bit breezy on the lake. In other words, typical, especially in the late morning to mid-afternoon.

“That will be a plus. They’ll be a bit more active when the wind’s blowing, as long as it doesn’t get too crazy,” Wilson said. “The key is going to be moving a lot, finding them, and getting’em to go.”

Who’s going to come in with that 30-pound-plus bag and take it all. Stay tuned Sunday. It all begins after that Saturday virtual rules and registration meeting, when teams line up for boat inspections at the New Town Marina starting at 5:30 a.m. The first flight of boats heads out starting at 7, and must be back for check-in starting at 3 p.m. The awards ceremony begins at 5 p.m. at the marina.

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