Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 27, 2020
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
We’re Fired Up And Ready For The 2020 AIM Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout This Friday, Saturday
It’s been a long year and we’re not even six months in, but teams are ready, the AIM staff is ready, that grand prize is ready, and in the first of many “firsts,” the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout just happens also to be the season’s first AIM tourney, and the first major tournament this season on beautiful Mille Lacs, MN.
“Who woulda thought that this would be the first AIM tournament of the season, the first major of the year on the lake, and that it would be the one for all the marbles, but there it is, and here we are, and man are we, and the 30 teams who qualified to be here, ever ready to go for the show this Friday and Saturday, May 29 and 30,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director.
Fox said he was notified by the state on May 14 that the tournament was a “go,” and he sent notices to all qualifiers the next day. That was cutting it close. “We did not know if we could have a championship because before May 18, all tournaments were on hold,” Fox added.
And it also sounds like the combination of extremely light fishing pressure because of COVID-19 restrictions, a lake that’s in great condition, and forecast temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s, could mean another Shootout first: weights upwards of 80 to 100 pounds of ‘eyes over the two-day championship. When AIM visited last year for a qualifier, Mille Lacs produced big time. The winning team had to boat 51 pounds to take it, and the top 15 boats each netted more than 40 pounds.
The lake’s current rules of catch and release, and come July, no live bait and no targeting of walleye, have no impact on the event, and in fact, are perfect for AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format, Fox said.
Teams were allowed on the water for practice starting today (May 25) through Thursday, and began arriving Sunday at tournament headquarters, McQuoid’s Inn in Isle, on the lake’s southeast side. McQuoid’s owner Tim Potoczny said that AIM’s championship is also the resort’s first major event of the year.
“The AIM tournament gives you some hope that’s much needed. That we will get through this. We were on pins and needles about this and were very delighted when the governor said ‘go for it,’” Potoczny said.
Potoczny was playing on his own boat on the lake’s southeast side Saturday, and from what he’s seen, he too predicts it’ll be another big one for AIM’s unique C-R-R format. “It’s going to take mid-50 pounds each day to win it, at least 100 pounds for a two-day total. There are a lot of fish out there, and they’re hungry.” He’s seen very few boats on the lake between the pandemic shutdown and now. His walleye tally from some shallow rocks Saturday ranged from 22 to 26 inches, and there’s more and bigger where they came from.
“Most of the fish are definitely post-spawn, and they’re putting on the feedbag,” he said.
And that’s music to the ears of the three 2019 Team of the Year captains who were planning to be on the water come 6 a.m. today, testing what works, graphing locations and seeing if the plans they’ve been making all winter pan out.
Minnesota Team of the Year (TOY) captain Chaz Dobias, will be running his Mercury ProXS V-8 four-stroke at first light today. He and his partner finished seventh here in last year’s qualifier, and he agrees with Potoczny to expect a lot of big fish.
“It will be a lot of fun. We think it will set up for a couple of different bites, and I think it’s going to be 85 to 90 pounds that will win it. But it could definitely exceed 100. It will be a slugfest for all,” Dobias said.
“There’s a big mix of presentations here. You can troll, Lindy rig, use bobbers, jigs, use artificials, leeches, and all types of minnows, without giving too much away. I don’t think there’s any one set-in-stone thing to get it done. We’re going to throw everything at’em in practice.”
He admits having a little concern about a predicted slight cold front arriving on the first day Friday, along with that best-of-the-best competition from his and neighboring states.
One the first-timer to Mille Lacs teams is Williston’s Justin Krieger, and he’s been looking forward to powering up his Mercury 250 Verado-powered boat here since last August.
“The minute we found out we were in it we did as much research on the lake as possible. I think it’ll be 45 to 50 to win per day, or about 80 to 90 pounds, because of the number of big fish. Someone’s going to land on’em,” Krieger said. His first instinct is to try pitching jigs with leeches, and towing rigs.
“I don’t think we’ll be doing much cranking, but I’m sure we’ll try it. Some of the lake’s mapping reminds me of a cross between Devils Lake (in eastern North Dakota) and the north end of the Van Hook Arm (on the Missouri’s west end, and site of a NoDak qualifier in late July), but we won’t know until we get out there and see what we encounter.
“We drove around a lot of the lake on shore today (Sunday), and saw a lot of boats in certain areas, and we don’t know if we want to be in those packs or not. Probably not. But we’re all pretty excited. It isn’t every day when you get a chance to win a boat (he’s talking about that beautiful Minnesota-made V1898DC and matching trailer, powered by a Yamaha 150 four-stroke, and loaded up with Garmin electronics) and compete against 29 really great teams.”
That combo will be at McQuoid’s, ready to be driven away by the winner on Saturday.
From Wisconsin, TOY captain Anthony Englebert of Little Chute will be among up to 10 Badger State boats on the water starting today. He’s also a Mille Lacs rookie, and will be running his Merc 250 Verado-powered platform checking out areas, including shallow rocky spots that may still hold some big’uns.
His main job since May 15 has been getting his boat ready to have every type of logical presentation onboard, he said. Like the others, he’s gunning for the 40- 50-pound days possibly needed to win that Warrior. “We made sure we brought plenty of leeches with us, but we’re going to try a little of everything between now and Thursday,” he said. “I know the other Wisconsin teams are all very good anglers, and I’m sure the 10 from each of the other two states are just as good.”
You’ve heard it here before: Expect the unexpected. Often, it’s the “by guess and by golly” factor, angler’s intuition if you will, and not local knowledge, that’s the difference-maker. Count no one out of the running, at your peril. We’ll see if that’s the case on Mille Lacs starting Friday.
Here’s the 2020 AIM/Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout run of show: Virtual team and rules meetings take place on Thursday, May 28. “To ensure we conform to the state’s regs for large gatherings, this is an invitation-only meeting,” Fox advised. “Teams will log in so we are sure everyone is present.”
Boat inspections start at 5:45 a.m. Friday and Saturday at Mac’s Twin Bay Resort. Boats get the “go” starting at 7 a.m., and they must be back by 3 p.m. each day.
Awards ceremonies each day also will be virtual, since the state DNR said there will be no in-person ceremonies until May 31.
“We’re planning a few surprises,” Fox added. “This format will allow us to do something totally different, so you’d better tune in to our Facebook page each day at 6:30 p.m. to watch, and especially Saturday evening.”
For updates each tournament day via Garmin Fish & Hunt, and to see what team wins that Warrior combo Saturday evening, go to our Facebook page, and for information on all AIM tournaments and how to register for all AIM events, go to our website. Good luck, all teams!
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, Garmin, Berkley, Abu-Garcia, Fenwick, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Pro Chattrr, Quality Flow Systems, Gemini Sport Marketing, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, Fox River Lures and Rods, McQuoids Inn