Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2023
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
They’re baaaack… Familiar Names Top List At AWWS
Leech Minnesota Qualifier As Wolden, Leininger Win
We told you, Fan Nation, to watch out for these two, and AIM Weekend Walleye Series Tyler Wolden and Nate Leininger poured on the heat in the Warrior Boats Musky House Open on Minnesota’s Leech Lake’s walleye, boating 47.97 pounds, with another familiar pair of names locking in second only a week plus a few before the AIM National Championship Shootout in Wisconsin.
Wolden, of Carlos, and Leininger of Miltona, made short work of the main lake and Walker Bay to take home $9,000 and a first-place side pot of $1,400, while the phenom of Tom (WIN) Huynh and Nate Wolske, fresh off a second in another major walleye test at Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago, filled second place here with 36.15 pounds, raking in $3,500, plus $840 in second-place side pot cash.
“Both these teams deserve phenom status, in fact,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Team Wolden/Leininger won this thing last year too, when we held this one in mid-summer, while Huynh/Wolske also placed second then, staying on a roll. This may be that team’s final full season here where their miracle run for the roses began, but they’ve got their pedal to the metal too, and now both teams are looking at what damage they can do at the Shootout June 2-3.”
During pre-fishing, Wolden, from Carlos, Minnesota, and Leininger, of Miltona, ran their Mercury 400 Verado-powered and Garmin-equipped boat to find “a lot of different spots,” between the main lake and Walker Bay, which was the go-to for both first and second places.
“In practice, they were very fickle. It was not a great practice,” he said, but they stuck with the preferred early season Leech approach with their JT Outdoors rods, a jig and shiner, and sometimes, plastics.
“What kinda happened was, we hit the lake to catch our smaller big fish,” Wolden said. Get that, did ya? Smaller “big.”
“We were fortunate enough to get a couple of those 26s on the main lake. Our first fish was a 26, then a 26-1/4, and then we had a 27 even. We felt a 25 or 26 average was going to be able to pull off a win. You’ve got to have those big kickers on Leech to win, so we buzzed into Walker Bay and the fish we’d found had moved quite a bit,” he said. “It took us a good half-hour to track them down again and see what they wanted to eat.” Then they got kickers. One in the lake, the other in Walker Bay.
“We were able to catch a 30-1/2 and a 31-1/4-incher in about 20 minutes. Right around 10:30 or 11 we were able to put those two on the card. The 30-1/2, me in the lake, and the 31-1/4 for Nate in Walker. Then we went back to the lake and they all just went lockjaw,” Wolden said. “By 11, we had our bag, so we figured if the bite shut off, it wouldn’t’ give anyone else the opportunity to catch up to us.”
Where in Walker Bay and the lake, exactly? He’s not saying. “It’s not a very big spot and if I said what area of the lake, people would know exactly what I’m talking about,” he added.
Then his thoughts turned to Wisconsin and the championship on the Rock River and Lake Koshkonong. “So hopefully in a couple weeks, we’ll be talking to you about pulling that $100,000 boat back to Minnesota. We’ll leave on Sunday and practice starts Monday, and we’ll be on it all week, sunup to sundown. The lake’s only six feet deep so it’s going to be a learning experience, that’s for sure.”
Then it was Tom Huynh’s turn. Their day also included a trip to Walker Bay, and in fact, they watched as Wolden and Leininger landed those kicker fish.
“This was our first time trying to find big fish on Leech this time of year. Typically, we’re there in summer,” Huynh said. “We had just come off a second-place finish on Winnebago (in Wisconsin) a couple days earlier. We heard that on the Tuesday prior there were some big walleyes caught still spewing eggs. Water temperatures were around 49 degrees.”
Wolske headed to Leech early and put their Garmin Livescope to work.
“He started checking places we thought would hold those big females coming to recoup after spawning. But we went to our summer locations with two hours left in pre-fishing just to see. Nate got one in practice about 27 inches, could see some others on the electronics, so we decided we were going to go back there,” Huynh said.
“So we go out there and within 15 minutes we had a 28-1/2 and a 26-3/4, and we hadn’t caught anything this big all year. Then our electronics were marking a lot, but they didn’t have any reaction to our baits. We started noticing that the fish were closer to bottom, and the marks were very subtle, and they ended up being walleye. They were very lethargic. The 24-incher we had, it spit out my bait two times and Nate’s once before Nate caught it.”
They also headed to Walker Bay, and fished near Wolden and Leininger, and decided after watching them land their big fish they had to leave.
“We were fishing behind them for like maybe three minutes and said we can’t be behind them, they’re like a vacuum cleaner, but we got to witness them bring in their 31-incher,” Huynh said. At the end of the day, their smallest was a 21-1/2. “We couldn’t get rid of that one. We only caught five fish all day. It would have been a closer one if we had another 28-plus, but…”
His thoughts also turned to the Rock River and especially to Lake Koshkonong, but not before he announced that this would be the team’s last full season with AIM, where they began their multiple dominating walleye seasons, bringing them national attention.
“We’re going to give it (this season) a whirl. There’s a couple we won’t get to pre-fish and we’re even unsure if we can get there on time to jump in the boat and compete. It’s just getting too busy. We’ll jump in and out of future AIM tournaments, but we’ll focus on others and our businesses at home,” he said. Then it was on to what’s coming up in about a week.
“I think I’m going to be in the lake. I was just on the Wolf River and Winnebago. It creates Lake Poygan and turns into a river again and those upper two lakes are stained and shallow. There was some current in there so I’m thinking I’m going to avoid the skinny river sections.”
Attention, all other teams in the championship: In conditions similar to Koshkonong, Huynh and Wolske notched a second. In short, watch out.
Here are the other teams in the top five: In third, with 35.62 pounds, good for $2,800, were David Thielen and Mike Hensel of Park Rapids. Fourth place winnings of $1,400 and $560 in third place side pot money were Philip Ballard of Ramsey, and Trenton Graf of St. Paul. Zachary Christenson of Cambridge and Toby Kvalevog of Brainerd took fifth and $1,300 with 32.08 pounds.
A great start to a new season, Minnesota. Now, it’s time for the War in Wisconsin. The battle of Fort Atkinson for that $100,000 Warrior Boat, that 200 Yamaha, the Garmin electronics and Force bow mount, and those Rosemore rods begins in nine days.
Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook site for on-water updates and the final countdown to the championship winner. Get in on the fun. Register for the next events at aimfishing.com.
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.
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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.