Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


First Time’s A Charm: Fishing Their First Full AWWS Season, Cekalla, Pappenfus Crush It On Day One of Leech Dual Duel


First, yes, minnows did it, as predicted, but winners Nick Cekalla and Will Pappenfus walked to the top of the podium with a monster weight of 45-plus pounds to take home $8,000 in the Warrior Boats/Musky House Marine Open Saturday, the first of two days of AIM Weekend Walleye Series excitement on Minnesota’s chock full-o-walleye Leech Lake.

“Leech is always full of surprises,” said AIM National Tournament Director Denny Fox. “It’s a wind-driven lake, and that means it can be glass one day and rowdy the next, which is exactly what happened during our second edition of the Dual Duel.”

The fact that the winners, Cekalla, from Deerwood, MN, and Pappenfus, of Bemidji, MN, finished 33rd on the next day is a testament to this lake’s power to literally turn your program upside down, sometimes for worse, and, in the case of the Day Two winner, sometimes for the better. Both days proved that. Here’s how Cekalla and Pappenfus walked away with Day One.

During their pre-fish, Cekalla said the lake offered up an “awful” experience. “We knew the fish were there, but there were never great numbers in each spot. We’d catch one fish here, scoot over five miles and catch one there. But when they left Anderson’s Horseshoe Bay Lodge in  their 250 Merc Verado-pushed boat into Walker Bay, they decided to stay for Day One on two spots in particular. And, as the AIM preview predicted, it was live bait, and for them, it was rigging creek chubs, leeches and redtails.

“We started the day Saturday on a spot we knew there’s always fish on them. We were in a group and were lucky enough to be the ones getting bites,” Cekalla continued.  “What I think set us apart is that we were using really big minnows.

“We fished off the edge of the drop, a little deeper. The fish kind of slid off deeper and we got them as they scattered off the top,” to escape the boat traffic. By deeper, he meant a lot. Like, 45 feet deep.

They started off big, with a 28-incher. “Then we got a 20, a 26.5, a 23-3/4 and then a 26 on the first stop. It happened real quick, within the first hour.”  Then things slowed a bit, and it was time to pick up and go to spot No. 2.

“The fish were a little shallower. We found’em so we went right up shallow and the first pass had a 28-incher on a minnow as well. We came back around and hit a 27.5. At that point it was about 10:30 and we had 41-something pounds and since this was two, one-day tournaments you almost had to play it like a two. We almost thought about leaving the spot to keep fish for tomorrow, and ended up making one more pass, and we had that 30-incher,” he said.

One of the tricks that did it, he said, was using one-ounce Northland Slick Sticks and moving slowly to keep everything vertical. Then, other times, spotting a big fish and parking on it, and letting those minnows do their job.

Then they did something just about unheard of in tournament fishing. They left the lake. At 11:30. With 3-1/2 hours of fishing time to go, so confident that they’d sewed it all up.

“We checked on a few other spots for Sunday and left the fish alone to hopefully have them there the next day,” Cekalla said. “We didn’t think anyone was going to beat us. The biggest bag we’d ever heard of for AIM here was 41, and we had almost 46 pounds (45.73 to be exact). That’s why we were so confident to come in early and let those fish reload.

“Our plan on Day One was to get three or four in Walker Bay and run to the main lake but we were just lucky enough to get those big bites and not have to run out,” he added.

So, to show you how fickle things can be in tournament fishing, on Day Two, they only got two at those huge-fish spots Sunday when that cold front swept through, each about 26 inches. Then they ran to the main lake to tally points for Team Of The Year, ending with four ‘eyes, good for 33rd. Heroes the first day, 33rd the next. That’s fishing.

Both are convinced that AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format is the way to go after fishing other tournaments. “We chose it because we like the format that the team that catches the five biggest is the winner. I think there were at least three 30-inch fish landed Saturday and if we had to keep them the mortality rate on those would have been big. It’s just a way better program, to get them back in the water right away,” Cekalla said.

You may remember second-place Day One finishers Corey and Dayton Jahn of Grand Rapids and Andover, MN, respectively. The son-father team also finished second on Day Two last year, and came in 7th on Day Two this year.

“Our game plan was to rig leeches, crawlers and creek chubs,” Corey said. They punched their Yamaha 300-powered rig to a break edge targeted in the southern part of the main lake, where if they’re there, they’re definitely bigger.

After the first hour of nothing, they headed to their second spot in the main lake and ended up filling their card, including a 25 and a 24. They then checked a few more sports, then went back to No. 1, and in the first five minutes, upgraded with a 26-1/4 and a 27. One of their 26-inchers also came on an aggressively jigged naked Jigging Rap.  They had all their core fish by noon, Corey said. He said he wasn’t surprised when he heard about Cekalla’s and Pappenfus’ day, and that they’d come in early.

“If I had had their day, I would have come in too. That weight is unheard of on Leech and probably will never be seen again. Even our weight (38.86, good for $2,400) would have been the heaviest ever on Leech. We added our weight up and thought someone had better have a really good bag. When I heard Nick and Will had 45, I said no way. That is a crazy good weight.”

Here’s how the rest of the Day One to five filled in: In third, with 35.84 pounds and winning $1,800 were Brent Knutson, Bemidji, MN, and Brad Neyens, Nevis, MN. Fourth and $1,500 went to Luke and Mark Bollum of St. Peter, MN, for 34.74 pounds. The Bollums also took fifth and an extra $1,300 on Day Two, Sunday.  Fifth place on Day one went to Adam Andersen, Amery, WI, and Jason Evenson, who boated 34.73 pounds and $1,300.

Next up in Minnesota? Just the AIM Weekend Walleye SeriesYamaha Motor Corp. Championship on Lake of the Woods Aug. 17 and 18 is all. We’ll report on Leech Lake Day Two next. Stay tuned for championship coverage of the best catch-release tournament on the planet at AIM’s Facebook page and Prochattrr. 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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