Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Cekalla, Pappenfus, Clinch AWWS Minnesota Yamaha Motor Corp USA Team Of Year By Just .76 Points


A fish scale over three-quarters of a point. Over the course of a season, 4 events, 25 fish scored, that is about ¼ inch more on the right fish, that’s it! That’s how much it took for Nick Cekalla and Wil Pappenfus to squeeze by the second-place finishers to take the coveted Yamaha Motor Corp USA Team Of The Year (TOY) honors in the Minnesota Division of the AIM Weekend Walleye Series in a season stretching from May to August.

For their efforts, Cekalla, from Deerwood, MN, and who guides for walleye near Brainerd, and Pappenfus, of Bemidji, earned bragging rights and a new 9.9 Yamaha four-stroke kicker motor, by consistently being in the running or better in three of the division’s four tournaments, accruing 735.07 points in their first full season of AIM competition.

And, AIM National Tournament Director Denny Fox announced that since both the second- and fourth-place place teams in Team Of the Year standings also qualified for next May’s AIM National Championship Shootout, the sixth and seventh-place teams in TOY points also qualified for the Big Show on the Missouri River at Bismarck-Mandan. Way to go, all teams. Here’s a look at how Cekalla and Pappenfus did it.

“Our points accumulated starting with a 7th at Mille Lacs. We won Day One at Leech Lake (during AIM’s unique two-day dual duel), the next day we placed 33rd place, and then finished 10th in the championship on Lake of the Woods,” Cekalla said.

“Obviously that’s always our goal, to win Team Of The Year. But we also wanted our main goal to make the nationals, and we ended up winning Team Of The Year,” he added. That berth in the AIM National Championship Shootout on the Missouri River at Bismarck-Mandan next May is now in stone.

Coming into Lake of the Woods, he said, they really didn’t know how their Team Of The Year status would play out. That is, not until Fox called them to the stage did they know they had sneaked past eventual second-place TOY finishers, and first-place Minnesota Championship finishers Tyler Wolden and Nate Leininger.

And, Cekalla said, they had an absolutely great time at each event.

“We had an absolute blast. All the guys who fish AIM are so awesome, they’re fun, and this is the way we all love to spend our summer vacation time, going fishing, and fishing tournaments,” he added.

Cekalla also couldn’t praise AIM’s unique Catch-Record-Release™ format enough.

“I like the format of fishing for the biggest fish and taking the luck out of slot tournaments. Here, the best fisherman wins. To win Team Of The Year we didn’t even fish Ottertail this year. We only fished three so we didn’t even get a tournament to throw out.” Under AIM rules, teams fishing all four divisional tournaments in each state eliminate one to compete for TOY.

Some, he said, may call it luck. “I call it hard work. I’m a fishing guide and I’m on the water nearly every day and learn to see patterns and what’s happening. It’s that time on the water I use to put it all together.”

Not only are they looking to fishing the Missouri, they’re also planning to fish each AIM Minnesota qualifier to see if they can repeat for TOY honors in 2019.

The 2019 AWWS Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout is slated to take place in Bismarck Mandan North Dakota May 31st and June 1st. The contestants will be allowed to fish the Missouri River from Lake Sakakawea spillway to the South Dakota state line that includes northern Lake Oahe.

“We’ll do it again next year, and we’re looking forward to the championship in Bismarck/Mandan”.

“I guided there when I was in college out of Oahe Wings and Walleyes in Akaska (South Dakota). I want to say thanks to all the competitors this year. It’s been fun. And we’ll see you next season,” Cekalla said.

Here is the way the other top teams finished. In third with 721.99 points, Chris Biermaier, Merrifield, and Chuck Eggert, Brainerd. Duane Kriese, Sr., Shakopee, and Kevin Klimmek, Jordan, placed fourth, with 721.66 points. In fifth with 720.87 points are Dylan Maki, Cohassett, and Joe Bricko, Farmington. Sixth place went to Luke and Mark Bollum, St. Peter, with 715.58 points. The final spot with 715.39 points went to Dave Bonsack, Gibbon, and Jake Bonsack, Royalton.

Stay in touch later this week when we preview the final event of the season, the North Dakota State Championship, this Friday and Saturday on Lake Sakakawea, from Indian Hills Resort.

We’ll have it all at AIM’s Facebook site, with on-water updates both days, topped by the countdown to the winner, and after that, Team Of The Year. For info on all AIM events, go to

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

AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats, LLC.

AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Garmin, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Vibrations Tackle, Pro Chattrr, Gemini Sport Marketing, Treeland Resort, Anglers Avenue, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, Fox River Lures and Rods, Bismarck Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau

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