Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 31st, 2016
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Go big or go home: big lures lure big fish for Pfeifer and Pfeifer, AWWS Minnesota Division Champs
The choice to go for big, late-season fish with the biggest lures in their arsenal was the key in the final event of a contest road that began on May 1, and ended Saturday on Lake of The Woods for the father-son team of Dan and Rod Pfeifer, 2016 winners of the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Yamaha Motors Minnesota Division championship.
Dan, from Rogers, MN, and father Rod, from Ramsey, MN, put it to LOW and the rest of the 53-boat field both days, chalking up 59.81 pounds of big fish, the largest nearly 30 inches, earning them $8,000 and that coveted berth in the AWWS Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout next spring.
“We’re pretty familiar with that body of water,” Dan said. “So we were really looking forward to just go for big fish.”
And that they did. Rod pre-fished from the Thursday prior to the tournament and Dan got on the water Friday. Dan then fished the first annual David A. Andersen Warrior Boats Memorial Shootout with his wife, but he came in early with a seasick spouse. But, both he and his dad were able to eliminate non-productive water, one of the most important things to do when pre-fishing a tournament.
And as predicted, it was no secret where they headed on Day One, the well-known area called the Bridges, and Garden and Knight Islands, about 20 miles from the start at the Wigwam Resort, in their Warrior 2090 Backtroller tiller, courtesy of a 200 Mercury Verado.
“One thing we did the entire time is we ran big bait. Either Rapala Tail Dancers, No. 11, the biggest ones you can get, plus Reef Runners, Storm Thundersticks and others the entire time hoping we’d get a big fish, and also going through smaller bait like Shad Raps and Flicker Shads.
“We found we were catching better numbers with them, but everything big we were catching was coming on big baits,” Dan said.
Their tournament partners, Nate Gilkey of Wauconia, MN, and Shawn Flemming, of Monticello, MN, who finished fourth, earning $2,000 and another Shootout berth for 44.10 pounds of ‘eyes, had the same experience.
“The entire pre-fish, our biggest was 25-1/2, and Nate had a 27 and a 26 but we weren’t breaking that 26 at all,” Dan continued. But they’d stumbled onto something: they found’em, and all they had to do was get’em to bite.
“We found that normally this time of year we’d be in the mud basin, but the fish were right in the gravel-to-mud transition, about 32 to 34 feet. So we started to troll around the Bridges to see if we could pinpoint fish, and ended up putting five on the card in a couple of hours, but our biggest was like 21 inches at that point,” Pfeifer said.
That’s when a little luck came into play, as it always does. “I don’t know whether another boat pushed us up there or what but we went up tight to the reef and right over the edge and there were fish just suspended right off the reef, big ones,” he recalled.
They ran baits over the area, and nothing happened. “So we circled around and the baits bounced off the reef and wham. My dad said we had a snag, and I said, we’re doing 2 mph, so we’re not snagged. It ended up being a 25-1/2-inch fish,” Pfeifer said. They thought they had something going, but three more passes through, nothing. After trying spinners they tried everything, from frozen shiners, to leeches, to jigging Raps, nothing. Time to pull up, they thought. Then, all fun broke lose.
“That’s when it got pretty crazy. I was making a turn and swung a little deeper, and we got a 29-3/4-incher, and came back over, and we basically in 20 minutes put 25 pounds on our card,” Pfeifer said.
Looking to upgrade then, they replaced a 20-1/2 with a 23-1/2 about an hour later, then began expanding their trolling pattern after noticing the fish spreading out, at the same time sticking with those Tail Dancers, custom-painted pink and white and blue and white. Four of their biggest came on the same lure.
They then headed into the lake after it had laid down, catching lots of smaller fish but nothing to upgrade. Looking at a weather prediction that went downhill on Day Two, he said, he knew they had to do it on Day One to have a chance at a win or at least a spot that would get them into the Shootout, and never suspected they’d ended up in first with a lead of more than five pounds.
Day Two started, and ended, looking bumpy. In more ways than one. Dan said he dreamt they’d hit a deer driving to the launch. Guess what? Yup.
Fortunately for them, unfortunately for the deer, it was small, with little damage to their truck, and none to the boat. Back they went to the same reef, this time with company, about a dozen boats.
But, the fish weren’t there. Switch to Plan B. “I knew if we got 10 to 13 pounds we’d probably make the Shootout at least,” Pfeifer said.
Going to Spot B, a rock pile, the fish were smaller, but at least they had 8 pounds on the card, and then headed back to Day One’s honey hole. The AIM photo boat, and its accompanying jinx, then arrived. But, just as the photo crew left, on came a 27-1/2-incher.
“At that point, we figured we were at least in the top five. We knew we needed another big one and shortly after we got an 18-1/2. We stuck there another hour but the rain started and it was blowing and we didn’t catch a fish,” he said.
Playing it safe in case something on the boat broke in the weather, they headed to a spot about 6 miles from the start, made one upgrade, and headed in to wait out the results.
Pfeifer praised the AIM staff, who spend hours examining photos and comparing them against entry cards. Meanwhile, the entrants sit, waiting. “And, you don’t know if you messed something up,” Pfeifer said. “It wasn’t’ until he called our names that we were sure it was us.”
Pfeifer praised his Warrior and Merc Verado for its versatility, in both running to their spots, and keeping them on the fish. “The reason I picked the Verado is when it comes to contour trolling, I could keep the speed right at 2 or 2.2 mph, and I don’t have to have a kicker, or throw out a trolling sock, or anything. In those conditions like we had, I wouldn’t want any other boat than a Warrior and a Mercury,” he said.
The top five teams in the championship earned the right to compete in the 2017 Shootout. The rest of those teams: finishing in second place with 55.83 pounds, good for $3,000, were David Longtine, West Fargo, ND, and Kyle Anderson, Moorhead, MN. Close behind in third, Brent Knutson, Bemidji, MN, and Brad Neyens, Herman, MN, with 55.82 pounds, for $2,500. In fifth place, Colby Gallagher, Grand Rapids, MN, and Dusty Cartie, Aitkin, MN, found 43.94 pounds, and left with $1,500.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Upper Midwest, a lake, and its walleye, are waiting, for yet another season, and another AIM Championship Shootout, where another $50,000-plus Warrior boat awaits one lucky, and skilled, team. 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 www.aimfishing.com.
AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats.
AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Navionics, Powrtran, Power-Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, Off Shore Tackle, Team Lodge, Vibrations Tackle, Pro Chattrr, National Fleet Graphics, Gemini Sport Marketing, 4 Bears Casino North Dakota.