Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2023
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
It’s Always Interesting When AIM Weekend Walleye Series Visits Winneconne, With Weather Again To Star Sunday
No doubt about it: Whenever the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Wisconsin Division Garmin Open visits Winneconne in mid-April, the weather is invariably the boss, and the 100-boat field trailering in for this event will be finding that out again, with high water resulting from last week’s heat, followed by this week’s rain, then rain and snow, then cold and who knows what else on Sunday, April 23.
“As the three teams we contacted at midweek will tell you, the weather almost always never behaves at Winneconne, and that’s about to hold true again,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director.
“The Wolf River system is high from runoff because of last week’s 80-degree weather. Now at midweek, the forecast is for lots of rain, followed by highs in the 40s and a rain-snow mix. In other words, spring here is definitely interesting. Fish are still spawning but they’re also running back to Lake Winnebago post-spawn, so whatever is your strength, fish to it. That’s why we love this event. It keeps all the teams on their toes, which is how an AIM tournament is supposed to be.”
Each of three teams interviewed also qualified for the 2023 National Championship Shootout on the Rock River at Fort Atkinson, WI. And each won’t wet lines in Winneconne until Friday or Saturday because the weather is changing so much. They all were pretty cagey about what they’ll use and where they’ll use what they’ll use.
Randy Harwood of Oshkosh will be on the water Sunday with RJ Harwood, Randy’s son, in a Mercury 400 Verado-powered craft.
The way our weather looks I might not pre-fish until Friday. We’ve got a lot of rain coming Wednesday and Thursday. Last Friday in Oshkosh, the water was really high, a lot of current coming down, so depending on how much rain we get it, could really dirty up,” Harwood said.
“There are a lot of fish in the system, and they’re all spread out, migrating back and forth and now they’re probably messed up with the weather. Last week we had 80-degree days. So pretty much everything comes into play,” he said. Initially, they’ll start by trolling the upper lakes, he said. The million-dollar question, or in this case, the $9,000 question, which is what the winner will receive, is always where the big spawners will be.
“We were fishing in the river at Oshkosh and there were fish coming back (to Lake Winnebago from upriver). There are definitely fish in the lake (Winnebago), but we’ll concentrate first on the upper lakes and up to the Wolf River. The upper lakes will be kind of a last resort. Hopefully we can find some fish in the current. Right now, the water’s so high and moving so fast, and it’s probably going to get worse,” he added.
Same time last year, with similar weather, this was won by Randy Fifrick of Kronenwetter and Clark Valukas of Oskosh. They ducked and covered out of the wind on Lake Winnebago and boated 20-plus pounds. What’ll they do this time? They’ll start finding out when they pre-fish Friday morning in Randy’s other partner, Justin Schneider of Chilton, WI, Warrior 2090 Backtroller tiller, powered by a Mercury 250 Verado, and this time, they’ve signed up for that Warrior Cash incentive that they missed out on last year.
That incentive pays $1,000 for the win, $500 for second, $250 for third and $100 for the highest-place Warrior team.
“It’s definitely been an interesting spring, and now we’re kinda back to winter-spring conditions,” Fifrick said. “Just from talking to a few others it seems like with all the rain and warm temperatures the water temperature started rising rapidly, and that has a major effect. The water’s a lot dirtier than we like but a lot of that can change.” He’s betting on figuring out where they’ll start Sunday after they get off the water Saturday afternoon.
“There’s so much water to cover. This tournament can be won in so many different places. It can be on the river, on the lake and in between. There’s certain things we like to do, so pretty much everywhere from the Wolf to Lake Winnebago” is in play to decide what to do Sunday, he added.
“You can catch them good the day before and come out the day of and not do a thing. You have to take your best guess and hope you land’em like we did last year,” Fifrick added.
Jeremy Hurst and Jim Erdman of Oshkosh will be in their Garmin-equipped rig powered by a 400 Verado, and like the others, they’ll concentrate their pre-fishing Friday and Saturday.
“It’s easier for me because this is my home water,” Hurst said. “I’m hearing there are fish heading back to the lakes with the heavy current and rising water.
“It’s going to be a bit of a change with that temperature difference. We had water that was probably in the high 50s to low 60s, and it will probably be back in the 50s by the weekend. I heard we’re supposed to get more than an inch of rain and that does not help. We definitely need some stable weather, and this week isn’t.
“We’re definitely going to look into trying Winnebago again. We work with two other teams so we can split up our pre-fishing. My best guess is we’ll be in the river, from the mouth of the Wolf draining into (Lake) Poygan, otherwise we could be at the (Interstate) 41 bridge (that’s over Lake Butte des Morts, east of Winneconne). I know there have been fish pushing through because they’ve been catching them in Winneconne this past weekend,” Hurst said.
“I heard there was a tournament last Sunday and I believe it was won with about 18-1/2 pounds, and that was with a 27-incher, so my best guess will be somewhere between 18 and 21 pounds to win,” Hurst said. “Since AIM is paying down to 20 places, I’m assuming it will take 12 or 13 pounds to cash a check.”
That’s about as firm as these teams got as to what it will take Sunday. Will 18 pounds win it? 20? And will rain or snow pelt the field? Or both? It’s Wisconsin in April, after all, so that may answer that last question.
Who wins, Fan Nation, may just come down to what team best deals with the weather, and the team that can best figure out what it does to the fish. We’ll all see what role it will play during the awards at Winneconne’s Woodeye’s Bar and Grill starting at 5 p.m. Sunday.
100 boats and 200 team members will start gathering at the Winneconne city docks for boat inspections at 5:30 a.m. Sunday. The first flight will take off at 7 a.m., with the second 50 teams leaving at 7:15. Teams must check in starting at 3 p.m., and the awards ceremony follows. We will be live from Woodeye’s Bar and Grill at 5pm Sunday with the awards.
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 www.aimfishing.com.
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 MN, Island Bar and Grill, Bait Box on the Rock, Oconto County WI.