Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Swinging And Rigging, Berns, Hancock Take Inaugural AWWS Rivers Division Opener Sunday; Jigging Takes Second


Rigging and jigging did it for the first- and second-place teams to kick off the inaugural 2023 season of AIM Weekend Walleye Series Rivers Division, with both first and second-place teams fishing their very first AIM tournament at Genoa, Wisconsin, Sunday, April 16.

“Both teams used tried-and-true river rigs to take them to the top,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “For their efforts in typical springtime-in-Wisconsin snowy, sleety and cold weather, they’re now sitting on top of the race for a spot at the 2024 National Championship Shootout, as well as the 2023 Wisconsin Rivers Division Team Of The Year, in their first-ever AIM event. Way to go! They let us all in on how it was done.”

The first-place team of Marty Berns of Dubuque, IA, and Jason Hancock of Asbury, IA, a Dubuque suburb, boated 25.16 pounds of walleye, earning them $2,500 plus a side pot take of $800, for a total of $3,300. And they did it by piloting their Mercury 200 Optimax-powered boat maybe 800 yards from the ramp at Genoa.

“Pre-fishing, we didn’t do much since we didn’t have much time after work. When we went up, we pre-fished the pool above and then pre-fished here about one or two hours and we figured we had a place to fish,” Hancock said. They figured right.

They started pitching jigs, but the Wisconsin spring caused them to think that may not be the best choice. Hancock said his hands quickly became icebergs, so they switched to rigging.

In this case, since they were out of the main current and working shoreline seams, they were using 5/8-ounce jigs tipped with plastic paddletails, and No. 9 floating Rapalas on the longer line. Berns said he likes an arm’s length of leader to keep The Rapala out of the way of the jig.

While Hancock worked the shore side, Berns worked the deeper river side. Both let the current swing their lures, and it didn’t take long for them to decide to stay in that one spot all day. And like a lot of times in a river, one side of their boat was more productive than the other.

“The first fish was a 25-incher,” Hancock said. “We caught a lot of fish all day long, but the other bigger ones came later in the day, like 1:30 or 2 p.m. I was catching most of them. We fished this same spot a few years back and did good there. It has a rock bottom. With the water coming up, the fish were closer to the bank in about 6 to 8 feet of water and Marty was more in the 12-foot range.”

“The wind was also blowing onto the bank,” Berns added. And there’s another tip: wind can often blow the bait, and the fish. In this case, it and the rising river may have been pushing the fish towards shore. They put two of Bern’s fish on their Catch-Record-Release card, and the rest were Hancock’s.

Coming back, they figured they were in a good position to get their entry fee back. They had no clue they’d won until the second-place team was announced.

“There were a lot of good people fishing this, and we figured with 22 pounds we might get our money back. We never figured we had it won,” Hancock said. “After second place was announced, we said, oh my gosh, we won it!”

Now they’ve got a decision to make. They were going to vacation during some of the other Rivers Division events. But since they’re leading this division, what now?

“We were just going to fish this one, but now we’ll have to in Dubuque (that’s Sunday, April 30),” Hancock said. And who knows, maybe you’ll see these two at the division’s other events, too.

In second place with 20.22 pounds, good for $1,500 plus a second place in side pot cash of $480 for a total of $1,980 were Ryan Beeman of De Soto, WI just downstream from Genoa, and Galen Bremmer of Avoca, WI.

They stuck with, and stuck their fish with, ½-ounce jigs with soft plastic that Beeman makes and sells. The pair were in a Mercury 250 Pro XS-powered boat a bit deeper than the winners, around 16-17 feet. They were maybe a half-mile upstream of the launch site.

“We had pre-fished for about four days and we caught fish trolling, but the biggest bite was casting that jig. We cast out to about 25 feet of water and let the current swing it onto a 15-foot ridge, a bar that ran down off the channel.

“We spot-locked the boat and did not move for eight hours. We knew the fish were staged here because we’ve been catching them here since probably January. There were four or five other boats there to start and actually all of them but one left,” Beeman said. He said the one staying eventually finished third.

“They were throwing some jigs and some three-way rigs, but we were fishing ours downstream and they were fishing upstream. Our jigs were just heavy enough to sweep barely off the bottom,” he said. “The first were some smaller saugers. We didn’t start recording any fish until we got 18-to 20-nchers. Our first was 19. And in the last 10 minutes, Galen caught a 20-3/4-incher, so we culled that 19 off the card. We caught 40 or 50 fish, the biggest 25-3/4, just under seven pounds.” He also said they possibly, maybe, coulda, mighta, won it, with one fish.

“We may have had the opportunity to win but it was just a couple of unlucky breaks. One of our bigger fish was foul hooked so we released it, and I had another that I fought for probably three minutes and lost it. I’d have to say it was probably one of the biggest walleyes I’ve ever had on,” Beeman said.

This was also their first, never-ever, AIM tournament and they’re hooked, both with the format and how the tournament was run. Beeman said that they were confirmed bass anglers until they jumped into walleye.

“I highly recommend AIM. With the fishing pressure these days on the river, I really think it has to go to that (Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ), and it’s a good deal especially this time of year when the fish are spawning. It was a really well-run tournament,” Beeman said.

Rounding out the top, in third place with $1,250 and third in the side pot of $320, for a total of $1,570, were Hunter and Aaron Fortney of Gays Mills WI. They landed and released 15.92 pounds of walleye. Finishing fourth and earning $350 for 15.34 pounds were Robert Lampman of De Soto and Tom Beck of Genoa.

Next up, the AIM Rivers Division swings downstream to Pools 11 and 12 near Dubuque, IA. That bad boy gets underway Sunday, April 30. Look for even more possible high water there.  But before that, AIM’s Wisconsin Division pays its annual visit to the Wolf River at Winneconne this Sunday, April 23, with a 100-boat field taking to the water. And no doubt, the weather will also play a big role in what the fish will do, and where the teams will go.

Fishing an AIM tournament is about having fun on the water. If you learn to do that, you’re that much closer to a spot on the podium. Learn about how to sign up and have fun with fellow anglers at to the AIM website, Fan Nation, don’t miss following the action for each tournament at AIM’s Facebook site.

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 MN, Island Bar and Grill, Bait Box on the Rock, Oconto County WI.

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