AIM International Walleye Championship: Expect Big Weights!
Aug 30th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Aug 30th, 2011 at 12:23 PM
South Dakota Pro Angler Corey Sauerwein will tell you straight away: it is going to take big fish and lots of them to come out on top at the end of 2011 AIM International Walleye Championship at Akaska, South Dakota.
Fishing in Lake Oahe has been that good this year thanks to high water. Some anglers feel it may prove a hindrance to anglers, and others say it may be a boon because bait fish are staying in summertime haunts longer. That translates to keeping walleyes active and hungry, and that means one thing: probable big weights every day of the Championship.
Sauerwein, 33, from Aberdeen, has eight years of local tournament fishing experience, and hopes Akaska will be his breakout event.
“This is the first year I’ve taken up fishing tournaments seriously,” he said. He finished fifth at the recent South Dakota Walleye Classic at Akaska in August. Akaska Pro Angler Chad Schilling, who also will be fishing the AIM Championship, took first place. Sauerwein said he’s relishing fishing under AIM’s exclusive C-R-R format.
“I caught a lot of fish during the South Dakota Walleye Classic, but the problem was with catching slot fish. If I would have been fishing the Catch-Record-Release® format that AIM uses, I would have had no problem weighing in seven ‘overs’ (that is, seven fish over the slot limit) every day,” he said.
“I was catching big fish every day in August; I just couldn’t catch the slot fish I needed. That’s what I really like about the C-R-R format. I can fish for big fish every day, and the angler who catches the 21 biggest fish wins,” he said.
With the AIM Catch-Record-Release format the local slot limits do not apply. In addition, each Pro Angler has the opportunity to “weigh” his or her seven largest walleyes each day instead of the normal daily limit of only four walleyes. In addition, normal regulations limit the daily bag to only one walleye 20 inches or over. This is why Sauerwein and others see the opportunity for huge catches each day of AIM’s tournament, with potential limits of all seven fish over 20 inches!
Lake Oahe is so varied, he added, that anglers can use their favorite technique, whether it’s vertical jigging, pulling cranks or crawlers. “The fishing is so good here that these fish are up shallow, out deep and everywhere in between. If you have a technique you have confidence in, and with me it’s pulling crank baits, you can catch fish.” And even Oahe’s historic high waters, won’t matter.
Fish Are Everywhere
Despite an ongoing water release at the Oahe dam, river levels remain six to seven feet above levels in August 2010, when AIM last visited Oahe. “It’s a full pool or close to it, but the water is steadily dropping, about one foot per week. That will be a factor in planning for some Pros, but I don’t think it will be a big factor,” Sauerwein predicts.
“Typically here you’ll see walleyes head from the south in spring and go north. They follow the smelt and shad, and as summer progresses and the water level falls, the smelt and other baitfish flow back south, and the walleye follow,” he said. “But, the high water is keeping bait to the north, which is keeping walleyes there as well. Fish are so spread out with this high water. You can catch fish in Mobridge, Whitlock (Whitlock Recreation Area), Spring Creek, all over.”
That being said, Sauerwein noted that walleye do have tails, and tend to move a lot, often staying in one spot for only a day or two. Whether they will stay put for AIM Pros will be determined starting September 15.
60-70-Pound Bag to Win
Sauerwein’s prediction for the tournament: expect lots of fish, with the winning three-day limit totaling close to 70 pounds.
“There are going to be a lot of fish caught, and it’s also going to take seven ‘overs,’ meaning seven fish over 20 inches each day, to win this tournament. Some of these 20-inchers weigh more than three pounds. They’re absolutely fat and healthy, and it’s going to be a great finale for the season and a fun tournament to watch, whether in-person or over the Internet.”
And, he said, one Pro to watch is Akaska’s Chad Schilling, despite the “curse of the local,” which often results in a local Pro tanking on his or her home water. “He’s been fishing this water since he was old enough to walk,” Sauerwein said of Schilling. “He was born and raised here and guides here nearly every day. He’s just a heck of a fisherman,” he said.
Regardless of that local knowledge, he and Schilling will be going up against a lot of other Pro Anglers who have earned that description, and it will take until the afternoon on September 17 to find out who will earn the title of 2011 AIM Champion.