Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Here We Go Part 2: AIM National Championship Shootout; Fan Nation, Team Minnesota Is Ready To Rock The Rock


You’ve gotta admit it. Being one of 30 teams to compete in next weekend’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series National Championship in Fort Atkinson, is something pretty darned cool.

You’re among the elites of walleye fishing, on a challenging body of water, as it should be for a two-day championship, and you’ve all got your eyes and experience set on going home with that fully rigged $100,000 Warrior boat combo on Saturday, June 3.

“These folks are among the most competitive around,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “They also are among the nicest, most hospitable, down-to-earth competitors in all of walleye fishing. We’re glad to have them aboard, and glad to let them share their thoughts about being there with us, with the remainder of Minnesota’s contingent up now.”

Leading off for the rest of the Gophers team is Keith Elza, of Ashland,WI, who, will be on the water pre-fishing come Monday with Bob Gould of Hermantown, MN. This is their first shot at that Warrior/Yamaha/Garmin/Odyssey Battery/Rosemore rod package worth $100K.

“It’s definitely a bit overwhelming. We’re going up against some of the best in the region,” Elza said. “We put in a lot of hard work and time and had some good results. We’re very excited. We’ll try to have the mentality that it’s just another day on the water.”

That’s always a good approach. When you’re one of only 30 in the hunt, you can psych yourself out. The best thing to do is relax and enjoy the ride.



“We fish Minnesota AIM because the events are closer to us. The St. Louis River (at Duluth, site of AIM’s first Minnesota qualifier) has areas that are a lot like this lake, shallow flats and dirtier water. We feel pretty comfortable with our approach, and we’re convinced we’ll catch fish,” Elza continued.

“We both love to compete and fish walleyes. Hopefully it’s a steppingstone at some point. It’s somewhat local so you can do it on a little bit of a budget and not take as much time off work. We’ve also learned that Denny runs a fantastic program. They’re well organized and they do it right. Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ is fantastic and it’s super nice to have a minimal fatality rate, especially the big fish.”

You may have heard the name Rosemore before. As in Rosemore Outdoor Products, provider of the eight rods that will be in the locker of that Warrior V193 first prize. Guess who 29 teams will be fishing against? Evan, from North Branch, and Steven Rosemore, of Cloquet will be in a Mercury 300 Pro XS-powered boat they just picked up yesterday, with Garmin at the pointy end.

“This is our first championship. Dad (that’s Steven) and I have been doing this for four or five years,” Evan said.

“And it’s awesome. To be chasing something like this for this many years, and then to have it all come together last year was just amazing. I’m on Cloud Nine and I’m pretty sure dad is too,” Evan said, as they both drove wards Fort Atkinson to be ready to pre-fish Monday. Steven agreed in the background.

“I like being able to chase the biggest in the lake and not worry about slot limits. Those fish will get unhooked, a quick picture snapped, and it goes back in for someone else to catch maybe 10 minutes later. It’s the do no harm mentality. I like eating walleye as much as the next person but those big egg wagons, you’ve got to protect the resource for years to come,” he said.

Are they ready for the river and Lake Kosh? “We’ve got a pretty good amount of experience on the St. Louis River in Duluth. We fished a spring tournament a couple of weeks before this and we normally find our fish in sub-six feet of water, although Koshkonong is pretty intimidating, but we’ve got a few tricks we’re going to throw at it. But likely we’ll have to scramble and get what the lake gives up,” he added.

And the weather forecast is as hot, hot, hot as these teams are. The forecast calls for highs near 90 both days, and that’s sure to heat up this shallow lake quickly.

“Hot water walleyes either want to go somewhere they can stay cool, or they need to chase bait hard,” he added.

And yes, he’ll have a few more than the eight Rosemore rods that will be tucked into that Warrior V193’s belly. He’ll also have a few rods to show off, maybe even a few 2024 prototypes.

Scott Mackenzie from Big Lake is partnered with Girard Reinking of Hanover, and they’re leaving home Sunday evening with a Mercury 300 Pro XS-powered boat and almost all Garmin electronics. One other make somehow sneaked aboard. Mackenzie was at the 2022 championship, finishing mid-pack.

“It’s kinda humbling knowing who you’re fishing against. We have some great sticks, so come the championship, and you get your name called, that’s pretty cool,” Mackenzie said. “I think there’s fish at the mouth of the lake. I think they’re dispersed but with all the boat traffic over the weekend the fish will feel that and definitely get to the weeds.”

If there are any. His theory is yet to be tested, as no one’s been allowed on the lake until Monday. Water clarity also will be a factor, after getting churned with holiday traffic. This shallow lake could be stirred up into chocolate milk.

“I would say the only thing that’s similar at home would be Lake Pepin (part of the Mississippi system) and near Hager City, but to be honest,” he said, he won’t know until he splashes his boat Monday.

“This could be super dirty. You’d hope that during the week, it clears up a little and fish would go back to the way they were, but you just have to adapt,” Mackenzie said.

That, Fan Nation, is what a championship with so much at stake is and should be about.

“I’m competitive by nature and it’s nice to know this AIM series can be for the weekend angler. I’ve got another job that I go to for five days a week. It’s a good way to fish competitively against some really good sticks and still be at your regular job. Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ is great. It sustains the fishery. You’re not just shooting for a couple overs. You can just target big fish. You’re looking for five. It’s phenomenal to see what these fisheries can produce, it’s awe-inspiring,” he said.

Dylan Maki of Cohasset and Joe Bricko of Farmington are among the pairs to watch Friday and Saturday. They’ve qualified now for four AIM Shootouts. Both are bringing boats, both with a Mercury 400 Verado hanging off the back, and Garmin in the electronics mix. Maki said they’re wondering what they’ll encounter on Lake Koshkonong. Are they familiar with this type of water?

“I’ve spent a lot of time on Upper Red Lake which is a little similar because of the max depth, but otherwise, not really,” Maki said.

“We’re going to split up and throw one on the river and one on the lake and start to dial things in. I know they’re quite a way after the spawn. They should be hungry, but who knows.”

One thing’s for certain, they love AIM’s format.

“It’s totally awesome. This is AIM’s biggest show and it’s super awesome to fish a fourth one. We missed a year here and there but we’re really proud to be here, that’s for sure,” he added. This the only series the pair fishes.

“It’s a lot of fun. Joe and I have talked about moving up, but at the end of the day, we do this for fun and we really don’t want to give that up. It’s about the camaraderie and the times we have in the boat. We’re having a blast,” Maki said.

“We’re going to keep an open mind about the lake. We’ve fallen victim going to a few how I want to fish it and become stubborn to what the lake was trying to tell you. I’m going to let it play out and let the walleyes tell us how they’re going to be caught. It’ll certainly be interesting with three lines per person (Minnesota’s limit is one per), so we’re definitely excited to throw a few extra rods in the boat,” he said.

Next up representing Minnesota are Kody Seibert, from Ramsey and father Scott of Oak Grove, who will be seated ready to punch a Mercury 400 Verado motor to life Friday morning. This is their first soft water championship.

“It’s definitely exciting. We’re pumped. We couldn’t wait to get on the road to get going,” Kody said as they approached the Wisconsin border. They’ve been fishing AIM events about eight years.

“We like the format of one-day tournaments. Us working folks can’t take a ton of time off and that is really nice,” Kody said. Both also like AIM’s pioneering Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ format, the first major tournament to conceive of and adopt it. That’s why C-R-R is trademarked.

“We don’t get beat up by locals or scolded” for killing fish. “Denny also does a really good job of keeping us all on track,” he added.

“It’s going to be more of a weed bite, the more we fish with forward-facing sonar, the weeds will become more important,” Scott added. Will they give the river a look-see?

“We’re definitely going to look into that, doing our side scan to see what we can learn with that too. Both the river and lake are going to be fair game,” Kody said. And, they’re trying to avoid getting too nervous.

“It’s another day of fishing. Hopefully the stars align, and we find those magic fish,” he added.

Batting clean-up, Jason Betzler from Princeton, MN, and Mike Christensen of Minneapolis, Kansas, not the other one, are in their second AIM Shootout, their first was in 2022, so they’re two for two, and in a Mercury 400 Verado-powered boat.

“We’re looking forward to it to get away and fish a fresh lake like this. We’re not sure what to expect. We’re just going in with a real open mind,” Betzler said.

“We definitely have everything possible in the truck and the boat,” added Christensen.

“It’s definitely the largest prize we’ve ever fished for. I’ve had some other wins on other trails, but nothing like this, Betzler said. “There’s some stiff competition, and they’re going to be hard to beat, but that’s what makes winning special.

“I think the closest thing I can think of to this lake is the Mississippi River system, but the shallow water throws us off a little bit,” he added.

“We’re going to go at it hard and whatever happens, happens,” Christensen added.

Whatever happens will happen starting Friday, first day of competition, from the Island Bar and Grill, with Bait Box On the Rock standing by. Just 30 boats. Going for it all. Will it be a swing-for-the-fences, or slow and steady to win the race? Or, by guess and by golly? Who’ll be leading going into the final day of competition Saturday?

Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook site throughout the week for updates and previews of what’s coming to one lucky and skilled team Saturday evening. Learn how you can register for the next events at

You know you want to. You know you can.

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 inc.

AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Garmin, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, Off Shore Tackle, Gemini Sport Marketing, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, McQuoids Inn, Rosemore Outdoor Gear, Outdoor Authority fish house rentals, Island Bar and Grill, Bait Box on the Rock, Oconto County WI. Odyssey battery.

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