Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 31, 2020
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Winning Lake Winnie: What Will It Take
To Take AIM’s Season’s Final Minnesota Qualifier?
It’s a huge lake, Minnesota’s fifth largest, and all 67,000 acres of it will be the playground for teams in the state’s final qualifier of the season, the AIM Weekend Walleye Series/Warrior Boats/Kovash Marine Open this Sunday, Aug. July 26, that predictions say may be the most challenging water yet of the season.
“Lake Winnie has long been known as one THE places to go in Minnesota if you’re after walleye,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “It’s got weed lines. It’s got deeps, and shallows, and fantastic transitions from both of those to let ‘eyes, and our anglers, do what they each do best, and from the looks of photos we’ve seen recently, there are plenty of big ones to taunt our teams.”
Hunter Nitti of Rosemount is one of the young guns on the AIM circuit and is sitting currently in fifth place for Yamaha Motor Corp USA Team Of The Year laurels going into the last qualifier, running a Mercury 250-verado-powered boat.
He’s looking for a challenge on the lake due to changes brought about in part by invasive mussels that have made the water extremely clear, and made the walleyes that much more wary. A state tournament here this past weekend was even more testament to what Winnie may hold Sunday, he said. He’s been on the water since Thursday, July 30, and like the others, he knows Winnie’s reputation.
“My dad always told me everybody went to Winnie for walleye,” he said. Nitti has been fishing since he could remember, is in his fourth year of tournament fishing, and his first fishing the AIM circuit. He fishes about four tournaments a year here, he said.
“This time of the year you’ll be encountering a really tough bite. A quarter of the teams, or maybe half will come in with zeroes. It’s going to take probably 25 pounds to win. I do like to tournament fish it because I know the lake so well,” Nitti said.
“So, I would think that knowing this lake, I think I can improve my Team of the Year chances, definitely, but I know we’ve got a lot of heavy hitters in this tournament,” Nitti added. “This may be either a deep-water bite or really shallow. A lot will be rigging and pulling spinners. There will be a crank bite but I don’t think a lot will do it because the lake is almost like one big flat. There are a lot of humps and bars, but it’s more either half shallow or half-deep.”
Colby Gallagher from Grand Rapids guides on Winnie, running in his Mercury 200 V-6 four-stroke from the tournament sponsor, Becker’s Resort and Campground. Now before you start saying Gallagher’s got an edge, from experience, we also know that come game day when the pressure and excitement is on, that means nothing. But he did provide some insight.
“We were out there on Monday and I had fished it for days prior to the tournament Saturday and Sunday. Between 20 and 22 pounds won it both, and that tournament too changed to a catch-photo-release format (similar to AIM’s pioneering Catch-Record-Release™ format),” Gallagher said.
“It’s been a kind of typical July. Water temps have been inconsistent with hot days and then big rainstorms that drop the water temps five degrees, and it does it again a couple of days later. The lake has had a huge boom in walleye populations in the 2018 and 2019 year classes, so there ae a lot of fish between 9 and 13 inches, but still a fairly good number of 20- to 24-inch fish. Anything bigger is tougher to come by,” he said. “For anglers to find the big fish pods they’ll have to fish through a lot of smaller ones.”
“You’ll see four main tactics. Guys that will be puling crawlers, fishing with Jigging Raps, a lot trying to fish with bobbers, and you’ll have a good crowd trolling with crank baits with lead over the edges or with mono on top of the bars. That’s kind of my key tactic. We pull a lot of crawlers and if the wind is cruising, we’ll switch to cranks and work our way off the bars.
This weekend’s weather looks like is setting up fine, with temps in the 70s, he said.
Stephen Picht also is from Grand Rapids. He’ll be on the lake in his Garmin electronics and Mercury 200 four-stroke-equipped boat. He’s been busy handling the state’s Student Angler Tournament Trail, and two weekends ago was his first time on the lake in about four years. He was heading back on the water Thursday, and has seen some photos of anglers pre-fishing, and they are looking good.
“I think there’s a good chance somebody will put together a 40-pound bag. Some have been out there already and the ones with dedication and a good skill set are going to put together some pretty big bags,” Picht predicts.
The water clarity, he said, is drastically changed, and he confirmed that those younger year-classes of walleye are now present in huge amounts. The really big fish are fewer, but they’re still there.
“With the recent surge in using artificials in the walleye world there’s going to be some Jigging Raps, Rippin’ Raps, and Shiver minnows come into play. I saw some photos this week. You’ll also see some six, or seven- or even nine-inch creek chubs used and some really big fish will be caught that way.”
“There’s not an abundance of cabbage weed that there one was. I believe finding pods of it are going to be key in finding good fish. The oxygen from that will be one and the big humps and steep breaks of the lake will be another,” he said.
One of multiples of those factors will definitely come into play Sunday when boats meet for inspections at Becker’s Resort starting at 5:30 a.m. The first wave will leave at 7 a.m., and must be back by 3 p.m., with the second wave 15 minutes behind. The awards will be posted starting at 6 p.m. at AIM’s Facebook page.
Details on all AIM upcoming championship tournaments in August also will be there, beginning on North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea at Beulah Bay Aug. 14 and 15. They will not only determine the championship, but Yamaha Motor Corp USA Team of The Year in each state. Stay tuned, because it’s just getting started!
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.
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, Oshkosh Visitors Bureau, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, McQuoids Inn.