Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Otter Tail, Last AIM Weekend Walleye Series Minnesota

Qualifer, Could Sink Or Catapault Teams Sunday


This is it. The field is set. A full 100-boats, and 200 anglers aboard, eyeing not only first place for the Warrior Boats Open on Minnesota’s Otter Tail Lake, but also those all-important Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Team Of The Year points, a state championship and a potential 2024 Championship Shootout berth.

Who’s got the edge, and who can figure out the potentially finicky walleye on this gin-clear lake will be decided Sunday, (July 30) at the state’s last AIM Weekend Walleye Series qualifier event?

“Fan Nation, we’re rounding the next to last turn to the finish, and there are only a few dozen points separating the top teams in the race for TOY, and for a shot at next year’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series National Championship Shootout, at a water body to be determined,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Otter Tail is a clear one, and has depths as well as flats and weeds. Figuring it out so the fish don’t figure you out first will be tricky, so watch for these teams to bring everything they’ve got to this party.

“We also want to say thanks to the Minnesota Division. Three of our four qualifiers, including this one, were filled, and the fourth was nearly so. You showed up, fished hard, and we’re seeing a lot of new faces. We’re glad you’re having a great time at our events, and we’re already looking forward to a repeat in 2024,” he said.

One of the 100 will be the newlywed team of Kyle Manteuffel and Grace Miettunen, of Coon Rapids, all of six months married. They’ve fished a couple of AIM events in the last two seasons, “six or seven” events total, Kyle said, in their Mercury 250 Pro XS-powered boat.

They also could be considered one of the new generation of walleye tournament anglers, waiting, learning, and planning to win. They live three hours away from Sunday’s water, so they’ll be pre-fishing starting Thursday. But, he’s familiar with the lake.

“I fished an event there three weeks ago but haven’t been there since,” Kyle said. “I expect a tough bite.” Why?

“It’s just July on Otter Tail. More days than not it’s tough out there. There are a lot of spooky shallow fish, and that water clarity. On a clear day you can see 17 feet down in some areas,” he said. That means fish can see and feel you coming.  Planning to deal with that will be crucial. And their plan is to hit every area they can in three days.

“We’ll do whatever to get them to bite, but just finding them and hoping they stay put is going to be big. When you start looking at all the structure, it’s hard to cover the water by yourself in a couple days’ time. There’s a lot of expansive shallow flats and tons and tons of structure, and to decipher it all is going to be a task,” he said.

It’ll be an “all of the above” search and find couple of days, from trolling to bobbering, they’ll do it all. When we reached him, he was in that boat, readying 40 different rods and rigs to try.

“Finding fish over 25 inches is key to a win. There’s an okay number, but consistency is really tough, and judging off past events, it hasn’t taken much more than that to win,” he said. He’s guessing 30 to 35 pounds will win it.

Grace has fished with him for about three years. “She’ll be out there pre-fishing. She gets a kick out of tournaments. The takeoff and excitement and how dialed in and amped up everyone is to go fishing.

“Right now we’re in 60th place (for TOY), but I believe if we were to win this event, based off the points we’re going to skyrocket up. We have the potential. After this event, I think there’s going to be a lot of shakeup in Team Of The Year,” he added. Which technique did he feel is going to do it? That’ll be decided at least for them by Saturday.

“I don’ know yet. If I knew that, I’d only have one rod rigged,” Manteuffel laughed.

John McCabe of Boy River and Tyler Malkowiak are in their Mercury 300 Pro XS-powered boat with Garmin among the electronics aboard. The team is making a run at the top five teams for Team Of The Year and are currently in 10th, definitely in striking distance in their first full year of fishing AIM.

The fact that neither have fished Ottertail is either an opportunity or disadvantage and they plan to turn it into the former.

“We’re heading there Wednesday to start so we’ll get a good amount of time on the water,” McCabe said.


“As far as that top 10 goes, it will be all really close. After this week, I’d say at least five or six in the top 10 will stay. I think it’s going to take 40-plus, maybe 45 pounds to win it. I’ve been hearing a lot about it being better the last two years. I have friends who have fished it and who said it’s a great fishery, so we’re looking forward to it,” he said. And, they’ll be throwing the boat at them.

“We’re not really trollers. Our strength is more in deeper water, humps and trying to find active fish on the humps. And a lot I think we’ll be pushing more towards mud rather than rock-gravel stuff. We also have a few friends who fish a lot of weed lines, so we’re not throwing out anything shallow, especially in the morning.

“If we’re doing weed lines, spinners over the top of weeds or the new plastics. We like to use Eye Candy and different scents. We’re working with tons of different brands. We probably have four, five or six in the boat. It depends on the lake and the forage. We’ve also had a lot of luck with different bass scents, too,” McCabe said.

“We’re working hard to get to the national that’s for sure, and we’re also looking forward to Winnie (Lake Winnibigoshish, site of AIM’s upcoming Minnesota championship Aug. 18-19), but first things first, we’ve gotta take care of business on Ottertail.”

McCabe also praised AIM, which features its pioneering Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ format.

“I like how Denny runs AIM. It’s very organized and I like the competition. They’re very good fishermen, and I like the bigger pot ($9,000 first place money for the 100-boat field, plus Side Pot cash). It’s fun to go on the journey every summer,” he said.

Two of those McCabe Inc. is looking to displace are Blake Jablonski of Elko and Trevor Schuster of Prior Lake, currently in second place in points for Minnesota TOY. They’ll be under Merc 300 Pro XS power, with Garmin scoping out the fish Sunday. And, like McCabe, they’ve never launched at Ottertail. But, they are today through Saturday.

“Neither of us have ever fished it. We’re really excited about it,” Jablonski said. “It looks like an awesome lake looking at the map. The larger size scale (of fish) might not be here compared with what we see elsewhere. There’s an endless amount of structure and shallow water structure, and I assume that if you had a 23-inch average, you’re probably doing real good. It should keep a lot of the weights pretty close.”

He also agreed that the lake’s good clarity will be an issue, or an opportunity, especially for teams like theirs, “rod in hand” anglers, starting with pre-fishing.

“It’s probably a deal where we will be practicing whether we can get on top of them (the fish). You’ve got to stay off your fish especially it seems like this lake might fish shallower. Whether it’s eight or 15 feet of clarity, that’s tough. Some of the presentations aren’t just going to work.

‘If you’re trolling weed beds on planer boards, something that teams can figure out, but rod-in-hand teams who can stay 50 or 60 feet off fish, that will help,” he said. “We’re definitely rod-in-hand guys.”

They feel good about coming to the season’s final qualifier.

“We’ve had a good year so far. The Rosemores beat everybody up so bad on the river (the Mississippi qualifier July 9). We finished sixth there. I think the river is going to be the throwaway (teams can toss one qualifier finish in the TOY race). So that puts extra pressure on Ottertail for most. You’re going to need a solid finish,” Jablonski said.

“We don’t typically troll unless we absolutely have to. We’re going to try to stay open. If you go in with a plan and it doesn’t work, you spin out, so if you try to go in with an open mind and go through the things that have worked for us. If they don’t work, move on.

“There are so many things you can do on this lake. You can fish it a lot of different ways. It’s always fun when you’ve got weeds in play,” he added, perhaps giving a hint of what they plan to do at least in pre-fishing.

Those 100 boats will be fueled and ready when they line up by launch number Sunday after the 5:30 a.m. boat inspection at The Corner Store Beach in Battle Lake. Launch of the fleet begins at 7 a.m. at the beach. All teams must be checked in starting at 3 and 3:15 p.m., depending on the flight. Awards take place starting at 5 p.m. at Beach Bums Bar and Eatery next to The Corner Store. Good luck all teams!

Ok, Fan Nation, we’re as pumped as you are to get this last qualifier settled and move on to the championship round. That means next up, the Mercury Marine Minnesota State Championship and TOY award Aug. 18-19 on Lake Winnibigoshish in Bena, MN, then the Garmin/Navionics State Championship and Yamaha Motor Corp USA Team Of The Year (TOY) award Aug. 25-26 at Oconto on the Bay of Green Bay.

But wait, there’s more, as the commercials say. After that, Sept. 8-9 for the Yamaha Motor Corp. USA North Dakota State Championship and TOY award on Lake Sakakawea at Beulah.

In AIM’s new Rivers Division, it ain’t over until the fall colors wave. AIM travels to the Mississippi at Clinton Iowa for the next Rivers Division qualifier Sept. 10, and then Oct. 1 in Dubuque, IA. That division championship is Oct. 21-22 on that river at Prairie du Chien, WI.

This weekend, stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook site for updates from Ottertail Sunday. Join us for a lot of fun on the water by signing up for the rivers tourneys, and 2024 events. Want to join the upcoming next generation of tournament anglers? 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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