You could say Pete Petta and teammate Dave Cooper had a “Petta good” week overall. They found fish where no other competitor was, in a rocky spot about the size of a basketball court. And combining the fish they found on Day One, which put them in second, with a decision to try their Spot No. 2 on Day Two, they topped the board by about 1-1/3- pounds to take home a $56,000 1898 DC Warrior boat, plus $1,750 in cash from Warrior
Boats and Toyota.
Petta, from Tomahawk, Wisconsin, and Cooper, from Schofield, and the other top five teams didn’t know who’d won until the very last fish had been announced at Saturday’s award ceremony. Petta said they knew only that they were in the running after a phone call from AWWS National Tournament Director Denny Fox Saturday afternoon.
“After Day One, we were in second, about 1 ¼-pounds out of first, and after that phone call we knew were in the top five, and the call was a relief because we didn’t have the weight
on Day Two that we had the first day,” Petta said. Here’s how they did it to land 45.68 pounds:
During pre-fishing, in Petta’s brand new Warrior V208DC, they’d stumbled on a spot where no other teams were. “It was about the size of a basketball court. It was all solid rocks with
deep water adjacent, and we started pulling Berkley Flicker Shads over the top in 5 to 18 feet of water. We would pick off a couple doing that and it seemed they were all bigger
fish,” Petta said.
Yeah, bigger. As in 20- to 30-inchers. They left it, and on Thursday, checked again and landed a 28-3/4-incher, and let it be. “We knew then that’s where we were going,” he said.
By trolling Flicker Shads and then jigging ½-ounce Big Dude blade baits, they zeroed in. Why? “What jigging allowed us to do is, get to the fish sitting along the edge of the drop, on
the structure we were trolling over with the Flicker Shads because the water was so dirty.
We caught half one way, and half the other.”
They also paid attention to the current. “About noon, it changed significantly and we began catching some other species so we got nervous that the walleye had vacated, because there
were no predatory fish,” he said. Guess what? He was right on.
Day Two began with a fog delay for the entire field. “We had pretty much the same plan in mind, and got to that spot and caught a little 14-1/2-incher.
Yup, we were happy to get one but we knew were in trouble. We did a couple of passes, no fish. We did our jig program, no
fish, so we pulled out slow death rigs and started rigging but the fish just weren’t there.”
At this point, what would you do? Stay? Petta and Cooper again had a pretty good idea instead. They went to their second choice spot, where they were still by themselves. “That was a key because we didn’t have the same fish that were getting beat up by everyone else. We pulled in there about 1:20 p.m.”
About one hour to go. With one fish. “Our first half-hour there, we caught one crappie. And we thought, by gosh, we’re about to go from almost leading this to ending with one-pound on Day Two. Brett King came by with the camera boat and asked to jump in, and we politely said we needed to focus,” he
But, like sometimes happens, that visit was a game-changer, in Petta’s eyes. “We made a hook turn to avoid some weeds and it sped up the outside board, and it went back and it as like whoa, there’s a fish, and Dave reeled in a 19-1/2-incher. Then as fast as we got that one processed one on my side went back and it was a 21-3/4-incher. So we thought, maybe we can put it together in the last half-hour,” he said.
The team was running crawler harnesses in 2 ½- to 3-feet of water, on boards, about 30 feet behind the boat with no weight. “And the fish crushed it. One fish seemed like it was probably a northern. Dave unclipped the board and it was a really nice walleye, 25-3/4 inches. And we thought, wow, it’s not enough to win, but maybe it’s enough to keep us in the top five. One of Dave’s boards hit and we got another, a 17-3/4-inch fish.
“We kind of looked at each other in amazement, like how did we just scrape together in 20 minutes five on the card when we’d pretty much given up? We spun around and picked up another 17-3/4-incher to get that 14 off the card, we looked at each other, brought the boards in and took off. We gave each other that look and decided we gotta get back. We had no idea what weight we had but had an idea it might give us enough to crack the top five.”
And, when Denny Fox gave them that Saturday call, there was that relief. That they had persevered. They’d not given up. And, later that evening, they learned it was all worth it. “There were a lot of long days on the water trying to figure this system out. With the changing winds, and currents that were constantly changing, it was interesting trying to adjust to it all,” Petta said.
Now, about that new Warrior. Petta and Cooper together purchased that brand new Warrior in April. So, he said, there’s no rush by either him, or Cooper. “We’re going to take it all in, just take a breath, but we’re probably going to sell it. We’re excited that it’s going to give someone else the opportunity to run a really, quality boat, a Warrior,” he said.
Because he won the tourney in a Warrior, he and Cooper received $1,000 in Warrior cash, and because they were towing their Warrior with a Toyota truck, they also will receive $750 from Toyota. And, they’re already looking forward to the next AIM Weekend Walleye Series tournament, with its unique Catch-Record-Release™ format. After all, Petta and Cooper won the 201 event at Winneconne, Wisconsin, and they were runners-up for Team of the Year that year in 2015.
“This series is so conservation-minded. And it’s so exiting to watch those fish we caught swim away because someone else is going to enjoy them as much as we did catching them. And, we’ve still got to get that coveted Team of the Year crown!”
The second place team and winners of a 10-foot Power Pole were Brandon and Tom McPeak, with 44.31 pounds. In third, winners of an 8-foot Power Pole, were Joe Marshall and Scott Zupon. Fourth place and another 8-foot Power Pole went to Bruce “Doc” Samson and Tom Weihrauch. Fifth and a new Powrtran Python steering system was won by David Burkholder and Jeff Holtz.
Big fish winners of a Navionics Hotmap Platinum Northern U.S. SD card were three teams, one from each eligible division: Wayne Winter and Mark Poland from Michigan, representing the Great Lakes Division, scoring a 29-incher on Day One, and Dan Swenson and Jeff Braaten from Minnesota, and Lynn Nicklasch and Mark Kumorkiewicz, from the Wisconsin Division, both recording 28.5-inch fish for the Day Two win.
Now, it’s on to the next event, the Leech Lake qualifier in the Minnesota Division on Sunday, June 12. Good luck, thanks to all the championship teams, and our sponsors.