Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 10, 2016
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
It’s history: Mike Gibbs and Larry Zimmerman win first Mercury Marine North Dakota Championship
“I told you I was hoping you’d have a reason to call me back,” said a jubilant Mike Gibbs, who with partner Larry Zimmerman stacked up 51.31 pounds to win $4,000 and first-ever AIM Weekend Walleye Series Mercury Marine North Dakota Championship on a jammed-full-of-walleye Lake Sakakawea.
Leaving from tournament headquarters at 4 Bears Casino & Lodge, the pair powered up their Merc 300 Verado and were “crankin’” both Friday and Saturday with Berkley Flicker Minnows. Their big Verado worked so well, Gibbs said, he never used their 9.9 kicker to troll the 2.3 to 2.6 mph needed to pick up almost 26 pounds on the first day and just over 25 on the second. And each day, their techniques were similar, but different.
“If you can imagine running at 6380 RPM for 30 miles and then idling at 580 RPM for another six hours and 45 minutes and running back at 6380, that motor worked flawlessly,” Gibbs said.
“The first day we tried Offshore planer boards for a while and caught a couple. We didn’t hardly pick up anything on our inside turns. Most of the time it was straight line pulling.”
On Day One, you might say the two had an inside line on securing first place, when their inside rods were the ticket.
“Larry and I have a program for Lake Sak. We use 14-foot Scheels rods on the outside and then I made a rod holder mounted on each side of the main motor and I run two 7-1/2-footers out the back at about a 60-degree angle to the boat. I’ve got a long rod out each side of the boat and then the boat width is about 8-1/2 feet so the approximate spread of the lures is about 33 feet,” he explained.
“On Friday, most of the fish came from the center rods, and on Saturday, most came off the outside planer boards,” he continued. They were trolling in about 11 feet of water.
On Saturday, he said, the fish were more skittish, moving out of their boat’s way.
“So, we were intercepting those fish off the planer boards. Four of our fish came off planer boards and on Friday one fish did, all on Flicker Minnows ” he said. Their biggest fish: a 25-1/2—incher, hooked the first day.
Gibbs said he was especially happy for his partner Larry Zimmerman. “This was Larry’s first win on Sakakawea in 20-some years of fishing. They also were hot on the stern of the eventual Team of The Year winners, Mike Peluso and Jeff Enzminger, who beat out Gibbs and Zimmerman for that honor by just four points.
“Our first tournament hurt us a little but we eventually had a first, a second, a 12th and a 30th place for the season,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said he can’t wait now for the AIM Nationals next year, and is actually hoping it’ll be on Lake Sak.
“The fishing is so easy here and it’s good,” he said. “There is a lot of fish in the system, and all the fish we released due to Catch-Record-Release™ are going to be there next year, too.”
Gibbs’ partner Larry Zimmerman credited those Offshore planer boards for the win.
“We’re kind of figuring out some stuff here on Sakakawea. We’ve been learning things by accident the last couple of weeks. I’ve never used planer boards but I tell you what. If we hadn’t have used Offshore planer boards we would never have won this tournament,” Zimmerman said.
“It doesn’t hardly get any better than winning this. I think I’ve been working for this for 20 years. I’ve had three second places on Sakakawea and I didn’t think I’d ever get a first,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a tough area to do well. The fish are not only here today and gone tomorrow, they’re here today and gone today. The area we were fishing was more stable but a little farther east they seem to roam a lot more.”
The second-place team of Spencer Muscha, of Kenmare, ND., and father Chuck, of Killdeer, MN, used crawlers and leeches with Slow Death harnesses and Shiver Minnows by Moonshine Lures to card 49.70 pounds good for $2,000. They concentrated on the Van Hook Arm, which, he said, they consider their home water.
“We’re there every weekend so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time pre-fishing it. We spent most of our time pre-fishing the river but it didn’t pan out. We went to Van Hook on a hope and a prayer and got pretty good kicker fish at the end of the day.
“Our big upgrades came when my dad was fishing a Shiver Minnow working a break line. It’s basically like a Jigging Rap but there’s no front hook. They’re more designed to be casted and worked back to the boat and they work well when they do, and it did this weekend,” Spencer said.
This was the Muscha’s first AIM tournament series, having fished all three qualifiers. “I’ve got nothing but good things to say about it. You can catch a 20-inch-plus fish and you have no decisions to make. You don’t have to think, ‘I can’t cull this, so do I let it go. So, no dead fish. I like to fish every weekend and I don’t want to see 7- and 8-pound fish butchered. I think Catch-Record-Release™ is awesome.”
Rounding out the top 5, all of whom will automatically get a berth in next year’s National Championship, are: third: Jr Carter, and Zach Landis, both of Mandan, ND, with 46.98 pounds, earning them $1,500. Fourth: the eventual Nodak Divison Yamaha Team of the Year winners, Mike Peluso, Bismarck, ND, and Jeff Enzminger, winning $1,000 with 45.51 pounds. Fifth: Jason Isaak, Beulah, ND, and Kyle Hertz, Williston, ND, who earned $500 with 44.53 pounds.
The host site, 4 Bears Casino & Lodge was simply Awesome. They have a great complex and great employees. If you get in the New Town Area, stop in and check it out.
It’s still not over. Next up is this season’s final division championship, on Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods, Aug. 26-27. Be there, or be at AIM’s Facebook site for all the tournament action.
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.