Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 12, 2023
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Bense, Schumann Fulfill Prediction At AIM NoDak:
His 65 Pound ‘Sak’ Wins Championship, Redeeming Season
After one or two days of pre-fishing, Dennis Bense predicted that the winner at the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Yamaha Motor Corp. USA North Dakota State Championship would need 65 pounds.
Friday and Saturday (Sept. 8-9), Bense and partner Roger Schumann then went onto North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea and with a total within a few HUNDREDTHS of a pound of his prediction, redeemed in two days what he himself called a lackluster season to win going away by more than 12 pounds.
“Fan Nation, all we can say is, wow. How’s that for a finish, and how’s that for being spot on for predicting what would come from this walleye factory on a wide spot in the Missouri River? A few days before the tournament, Dennis said in our preview that 65 is what it would take, and he was right, posting 65.22 pounds, taking home $5,000, and a berth in the 2024 Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout by 12.05 pounds,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Then he told us he forgot about making that prediction. We can only echo what he posted at our FaceBook Page: what a weekend for AIM, North Dakota and that team.”
Bense, from Bismarck, and Schumann, from Minot, got into the fish he said he’s had trouble finding all season, off the Shell Island area in the Van Hook Arm’s south end, a large shallow spot, using live bait and Jigging Rap-style baits.
“We struggled all season long, and this one turned out a little better,” said Bense, with the understatement of the season. Pre-fishing, they’d found fish in the two spots they concentrated on Friday and Saturday.
“We never really caught a lot in the two spots. We caught 24s and a 26-1/2 and we were there just a short time. We caught about half throwing Jigging Rap styles and about half on chubs and caught a couple on crawlers when we got desperate,” he said.
On Day One, they were growing desperate, when they only had two fish on their card by about 12:30. But a move to their second spot made them smile.
“We made that move and there were a lot of fish, and we started catching them,” he said. That included their biggest, which might qualify for Navionics Big Fish of the event. “That’s where I caught the 29-1/4-incher the first day, and a 26-1/2, and I think we had three that were like 22 and 21 inches. That 29-1/4 made a big difference.” At the end of Day One, they were in second, about 3-1/2 pounds behind the leaders, Lonnie Jacobs with his son Trapper Jacobs, both from Douglas, ND, who eventually finished fourth, also qualifying for the Championship Shootout.
“After Day One our goal was to make the championship, so we had an eight-pound lead on the fifth-place team,” he said. Day Two, more good news came to end a frustrating season.
“We had four pretty fast. We made a move to our second spot and I don’t think we had another until about noon. Then we caught four more fish,” he said. Lake Sak gave up a 26-3/4, a 20-incher, a 27-1/4 and a 27, all in the last two hours, and after switching all their rods to chubs.
“When we started catching those fish late in the afternoon, we were counting down. After the first we said Lonnie was going to need about 28 pounds to beat us, we got another and figured he’d need about 30,” he said. They kept on figuring until they figured it was time to go.
“We fished a little longer and left so we could get back early in case something happened. It was about a 45-minute boat ride. We had other boats around us in both spots and in both cases the boats left, and we caught fish,” he added.
Since they were 19th in the standings for Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Team Of The Year, their only chance to qualify for the Shootout was to make the top five in weight. “All our eggs were in one basket to break the top five,” he said. When we reminded him of his prediction that 65 pounds would do it, he was amazed.
“Wow. I was pretty accurate there. It was a great day, a great weekend,” Bense said.
Now, on to the Shootout. “We are anxiously waiting for January when we can figure out where it’s going to be,” Bense added.
Finishing in second, also with a Shootout berth, are Matt Ristow and Kyle Hertz of Bismarck, who teased their fish with chubs and Berkley’s The Champ Swimmer swimbaits tagged to a ½ ounce jig.
They found many of their fish with their Garmin LiveScope, and since they were the highest-finisher using Garmin on their Mercury 350 Verado-powered boat, they earned an extra $500 on top of $3,000 from AIM for scoring 53.17 pounds.
And because they double-qualified for the 2024 AIM National Championship Shootout by finishing second in Yamaha Motor Corp. USA State Team Of The Year, that means another team in the TOY standings will get a shot at the Shootout, since the state championship finish takes precedence over TOY points.
Ristow said they concentrated their attack north of “the beacon,” an area on Lake Sak where the river channel bends north, but only after landing a whole bunch during pre-fishing where young-of-the-year white bass were pouring into the main lake from tributaries. Because of winds Thursday that scattered fish and bait, that plan didn’t exactly work out, so they stuck to another one.
“Our game plan was a little different. We normally don’t pre-fish near many people on the lake. We’re really good at hiding and I want to keep it that way. We kinda find our own thing. We really didn’t want to fish to all the fish that were deep to avoid barotrauma,” he said.
Fan Nation, that’s when fish come from deep to the surface, quickly expanding their swim bladders, which can be fatal to them. Ristow’s concern parallels the reason AIM developed and adopted its fish-saving Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ format.
“We found fish a lot shallower in pre-fishing. They were targeting white bass coming out of the backs of the bays. We were way back, and there was a lot of white bass and lots of walleyes,” he said. He’s talking 23, 24 and 25-inch fish, potential winners.
“We’re pretty good at finding those areas. Our normal program is pulling cranks through fish. We’d get one here and there but never got a bunch,” he said. They then brainstormed while using their LiveScope and while watching larger fish, noticed they were in small schools.
“There’d be two or three together and we found that all through pre-fish,” he said. He started using that Champ Swimmer jig setup, the right size to “match the hatch” of the white bass, throwing it on a JT Rods 7-foot-3 Black Rain. Fish would see that swimbait, follow it under the boat, then swim down and suspend. They’d then set their chubs to let them swim by and get those big ones to turn and follow. Their biggest during pre-fish was a 31-1/2.
On Friday, it also worked, after they found the fish.
“We had about a day and a half of blow days. Thursday, we had high winds, so we went to our first area on Friday, and everything had relocated,” he said but they were able to use the same technique.
“I got them to chase the swim bait. I saw one head down, and I said, ‘Kyle that fish is going to have your chub,’ and I watched the rod load up, and it was a 27-1/4-incher,” Ristow said. Then another near-twin, a 27, rounded out their day.
“We were in third after Day One. We were missing all of the 23- to-24-inch fish that were so easy to come by during pre-fishing. We figured we’d get 25 pounds pretty easily and then target the bigger fish, but never found them,” he continued.
“Day Two started like Day One did. We ran up there and those white bass had moved out of there. We spent some time hunting and just went back to our Day One spot and worked our way over, looking for the bait and fish, and we finally found them.
“I don’t remember in what order the fish came. I feel like we caught a 25-incher then a 20 and a 17, then we had a 26 and a 25-incher and within a couple minutes our chub rod went again. When it happened, it would happen all at once. The bait was from five feet off the bottom up to near the surface. One of our weigh fish was only 10 feet down and I pulled that swimmer past it and it turned.
“Our last weigh fish was at the last minute. I spun the Garmin around and Kyle said, there’s one right there, just past over the bow, and he walked me right into that fish. He said, you’re right on it, and the hook popped out in the net. I think that was a 25-1/4,” Ristow said.
“We were shooting to improve. We knew we should be in the top five if we could duplicate our Day One weight,” he said.
The other teams qualifying for next year’s National Championship Shootout through their state championship finishes are Brent and Jayden Wendel of Valley City, who finished third with 51.39 pounds of fish, good for $2,000 and a Championship spot. In fifth, Gary Hodge and Andrew Keller of Minot scored 46.69 pounds and $500, plus one of those coveted Championship spots.
Hang on, Fan Nation, as the counting from Lake Sakakawea isn’t over. We’ll see who’s made it to the 2024 Championship via Team Of The Year points, and who took home that Yamaha T9.9 kicker with power trim, plus, as it turns out, a lot extra for being atop the North Dakota TOY standings next.
Then next up, we’re talking to who won the next Rivers Division qualifier on the Mississippi at Clinton, IA, which happened Sunday, Sept. 10.
The final Rivers Division qualifier will be Sunday, Oct. 1, in Dubuque, IA and we’ll preview that one in the week prior. The Rivers Division championship and Team Of The Year battle will take place Oct. 21-22 on the river at Prairie du Chien, WI.
You can still register for the last Rivers Division qualifier. In early 2024, watch for the announcement naming the location of the 2024 AIM Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout. Registration will also open early next year for the entire 2024 qualifier season. Learn how you can get in on the fun at aimfishing.com.
You know you want to. You know you can.
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.
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