Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2022
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Huynh/Wolske. Huynh/Wolske. Huynh/Wolske. Huynh/Wolske. And Now, AIM National Championship Shootout ‘Huynhners’, Huynh/Wolske At Miltona June 3-4
Say that five times, and you’ll quickly get the idea that something may be happening here, with the 2022 AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout the next exclamation point for Minnesota’s Tom Huynh (yup, it’s pronounced ‘WIN’) and Nate Wolske, who drove that home by winning the Shootout on Minnesota’s Lake Miltona June 3-4.
“Three wins in a row. Four wins out of five of their last AIM events in three seasons. Fan Nation, you could be witnessing the start of a walleye dynasty of sorts, as these two continue their quest. Thanks to his partner Nate, they’re now calling Tom ‘The Scientist’ and the nickname fits. They drove that home by driving home that beautiful Warrior 1898DC, powered by that steel gray Yamaha 150, with TWO Garmin UHD 93SV graphs, all worth a cool $60,000-plus,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. Add to it the extra $500 from Garmin for using their Panoptix LiveScope unit to lead the way to 75.01 pounds of fish to take it all.
“This is no fluke. Remember these two because we’re sure it ain’t over yet, and AIM, with its groundbreaking Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ format, is where their walleye success story began.”
Reached while he was driving to another walleye tournament, Huynh described their Day One total of 43.35 pounds as “a lifetime bag of fish.”
“Actually, a big majority we caught under and around docks,” he said. You heard that right. Not in the deeps. Not on the drops. Not on the rocks. Not trolling. But where you’d actually expect these former bass tournament anglers, Huynh from Moorhead, MN, and Wolske from Boy River, to find bass. They basically combined their skills to yank’em aboard. Read on.
“We had those storms and tornadoes during pre-fishing and it ended up being a blessing. I wouldn’t have done this had it not been for the strong, persistent winds out of the west,” Huynh said. During pre-fishing, both he and Wolske, practicing from two boats, were dealing with the winds.
“So that day I idled around the lake and the shorelines and around a break line. I came up on this line where there were good-looking fishable weeds. We fished around there, and I broke off on a northern and was tying on a new lure when I realized I drifted into four or five feet of water. I got up on my tolling motor to get deeper and made a pan over with my Garmin LiveScope, and in the water there’s a big mark. In shallow those marks are exaggerated. I thought okay, that has to be a muskie. Nate’s idling towards me and I cast my bait (minnow and a jig) over there and immediately I feel a ‘thump’. It was a thump that you know that fish wanted to kill that bait,” he continued. It, by the way, wasn’t a muskie.
“I lifted up on the tip and reeled down and that thing took off, line was just screaming out. I still thought it was a muskie or a northern. I fought that fish as Nate was coming closer and I said, ‘record this,’ so he got his phone out and gets half the battle,” he said. “When you hook a 28 or 29-inch walleye shallow it fights like a train. It is strong. I get it next to the boat. The water is murky from the weather, and I didn’t really see it until it got close and I was so startled, instead of getting the net I reached down and with one hand grabbed it,” he said. And that’s when the “scientist” in him, as Wolske described, began to dissect what had happened.
“With my LiveScope I could see clouds of bait fish. Everyone else talked about how many perch they caught here. I never caught one because the bait I happened to be around were minnows,” he said.
Next day, when the water cleared a bit, he went back. Those minnows were still there.
“With my own eyes I could see the minnows. I could have stocked a dozen bait shops with them. There’s no grass around the docks so these fish were lurking in the grass nearby until they were ready to feed, and a lot would sit under the docks and pontoons to ambush them. I spent a good 75 percent of that day not even casting. I went looking, both docks with and without boats. I looked under the docks and the bait seemed to be hanging under the docks.
He and Wolske went back again the next day when the wind began to let up and the water cleared a bit.
“I went through there and threw paddle tail swim baits between the pontoons and the docks. It was four or five times bigger than the minnows. I would get random small bass, but I would see bigger fish come out and sometimes follow it. I about fell out of the boat.
“They never bit that swim bait so I would throw a minnow and a jig right next to the dock and that walleye would come out and eat it,” he said. That’s a hint at what they employed on Day One: set’em up with a plastic tease, then return with a tasty live bait and watch’em go for it.
“It wasn’t every dock. Most of the time we didn’t have to use that trick. We could see the walleye sitting like two or three feet from the dock posts. They were hungry that day (the tournament’s first day). That’s why they went up shallow. When we cast they would bite. You could see from our fish pictures. We were really close to boats. You have to have the proper conditions for that” he said. Their first fish to fall for it was in the low 20-inch range, he said. The next, a 28-1/2, the first of two. Then a 27, and a second one. They had their leading weight with three hours to go, so they used the time to search for potential spots for Day Two, knowing that the weather may change. It did, and they did.
“On Day Two we had the feeling that it would be different,” Huynh said. They were right. Those bait fish had scattered from the shallows.
“With the wind shift and calming, the bait fish had moved completely. So on Day Two we ended up just going fishing, at the new spots we found on Day One.
“We went to your typical weed lines in 10 to 12 feet and found the fish were not in the same mood. It took a little more coaxing and we were fortunate enough to get that 31 pounds (31.66 to be exact, and yeah, we’re counting). We caught our last carded fish with an hour to go. We didn’t get a card fish for the first three hours. I was getting a little nervous. We caught mostly small ones but had four quality fish. Our smallest was 22-1/2 inches that we couldn’t get off the card,” Huynh says.
He remembers a 24-incher, two 25-1/2 and another around 26 inches, all on pitched jigs and minnows. “We’d use our electronics to locate schools and we’d fish into the schools. We found you can throw live bait all day long to a school and they won’t eat, or don’t even have a reaction. We’d just move on to find active fish. Not spending too much time on one pod of fish, being efficient,” Huynh says.
We’ve asked this before and asking again: What the heck is going on here? A win in their first AIM event in 2020. A repeat on Leech in 2021. Win, Minnesota team championship, 2021. Win, AIM qualifier 2022. And now the National Championship Shootout.
“I just know that I would not fish walleye tournaments if I fished the way they’ve been fished. I don’t have the patience. I have patience, but I don’t have the patience to drag a crank bait or a Lindy rig. With winning in 2020, something clicked, and I said I have to figure out where the fish are living, and I’m learning that. They ‘weren’t on Miltona where they should have been,’ in quotes.”
“So I scanned the lake, slowly idling around scanning, and I found this deep break area. They were there but the big ones would move up to those docks,” he said. The education continues, he added, and that means having the courage to lose.
“It’s a willingness also to fail. It’s either hero or zero and I’ve proven that. I’ve won two and zeroed in one. I don’t want to fail but I know that with the way I’m approaching this, there’s a good chance I’m going to fail. It’s just part of the learning process.
“What Nate said on stage caught me off-guard, him saying I couldn’t do this on my own, that Tom is a scientist. When he said that, I thought, that’s a weird description. So, it’s a thing now. I just pay attention to the details, where I see where the fish aren’t. But the key is to put in the time and track down the ones that are going to give you the boost. It’s a mindset to want to win, but it’s mainly a competition with myself.”
So what are he and Wolske doing with that new Warrior? You’ll see them on Lake of the Woods Aug. 4-7 on at the 10th Annual Warrior Rally, and the 7th annual David A. Andersen Memorial Walleye Shootout, run by AIM and following AIM’s C-R-RÔ format. The 2023 line of Warrior boats also will be previewed at the event.
Meanwhile on another part of the lake, eventual second-place finishers Will Pappenfus of Bemidji, MN, and partner Nick Cekalla of Emily were tallying 36.77 and 36.60 pounds on both days to finish 1.64 pounds behind the winners in their Mercury Verado- and Garmin-equipped boat. They each received an 8-foot Power Pole Blade shallow water anchor for their 73.37-pound total. They hopped from spot to spot on the east side, using leeches and a bobber.
“That’s where we found our bigger fish. I think there’s a lot better weeds and more shallow spots there that had better weeds. Once we figured out what weeds they were in we find the right areas and we put down the LiveScope to see them. And we picked at them with a bobber and a leech. It started as a jig and minnow bite for us and we also caught a couple on Rippin’ Shads but as the week went on they really went off on leeches for us,” Pappenfus explained.
“We had a milk run of seven or eight spots we cycled through. We rolled into the first spot and caught a couple of 19s and 20s,” Pappenfus said. “On our second spot we didn’t mark anything. We went to our third spot and went back-to-back with a 28-1/4 and a 27-3/4 and then we left to leave them alone and went to our next spot and popped a 25-1/2 and a 22-1/2 right away.
“We saw there was a bunch of fish there too and we left them for Day Two. Everybody told it was going to take 25 each day to win so we were going to leave them alone,” he added. But, he said, also on their minds was, the “what if” factor that Huynh and Wolske brought to the weigh-in.
Day Two, they went right back to the same spots. “There weren’t giants but a lot of fish, and we went cast after cast for a 19- and 25-1/2-incher. We moved and popped a 16-3/4 and hit our other spot where we popped a 28 and a 24 and a whole bunch of others. We rolled into another and lost a big one in the weeds, then got a 26-1/2 and a 25-1/2, picking the big ones off,” he said.
They were never near the winners, but Pappenfus said he did catch at least three that were only about eight feet from a dock, but he said he never put the two together like Huynh and Wolske did. That’s fishing.
The rest of the top five, and more, went like this:
In third and each receiving Power Pole 8-foot Blade shallow water anchor were Kade Lynch of Bismarck, ND, and Tanner Ouelette of Dickinson, ND. They landed 57.83 pounds.
In fourth with 49.53 pounds were Dylan Peotter of Kaukauna, WI, and Anthony Englebert of Little Chute, Wi. They received a Garmin Force trolling motor.
Fifth place and $1,000 went to Michael Olson of Thompson, ND, and Robert Wagner of Moorhead, MN, for 46.82 pounds.
We’re not done yet handing out cash.
The Navionics Big Fish awards meant $250 to the lucky anglers each day. The 1st day it went to Brian Collins of Moose Lake, MN, and Mike Zimmerman of Sturgeon Lake, MN with a 28 ¾” Giant. The 2nd Day? Well Brian and Mike bested the field again for another $250 with a 28 ¼”. Way to go boys.
Scott Bleck of Weyauwega, WI, and partner Jason Kicherer of Fremont took 6th place. They tied 5th place with 46.82# but 5th place had a larger overall individual fish over 2 days. However, they were the highest placing registered Yamaha powered boat so they will cash $2,000 in Yamaha Power Pay money.
Warrior Cash? Yup, that went to the fifth place team of Michael Olson and Robert Wagner for running the highest-placing Warrior boat.
Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook page for a preview of the next event, the Minnesota qualifier this Sunday, June 12 on Lake Mille Lacs, where 100 AIM boats will be on the water. Register for all events at AIM’s website.
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.
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