Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 25, 2023
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Liebel and Hill Clean Up At AWWS Day 1 of 2 Qualifiers
On Lake Audubon To Open North Dakota Season
Another set of familiar names finished at the top of Day One of the Dual Duels of the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Mild2Wild Open qualifiers on North Dakota’s Lake Audubon Saturday (May 20), as seventh grade science teacher Matthew Liebel and Tory Hill schooled the 34-boat field to boat 17.35 pounds.
“Matt and Tory are perennial threats in NoDak, and they’ll be the same when they head east to Wisconsin and the AIM National Championship Shootout on Lake Koshkonong at Fort Atkinson,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “In the meantime, here’s what they did in their home state in their Mercury 400 Verado-powered platform, pre-fishing only one day for AIM’s Dual Duel, which was set up by an earlier qualifier cancellation due to ice.”
Reminder: Audubon is a refuge, and only a portion is open to boats, so that’s where teams concentrated.
“We fished one day Friday and had gotten information that the better fish were up shallow, but have been inconsistent. We found that same thing on pre-fishing,” Liebel said. That streak continued Saturday during the weekend’s first AIM tournament. All their fish came out of water six feet or less.
“We caught only five total and only three over 20 inches. We started at one of those shallow places, but that spot didn’t work up by the Cabin boat ramp because it was full of smallmouth. So we moved into some cattails.
“It wasn’t until about 9:30 that we caught a nice walleye pitching. We caught another on a slip bobber. All five came on different presentations, from pitching bait, to pitching a crank, to trolling a crank,” he said.
“We said we’ll grind it out and see if we get five. We started trolling, and casting with paddletails, flukes, using slip bobbers and trolling cranks. There were a lot of rods laying in the boat by the end of the day. Our biggest was a 23 on a bobber,” he said. Sunday, Day Two, was a different story.
“Sunday we only got two in the same areas. We did the same thing and waited for that afternoon bite to fire, and it didn’t. That goes back to our pre-fish where that shallow bite was sporadic. But, we’ll take Day One,” Liebel said. Day One also earned them $3,000 in pocket money. And, next up, they will also be at Lake Koshkonong next week for the AIM Shootout.
“We’ve never been there. We’ll probably be driving around first to see what we’ve got for water temperature and probably run up the (Rock) river. I’m assuming it might be too warm for the river. We’ll see what there is for weeds. It’ll be interesting to see how that one plays out.”
Second place and $2,000 went to Brandon Gullickson of Minot and David Reisenauer of Coleharbor, who carded 16.61 pounds in their Yamaha 300-powered boat with Garmin in the electronics mix. Gullickson had pre-fished Three Mile Corner, but, he said, that bite died.
“My partner is actually the one who found the school where we caught all the fish. I was pulling cranks and he was pulling bait, and we got three fish in one pass, a couple over 20, and we said, yeah, that’s going to be our spot,” he said. On game day Saturday, they pulled one of the last numbers in the field, but that late start didn’t matter.
“We were one of the last to leave and I saw one boat going to Three Mile and everybody else went around the corner. We were over near the cabins on the east shoreline,” he said.
“When we got there, there were four or five boats in the same area. We dropped all our lines and within the first 10 to 15 minutes we had our first fish. We were pulling prop blades (sometimes called butterfly blades) with minnows. My partner likes pulling minnows out there. It’s a pretty small area, and this time of year I use crankbaits, but since he got more on bait, we decided to pull bait. Our biggest was 21-3/4 inches and it came on a Slow Death with a crawler,” Gullickson said.
“I think we had seven or eight on the card and we caught somewhere around 15 to 18 fish that day. Most on the card were around that 18- or 19-inch range and quite a few others were smaller that we didn’t even put on the card. We were shooting for 20 pounds. The day before, we figured we had a little over 21 pounds pre-fishing,” he said.
And when the numbers started being announced, they thought it would be close, and they were right. They finished about ¾ of a pound behind the winners.
Gullickson’s fished AIM events before, but has been absent from the tour for about three seasons.
“In the last few years, it hasn’t fit my work schedule. But when I saw it would be at Audubon, and it fit into my schedule, and I really like Audubon. I grew up fishing there,” he said. So entering was a no-brainer. He and Reisenauer are also signed up for Parshall in June and the championship.
“I like that all the fish get to go back. None of them get hurt and it gives someone else an opportunity to catch them,” he said. And they’re also in the running now for Yamaha Motor Corp. Team Of The Year and a shot at a slot in next year’s National Championship Shootout.
Third through fifth places on Day One fell this way: In third with 16.43 pounds, good for $1,300, were Shawn and Sydney Hennings of Hillsboro, ND. Tom Beaton of West Fargo, and Brian Merkel of Minot finished fourth with 15.56 pounds, netting them $1,000. Earning fifth and $500 with 15.06 pounds were Matt Ristow and Kyle Hertz of Bismarck.
The next North Dakota event will be June 18 on Lake Sakakawea. So, rest easy, North Dakota, at least until June 2-3, when your teams will go against those from Minnesota and Wisconsin at Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.
Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook site Sunday for first that Day Two report, and then, a preview of the National Championship Shootout from teams pre-fishing Wisconsin’s Lake Koshkonong and the Rock River, aka Ruckus On The River, or The Klash at Koshkonong. Learn how you can register for the next events at aimfishing.com.
You know you want to. You know you can.
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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.