Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.



Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


In Bismarck, AWWS Teams Wait For Warmth, But

Will It Arrive To Trigger The Missouri’s Walleye?


Two questions are being shouted across the Upper Midwest these days: When will this endless winter break, and, being voiced especially by the teams prepping for the season-opening North Dakota Division AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Mild2Wild Open on the Missouri River near Bismarck Sunday, how it will affect the fishing.

Predictions continue for swings from the 30s at night and highs in the mid 70’s during the day as the contest approaches.

“It’s certainly been an interesting start to the season so far,” agreed Denny Fox, AWWS National Tournament Director. “And Sunday’s event on the Missouri will be no different. Teams have been out there trying to figure out a cool weather bite that’s all dependent on a river that had iced-in tributaries less than 10 days ago.”

Current water temperatures hover around the high 30s to low 40s, but most teams are ready for anything. Some have been on the water as early as two weeks ago, like Tim Sandstrom of Minot, who will be in a 2090 Warrior tiller come Sunday.

He’s admittedly not a river rat, but will soldier on. “I expect there to be plenty of fish caught, but I’m a little curious where the bigger fish will be. That tale may be told by guys who may run south, but it may also be told by those who find pods of fish up river. Last year, there wasn’t a ton of impressive weights, but the top five I’m sure will have some nice baskets,” Sandstrom said.

All will be dealing with the late spring, and taking a shot at where the fish should be. His personal challenge, he added, will be revolving around preferring reservoirs and small lakes of western and central Nodak to the Missouri’s sandbars and troughs, and shaking that mantra to concentrate on the present.

“We’re mostly reservoir and small lake guys, so we’re at a disadvantage with the guys who fish here all the time. I know some tributaries coming into the Missouri have just busted loose of their ice.”

Fortunately, he said, his partner, Jake Heilman, also of Minot, likes fishing jigs, the way to go in cold water. It’s also the way last year’s event was won by a team that had never won, or placed, in an AIM event, pitching fathead minnows onto the sandbars downstream from the launch, where shallow bars and dodging deadheads also come into play. They’re hoping to find those deeper spots where fish are holed up and hungry, and active enough to slap at a passing minnow-tipped jig.

“He’s good at cranking too. The name of the game could be patience, or running and gunning. We’ll count on pitching a lot of jigs and if we have to, we’ll pull out the planers. Water temperature will be the key. We’re hoping jigs work but we’re not going to be shy switching.”

This is Heilman’s first trip on this area of the Missouri, and Sandstrom’s second or third. “He fished AIM last year for the first time, and his home turf is the tailrace near Garrison,” some 50 or so miles upstream. “But, you never know. We might even get the itch to run up.”

Unlike Sandstrom, this is hometown boy Matt Ristow’s water, and he’ll be in his Warrior V208 looking for fish come Sunday. He won the Nodak championship last season, and also is bemoaning the late spring. “The river opened up, then re-froze. We went out the week before just to run the boat, and had nice weather, and then we go out to dodge icebergs again. We’re still pretty cold, and some of the ramps aren’t even open. So every day it’s going to change,” Ristow said.

The river this time of year is typically a jig bite, he agreed, and whether Garrison Dam will release water in anticipation of runoff from Montana always affects the river clarity.  “It’s April on the river, and jigging minnows and plastics is the way, but cranks aren’t out of the question, either. This time of year you can go from slow jigging minnows to pitching plastics up on a foot of water on a sandbar,” he said.

It all also depends on what Garrison Dam does upstream, Ristow added. “I talked to a couple of guys on the river and the water’s between 36 and 38 degrees and for once it’s not snowing. If we get some sun and some runoff water the river will warm up, but as of a week ago all the tributaries still had ice and the river was only open down as far as the Cannonball River,” some 45 miles south of Bismarck.

Whatever the conditions come Sunday, that afternoon, as Sandstrom said, will tell the tale of who figured it out, and found the fish needed to get on the podium’s top rung.

The launch of AIM’s North Dakota season will be at Sugar Loaf Recreation Area, about 22 miles south of Bismarck. Team registration begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Bismarck Elks Lodge No. 1199, 900 S. Washington St.

Sunday’s boat inspection begins at the launch site at 5:30 a.m., and the first wave leaves starting at 7 a.m., and is due back by 3 p.m.

Catch the action on the water Sunday at Aim Pro Walleye Series Facebook page. We will have standings up as soon as internet access allows.

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

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