Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2022
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Minnesota, Get Ready To Rumble: AIM 2022 Season Opens
Sunday On A Cold Mississippi River At Hager City
It’s unseasonably cold water, in the 30s, maybe low 40s. It’s also lower than usual but could be higher by game time. And predictions for what will occur Sunday (April 10) on the Mississippi River at Hager City, WI for the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/The Boat Center Open 2022 Minnesota season opener may be dependent on what’s happening now.
“This is the same story that unfolded in Wisconsin last Sunday,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Rain at midweek could bring the river higher, good for current-loving walleye on the move to spawn, but that cold rain could muddy up the Big Muddy, and keep the river cold. The forecast is good for game day, but how this will affect the thousands of pre-spawn fish in the river, we’ll find out.”
Agreeing with Fox is Mike Utley of Zumbrota, Minnesota, who’ll be handling the throttle of a Mercury 250 Pro XS on his boat with partner Adam Dungan of Duluth. He was trying out the river last weekend and plans to be pre-fishing for sure Friday and Saturday.
“Right now we’re getting some rain and while the river has dropped, it’s supposed to go up another foot or foot-and-a-half. But the bigger concern is the water temperature. It’s been cold and we’ve got some cold rain coming in,” Utley said. “Although we’re supposed to get nicer temps this weekend, it’s going to be all about whether the water warms up to fire those fish off. People are catching fish. It’s been a mixed bag of sauger and walleyes (both, plus saugeye, are allowed under AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ tournament rules). This kinda makes it a challenge to pinpoint them (walleye) because they’re coming out of Lake Pepin and heading into the upper Mississippi to spawn,” Utley added.
Teams will have a choice of fishing either Pools 3 or 4, and Utley’s already thinking 4. “I think we’re going to focus on Pool 4 just based on how the river is setting up. The water’s not high now. I think there’ll be some fish caught in Pool 3. I think were planning to camp out on Pool 4.”
Any guess on what weight will take it?
“We’ve been having this discussion ourselves. It’s hard to say. I’m sure there’s going to be a couple of boats who will get a spot on a spot, but realistically I would guess somewhere between 28 and 33 pounds. I don’t think we’re going to see 40 but I’m sure somebody will get two or three nice ones to go with the 19 and 20-inchers that are pretty common. There’s a pile of fish in the river between 18 and 22 inches. I think you’ll see a good number of those scored. There’ll be some fat pictures.”
He’s also predicting teams will be trying different techniques, like a Dubuque rig.
“It’s pretty popular in spring. You have a three-way setup with a heavier jig on a dropper and a secondary line back to another jig or another bait on it. A ¾-ounce or one ounce jig and a trailer. We can run two lines, and that’s two-line setup. There’ll be some with a double Rapala rig and handlining. You can pretty much do anything to catch fish. It depends on whether you can use that presentation given the boat traffic and other factors.”
Utley is a late registrant, for the event. “This one’s right in my backyard so I pretty much had to jump in when it’s this close to home,” he said, adding that he does plan to fish most Minnesota AIM events.
“I just enjoy tournament competition but with the format we’re fishing here, AIM is fun because we’re not fishing a slot. We’re always fishing for the biggest fish. It’s changed the way we fish, just being able to target big fish, not having any restrictions, and being able to fish for the best fish on any body of water is what keeps most of us coming back.”
Nate Gilkey of Mayer and Shawn Flemming of Monticello will be trimming out their 2090 Warrior Tiller with a Merc 250 Pro XS when they get the “go”come Sunday. Gilkey’s also been out the last few days. He also reports below average water depths and frigid water.
“The river’s come up but it’s been dropping back off, and in the last few weeks have been below average temperatures and that’s not helped the system. Levels have been settling and clarity was up, but this rain (at midweek) could put some dirty water back. Rain may push the water up a bit which should help the bite if we get an uptick in height,” Gilkey said.
And, he echoed what Utley predicted. “The big thing will be water temperature. It has been hovering in the high 30s or low 40s, but if we see that get into the low to mid-40s it should get the bite moving the way it should be this time of year,” he said. But so far, he feels fishing on the river due to those factors has been “limited.”
“The bite is sporadic. There are bite windows that occur and when it does, the bite is good. If we get cloud cover the bite seems to get a lot tougher. We’re looking at Saturday and Sunday, sunny and partly cloudy, so if we get some better weather it’s going to help the bite out,” he added. And, he’s a bit more optimistic about what weight it will take to win. As in, hunks. Big, fat pig hunks.
“I think you’re going to need 36 to 38 pounds, and even 40 is not out of the question. All the fish are going to be pre-spawn, and they’re moving a lot,” he said. “Areas that have got fish could potentially ‘reload.’” In river parlance, he’s talking about pods moving through, holding a bit and moving on.
“With the pre-spawn bite there are a lot of areas known to hold fish. They could get some pressure and flush out because they’re disturbed. If we find a spot that’s got the ability to reload, that’s going to be the key to success in my mind. I think we’re going to see a lot of techniques. Teams pitching, dragging jigs or Dubuque rigs, pulling wire or handlining. All those could come into play,” Gilkey said.
Kody Seibert, of Ramsey on the other hand, who partners with father Scott of Oak Grove, is going in cold. He’s only fished the river here once, and it’ll be Friday at the soonest when they put their Mercury 400 Verado-powered hull in the water. He’s the third to say the weather is a big factor in their plans. He’s also sponsored by Blackfish weather gear and he’s pretty certain he’ll be wearing some Sunday.
“It’s been raining, snowing, wind, a little of everything. We’ve gotten a lot of rain. The last time I’ve fished the areas was about five years ago,” Kody said. Granted, AIM was last near here in 2020 for the Quest For The Best. And he’s surmising too that weather will be aboard all boats.
“If we get too much more weather I’m guessing it (the river) will get muddier and come up, which is good, and will create some slack water. I hope that the water goes up to narrow down a few of the spots to fish,” he said.
What’ll he try?
“Redtail shiners if you can get them, and rainbows and bigger fatheads will be the key. I think a lot will do a lot of casting with Jigging Raps, if you want to get them stuck and lose a few, yes. Our plan of attack as of now is jigs, minnows and plastics.
“I’m hoping that the wind gets it out of its system for Sunday. And I wish I had time off to go fishing but when you decide to do this at the last minute…I wish I could tell you I was on the water now,” Seibert lamented.
So, will it be a rising tide, so to speak? Low water? Will teams lock through and get stuck by river traffic? Will the water warm up or stay chilly And, will the winner be closer to 28, or 38? Come Sunday afternoon, we’ll know all the answers. Stay tuned, Fan Nation!
Meanwhile, you can still get in on the fun. Just see AIM’s Facebook page, then register at AIM’s website to get in on the next tournaments. You know you want to. You know you can.
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