Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Last Year It was Cranks, This Year, Creek Chubs, As Liebel and Hill Take AWWS Lake Sak Father’s Day Special Sunday


Sometimes, no, many times, it’s the quality, not the quantity, as North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea proved Sunday, giving up a monster ‘eye that propelled Matthew Liebel and Tory Hill to victory and a $4,700 check at Sunday’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Woodland Marine Open.

“Lake Sak proved right on the money with great bags, and one hugeness of a fish to win it for these two,” said Denny Fox, AIM National Tournament Director.

Liebel, from Williston, ND, and Hill, from Minot, ND, boated a nice supporting cast to go with their star, a 31-incher, to nail down the tournament, headquartered at 4Bears Casino in New Town, ending with 35.41 pounds. They did it in the south end of Van Hook Arm, a fave for walleye, and walleye anglers.

“We started out having a shallow trolling bite going really good in the back of a bay, and pre-fishing we figured we had 33 pounds in about 1-1/2-hours,” Liebel said. Then Saturday’s rain changed that approach.

Starting tournament day, they didn’t have a fish at their top spot, so they went to their second choice, which turned into their first pretty quickly. “We were no sooner there 15 minutes and had five fish on the card. It was quick. Our first was a 21, the biggest we had. We also had a couple of 15s we put on the card,” Liebel recalled. “All of a sudden I got bit on a creek chub, and I fed it some line, and we landed a 31-incher. My personal best. All of a sudden, the day got a bit brighter,” he joked. “You can’t complain about that.”

They stayed on that spot another three hours, ending with fish including 24- and 22-inchers. “We were hoping to get that 22 upgraded and couldn’t. The rest also came on creek chubs. They were really munching on them, out-fishing everything else like 10 to 1. They’d just eat it. We did lose a few fish. You never knew how big they were because big and small liked them either way.”

Then, a problem. A big problem when $4,700 is at stake. They ran out of live chubs. Dead ones, leeches and Jigging Raps went into the water. No luck. “We figured maybe the sun coming out would turn on those shallow fish again, and had one on that turned out to be a northern. Then we were done. It just turned out to be a good day, especially after a miserable pre-fish in the rain,” Liebel said.

“Our No. 2 spot was obviously pretty dang good. Creek chubs were the name of the game and we got lucky and stumbled onto a giant,” he said. Without that one, their biggest fish would have been a 22-incher. “After we caught that one and got a 24 or 25, both of us were like ‘we should be in this somewhere.’ So when you get one that’s big, it’s a big swinger. That one fish made an 8-pound swing in our score.”

One other, uh, slight issue arose when they got to the podium. They caught some of their fish on an AIM sponsor, Fox River Rods, then forgot to take a photo of the fish with a Fox River rod. That little misstep cost them an additional $500 bonus from Fox River Rods. Remember that, teams. That contingency money is there, waiting. But, they’re also clearly in the running for the tournament’s Navionics Big Fish Thursday award.

Liebel and Hill will be at the remaining North Dakota events, in the hunt for a spot in next year’s Championship Shootout on the Missouri River near Bismarck/Mandan. And, they’re encouraging their walleye-hunting brothers and sisters in NoDak to get in the game as well.

“We truly believe this is the best format there is. C-R-R (Catch-Record-Release™) is awesome. You don’t have to worry about what you keep and all the fish go back. It’s so nice. We talked to a guy who fished AIM for the first time here who thought it was a pro series. It’s not. This is a weekend series. This is for YOU guys,” Liebel added.

Also in the hunt for a berth at all NoDak events is the team of Craig and Chris Kolden, both of nearby Garrison, ND, who finished second with 34.80 pounds, good for $2,000. They finished third last year here, and two years ago, won. They also went to Van Hook’s back bays.

They caught their first two trolling, and after that switched to pitching 1/8 and 1/16-ounce jigs with 3-inch Berkley Gulp minnows, which curiously look slightly like creek chubs. “It’s one of my favorite baits,” Craig said. They used the lighter jigs along weed lines because they sink slowly to get more glide time along those weeds.

They hooked fish up to 27 inches, and he said, they thought they had a great shot at winning. And, they almost did. “Those weights (the winners) are pretty high for this lake. I really thought I had possibly won, but they’re good guys.”

He also prodded other NoDak teams to get in on the action by pointing out the first, second and fourth-place teams all went to this year’s AIM National Championship Shootout in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage together.

Third place and $1,700 went to Shawn Cherney of Mandan, and Brian Wenko, Dickinson for a weight of 31.86 pounds. In fourth, just behind with 31.84 pounds, were Tommy Miller and Shawn Mertz, both of Bismarck, earning them $1,500.  In fifth and taking home $1,200 were Trevor Ward and Brad Stancel, both of Williston, who boated 31.77 pounds.

Stay tuned for a preview of this weekend’s “dual duel redux” on Minnesota’s Leech Lake, two tournaments in on one Saturday and Sunday. All slots are filled for both events. For North Dakota, the next event is Aug. 12 at Devils Lake. Wisconsin, you’re up July 1 on Lake Winnebago.

Saturday and Sunday, follow on-water updates throughout the day, as well as team interviews and the awards ceremony at AIM’s Facebook page, and at Prochattrr. For info on all AIM events, go to

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, Bismarck Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau

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