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Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Weather May Be The Biggest Factor For AIM Weekend Walleye Series NoDak Opener On Lake Sakakawea Sunday


You’ve heard of the calm before the storm. Well anglers gearing up for the first AIM/Warrior Boats Open North Dakota qualifier of the season Sunday, June 14, may have more to concern themselves with than finding fish, in what looks to be a wind-before-more-wind bouncy time after the huge walleye fishery that is Lake Sakakawea.

“Don’t you love it when the National Weather Service predicts a south wind of 18 to 22 mph and gusts to 37 and calls it ‘breezy,’ but Lake Sak is in the plains, and a little wind isn’t going to stop NoDak plains anglers used to finding fish here, especially when there’s money at stake,” said Denny Fox, AIM National Tournament Director. “What will also make this one interesting, is that Friday and much of Saturday, the wind is forecast to be easterly. Sunday, it’ll shift to the south with close to the same intensity. But the fish are there, and we expect a great event to open this division’s qualifying season.”

Some who aren’t used to Lake Sak kicking up may find it a rocky ride when boats leave Sunday morning, says AWWS regular Matt Ristow, who was on the lake Wednesday. He said it may be all decided by those finding a spot to fish.

“Some forecast big winds coming Saturday, with 20 to 30 mph and gusting to 50, and Sunday as well. The lake’s going to stand up pretty big, and that moves the warm water around and that can shut the fish off or turn them on depending,” Ristow said.  “It’s going to be about where you can fish efficiently. So things will change in a matter of a couple days.”

Ristow also reports that earlier this week, a big cold front arrived. “We had a 10-degree drop in water temperature almost overnight Sunday and Monday.”

Still, he sounded pretty confident of his chances in his Warrior V208. “We’ve got a pretty good plan already and it’s kinda coming together today. Whether we can use the original plan to fish, I don’t think we’re going to go anywhere near it.  We can get into where we want but with the changing weather, trying to put anything together right now is just not going to happen,” Ristow continued.

“I’m actually fishing an area I’ve never fished, but knowing what the forecast is, it’s all about knowing where a guy can fish, even if you have to fish for five instead of where you will have no boat control. It’ll be at least three- or four-footers with that wind. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets a little bigger than that. It will be coming out of the lake’s widest spot. It’ll have a good bit of time to build,” he added.

Otherwise, fishing’s been great, and all over. “It’s been everything from jigs to crank baits. One day the fish have been up shallow, the next they’re out deeper. With the weather we’ve had, it’s made fishing tough,” he said.

Ristow’s looking for a good event, however, hoping to boost his previous mid-pack AIM finishes, he said. “I’m looking for a little redemption here. I will take the tough pre-fish for a good tournament.”

Cody Cerkoney of Belfield will be there in a 400-hp-Mercury Verado-powered boat, and he’s hoping for a shallow bite. Last weekend was his first trip to the vast lake’s east end.

“Last Friday I went out and it was the only nice day we had last weekend, and the fish we did catch were pretty shallow, in three to eight feet of water. We didn’t mark anything much deeper. The majority of the fish are still at the opposite end of the lake, and it’s starting to rise  (from the spring mountain snowmelt hundreds of miles west) right now, which I think is going to help out the shallow bite, Cerkoney said.

But, in the front of his calculations, is that wind as well. “The wind’s going to be blowing right into us and we were going to run to the boundary,” he said, but no way now.

“With the wind blowing Saturday and Sunday most of the teams I think that have spots way back in the bay may do better. “But there aren’t a lot of places at this end of the lake where a guy can tuck out of the wind. I’m sure there will be a few who will find’em. Usually on Lake Sak the big fish like big wind. It does help get the bigger fish going, but this wind could be a little tough.”

Dennis Bense of Bismark will run his 400-hp Verado-powered boat on Sunday, but he’s expecting boats to be bouncing like bobbers in the predicted wind, just like the other entrants. And while bobbers aren’t used very much on the lake, they may come in handy as teams head to the confines of bays that Bense said will probably come into play Sunday.

He also reports that the lake, controlled by giant Garrison dam and dependent on that Rockies snowmelt, is still down about 10 feet. “Where everyone was fishing in vegetation last year, that’s high and dry,” Bense said. It’s coming up a bit, and perhaps that will help.

“I think there will be teams cranking and casting shallow and rigging in the mid-depths. The fish are there and the weather might limit some from traveling very far. The other thing it will affect is pre-fishing because they’re talking 40 mph winds Saturday. It was still brutal today (Wednesday), trying to fish in the wind.”

“The wind was out of the south last weekend, now it changed to the north, then it’ll switch back to the south again,” Bense said. “The bite for me at least hasn’t been great. I’m just not finding the fish.” 

Come Sunday, the weather will be the story if teams do find the fish, when they gather at Fort Stevenson State Park in Garrison, starting with boat inspections at 5:30 a.m. Boats will leave from the state park launch starting at 7 a.m. First boats return starting at 3 p.m., and the final results will be posted to the AIM PRO WALLEYE SERIES Facebook Page at 6pm. There will be no gatherings at the awards this year.

Tune in Sunday as AIM will be on the water with all the action posted on our Facebook page, where the eventual winner also will be announced. As we are still doing, please follow government guidelines regarding COVID-19, and stay tuned to our website as well for upcoming events, including the inaugural Quest For The Best on the upper Mississippi River Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20.

Also see the preview of AIM’s return to Mille Lacs after the National Championship Shootout for the first Minnesota Division qualifier of the season, also this Sunday.

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.

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