AIM Pros Give Back
Category: press release
Jul 28th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jul 28th, 2010 at 12:00 AM
Pro Walleye Series and J.J. Keller Foundation Set New Standard
To Improve Fisheries, Promote Fishing
When the AIM Pro Walleye Series comes to a community, it brings more than just glimpses of your favorite pro walleye anglers up on stage and tips on where to find fish when the tournament ends.
Just ask the hundreds of children who leave smiling with free fishing rods and reels that will introduce them to enjoying fishing and boating, perhaps for the first time. Ask the children who learned to cast that fishing rod, create their own fishing lures, and learned about the ecology of the rivers and lakes near them at special tournament events.
And ask nonprofits, which benefit from grants that include supporting restoration of spawning habitat lost to fish for more than a century.
It also supports numerous good works within communities through the good works of several pros who are helping bring the knowledge and enjoyment of fishing to a new generation.
Who else besides AIM doing it? No one. The AIM Pro Walleye Series is the ONLY tournament series in North America to do so. Here’s how it works:
When AIM anglers come to town, that community receives a grant from AIM through one of its owners and pro fishermen. Leading that effort is James J. Keller, of Neenah, Wis., and who is a board member of the J.J. Keller Foundation.
The J.J. Keller Foundation, begun in 1991 by Jack and Ethel Keller, has given away more than $25 million to local community nonprofits to help fund everything from hospital expansions and truck driver training centers, to supporting universities, such as J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium, at The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
“My wife and I also have started our own, the James J. & Rosanne C. Keller Family Foundation,” Keller adds.
Keller is president and COO of J.J. Keller and Associates, the world’s largest publisher and servicing agent covering rules and regulations covering transportation logistics, OSHA workplace safety and human resources regulations.
In layman’s terms, Keller says, “we have a full line of products to help truck lines and logistics companies, and anyone in interstate transportation. We have 6,000 products and services, including supplies and software products to keep companies up-to-date for in-plant government safety requirements. We’re the experts in rules and regulations and we offer services to help those companies comply.”
How’s all that relate to walleye? Simple.
Keller’s also been fishing for walleye more than 50 years. “Before AIM was founded I was fishing in tournaments and got a little famous in northern Wisconsin in the 1970s for catching big fish using big baits and trolling,” he adds. Keller’s techniques were featured on local television shows, papers, and in local articles by Babe Winkleman and Al Lindner.
“I was the only guy in Wisconsin with a center console boat at the time, a white Mako. I used it to tear’em up good then.” Among the accolades he garnered was being named In Fisherman Master Angler of the Year in 1978.
It was while Keller was guiding for lakers and salmon on Lake Michigan in the 1980s and 90s, that his son, Brian, developed in interest in walleye, which rekindled the flame in dad too.
After James and Brian fished the Mercury National and other national and local tournaments between 1998 and 2008, AIM was formed and father and son became two of its select group of owners. “We became investors, and we’re fishing all five tournaments this year as the J.J. Keller Fishing Team.”
So, here’s where the pieces come together.
“I got together with Scott (Matheson, AIM CEO), along with fellow pros like Pat Neu and Tommy Skarlis, and we began talking about how the Keller Foundation could help AIM give back to communities hosting our tournaments.”
As a result, at nearly every event, the Foundation, through AIM, gives at least $5,000 to one or more nonprofits picked by AIM in the area tourneys take place.
“Brian and I each give $2,500 through the Foundation’s discretionary fund. It’s one way of showing communities the importance of hosting an AIM tournament, and it’s a way that AIM gives back to that community. All the nonprofits we donate to need the funds to carry on important work to promote fishing and encourage a new generation to enjoy the outdoors and hopefully walleye fishing in particular,” Keller adds.
At May’s Bay City event, for example, the Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit based in Arlington, Va., with a local office in Bay City, received $5,000.
The funding helped support youth activities at BayFest, including a children’s learn-to-fish event at the tournament weigh-in site. More than 250 rod and reel combinations were given free to children attending. In a large tent, kids also learned about river biology, fish identification, did fisheries arts and crafts and participated in a fun learn-to-cast outdoor course.
The funds also will support BayFest/J.J. Keller Foundation scholarships to two local students pursing fisheries and wildlife studies, to be awarded in September.
Further, the grant will help the City of Frankenmuth create a fish passage at the Frankenmuth Dam on the Cass River.
That project will reconnect 73 miles of high-quality spawning habitat to Saginaw Bay that’s been unavailable to walleye and sturgeon for more than 150 years. Construction begins in summer 2011.
At the Brimley Mich., Bay Mills Invitational in June, the Keller Foundation’s $5,000 gift supported Fishing Has No Boundaries, another youth fishing clinic, which also included a donation to the local Boys and Girls Clubs, and funded another rod-reel giveaway to kids. AIM walleye pro Marianne Huskey helped coordinate that event and provided hands-on instruction to the children attending.
Another Foundation gifting is scheduled for the upcoming AIM tournament on the Missouri River in Akaska, S.D., Aug. 12-14.
In addition to the Foundation’s community support, other AIM pros also promote fishing in the communities they visit. At the Bay City event, Michigan AIM pro Mark Martin and Ohio’s Mark Brumbaugh ran a three-day hands-on walleye fishing seminar using the participant’s own boats to better acquaint their owners with techniques the pros use.
James Keller also donated $10,000 to AIM as this year’s Angler of The Year prize.
“AIM’s record of giving back to the community not only promotes good feelings. It promotes goodwill everywhere we go, makes hundreds of children more interested in the outdoors, promotes exercise rather than sitting in front of a television playing a videogame, and we pros make lasting friendships in the process. It’s good for everyone.”