Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 3, 2017
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Sunday’s Missouri River Shows Continued String Of First-Time Winners On AIM’s Weekend Walleye Series Circuit
Still not convinced that the AIM Weekend Walleye Series is the best tournament format going? Sunday’s North Dakota Missouri River Warrior Boats/Mild 2 Wild win at Bismarck/Mandan by two weekend warrior anglers proves that with a little planning and luck, you too, can be standing at the podium.
Chris Johnson, of Dickinson, North Dakota, and Cody Northrop, of South Heart, both in that state’s western oil country, topped the board Sunday, April 30, landing 23.71 pounds in their first AIM event, and in an area Northrop had only been to only a few times, and Johnson, only once before. They went back to work Monday $4,500 richer.
Their first AIM victory continues a string of wins that began in Wisconsin in April, mostly by anglers who’ve never been in a major event before but decided to enter AIM’s. Team Johnson/Northrop pitched jigs with fathead minnows to the sand bars they could make out in the high, cold water and morning air temperatures hovering in the 30s. But, at least it wasn’t raining.
“We’ve had better days on the water, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. “The river was high, the water was dirty, and cold.”
They only had one day to pre-fish the river, but also fished a local tournament Saturday, taking fourth place. That experience paid off Sunday.
“We found two spots holding fish Friday,” Johnson said. Between Saturday and Sunday, fish changed their color preference, he said, going from pink longer shank jigs, to ¼-ounce chartreuse short shanks.”
“We anchored with our trolling motor and we just cast to the sand bars. One of us would retrieve more aggressive while the other would retrieve slow. But it didn’t seem to matter,” continued Johnson, who runs a 2075 pro-V Lund tiller, with a Mercury 250 Verado at the stern. Their first fish was a 13-1/4-incher. The second, a spawned-out 24-inch female. They were on the way.
“That spot kinda died and our second spot was typically a better afternoon bite, so we made the move and in 10 minutes, we got a 21. And then we upgraded the little fish on the card to 16- and 18-inchers,” Johnson said. “Then Cody tied into that 25-1/2-incher, and that helped us win. Not too long after, he caught another 23-1/2-incher, and I knew then we were going to be right in it.”
Where were they on the river? Well….
“If I knew that river better I’d tell you,” said Johnson, who only fished this part of the Missouri once before, last summer, but is familiar with the tailrace water some 50 miles upstream at Garrison Dam. He credited what he learned about boat control there with helping them win. “I call it Sturgeon Island because I caught several sturgeon there, at least a dozen between Friday and Saturday. It was about a mile downstream from the boat ramp,” he said.
Back on shore, they anxiously awaited the awards ceremony. It wasn’t until their names were called that they knew it was theirs. “I knew we were going to do okay, but didn’t think we had enough to win,” Johnson said.
How’d they pick the AIM Weekend Walleye Series? “I’ve got some buddies who got into it, and my partner and I have fished some local tournaments near our homes, but it seems there’s always some kind of local drama at those. We never got into any AIM events last year so we figured, what the heck,” Johnson said. They’re now committed to fishing all the NoDak AIM events, and can’t say enough about the way they’re run.
“The format I think is about the best there is in walleye fishing. On the Saturday tournament we were in, there were at least 100 fish killed. Not one fish got killed in the AIM event. It’s a really good thing for the fishery. The only thing you’ve got to worry about is taking a picture. And when you’ve got a 25-1/2-inch fish on the floor and you have to take a photo, it was the most nerve-wracking thing of the whole day.”
Following them in second by about a pound were Alan Lick, Sawyer, ND, and Jesse Eckroth, Bismarck, also in their first AIM tournament. They had fished the area the last several weeks. They began pre-fishing south of the launch site, did poorly, then went upstream and found fish for Sunday. They chose to troll Husky Jerks.
“On Sunday we went only about five miles,” Lick said. “We got ours trolling upstream. We tried trolling downstream but that didn’t work well. Maybe it was just how the water temperatures were. That day, temperatures finally got up to 45 degrees,” he added. Most of their fish came mid-day, ranging from 18 to 23-3/4 inches.
“Once we got that one about 12:30 we went running and gunning to find a kicker, and picked up another one late in the day in the last hour, about 23 inches. We felt like we were in contention then,” Lick said. Like the winners, Lick and Eckroth were convinced by friends to try AIM this year. It was a choice worth $2,000 Sunday.
“We really like the Catch-Record-Release™ format and it’s also nice having a Sunday tournament so you don’t have to take as much vacation,” Lick added. “Plus, the $300 entry fee per team is very realistic, and the payouts are excellent.”
Finishing in third at Bismarck/Mandan and earning $1,600 were Justin Rogstad, Lincoln, ND, and Matt Dietrich, Bismarck, boating 22.50 pounds. In fourth were Shawn Mertz and Tommy Miller, both from Bismarck, with 21.53 pounds, good for $1,200. Bryce Bethke, Bismarck, and Kasey Power, Milton, won $1,000 for 17.77 pounds and fifth place.
Next up for the AIM North Dakota division are the multiple bays holding underwater obstacles and a great walleye population on sprawling Devils Lake on May 21. Registration closes Wednesday, May 17th.
This weekend, AIM heads to Minnesota and the “Fishissippi” River on Pools 3 and 4 near Hager City, WI, on Sunday, May 7, for the Warrior Boats/Warrior Boats Center Open, the Minnesota Division season opener. We’ll preview what’s in store for the “river rats” Friday.
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.