Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.



Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Do Your Homework Is The Lesson Learned, as Vermillion AWWS Championship Falls To Maki and Bricko

Remember, all you wannabe walleye champs. Do your homework. Study hard, and just like Dylan Maki and Joe Bricko, you may get a chance to stand at the podium’s top rung and claim the next AIM Weekend Walleye Series Yamaha Motor Corp. Minnesota State Championship.

Maki and Bricko spent nine days prior to the Aug. 25-26 tourney, figuring out the lake that Maki hadn’t fished since his parents took him there as a child, to lock in when and where the monsters of Vermillion were lurking. They brought back a scorecard 64.80 pounds heavy in two days and took home not only $8,500, but a slot in next year’s AIM National Championship Shootout, at a water body to be named early next year.

And find them they did, up to 30-3/4 inches, Maki’s personal best ever, he said, to troll past second place finishers Tyler Wolden and Nate Leininger—who they just happened to partner with—by about 9.5 pounds. While Wolden and Leininger concentrated on the lake’s west side, Maki, from Cohassett, MN, and Bricko, from Farmington, tore up the east, trolling with No. 11 Flicker Minnows in their Yamaha-powered platform.

“My partner Joe is the brains of the operation,” Maki said. “I spent nine days pre-fishing. I hit it real hard, and we were very thorough. Every single fish we caught we’d document the time of day and what we were using. During pre-fishing we caught a 30.5 incher and we dug into why and where so that’s how we figured it out.”

Right off on Day One of the tournament the two went to their first go-to spot, and filled their card with 14- to 16-inch fish. They’d already figured out that their big fish bite window would be a bit later there so they left, going to their No. 3 spot, where they used a Jigging Rap to bring in a 23.

Then they headed back to that No. 1, and the fish. “The moral is, never give up. At 1 p.m., we still had only about 11 pounds of fish, but we put the hurt to them after 1.

“It was truly one of the best days I’ve ever had tournament fishing. We went across our waypoint and caught a 29-1/2, and that got us absolutely pumped. It was the biggest fish we’d ever seen. We turned the boat around and the very next pass we caught a 30-3/4-inch fish that also happens to be my personal biggest walleye ever,” Maki continued. It came about 2:20 p.m. only a few ticks of the clock from when they had to be back at Fortune Bay Casino dock. They figured they had just over 34 pounds. That put them in second place, just behind teammates Wolden and Leininger.

At the Day One ceremonies, they firmed up their strategy for Day Two, meaning head to their go-to, No. 1 spot, and stay. “Our only goal at that point was to qualify for the National Shootout in 2018. We calculated that to keep in the top five, we’d have to get at least 20 pounds,” Maki said. Then for Maki at least, it hit the fan a bit.

Day Two, he woke up with a 102-degree fever, but, he said, they pumped up the music and went fishing. They were the second boat to leave, and they headed straight for their spot.

“We ground it out all day. We had a lot of small fish early and filled the card, then about 10:30, we laced into a 26-1/2 and we knew then it was on. We caught a couple of 23s and 24s and our anchor fish was a 26-1/2 that came about 12:30 or 1,” he said. Their excitement of at least qualifying for the AIM Shootout was growing. So much, in fact, that Maki, in his first full season of fishing all AIM Minnesota qualifiers, and staring at the possibility of his first tournament win ever and his first Top 10 finish ever, felt physically ill. But he hung on, and he and Bricko brought it home.

“We knew we’d done well but had no idea that we would have won by like 9-1/2 pounds.

They’re both convinced that AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format is unreal great. “There’s obvious catch mortality in most tournaments, but the fact that we’re going for strictly bigger fish and every one gets released on the spot, is kind of the new way of tournament fishing,” he said.

While Maki and Bricko were whacking and stacking on Vermillion’s east side, Wolden and Leininger, both from Miltona, MN, were doing the same, mostly at the west end, in their Yamaha-powered boat, but they found some on the east, too, including one that secured their second spot. They finished with 55.78 pounds, good for $3,500 and that Shootout berth.

“Our program was quite a bit different. We had fish going on the west end so our plan was to hit it to fill our card, which we achieved on Friday by about 9 a.m.,” Wolden said.

Their west end fish included a 27-1/4, and 23 and 24-inchers.

“We left the west so we wouldn’t beat up on the fish and stopped at some spots on the way east and met our partners mid-lake. We were able to upgrade a couple of fish to come to our 35 pounds on Day One, including two at 25-3/4 and 26-3/4 inches,” Wolden said. They did it vertical jigging with Jigging Raps, and live bait rigging with chubs. They headed in feeling comfortable they were at least in the top five, having figured it would take 65 pounds to win it all.

Day Two, the weather moved in. They ripped to the west again to their No. 1 spot, and didn’t get a bite, and they also had company by that time.

“So we started running and gunning. We started doing a rotation, because we knew they had to turn on at some point,” Wolden said. Problem was, they didn’t. They then headed to another spot they hadn’t touched, and landed, as he termed, “one over and two unders,” meaning one 21-incher and two 18s, the “over-under” point being 20 inches.

They then headed to a community hole where no one was and filled their card before the bite shut off and they headed east around noon. “We got to watch our teammates put together that winning bag, and it also put us on a last-minute 24-1/4 inch fish to lock in second long lining a No. 11 Flicker Minnow,” he said. Now, it’s look forward to the Shootout.

“Nate and I made it last season, and this will be my third Shootout of the four that have taken place. I don’t know if anyone else has done that so I’m pretty proud. Now I need to win the darn boat (that great Yamaha-cranked Warrior). Hopefully, third time’s a charm.”

Wrapping up the rest of the Top 5 Shootout qualifiers were Bjorn Horgen, of Ham Lake, MN, and Brandon Jestus, of Esko, MN, in third with 54.20 pounds, good for $3,000. In fourth and winning $2,300 for 51.88 pounds, were Jake Bonsack, Royalton, MN, and Dave Bonsack, Gibbon, MN. Fifth went to Jeff Tatur, Maple Grove, MN, and Dereck Hadland, Cedar, MN, who landed 47.75 pounds and $1,800.

Thanks to our sponsors and all of AIM Fan Nation for following the action from when the snow was still flying in April, to now, a few days before Labor Day. What a great end to a great season!

But, we’re already looking forward to when the boat covers come off, the reels get re-spooled, the hooks get sharpened, and those visits to check on the stored boat get more frequent late next winter, in preparation for another great AIM Weekend Walleye Series season. First up then will be the announcement of the date and location of the 2018 AIM National Championship Shootout. Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook, and ProChattrr for updates. See you then!

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, Navionics, Garmin, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Vibrations Tackle, Pro Chattrr, National Fleet Graphics, Gemini Sport Marketing, Warrior Boat Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed