Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2016
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Just plain nasty: pulling cranks takes storm-tossed, hailed-on Leech for Bleeker/Weeda in AWWS Warrior Boats Open
Six-footers. Rogue eights. Hail. Waves over the bow. Bilge pump on. Would you go onto a lake for a fish in that kind of weather?
The team of Chad Bleeker and Frank Weeda did, riding out a 30-plus mph wind and weather that would keep most of us onshore, to win Sunday’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Musky House Marine Open on a wind-blown rockin, rollin’ Leech Lake.
Bleeker, who’s used by now to the vagaries of Leech, was up to the challenge—barely, it sounds—to take first and $8,000 for 32.99 pounds of stormy walleye on the main lake, while most of the others in the field stayed in more protected water.
Trolling the main basin where he’d earlier found a pod of fish that apparently were just as unconcerned about the 30-mph-plus wind as he was, he concentrated on trolling lead over suspended fish. And, as any walleye angler knows, suspended fish are biting fish.
“Last year we probably lost 15 of those big fish. We just couldn’t manage to get them to the boat. This year we switched to lead, about 100 feet out,” he said. Setting Number 4 suspending rattling Shad Raps and perch Minnow Raps did the trick to approximately 18 feet down in 30 feet of water while the team rolled around up top with the increasingly bad conditions.
“Conditions were just awful,” Bleeker said, who’s had a cabin on Leech for about six years now. “That lake is the most wind-driven body of water I’ve been on in my life. At 7 a.m., I believe we had 36 mph winds straight out of the east. By 9 it had switched north-northeast, and by noon it was out of the southeast. We had all we could do just to get a fish netted and in the boat. At one point we had hail cover the front of the boat.”
In the morning, they pounded through to the spot he’d found a week prior, hoping the fish were still there. They were.
“We got to our spot within the first 15 minutes and had everything set up and the first fish came, and that was a 27-1/2-incher,” Bleeker said. It took a Minnow Rap out 140 to 145 feet. All the rest came on those suspending Shad Raps.
“By the time we got that one in we’d been blown off course, and motored back to the spot and didn’t go forward maybe 100 yards and the second fish came, and that was a 25-incher.”
Bleeker said the spot was only a quarter-mile long. “They were holding on that little hump on the bottom. Every time we went over that we got one.”
Things weren’t getting any better, but the fish were there, he said. “The way things were stacking up, I said to Frank, ‘well that’s it, this is where we’re staying.’ We fished in ankle- deep water all day on my 620 Ranger. Those waves come at you from every direction. We almost lost the net once and just about busted a windshield from a wave.” But, they hung in.
They started with some company in the morning, he said, but the others didn’t last long. “I’m sure they saw us catch the first two fish and I’m also sure they peeled off to the east side of the lake. They left, and the next fish we caught on the card was a 23-1/4-incher.
“I think the surging of the waves had a lot to do with that particular bait working. It’s just a theory, who knows,” Bleeker said. Who cares, too. His program was producing. “That pod was just a fluke. Normally they’re right on the bottom and we found them about a week ago.”
At one point, he said, “Brett King joined us trying to go with the wind pulling spinners on lead, after possibly seeing the same fish that we had up high, and we know if they’re up high, they’re biters.
“Our fourth fish was around 11:30, and by noon we had put another 19-incher on the card,” Bleeker said. By that time they’d also about had it fighting the weather, and were almost ready to head to more protected Walker Bay to soak some chubs, but also hit a couple of small spots on the way.
“Lo and behold, the second place we stopped at we upgraded that 19 to a 23-3/4 and knew then we had a good shot at it. I figured it was going to take all of 30 pounds to win, and I was more concerned about getting points for that shootout next year,” he said.
“It was tough out there to control our speed. Sometimes we were going 2 mph, sometimes 3.5. It was a challenge. But we were targeting fish in 15 feet of water over 30. It really isn’t the norm on Leech. It’s definitely a jigging bite with creek chubs,” he said. “But over the last two years I’ve discovered this main basin trolling bite. When you get bit out there, they’re big fish. I’ve caught three fish on that lake over 32 and haven’t done that anywhere else.”
With a fourth-place on the Mississippi, and now a first, Bleeker feels he’s definitely in contention for Team of the Year, and probably in the lead. “Without a doubt,” he feels.
He’s also sold on AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format.
“AIM tournaments for me, all the way; no more slot tournaments. This is the best format out there, the best way to fish, best for the fish and the fisherman. He who catches the five biggest fish wins, period. That’s the way it should be,” Bleeker said.
Second pace winners Scott Schultz of Watkins, Minnesota, and Christ Peters of Kimball, Minnesota earned $2,400 for 30.56 pounds. In third, and winning $1,800 for 27.34 pounds were Evan Rosemore of Roseau, Minnesota, and Tim Milo of Albany, Minnesota. Fourth place and $1,500 for 26.56 pounds went to Jason Freed of Baxter, Minnesota, and Chuck Hasse of Walker, Minnesota. In fifth with 26.37, good for $1,300, were Mike Lillemo and Ryan Sheldon of Big Lake, Minnesota.
Next up in Minnesota, Otter Tail, Sunday, July 10.
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.