Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


On A Cold, Blustery, Rain-Drenched Sunday, Steffens, Baker Tame The Mississippi To Win AIM Rivers Division Opener


It was cold. Winds nearly gale-force, churning up the Mississippi into un-river-like waves that teams had to push through. It was raining. It was even hailing at one point. But the team of Connor Steffens and Ben Baker stuck it out to fire the opening salvo Sunday in the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Rivers Division championship race by beating the field with nearly 33 pounds of walleye and capturing first in Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Team Of The Year points.

“If any of you out there in Fan Nation would have gone fishing on a day like Sunday, friends and family would have said you were nuts. I don’t know if Monday’s solar eclipse had anything to do with it, but Steffens, Baker and the entire field toughed it out to make this an opener to remember,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “They boated 32.92 pounds of pre-spawn belly-hangers with a setup that should be familiar to any river rat, three-way Dubuque rigs on a rock pile they found during pre-fishing. That earned them $2,500 and those important Team Of The Year points.”

Steffens, from Muskego, Wisconsin, said he normally fishes AIM with his brother Taylor, but Taylor decided to pick this occasion to take a vacation, so he called his friend Baker from Charles City, Iowa to take a ride in some “great” weather in Steffens’ brother’s boat, powered by a 300 Mercury Pro XS. During pre-fishing, they didn’t have much luck due to the weather but figured out where they should point the bow in Pool 11, site of the start at Guttenberg. They never locked through into Pool 10 to do their damage. They stayed within a mile of the launch.

“With the weird spring, we just started trying to figure out how far along the fish were in spawning,” Steffens said. “Then it got cold and slowed everything. So we checked a lot of post-spawn spots and struggled pre-fishing.” Then, they shifted to pre-spawn spots instead.

“We were fishing a lot of pre-spawn and spawn spots, and fishing a lot of sand areas and realized Saturday there were some big fish feeding at a rock pile.” One they never got in the boat that Steffens estimated was up to seven pounds convinced them that was the place, he said.

“Sunday it was cold, windy and rainy from around 6 a.m. to pretty much 1 or 1:30 p.m., and it hailed. We had a wind advisory with 30- to 40 mph gusts. It was a struggle, but it didn’t affect our fishing,” Steffens said.

They started on a current seam they’d fished before and after an hour or so of no fish in the boat, they targeted that rock pile they’d found.

“Within about a half hour, we had two 27-inchers. We had a little lull, maybe 2-1/2 hours. We were trying to make a decision to stay put or leave,” he continued.

“Ben decided to re-tie his dropper and started pitching the rig on the rock pile and dragging down the front side. In the next couple of hours, we caught seven or eight fish. We ended up getting a 25-3/4, a 23-1/4 and a 22 in the last hour-and-a-half of the day,” he said.

“On the 23-1/4, I was bringing it to the boat and it kind of nosedived and got the weight stuck in the rocks and we couldn’t get it out. I had to lower my rod top to let line go slack. We slipped the trolling motor back a bit and somehow the fish didn’t come off after all that time, and that was a 2-1/2-pound upgrade,” he added.

“I think we had 10 total on the card. We got the two 27s, and that got us focused a bit because at that point we knew we had a chance. The biggest fish had the entire 1-1/2-ounce jig entirely in its mouth,” he said.

Back at the dock, they were hearing a lot of atta boys from other teams, and they knew they’d done well.

“This was like only our third time winning, and the others were pretty much fishing club circuits, so I feel proud that all the time and energy and money paid off. I love the ability to keep learning. My brother and I fished two AIM events a few years ago and last year was our first full season. I think we finished third in Team Of The Year, so we’re going to the Shootout (The AIM Warrior Boats National Championship) on Sakakawea in May.

“Generally, this time of year we don’t always do the best. We’re most comfortable in post-spawn. I think being able to win this was super. It takes a little luck and a little skill, and everything has to work out the right way. We’ve never fished any of the Missouri system. We’ll see if we can figure something out when we get there” for the Shootout, he said.

The team of Will Shaw, and a name you may recognize from other AIM events, Brett King, both of Hager City, Wisconsin, finished second, earning $1,500 by boating 29.08 pounds. They may also be collecting several hundred more through Yamaha Power Pay, since they are running a 300 Yamaha Offshore powerplant. They also placed first in AIM’s Side Pot Challenge, adding another $750 to their winnings.

King, who has plenty of experience on the Mississippi, paid the winners a big compliment. Because after starting on the upper Pool 10, they returned to Pool 11 towards the end of the day and ended up near Steffens and Baker. They landed four more fish, but it was who they saw while doing it.

“We were able to watch the eventual winners put on a real fishing clinic. Every time we looked up at those guys, they had a net in their hands,” King said. King, who fishes other majors, also complemented the entire field.

“These AIM tournaments are the hardest to win. The competition is brutal. The Rivers Division fields are small but it’s all the river legends. So we’re happy with a second,” he said.

Their pre-fishing also was brutal. In two days, they’d landed three fish. And they made a decision on Sunday to gamble and lock up to Pool 10 where they’d heard about more success in a local tourney.

For those in Fan Nation who are unfamiliar with the Mississippi, when you do that, you’re taking a big chance. Because you may not be able to get back down to the finish in time due to barge lock traffic. King said he’s been a victim of that before but decided to give it a go anyway.

“It was gosh awful conditions, with wind, rain and cold temperatures. Pulling three-ways and Rapalas was a good choice, because you could stay bundled up. The other boats that went with us went to the lock side of the tailrace, and we settled on the opposite side in 15 to 20 feet of water.

“We located a small stretch that fish were on, and we started catching. We worked a very short run and circled back on the break line. They were all 20-inch-plus fish females, full of eggs yet. There was no middle ground. They’d either T-bone the bait or barely grab on and you had to be really careful reeling them in. Our third fish was a 25-1/2. We were pretty excited about that,” he said.

“Will had the rod in his hand. He picked it up to verify it was close to the bottom and as he went back, that fish crushed the bait,” King said.  But the best and biggest was yet to come. Another crusher, and then some.

“We caught our 29-1/2. That big mama came up and crushed it. We knew it was a big fish,” he said, but so neither of them got jazzed up and made a mistake, he kept quiet after seeing its massive girth flash.

“I finally netted it and set the fish in the boat, and we both stood there and looked at it, like wow. I’ve handled a lot of fish in my day, and this was certainly over 12, and probably pushing 13 pounds. It was probably one of the two most impressive fish I’ve ever put in the boat. I get the photo credit, but Will gets the credit for massaging that one in. It was one of those moments that you realize why you do this,” King said.

That single fish brought them close to 30 pounds total, at 11 a.m. Time to think about that lock and getting through it in time.

“We knew we had a decent bag. We did all that damage in about two hours, and we had 35-ish miles to get through to the lock,” he said. And it was good that they did head back early, especially when they had to go through a particularly windy—read, churned up choppy water—to get to the lock.

“We locked through and went fishing for about an hour and a half and caught four more,” he said, all the time watching Steffens and Baker put on a show.

This is the second year King and Shaw have fished AIM’s new Rivers Division together, and they’re both thankful to be in the running for Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Team Of The Year honors from the get-go, and they’re hungry.

Here’s the way the rest of the top five fell in the Rivers Division opener: In third place with 27.63 pounds, good for $1,000, were Joe Okada of Cambridge, WI, and Galen Bremmer of Avoca, WI. They also took second in the Side Pot Challenge, earning another $450. Fourth place and $800, plus an extra $300 in third-place Side Pot Challenge money went to Mason Jackson and Harry Miller of Bellevue, Iowa. In fifth with 23.91 pounds were Maury Schmerbach and Mike Glynn of Dubuque, IA. They earned $350.

Okay all you River Rats, you’ve got a month before the next Rivers Division event takes place on the Mississippi at Genoa WI, in Pools 8 and 9 on May 5. Meantime, AIM’s schedule continues to ramp up, with the Minnesota Division opener, the Warrior Boats Open, also on the Mississippi, but at Hager City, WI, next Sunday, April 14.

The Wisconsin Division’s Garmin Open on the Wolf River Chain of Lakes at Winneconne is April 21. North Dakota, wake up those ‘eyes because you’ll be up next on April 28 on the Missouri River at Bismarck.

We’ll have news on those starting next week, but first, if you want to see some bigs, check out the results of the Wisconsin opener on the Fox River at Green Bay, and the first-timers who almost won it all there.

Come join in the fun that is AIM, the most lucrative affordable walleye tournament series going. The 2024 season is wide open and waiting. Just a few clicks, and you’re in. Learn how at

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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, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, Off Shore Tackle, Gemini Sport Marketing, JT Outdoors Products, McQuoids Inn, Rosemore Outdoor Gear, Outdoor Authority fish house rentals, Adventure Recreational Finance, Oconto County WI., Forever Barnwood

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