Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


LiveScope, LiveScope, LiveScope: Garmin’s Forward-Facing Sonar, Wins Winnie’s AIM MN State Championship


Sound familiar? A similar headline for the preview story of the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Mercury Marine Minnesota Championship Friday and Saturday (Aug. 18-19) on Lake Winnibigoshish predicted it. The teams interviewed both in weeks prior and last week predicted it. And it was up to Tyler Wolden and partner Nate Leininger to make it come true, winning $14,250 and a guaranteed spot in the 2024 AIM National Championship Shootout.

“Wolden and Leininger topped the field, rolling the dice, going for it all and winning with four sevens, a total of 77.77 pounds, true to the prediction that the 70-pound barrier would be smashed, and that they did,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Doing so, they won that $12,000 first place check, plus $1,750 in side pot cash, and $500 in Garmin Rewards for doing it with LiveScope electronics.”

“They also had enough points to move up and into first in the points battle to win the Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Minnesota Team Of The Year. More on that tomorrow. That means they double-qualified for next year’s Shootout, and since they can only qualify once, another team can now move up in the points race to take one of their spots,” Fox added.

Wolden and Leininger spent their time scoping out the lake’s southern half, knowing that wind especially Friday would kick up the lake and play a role, winning them the championship.

“I was fortunate enough to go up the Friday before the tournament with my family, and we spent the whole week on and off the water, working remotely,” said Wolden, who sells attachments for “skid-steer” equipment.

“Between our team (they’re teamed with the eventual second-place team of Joe Bricko of Farmington and Dylan Maki of Cohasset) we broke down the lake and it was very similar to what Joe and Dylan made the comment about, that the lake was going to produce around that 75-pound range,” Wolden said.

“It’s what we found in practice. The ones we were calling kicker fish, we got only a few during the week.” But, on Day One, Friday, the kickers kicked in and turned on.

“We were very fortunate to get two 27-inch-class fish and a nice kicker, a 28-inch fish. Getting those three we got to that 40.5 pounds on Day One. It was really weird. Every fish seemed to be a little different,” he said.

“We were ‘LiveScoping’ (there’s a new active verb for ya that is now in the lexicon of anglers everywhere) and targeting fish with that, using slip bobbers and leeches and jigging minnows on deeper fish. Those deeper fish were very lethargic, but they wanted big bait. There’s plenty in the lake but to get them to bite, you had to be very versatile,” Wolden continued. Their best presentation was jigging live bait, pitching at specific fish.

On Day Two, the pair was optimistic. There’s a difference between that and being over-confident, which can get you into trouble in a two-day event.

“We were optimistic that we could go out and put up a similar bag. We had a pretty darned good lead, so our goal was that mid-30-pound range. Throughout the day we were calculating once we got up to 37 pounds and thought Tom (Tom Huynh and partner Nate Wolske, who after Day One were in third place, nine-plus pounds behind Wolden/Leininger) would need five 28-inchers, pretty much.

“We went to our best spot from Day One on the main lake shoreline structure. We did catch a couple there early on, then they vanished,” he said. “We didn’t know if it was a time-of-day thing or they got beat up on. Then we started running and gunning, hitting the main lake humps and big flat. We’d pick one up, and ultimately, we got back to that shoreline structure and put our main fish on the card. All ‘summer’ fish,” he said. What’d he say?

“Somewere shallow somewere deep,” he joked. We caught some in 15 feet of water and some in 30 feet and that’s where the LiveScope really helped find them.” They stayed in Lake Winnie’s south end both days.

“We looked at that before the tournament and we expected it to blow hard on Friday, so we spent a lot of time in practice in the southern part of the lake because it would be more manageable. Then on Saturday, we decided to stick to the southern half, and a lot of our spots held true. The fish moved, but we were able to track them down and get back on them,” he explained.

“Our biggest Saturday was a 26-3/4-inch fish, our last fish on the card. We got it around 1 p.m. We kept on grinding though. We didn’t put our rods down and caught a lot, but we couldn’t upgrade after that,” he said.

They proved there’s definitely a positive about forward-facing sonar, but is there a negative? Are electronics getting too good? Wolden, and later, Bricko, had some thoughts.

“I could see why some would see it as a negative,” Wolden said. “It’s like a guy owning a Lamborghini. Some can go out fishing with expensive electronics, but as far as negative or positive to this, you still have to catch’em.

“There’s a real learning curve to using it and you still have to get them to eat. Out of the 100 or so fish we targeted, we probably only got 20 of them to eat,” he said. “On Day One, out of 11 fish on the card, we broke off another three and hooked and lost a couple more. This isn’t easy by any means. It’s putting your head down and going to work, eight hours of straight work,” and that’s not even counting the hours and days and the cost of pre-fishing.

“We love it. That’s what we live for. The benefit is you can make money to support your family. I want to make a name for myself, so my kids have something to look up to, so they know their dad went out and made a name for himself,” Wolden said.

Finishing the championship in second and also winning a Shootout berth were Wolden/Leininger’s teammates, Bricko and Maki. Their two-day total of 73.70 pounds earned them $5,000, with $1,050 in second-place side pot cash to boot.

They finished fourth overall the Minnesota TOY race, also double qualifying, which also meant good news to another team: they’re also going to the Shootout. Bricko and Maki also were under Mercury 400 Verado power, with Garmin aboard. In AIM’s event preview, Bricko made that total poundage prediction.

“It was pretty spot on, ironically. We have a pretty large network of friends who fish on Winnie and then we used our own practice. We knew there had been some true 27s and even heard of a few 28s being caught and if you hear of one, that’s the potential,” Bricko said.

“We used a combination of leeches and crawlers and even a few minnows. It changed hour to hour, and we find that a lot. They’ll like something for a half-hour and then it becomes poison to them. We were pitching at marks that we were confident were the right fish,” he continued.  The pair was in second after Day One with 36.59 pounds, five cookie cutter 26-inch fish.

“Our teammates were able to get a couple of unicorns the first day that put them over the top. It usually comes down to only a couple of bites,” Bricko added. They too, concentrated on the southern half of the lake.

“It took us an hour to put our first fish on the card, then by 10:30 we had our whole bag, from about 8:30. We never upgraded after 10:30,” he said. On Day Two, he said, returned to the south end, and like the winners, they tracked down the fish again.

“We went to the same area and they were not there, so it took another hour from that spot to find them again, and once we started catching them it took us until about 11 a.m., and we had our whole weight by then.  You’re talking probably a half to ¾-mile from where we did the damage on Day One. That’s how much they moved.

“There was so much movement. It was a turbulent week of 180-degree wind changes. The bait just got moved all over the place. And there were the right marks within the bait. You had to get around a lot of forage.

“It’s more about precision. You’ve got to make it really easy for them, and you can be very, very precise with LiveScope,” he said, which brings up that same concern about whether forward-facing sonar is making it too easy. Like Wolden, Bricko says, hold on there, that’s not the case.

“People think that if you have LiveScope, everything is magical. But it’s a tool. A tool like any other. It’s not just having it. There’s still boat control and a lot of deciphering what’s a big mark and what’s not, and you’ve got to have an in-depth understanding of the electronics. That comes with time and experience.

“And boat control was big on Day One. We felt like we had great boat positioning, so when you saw them,” you get the bait to them the right way, he said. On top of that, is that technology question. You know how that goes. You can’t stop it.

“You can’t stop technology. What I’d say to people is, Nature has a way of protecting herself. It’s not any different than when the first Global Positioning map (GPS) was released. Imagine the first wave of fishermen who were able to get a global map and then drive to a hump exactly without lining up two points on shore. The sky didn’t fall, and it’s no different. You can’t stop technology. And, fish are now getting wise to LiveScope, so it’s a constant evolution, and I don’t think it’s going to have this massive impact” the way some feel, Bricko said.

Finishing in third and earning $4,000, plus third-place side pot cash of $700, were yup, Tom Huynh of Wolverton, and Nate Wolske of Boy River. They hooked and released 68.41 pounds of walleye. Fourth place and $3,000 went to Hunter Nitti of Rosemount and Tony Nitti of Blaine, for a two-day total of 61.93 pounds. In fifth with 58.20 pounds and $2,000 richer, plus a Championship Shootout spot, were John McCabe of Boy River and Tyler Malkowiak of St. Michael.

Stay tuned, Fan Nation, as we continue our roundups and previews, first with a look at your Minnesota Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Team Of The Year winners, then a preview of the Garmin/Navionics Wisconsin State Championship and Yamaha Motor Corp USA Wisconsin Team Of The Year (TOY) award, followed this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25-26, with the Wisconsin State Championship at Oconto on the Bay of Green Bay.

North Dakota is next up to the plate, come Sept. 8-9 for the Yamaha Motor Corp. USA North Dakota State Championship and TOY award on Lake Sakakawea at Beulah.

Then, AIM’s Rivers Division is in the center ring, with a stop on the Mississippi at Clinton Iowa for the next Division qualifier Sept. 10.  We end the 2023 season, first Oct. 1 in Dubuque, IA, for the final 2023 division qualifier, followed by that division’s championship Oct. 21-22 at Prairie du Chien, WI, to round out 40 boats, not 30, qualifying for the 2024 AIM National Championship Shootout.

We’ll have more updates coming up. Watch the action at AIM’s Facebook page.

Want to join in? You can still register for those Rivers Division qualifiers, and before you know it, 2024’s event registration will open. Learn how at

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

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 fish house rentals, Island Bar and Grill, Bait Box on the Rock, Oconto County WI, Odyssey Battery.

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