Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.



Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


‘Ratted Out’: Bleeker, Stayberg Take Warrior Boats/Yamaha Outboards National Championship In Pool 3’s Cuts


Chad Bleeker and Carl Stayberg call the Mississippi, and specifically, Pools 3 and 4, their home water. They’re self-described “river rats,” who know how to make the river give up its secrets, high water or no. Bleeker also often says he’d much rather be a lucky than a good fisherman.

The team played that home team advantage to the hilt this weekend and gathered all the luck and presentations they could muster, boating 44.19 pounds to take home their $50,000 prize package: A Warrior V1898DC/150 Yamaha four-stroke motor/Garmin Echomap CHIRP Series plotter/sonar in winning the 2017 AIM Warrior Boats/Yamaha Outboards National Championship Shootout Friday and Saturday, June 2-3. It was their second major AIM honor, and both are coincidentally linked.

Last September, they won Minnesota Division Team of the Year honors. Their prize then? A 9.9 Yamaha kicker. That also earned them a berth in this championship, and their ultimate payday for two days’ work/fun on their home water.

Prior to the contest, it was predicted that it would take 60 pounds to win. But….

“It probably would have been true had we not gotten those big thunderstorms on Friday,” he said. At the end of Day One, they were 3/10 of an ounce behind the leaders. At the end of Day Two, he wasn’t positive that they’d won.

“Our favorite is Pool 4, but the water was so high and they were holding back water so Pool 4 wasn’t moving and was dirty. We couldn’t find any seams set up where fish would congregate,” he said. They instead concentrated on Pool 3.

“What we were looking for was clean water. We watched the mudline. That’s where we fish. We found clean water and dirty coming together and we fish the mudline, and look for seams and pockets. You’ve got to fish the clean water side,” he said. “We actually caught all our fish in one spot.”

That spot was a small cut off the main channel that they had to sneak into, running wide open and leaving a muddy trail behind them, especially on Day Two when the water was dropping, but they made it in. They found that muddy/clean seam, and the fish they were looking for.

“We used a multitude of things. I worked on big fish and Carl worked on filling the card. We used everything from Rapalas and creek chubs and leeches, and casting cranks. We caught them on everything,” Bleeker said. The water depth? Just about three feet, he said.

“We had our card full by 8:45 both mornings. On Day One, we had that 25.5 pounds and caught several other fish but never one that would give us an upgrade. So we ran back to a couple of spots in Pool 4 but never got it.”

On Day Two, he said, they were at the same spot until about 12:30, netting their last upgrade shortly before they left. They also caught a lot of other fish, from catfish to bass. But one fish made the difference for them.

“Our second fish of the morning was a 10-pounder, and that really helped. We did drop another big fish, a big tanker that we never saw, around 9:30,” he said. They made one run to the Vermillion area (near Hastings), and then came in with 18.69 pounds.

“I wasn’t’ really sure if it was going to be enough. I figured we’d be able to fill our card with five- to seven-pounders, but on Day Two, the big ones, they were just off. They weren’t doing it,” he said.

AIM National Tournament Director Denny Fox made sure that Bleeker and Stayberg didn’t know until the last, too, as they and the other top five teams waited through AIM’s “Showdown Shootout” Saturday evening. Each team’s top fish were announced individually. No one was quite sure who topped the field until the last fish on the last card was tallied.

He and Stayberg are already looking forward to this weekend and AIM’s back-to-back tournaments on Leech Lake June 10 and 11. Bleeker has a vacation spot on the lake. “I think Walker Bay will play big this year, with a deep-water chub bite. With the water temps and there’s no bug hatch yet, they’re going to be in Walker,” he said. “The fish are still real shallow on the points, in three or four feet of water. The main lake temp is still in the upper 50s, and it’s not going to happen there.

“Coming into Leech, we’re going to give that Team of The Year a run this year, too,” he said.

Second through fourth place winners each received a 10-foot Power-Pole. In second were Jason Wanty and David Parker, both from Waupaca, WI, with 37.31 pounds. They pulled their weight also from Pool 3, Wanty said.

“Our spot was structure in a slough. The big walleyes seemed to want to lay in and around it because of the lack of current,” Wanty said. “The first time we hit it in pre-fishing we thought the current was too much. Then we hit it again and it was lights out. We knew we had something special, and we laid off it.”

Going back to the same spot Friday, they had a slow morning, finally grinding out about 19 pounds. On Day Two, they went back with the same program, slow trolling creek chubs at .2 to .3 mph upstream, and began landing fish, including the tournament’s biggest, a 29-1/2-incher. Unfortunately, the fish then turned off. “A couple more bites, and we might have had it won,” he said.

Third place was won by Mike Lillemo and Ryan Sheldon, Big Lake, MN, who boated 36.41 pounds.

Colby Gallagher, Grand Rapids, MN, and Dusty Cartie, Aitkin, MN, finished fourth with 35.03 pounds.

Winning a gift certificate for a set of AirWave seat pedestals for their fifth-place showing were Brent Knutson, Bemidji, MN, and Brad Neyens, Herman, MN, who carded 33.41 pounds.

We’ll preview the next tournaments in the Minnesota Division this week. Meantime, follow the action at AIM’s Facebook page, and at


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, 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.

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