Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.


Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


What’s It Like To Fish A River No One’s Been On Since Fall? We’re About To Find Out Sunday At AIM’s Hager City Event


Last Sunday’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series Open in North Dakota was a first. And because of the wet spring, AIM’s Warrior Boats/The Boat Center Open on the Mississippi River at Hager City, delayed by high water since May, is another first; it will be the first tournament of the year by any group on this part of the river.

“This is going to be unique. AIM is the first tournament on this reach of the river this year, so there’s a lot of untested water out there, and a lot of fish that aren’t hook-shy,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “The river is dropping, but you can bet the big fish this stretch holds are still figuring out where they want to be, and that will be a great challenge for our teams,” he added.

One of those teams is captained by Clayton Freiburger, who calls the Mississippi’s Pool 12 at Dubuque, IA, his home water. But, he feels he’ll be right at home on the river and Lake Pepin near Hager City/Red Wing.

“This should be very similar. It’s going to be a lot of current seams and rock structure. That’s what I’m targeting,” Freiburger said, who started pre-fishing Tuesday morning. “The water is definitely down from what it was. There’s still a lot of current, but it seems like the fish are starting to pull out of the backwater creeks and side channels and are starting to move a little closer to the main. I haven’t been in the lake (Lake Pepin) yet. I’ll spend some time rigging on the points later, but I’ll spend most of my time in the river. “I believe you can do pretty much everything there. There will be a lot of lead core being pulled on the lake, and rigging the points.

That gives you one clue about the presentations he’s expecting to produce, but, Freiburger adds, since no one’s been on the river here since basically last fall, the winning setup could be anything.

Another technique popular on the Mississippi? Poking around those wing dams, he said. “That’s what I enjoy doing, but from what I’ve seen I can probably count on one hand the wing dams you’re going to be able to fish here.”

And the bait on those rigging rigs?  Madtoms. That’s the official name for what locals here call willow cats, a minnow-size catfish species that Mississippi walleye key on.

“Willow cats and creek chubs seem to shine this time of year. Unless you’re in the lake. We’ll probably be busy pulling cranks in the side channels too,” he added. But, will the fish be where they usually are, or are they still settling in as the water level drops? That, too, will be a major factor in who will be cashing a check Sunday.

“The fish, especially in the river, don’t know where they want to be yet. The fish are moving and it could be a here today gone tomorrow kind of thing. Pool 4 includes the river and the lake. You do have the option to go to Pool 3, and I’m sure there will be some guys going there.”

Freiburger predicts that while things remain unsettled, it will take at least 35 pounds of ‘eyes to win, maybe more.

Another who regularly fishes the Hager City area is Jason Pitts, of Carlisle, IA, outside Des Moines. He has a place on the river near Hager City and fishes a lot with Pat “Shooter” Brookshaw, a co-owner of Warrior Boats, and who also happens to own the Bluffs Bar and Grill on the river’s Wisconsin side, where team registration, rules meeting and awards will take place.

Pitts will be his Warrior V203DC, pushed through that current with a Mercury 250 Verado, and guided by Garmin electronics to do the deed. He hopes. And, he’s predicting big things. As in, fish.

“The water’s dropping back inside its banks for the first time since late fall. I think there’s going to be a very healthy population of fish. There was very little fishing pressure this fall, winter and spring and this is the first big tournament on Pools 3 and 4 this year. I think that’s great,” Pitts said.

“With the lack of pressure we should have had a really good spawn. The future looks really good and the present looks really good,” he added. “There will be a variety of ways to catch fish. They can troll lead core in the lake, and the points are well-known places to rig and pull live bait, and the ever-famous willow cats.

“There will be a lot of three-way fishing bait, and some who will anchor up and soak bait over some known big fish spots. It could be won anywhere. I think you’ll have to run and gun and hit spots,” he said.

Pitts is among the legion of anglers who’ve been waiting for water levels to drop. “I haven’t been out here since Memorial Day and that was high water, and only one ramp was open. Now that the river’s in its banks the fish will readjust.

“I wouldn’t say I’m confident, but it’s my home body of water, and that’s a blessing and a curse all in one. We’ll (he and partner Brookshaw) be pre-fishing Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we’ll be ready for game day Sunday,” he said. Hopefully returning Sunday afternoon with a smile on their faces.

Or, they’ll be watching someone else smiling, who found the fish to win this second AIM Minnesota state qualifier. The “tail of that tale,” so to speak, is in the river, waiting.

Here’s the run-of-show starting Saturday night. Team registration starts at 5 p.m. at The Bluffs Bar and Grill, N1833 785th St., in Hager City, followed by the 7 p.m. rules meeting. Sunday’s fun begins with boat inspections starting at 5:30 a.m. at Everts Resort, on Pool 4 in Hager City. Boats get the “go” starting at 7 a.m., with the second flight at 7:15. All teams must be back at Everts starting at 3 p.m. The awards presentation begins at 5 p.m. at The Bluffs Bar and Grill.

Remember, you can follow all the action on the river Sunday via Garmin Fish & Hunt. The awards will be broadcast live on our Facebook page. Visit our website for information on all AIM tournaments and how to register for all AIM events.


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, LLC.


AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Garmin, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Bismarck Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Marinette WI, Pro Chattrr, Missouri Secrets Tackle, Gemini Sport Marketing, Anglers Avenue pro shop, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, Fox River Lures and Rods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed