Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 4, 2018
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
Wisconsin’s Winnebago Falls To A Vet Boating 20-Plus Pounds On The Flats In Sunday’s Wind-Tossed AIM Tourney
Predictions were that a handful of anglers in the 100-boat field on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago would come back with 20 or more pounds on their cards. Turns out, only one did. And, apropos, too, as a Vietnam-era vet won his first AIM tournament at the start of Fourth of July week in Sunday’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series Nitro Boats Open.
“Predictions also were that the weather would be a factor, and in the afternoon, it was when the lake turned roily,” said AIM National Tournament Director Denny Fox. “I’ve always said that anyone can win an AIM tournament, and Winnebago proves it. Four of our top five teams at Winnie have never been on our podium.”
Coming out on top Sunday was the team of Jim Moser and Gary Erickson, both of Merrill, WI. It was Moser’s first AIM win, and first check of any kind after fishing every AIM event but one the last five years. And, he did it with Erickson, who’d never been walleye fishing before. Ever. And he went home with a share of an $8,000 check. Erickson was stunned, Moser said. And that’s putting it mildly.
Moser said that while he has experience fishing Winnebago, circumstances during pre-fishing limited his on-water time. He was actually on the water Monday and Saturday, after a bout of heatstroke that kept him in the shade, and a run home to for a family emergency took another day. And when he did get out, fish were usually small.
“So Saturday we finally got out, and I still didn’t feel that great, and we didn’t catch a fish. I thought, ‘oh boy, here’s another tournament where we’ll get nothing,’” Moser recalled.
Sunday came, and Moser and Erickson still only had a rough plan. “I thought, ‘where am I going to go.’ Well, I said, I hadn’t been to the mud flats in a few years,” he said. He’s talking about the lake’s east side off the windmills near Stockbridge, WI.
“I had a spot I fished four or five years ago, so let’s go and see what happens, and if there’s nothing, we’ll try another,” Moser said. He ran his 175 Verado-powered rig to the spot, started the 9.9 kicker, sent the crawler harnesses down, and trolled about 1 mph. They were alone out there, with maybe one boat two or three miles away. A few minutes later, something did begin to happen: walleye.
“We’re there about 10 minutes and we had a fish in the boat, about 19 inches, 2.65 pounds. That’s a start,” he said. “Within 15 minutes, we had another a 26-3/4, about 7.86 pounds. That made my day. That was 10 pounds of fish in the boat, with two fish. We continued about another mile and a quarter and we were marking fish all the way,” he said. Problem was, some of those that hit were dinks. So, they decided to go back to the start of their pass and make another.
“We caught two more, this time one was 21 and another 19-1/4. Now we’ve got four fish and it’s only 8 a.m. We kept pounding the area until the wind started picking up,” Moser continued. They tried again, and caught more, putting one on the card. They eliminated the first 19-incher with another, ending with eight total.
“Colors didn’t seem to make any difference. I typically run from 1 to 1.3 mph, and on warmer water you can run up to 1.5 and still catch fish. I want to keep the blades moving slow enough that they’re not going to have to chase them. If they chase, it’s more of a reaction bite,” Moser went on.
“By 12:30 or 1, the wind really picked up and there were four- and five-footers, and by the time we hit shore it was close to 2. We got in before the storm but while loading the boat I got soaked,” Moser said.
“I told Gary it’s going to take 20 pounds to even make the top 20, so I was very surprised that we were in first,” he said. Erickson, however, was even more so. He was substituting for Moser’s regular boat-mate.
“Gary is just a friend. He’s never fished a tournament in his life. He’s never trolled, and didn’t know anything about any of this. He was just stunned that we won,” Moser said.
Like anyone who’s fished AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ system even just once, Moser’s convinced. “AIM tournaments are well-planned, and I think it’s going to be the way of the future for fishing tournaments.
“If you take all those fish out of the water each time, you’re going to have that many less to fish. If you want to take a meal, then take a meal. It’s (C-R-R) a very good idea.”
You can also bet that Moser, at least, will be on hand in Oconto July 22 for the next AIM/Nitro Boats Open. “I’m planning on winning the next one in Green Bay, too,” he added. He’s also got his eye already on a few spots for the Wisconsin Division Championship Aug. 3 and 4.
In second place with 19.67 pounds, making them $2,400 richer, were Gary Will and son Hunter, of Watertown, WI. And they did it in Gary Hill’s 18-foot, Merc 60 hp-powered tiller boat that he’s been campaigning since 1994.
Pre-fishing, they weren’t happy with the upper lakes like Lake Poygan, so they headed to Winnebago to fish shallow rocks. Sunday’s conditions put a nix on heading to most of the spots they picked, so they stayed at their first. The wind grew around 1 p.m., so they putted in at about 8 mph, beating into the waves and getting drenched.
They were both casting “artificials,” but Gary Hill didn’t want to get too specific, only to say they weren’t fishing cranks. “There’s so much weed growth in Winnebago it’s difficult to fish cranks in a lot of spots, so we went to a different style that can get through those pencil weeds. I also try to get in more than 1,000 casts a day. Usually with that technique, the fish show themselves in a hurry if they’re present, and they’re usually shallow because they’re there to eat and you find out in a hurry,” Hill explained.
“The technique is not a lot different than what we were doing in the Rock River in the 70s and 80s. It triggers bigger fish, and it’s a fun way to fish. “
He laid the reason for their success squarely on his 19-year-old son, Hunter. “He has an uncanny ability to catch fish and he caught the three biggest, a 23, a 22-1/2 and a 22, and he caught the biggest in our two previous tournaments as well,” he said.
He also likes C-R-R and AIM’s commitment to caring for the resource. “We love the format. You don’t have to make a decision. It takes all the pressure off, and it’s a credit to the guys who got this format going. It’s a great way to run a tournament.”
Here’s how the rest of the top five finished at Winnebago:
In third, Sam May, Rhinelander, WI, and Matt Bootz, Wausau, WI, with 19.12 pounds, for $1,800.
In fourth and earning $1,500 for 19 pounds, Brian Daun, Hilbert, WI, and Joe Schneider,North Fond du Lac, WI.
Randy Fifrick, Kronenwetter, WI, and Justin Schneider, Chilton, WI, took fifth and $1,300 with 18.89 pounds.
AIM’s taking a short break to catch up, refit, and have some fun after a tournament series that’s been non-stop since April.
But on Sunday, July 22, we’ll be back with another 100-boat AIM field in Oconto, on the shore of Green Bay, where big fish lurk if you know where. Will it be to the north where it was won last year in mid-August? On the other side along the Door Peninsula? Or south?
Watch for previews of that event and the rest of the season resuming that week. Watch the excitement on the water and at the awards at AIM’s Facebook site, including Navionics Big Fish Thursday and Team Of The Year standings posted Friday. For info on all AIM events, go to aimfishing.com.
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.
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