Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept 1st, 2017
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Preparation, Say Mitch Neill, Partners Billy Weich, Shane Axness Wins Yamaha Motor Corp USA Minnesota Team Of The Year
If you want to know what winning the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Minnesota Team Of The Year takes, it’s preparation, preparation, preparation, says Mitch Neill, who along with co-partners Billy Weich and Shane Axness, hung on to take that honor on Lake Vermillion, but not without a few bumps.
“It was a nail-biter, that’s for sure. We didn’t have a great program and the first fish on Day One we lost was a really nice one, and that kinda set the stage,” he said. But the team’s other finishes, including a first on the Mississippi River in their first-ever AIM tournament season, and a decent Day Two at Vermillion after their nerves settled, sealed the deal, earning them that Yamaha 9.9 four-stroke kicker motor, and an entry into next year’s National Championship Shootout.
“For me, it was a lot of dedication to pre-fishing and researching, pulling information off the Internet, and spending time on the water,” said Neill, who’s from Maple Grove, MN. “I did a lot of prep work at home because a lot of these water bodies I had never fished before.”
That also meant not only wetting lines, but driving his boat around to familiarize himself with that particular lake or river. And, time spent tying up spinner rigs, and making sure the right equipment was on board, and especially, having two partners, each of whom ended up catching the largest fish that assured those great placements each tournament that culminated in a 16th on Vermillion, and those Team Of The Year bragging rights.
“Both Billy and Shane are great fishermen to share a boat with. In every single event, my partners caught the bigger fish. So whether it was Billy catching the 28-1/2-incher on the Mississippi or Shane with a 26 on Vermillion, they always pulled through to catch big fish and keep us in it,” he said.
Because of their schedules, Weich ended up fishing three events, and Axness, who hails from Woodbury, MN, two, including the championship on Vermillion. After a tense Day One, that included getting psyched out a bit, Neill said, they were nervous going into Day Two.
“At that point I wasn’t going to let people get in my way. We were just going to go out and fish, and we stuck to our program. It was a tougher bite for us. We switched first to pulling spinners and rigging crawlers, and then went back to our creek chubs, and pulled in two fish in the afternoon, a 26-incher and a 23-1/2 and we knew we did what we had to, to maintain the lead,” Neill said. Then he let us all in on a little secret.
“Prior to the tournament you asked if the minnow bite would be going and I secretly said no,” he said. In fact, they had a good creek chub bite going on the main lake, not far from the eventual winners, on rocks. It was a bite that eventually got that TOY plaque.
“It’s a pretty awesome feeling doing this when you’re fishing the first year. When you go out and win the first event right off the bat (on the Mississippi in early May) when we weren’t even sure we were going to fish it, then we kept holding the lead throughout the year. That’s setting the bar pretty high for us, and to do it with two of my buddies I fish with, that’s pretty fun,” Neill said.
For Billy Weich, from Eau Claire, WI, fishing AIM was also a great experience. “Mitch is a good buddy and we’ve done a lot of fishing over the years and he had been researching the AIM series and asked if I wanted to fish the Mississippi and that was the first we’d fished it, and we ended up winning. After that I knew I wouldn’t be able to fish all the tournaments so he asked Shane if he wanted to be a co-partner,” Weich said.
“It was awesome meeting up with all the other fishermen and sharing information and experiences. I like the (Catch-Record-Release™) format. It promotes less fish loss and I don’t see how it affects anything negatively.
He found out about his co-TOY win by following the ceremonies on AIM’s Facebook site, and agreed with Neill that it was a nail-biter to the end.
All three are looking forward to next year’s Shootout, to see where it will be, and to again prepare.
“It will be a different type of pressure to fish the shootout,” Neill said. “We’ll put the same program to work to put in research and learn the body of water to see if we can stick up with the best of the best from each of the other circuits, and see how we do.”
So can all you in AIM Fan Nation. Keep following, learning and next year, have the confidence, and the spirit, to pull the trigger on filling out an entry form. Like first-timers Neill, Weich, and Axness, you’ve got a shot at taking it. Meantime, as next year’s series nears, keep track of AIM’s Facebook site, and Prochattrr.
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 www.aimfishing.com.
AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats, LLC.
AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Navionics, Garmin, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Vibrations Tackle, Pro Chattrr, National Fleet Graphics, Gemini Sport Marketing, Warrior Boat Center.