Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


On The Wide Missouri: NoDak 2021 AWWS Season Starts Near Bismarck On River That’s Producing B-I-G

The upper Missouri River near Bismarck is unique. Flowing from the mountain west, through some of the country’s largest dam impoundments, and finally a mile or so wide below North Dakota’s Capital Bismarck, the river lays claim to the state record walleye, and this Sunday, (April 25) the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats Open starts the season here with the potential for big weights and lots of fish.

“AIM is so lucky to have this fantastic fishery available to our North Dakota anglers,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “The most recent state record of 16-plus pounds came from the Cannon Ball area not too far from Sunday’s launch site. Many of the river’s inhabitants are post-spawn and hungry, and those ‘eyes are waiting for our teams to try to cross their eyes.”   

“We’re all excited here to be able to get out fishing again,” said Geremy Olson, AIM North Dakota Division director. “It’s going to be a really great year, and this section of river is where it’s happening.”

Shawn Hennings, of Hillsborough, agrees. Come Sunday he’ll be firing up his 250 Mercury ProXS, and pushing the “On” button of his Garmin Panoptix Livescope-equipped boat, and with partner Kelly Baker of Minot aboard, will be on a “Search and Catch-Record-Release™” mission, and also on a search-for-the-podium mission to boot.

“From what I’m told from friends, we’re going into post-spawn now so we’re getting a different bite, and I’d like to come in with 32 to 35 pounds,” Hennings said.

“I’m not sure if that’s a winning weight, but I’d be happy with that. You don’t need to win every one. You’ve just got to be consistent,” he added, referring to the AIM North Dakota Team Of The Year race, which also begins Sunday.

He’s predicting a lot of the teams will be heading south. Some, quite a way south.

“We’re looking at maybe 15 to 20 miles. I’m hoping we don’t have to go too far. Right now, every rod I have sitting in the boat has a different combination of a jig and plastic,” he said, giving up more than a hint of what he’ll be using, at least until he gets back on the water starting Wednesday, then Thursday, then back full-time on Friday. He said he works maybe 2-1/2 hours away from the river, hence the commute.

“If you find the right water and current speed and sit back in that flat water and hope you can stick a few that are there waiting for baitfish to swim by. We had three inches of snow this morning (Tuesday, April 20), and it’s still only 26 out where I’m at (predictions for Bismarck area are for temps in the 50s Sunday, but it’ll be windy).

“That cold runoff that’s going to hit the river in the next few days could change things a little, too. I’m just excited to be back,” Hennings said.

Justin Krieger and partner Rick Ellingson, both of Williston, will be kinda fishing in the blind, since the Missouri is far from where they’re used to. He’s hearing there are still plenty of river ‘gators still heading up from Oahe to spawn.

“The weather is supposed to be chilly with a possibility of a little rain. They’ll be pointing their Merc 250 Verado-powered boat from the Sugar Loaf/Graner Bottom launch towards the river’s famous sand bars. They’ll be trying anything from pitching jigs to pulling cranks and live bait. At least in pre-fishing.

“We’re probably going to be within 10 miles of the launch site, but you never know. We’re going to be where the fish are. The ones that want to bite,” Krieger laughed. At least they hope to be. And, there’s reason for that optimism. You’re talking to the AIM 2019 Team Of The Year, after all, and also one of the teams that made it to this year’s National Championship Shootout on Wisconsin’s Petenwell Flowage June 4-5. They’re doing all AIM Dakota qualifiers this year.

They’re looking at 35 pounds to win, or at least over 30. “Someone’s going to hit’em right,” Krieger said. Fer sure, Justin. Sunday will tell.

Alan Lick of Sawyer, ND, and Jessie Eckroth of Bismarck may have a little to say about that however. Eckroth began plowing the Missouri’s coarse gravelly sand (that’s why they call’em gravel lizards) Tuesday. He’s heading there Thursday with his 300 Merc Pro XS-powered boat.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of 14- to 18-inch fish, some 20s and definitely some big fish, but I think it’ll be more sporadic. They haven’t been stacked up shallow yet, and the temperatures haven’t got them congregated yet,” Lick said.

“I think the weather is supposed to warm up so some of those fish will be pushing up into the shallower sand to start spawning again. There’s a lot of fish yet to finish the spawn. I think in general the bulk of us will be doing a lot of pitching jigs and plastics and pulling crank baits with more of a subtle action,” he added.

“I think it will take the mid 20s to win. Statistically that’s where it’s been this time of the year. There could be a big bag but I think there also will be a lot of 10 to 15 pound bags.”

There you have it. Three different opinions on where the fish are on this wide and long stretch of river. Come game day, whether you know a water body or not, it all comes down to prep. That, and both consistency and confidence, and calm. Often, those three factors can mean the difference between standing on the podium and watching others stand on the podium. And come Sunday afternoon, we’ll all know the name of that tune.

It all begins Saturday evening with the virtual team meeting and check-in, and then Sunday, boat inspections starting at 5:30 a.m. at the launch, Sugarloaf/Graner Bottom. The green flag drops at 7 a.m., with first teams due back at the launch starting at 3 p.m. The awards presentation, including those entering the Side Pot, start at 5 p.m. Good luck all teams!

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, Berkley, X2Power by Batteries Plus, Abu-Garcia, Fenwick, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Quality Flow Systems, Gemini Sport Marketing, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, McQuoids Inn, Marinette, WI 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed