Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 26, 2023
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Winneconne Double For Two Father-Son Teams
Who Finish First, Second On An ‘Upper Lake’
When you’re fishing the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Wisconsin Division Garmin Open this time of year, you’ve got choices that you don’t have at other locations that AIM visits. You can go up the Wolf. You can troll the upper lakes, or you can head for Lake Winnebago. And the son-father team of Brad and Gary Zahringer brought it all home, trolling an unspecified “upper lake” to take home $11,300 at Winneconne and winning by more than two pounds on a system chock full’o fish Sunday (April 23).
The other son-father team of Jacob and Mark Garrelts, and fishing with the Zahringers, took second.
“The system was packed with fish, many of them smaller, but those two teams, fishing along with the third-place pair of Louis Apitz and Buck Gehm, found the right ones,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “It took some luck and some searching, but an upper lake gave it up for them.”
The winners aren’t ready to say which “upper lake” or where and with what, specifically, what with another tournament at Winneconne upcoming, but here’s what the first and second-place teams did spill, starting with the winners.
Brad, from Sherwood, and his father Gary, from Stockbridge, didn’t have much time to figure out where to go, in their Mercury 350 Verado-powered boat, but it turns out they didn’t need much, Brad said.
“We had a small window of time to prefish after just coming back from a trip to Lake Erie, a half-day Friday and Saturday morning,” Brad said.
“I ran to the main lake Friday to find fish and it was pretty scarce. Saturday, we decided to check spots in the upper lakes, and one stretch was loaded.”
Relying on side imaging “110 percent” to narrow down an area in water that from the surface was complete chocolate milk, they settled on that “loaded” spot. “Within an hour we knew where we were going to fish the tournament,” he continued.
Perhaps you’ll hear more about that unnamed area in that unnamed upper lake later. And zeroing in on it Sunday earned them $9,000 from AIM and another $2,300 in side pot cash, and improved their standings for Yamaha Motor Corp. Team Of The Year by a lot.
“We were trolling a very small, specific crank bait, using a very specific color. We were boat Number 38 going out, and one teammate was boat No. 3, so we were a little leery about” reaching the spot in time, but they did, and the fish were still there.
“We set up for our first pass and in five minutes we put a 20-1/4-inch fish on the card. We went approximately another hour and caught three or four small fish and I think we had a couple of 14s, and finally caught another 21-1/4. We had consistent fish throughout the day. At about 1 p.m. we finally got our last 15-incher off the card with another 21-1/4-incher. We had three, and a 19-1/4.” Their total weight? 17.35 pounds. But weren’t even sure they had enough to even cash a check, given the caliber of the rest of the field.
“We were playing head games trying to figure out if we had enough. We were hoping for a large kicker at the end but felt we might be in the check-cashing range,” Brad continued. “We went back to the launch and heard some rumblings, and some were saying, ‘we think you guys mighta done it.’ My gut told me 17 pounds wasn’t going to win it. Once we got to Woodeye’s (Woodeye’s Bar and Grill in Winneconne, where the awards ceremony took place), it was a pretty concentrated group of anglers and it looked like we definitely had the highest weight, so we had a pretty good feeling at that point.”
They’d caught about 20 walleyes throughout the day, and never left the area where they started.
When the AIM Wisconsin Division next convenes at Oconto on the Bay of Green Bay, the Zahringer contingent will also be there, along with their teammates, the second-place team of Jacob and father Mark Garrelts of Armstrong Creek in their Mercury 300 ProXS-powered boat. The Garrelts boated 15.14 pounds at Winneconne for a $3,500 check. They didn’t get in on the side pot, but Jacob said that oversight will be corrected in Oconto, their home water. “It was a mistake. We won’t do that again, I’ll tell you that,” Jacob said.
Unlike the winners, they played hard for four days prior to Sunday. But playtime it wasn’t.
“It was brutal. The super-dirty water, the cold front conditions really shut the fish down and made it a nontypical kind of bite,” Jacob said.
“We did everything we knew how to do. We pulled flies, trolled cranks, casted plastics, deep, shallow, we couldn’t get anything good until Saturday when we as a team were able to find the right fish.”
Their saving grace was being teamed with the winners, who found the fish that the Garrelts family also got to on Sunday.
“We fished basically within eyesight of each other and tried to figure it out. We saw the same they did, just hundreds of fish. Not all were walleyes, but they were all very good. We knew we could win, we just had to figure out how to catch’em,” Jacob said.
They too were trolling cranks, and since they left as boat No. 3 in the first flight, they arrived at their spot first, but they had company.
“It fluctuated between nine and 11 boats in that area. Most stayed but we were using a lure that seemed to catch them. Our first was an 18-incher that ended up getting culled” from their card. They put eight fish on their card, he said, entering the biggest five with AIM’s Catch-Record-ReleaseÔ format.
“Our first that counted was a 19-1/4-incher, then we had two over 20 and two more in that 19-inch range. We didn’t catch our first fish until 11 a.m., but we could see the others around us were, so we knew we just had to grind it out, and once we figured that out it was game on,” he added. “We did not do well at Green Bay (the Navionics Open on the Fox April 2), so to take second was a pretty big pick-me-up.”
He’s really looking forward to Oconto May 14, AIM’s next Wisconsin Division qualifier.
“That time of year the fish can be anywhere, from the lower Bay of Green Bay all the way up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the Cedar River,” Jacob added. We’ll be previewing that event and others that have experienced weather and ice delays in the North Dakota and Rivers Division, all coming up in mid-May. Those are going to be a busy couple of weeks.
In the meantime, here are the other top finishers. In third, the team of Louis Apitz of Appleton and Buck Gehm of Crivitz carded 14.08 pounds, good for $2,800. Mike Kasper of Shiocton and AJ Schmidt of Fremont took fourth and $1,400 with 13.78 pounds. The fifth-place team of Adam Halder and Jason Hardy of Winneconne doubled their $1,300 AIM check with a second-place side pot tally of $1,380.
Honorable mention went to Slawomir Wiater of Franklin Park, IL, and Kamil Kania of Chicago, who earned $920 for third in the side pot and $1,100 for ninth overall with 11.11 pounds of walleye.
Fan Nation in Wisconsin, Minnesota, The Rivers and North Dakota, we’ve concentrated on one state so far, and we’re more than ready to spread the fun around. It will come starting in May (hopefully, in North Dakota’s case, where Lake Sakakawea is still encased in ice as of late April). But as sure as summer, AIM events will come. Stay tuned to AIM’s Facebook site, and learn how you can 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.
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 inc.
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