Huynh and Wolske With The Win on Lake Of The Woods – AIM Weekend Walleye Series
Aug 24th, 2021 by Keith Worrall
Modified Aug 24th, 2021 at 10:25 PM
Huynh And Wolske Outlasted, Outsmarted Lake Of The Woods, Winning Minnesota Championship With 88.62 lbs.
Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats Inc.
Neither rain nor storms nor wind stopped Tom Huynh and Nate Wolske from posting two great daily totals to win the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Mercury Marine Minnesota State Championship by nearly 35-1/2 pounds (yes Fan Nation, that’s not a misprint) Saturday, Aug. 21 on a churning, wind-tossed Lake Of The Woods (LOW).
“These two had LOW dialed in for sure, and walked away from a stellar field with that ginormous weight of 88.62 pounds for two days,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Talk about a championship performance in their first full year of fishing AIM after deciding to switch out money fishing for that other one that begins with a ‘B’.
“That total also assured them not only a $10,000 check from AIM, but also $1,600 in side pot cash, and $500 from our great sponsor Garmin for winning the championship using Panoptix and LiveScope. AND, in doing all that, they are also are our 2021 Minnesota Team Of The Year in their first full season with AIM, which we’ll detail in an upcoming release, earning them a Yamaha 9.9 kicker worth another $4Gs and the well-deserved recognition that comes with it. It was a pure pleasure to watch these two put on a walleye workshop in some conditions that earlier in the week made us think this might have to be only a one-day event.
“Some other points to make you think you may have to switch boats and/or electronics before next season: four out of our top six teams ran Garmin electronics, and our sixth, fifth, fourth and third-place finishers all piloted Warrior boats that got them to their fish in some rough water, and got them back safely to our headquarters at Baudette’s Wigwam Resort ,” Fox added. “All we can say is, wow, what a championship and what a team to win. Look for these two to be on the podium again.”
Huynh (pronounced ”win”), and Wolske did it all in the mud. Both days. In the wind. In the waves, and as Huynh says, he just went out and fished their strengths. And, did it on a lake they’d never, ever been on before.
“We pre-fished it for about four days and it’s no secret, I don’t like to troll. I’ll do it if I have to. I went in thinking, I might have to troll but every time I go to a new place I go with what my strengths are, and it just happened to work out for us,” Huynh said.
“We figured out something late in the day on the last day of practice, and we were able to duplicate it during the tournament,” he said.
That’s about all you’re going to get from him regarding what that “something” was, unless you’re taking Wolske’s seat for the day. Here’s why.
“I’ve been a little over 90 percent of this year on the water and putting in my time learning tactics and electronics, learning all of this stuff and I sacrificed being away from my businesses and my crew at work and at home have been keeping things running. I’ve spent hours learning this and it’d take me 10 seconds to tell someone what I’m doing,” he said.
Fair enough. But whatever he’s learned out there, it’s working. Later on however, he did say he was “power casting,” a technique he learned in his previous life as a bass angler. That means, cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve. Repeat. All day. That much we did get.
He also did say, however, that he got’em in the mud, in the basin.
“We did try some shallow stuff and did catch some fish shallow but most of our time was spent in the basin. Because we had figured out something, and we were pretty confident that what we figured out was not a fluke. What with the wind coming both days we were wondering if it would still work.”
That wind decided to show itself both days, and there was at one point earlier in the week when organizers wondered if Day Two would ever be. First, Day One.
“We were Boat Number One going out, and we were sitting at the dock and Denny (Denny Fox) looked at us and said ‘you guys look awfully relaxed. And after Day One, he asked if he could do an interview with us, and during that he said, ‘you guys are scary when you’re relaxed,” Huynh continued. Yup, scary good.
“I told Nate too that we fished conservatively throughout the season, and we were just ready. We just need to get it done,” he said.
And that day did. They ended Day one as the leaders with 43.02 pounds, a nine-pound cushion over the second-place team, their biggest fish that day in the 28-inch range. And just got their boat trailered when that hurricane-like wind broke over the field waiting for the ramp to clear.
“Day One the fish started slower for the first couple of hours. We had a couple of small fish on the card and throughout the day it started getting a bit better. We didn’t catch a ton. We never do, but what we found were big ones,” he said He added that the wind that eventually was the first act of that hurricane storm was a struggle.
“Keeping boat control, that is. I’d say there were probably three-footers,” he said. They came back in their Mercury 300 Pro XS-powered boat in the troughs, which meant lots of rocking and rolling. Then came the mini hurricane.
On Day Two, the wind shifted. Their strategy did a bit as well.
“We were comfortable with our lead, but we didn’t know what impact the increase in wind speed would be. Our strategy was to put all the little ones on the card. The first we caught was a 17-incher and then if I remember correctly our next two fish were giants. I told Nate, alright, they’re here, let’s focus on big baits and fishing for big fish,” he said.
“I felt we’d need 25 pounds to feel a little comfortable, and if we got 30 it’s still within reach, but with all the waves, we started packing stuff up by 9:30 or 10 a.m. with like 40-some pounds, and then we saw that the wind was going back towards the lodge, so I said to Nate, ‘you want to try for 50?’ So we stayed and upgraded a couple so we had around 45.
“The only problems I had with the waves was when I broke off on a northern, I had to look down to re-tie for a minute-and-a-half and started feeling seasick. It was brutal. Nate and I have really good rain gear, but we were still soaked inside because the waves were going down our necks. It’s not easy the way we were fishing, casting into six-foot-plus waves,” he said. We had a 28-plus get off at the boat that would have replaced a 25-incher, but that’s ok, we’re happy.”
Care for another helping of understatement, anyone? Winning a second tournament in their first year. On a lake they’d never seen before. And securing Team Of The Year. Yup, anyone on fish who stuck it out in those conditions and in that wind, and then win, should be happy.
Coming in second place and earning $5,000 and a spot in next year’s National Championship Shootout were Scott Burton of Apple Valley, MN, and Travis Heffron of Hudson, WI. They pre-fished both along the south shore and in the basin, with spotty results. It was also their first full season fishing with AIM.
“We got up there Sunday afternoon, so we started along the south shore and Long Point and trolling the basin trying to cover some water. As luck would have it, we found a couple of nice fish and hoped we found ourselves a honey hole, but hit that every day for three days and never found them there again,” Burton said.
“We found random fish each day. Maybe one bigger, and good numbers of smaller fish, and we didn’t feel comfortable we had a good program until the day before in what I would call it mud transition areas adjacent to structure, but definitely a deep water transition.”
On Day One, the weather allowed them to head north. They also locked in a good spot along the south shore for what they knew was coming Saturday.
“We decided to go north and grind it out and that bite stopped. And when we tried to run south, in doing so we broke a windshield,” he said, passenger side. No doubt a faulty part they thought they had fixed, he said, after hitting a quartering wave.
“After that, we had 21 pounds on the card and decided to make our way back to the Gap (that’s a channelized area between sand bars leading from the Rainy River to the main lake), so we put lines down and smoked a 23-1/2-incher, so that was nice at the end of the day even with glass all over the boat. I couldn’t imagine that with 24 pounds, we’d be in 8th after Day One, but we were there and were pleased how we did,” Burton said.
Day Two, they went out of The Gap and beating into the waves that others discovered as well, headed to their spot on the south shore close to Zippel Bay, and found themselves with plenty of company.
“We were surrounded by people, and everybody had to do the same program. It’s a community spot and the only spot we fished Saturday, and it was clearly what everybody else did,” he said. Or, almost everybody. Remember Huynh and Wolske?
“It was actually a neat story because we had a pretty poor bag, maybe 19 pounds, and at 1:30 I got a 27-1/2 incher and we were feeling pretty good at that, and Travis put it on the card and right after we released it, his rod bent over and we had a 29-1/2 on the end. We got lucky going over a nice pod of fish and that was it, end of story. We didn’t see a lot of nets out on that day,” he said. Both days they trolled, with cranks on lead core, along with Northland bottom bouncers and spinners.
They’re definitely geeked to be in next season’s National Championship Shootout. “I told Denny on a couple of occasions how about how well AIM is run and now much fun it was. It’s unbelievable and exciting and I’ll definitely do it again. It has me hooked on AIM. First class all the way. I looked at AIM in the past and felt it was a little over my head. This year we decided to try, and with $9,000 for first and a darn good payout for second, it was an easy decision,” he said.
Wrapping up the rest of the top five at LOW were, in third place, Michael Olson of Thompson, ND and Robert Wagner of Moorhead, MN, who boated 51.93 pounds for $$3,500 plus $960 in second place side pot cash.
Fourth place and $2,500 plus $640 in side pot cash went to Jeff Holz of Dodge Center, MN, and Andy Hage of North Mankato, MN. They came in with 50.62 pounds.
In fifth was Daniel Baker of Frazee, MN, and Shawn Lura of Hawley, MN, for carding 45.26 pounds, good for $1,700.
It’s hard to think that three months ago, the Minnesota division began its qualifiers at Big Stone Lake, each event leading up to this championship. Fan Nation, it may be all over for now in Minnesota, but this week it’s on Wisconsin for that championship in the Bay of Green Bay at Marinette, where all those ‘eyes have been feeding their faces all summer, waiting for AIM anglers to arrive and perhaps give’em a look. Look for huge weights here both Friday and Saturday, and follow all the action as well at Saturday evening’s awards ceremony at AIM’s friendly Facebook page. We’ll preview that tussle later this week. Stay tuned!
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