Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2017
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
First-Timers Take It Again: AWWS Minnesota Division Season Opener Falls To Team Neill and Weich
They did it again. This time on the Mississippi. In a testament to the “everyman” concept of AIM’s Weekend Walleye Series, two never-ever AIM entrants walked away from the field in the season opener Warrior Boats/Warrior Boat Center Minnesota Division tournament on the upper Mississippi’s high water.
Mitch Neill, Maple Grove, MN, and his partner Billy Weich, from across the river in Eau Claire, WI, locked through to Pool 3 to boat 38.15 pounds using creek chubs and willow cat minnows. They hooked fish up to 28-1/2 inches in current seams they’d found the week prior. It was their first AIM event, and Neill’s first ever tournament as lead angler. The win was good for $7,300.
They were in the second wave of boats, and the second boat through the lock into Pool 3.
“The whole time we were anxious to see if we would get to our spot that we had pre-fished a couple of times,” Neill said. They found only one other boat, north of the structure they wanted to sit on.
“We started live bait rigging and working a piece of structure in a current seam and we missed several right off,” he said, using a modified three-way setup typical for the river. They quickly adapted, feeding the fish more line, and the hookups started, one after the other.
“We hooked up the first, then the second, then the third, and between 8 and 10 a.m. it was fish after fish and high-fives, and we were having a blast,” Neill recalled. “We had a 24, a 28-1/2, a 26-1/2, a 22 and a 25-3/4. It was nice fish after nice fish and with the current ripping so fast, we missed several. There were some really intense battles,” he continued. Of all their fish, the smallest was 19 inches.
At about 10 a.m., he said, the fish spigot shut off. The sun came out and their last fish came around 12:30, and to make sure they wouldn’t get delayed by barge traffic, they headed down river at 1 p.m., pulled some lead core and then pulled out.
“I knew we had done really well. But we didn’t know how good. We double and triple checked our card and knew we had a chance to win, if not get into the top five,” Neill said.
Their experience sold them on AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format. “It’s really good for the fish. I like that aspect. This was our first tournament and we had to get used to figuring out how to measure and take photos. I’m definitely going to try to fish the rest of them. You don’t have to decide whether or not to throw a fish into the live well. In our case, some of our smaller fish came first, so we probably wouldn’t have done as well in a standard tournament,” Neill said.
The second-place finishers, Mike Schommer Sr. and son Jason of Prescott, WI, also fished with chubs and cats, and had thought about fishing Pool 3, but decided to try a backwater near the Redwing high bridge. In lower, normal water, he said, Pool 3 would have been the target.
“We had the spot all to ourselves and by 9 a.m. we had our first, the biggest, about 27 ¼ inches. Then the bite seemed to shut down between 9 and 9:30,” Schommer Sr. said, and they began running and gunning, and didn’t get their next fish until about 1:30. They filled their card with a 28-1/2 and a 25. The two biggest came in an area called the Back Channel, by the fourth cut, he said. They were never more than 15 minutes from the launch site.
“We were pretty sure we would be at least in the top five,” he said, and he was right.
Finishing in third with $1,700 and 27.07 pounds was the team of Dean Marshall, Big Lake, MN, and Aaron Wells, Byron, MN. Fourth place and $1,400 went to Peter and Ted Mart, of Utica, MN. They landed 25.33 pounds. In fifth and $1,300 winners were Jeremy Wildeman, Ellsworth, WI, and Troy Rahn, Sauk Rapids, MN, with 23.96 pounds.
AIM’s Minnesota Division now moves on to Leech Lake for back-to-back tourneys June 10 and 11. In the Wisconsin Division, get ready for Lake Winnebago May 21, the same day North Dakota fishes Devils Lake. Follow all the action at AIM’s Facebook and websites.
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, 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.