Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Water, Water: Will Van Hook Be The Place To Be/Hide

From ‘Big Muddy’ At Lake Sak AIM Qualifier Sunday?


We’re almost certain you’ve heard the news: The Yellowstone River, the Missouri’s principal tributary, is experiencing what some have termed as an unprecedented flood. That may be what anglers heading to the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Pure Powersports Open qualifier on North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea Sunday, (June 19) will encounter, and it could prove a factor in what happens on the water and at the awards ceremony later.

“There are reports that the stained water from that flooding is already reaching Lake Sak,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “That could influence where teams will be on Father’s Day Sunday, both good and bad. Will they stay in more protected Van Hook Arm which has been on fire for big fish lately, or will they take advantage of that dirtier water and look for fish there? After all, the Missouri’s nickname is, the Big Muddy. We’ll find out for sure Sunday afternoon.”

One thing is for sure, the lake needs more water, and the flood waters combined with snowmelt that’s yet to come, will help, says a member of one of the teams that will be at Parshall, headed by Cody Cerkoney, who will be in a 300 Yamaha-powered boat. He’s pre-fishing Friday and Saturday, despite a windy forecast. He’s been hearing fishing is fantastic, so much that he’s predicting it will take 35 pounds to win, maybe even 40. Cerkoney, from Belfield, will be partnered with Cody Dukart of Dunn Center.

“Friday and Saturday they’re forecasting some pretty big winds and a heat wave is coming, but I don’t think it’s going to screw up fishing. It’s been phenomenal, from two to 15 feet of water and they’re really, really, healthy. So I’m projecting about 35 pounds to win this. I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a 40-pound bag,” Cerkoney said.

“We’ve had a lot of water coming from Montana and we’re hoping we can beat the mud this weekend, and that flow coming from Montana will change things.”

So why is fishing so good on Lake Sak?

“They’re coming off spawning. We’ve had a really tough spring and we were set back two weeks,” he said. “So that hot post-spawn bite is really going right now. The whole lake has been on fire, and anywhere from pitching jigs to pulling live bait, to cranks, it’s anyone’s style of fishing right now.”

The main focus of teams entered will be the Van Hook Arm area, he said. It’s well-known for its structure that gives bait fish like smelt a place to go, and it warms up fastest. And while a lot will be focusing on Van Hook, Cerkoney may be elsewhere.

“A lot will be in the Van hook area. There was a tournament there last week and phenomenal weights came out of there. We’re not going to discount Van Hook but we’re also looking for fish that aren’t pressured as much. Right now, I’m looking for non-pressured fish,” he said.

It’s also forecast to be hot, in the 90s, he added. “This will be our first hot spell this spring. Usually when we have rising water the fishing’s pretty decent. It gives places for the bait fish to be, and we need the water. Sakakawea’s really low right now. It sucks for Montana, but it’s really going to help our reservoir.”

Tanner Ouelette and partner Kade Lynch of Mandan, will be in a Mercury 250 Pro XS-powered boat. Ouelette first wished his next-door neighbor state well. Lynch is there pre-fishing now. Ouelette will be there Saturday.

“I hope things are going well over there and settling down, but I pray for everybody in Montana. I don’t think the water’s going to hit us too bad until July 4th. I hear some rumors it’s starting to muddy up but hopefully we’ll hit it just right. I had a conversation that it’s starting to get stained, but by the time the tournament comes it won’t be too stained to ruin the bite,” Ouelette said.

“I grew up south of the Van Hook Arm so I’m fully prepared to run wherever I need. I know there are good fish getting caught there. Yesterday and today (Wednesday and Thursday) have been really big winds out of different directions. It’s going to be near 100 Sunday. There’s going to be a lot of factors and things are changing fast, so I’ll have to depend on my electronics to find them,” he said.

Ouelette said he’s looking at least 35 pounds to be competitive. “I’m curious how that muddy water is going to change things because we haven’t had that in the lake for a couple of years. But I think everything’s going to work. In Lake Sak, probably 50 to 70 percent of anglers pull cranks. It’s the thing to do, so everyone makes fun of us. We just don’t do it. Live bait is going to work. Aggressive casting is going to work, and I will not be pulling cranks.”

John Aarfor will be spending Father’s Day on the water with son Chandler under Mercury 300 Pro XS power. It will also be Aarfor’s 29th wedding anniversary.

“I’ve been fishing Van Hook for 30 years now. Fishing’s really good and that’s where Parshall is, right on the Arm,” Aarfor said. He’s betting on live bait, with a few cranks for good measure, that will do it Sunday.

“It’s going to be a combination of nightcrawlers, leeches, creek chubs and crankbaits. That’s your typical Lake Sak presentation. At the tournament last weekend, it took 10 fish and 60 pounds (over two days) just to get into the top five, so there’s been some big weights already being caught. That tournament was in Van Hook. So I expect with this south wind, 30 pounds” will be the break-in weight to be near the top.

“Lake Sakakawea is a special place and if you find the right fish, you’re going to bring home some big ones. It’s probably my favorite place to fish in the state, but Chandler and I need to have a good finish if we’re going to have a chance to do anything, so the pressure is on,” he said.

He thinks the stained water making its way downstream may help.

“I’ve talked to a local and one good thing about it is, it’s going to push fish out of the river and into the arm, but the lake is low and will come up I’ve heard as much as a foot, but I don’t know when,” he said. He’s also worried about his competition.

“You’ve got guys like team Lonnie Jacobs and team Schneider. Those are my picks to do well, so for us the pressure is on,” he said.

The pressure will be on all teams come Sunday morning when they’re released starting at 7 a.m. from Parshall, following Saturday’s internet rules and registration meeting at 8 pm. Boats are due back starting at 3 p.m., and the awards will begin at 5 p.m. Good luck to all teams!

Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook page this Sunday. You can still register for all remaining events in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota at AIM’s website.  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, Marinette, WI, Explore Alexandria, Rosemore Outdoor Gear

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