Looking Forward to the 2011 Season with South Dakota’s Chad Schilling
Mar 14th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Mar 14th, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Winter may have the tiny riverside town of Akaska, South Dakota deep in its grips, but for AIM Pro Walleye Series competitor and hometown host of the 2011 AIM International Walleye Championship™, this time of year means only one thing to Chad Schilling: get prepped, and get motivated.
At age 35, and in his fifth season on the professional walleye fishing circuits, Schilling lives, breathes, and eats outdoor fun.
When he is not in his tournament boat – which will be wrapped in South Dakota colors for the second straight year as one of the coolest ways a state has ever promoted its recreational offerings – Schilling handles as many as seven hunting dogs after pheasant for customers of his Oahe Wings & Walleye guide service. Or, he is guiding for walleyes on Oahe, year round! Every time he is on the water he is scouting this huge impoundment of the Missouri River where he hopes to be crowned the 2011 AIM® Champion.
For Schilling, competition on the water came easy. “It started with my brother and I having a good run as fishing team members. We won the biggest tournament in the area here three years in a row. Then, for about a six-year period I put together 11 wins, so I decided I might as well make money at it,” he said. “One Masters Walleye Circuit win here at Oahe helped me decide. I got into the pro-am format and never looked back,” he says.
Schilling became one of AIM’s owners when the company was formed, and has seen the positive results of the unique AIM Catch-Record-Release® format. “C-R-R” is not only a format that preserves fish for local anglers, but adds a different twist into the mix. He says it took only one taste of C-R-R to convince him that this was the way of the future in tournament fishing.
“I wasn’t sure about the C-R-R concept, at first. I figured, don’t change something if it ain’t broke. But once I started, I knew there’s no other way to fish,” he said. “Now I always believe I’m going to catch bigger and better fish. There’s enough to contend with in any tournament without having to worry about what order you land your fish. That’s out of anyone’s control. In other tournaments, if you’ve caught a 10-pound walleye after you’ve caught your slot, oh well! With C-R-R, there’s no second-guessing. And there’s nothing more frustrating than fishing in a slot limit and making the wrong decision on keeping or not keeping a fish.”
“I’ve been on some tournaments, like on Mille Lacs (in Minnesota), where I caught 14 fish over 27 inches, and never had one touch 28 – and the slot was one over 28 that year. I had the best fishing of my life, but never got to weigh a one of them for that tournament!”
“If it was an AIM C-R-R event, I would have had an incredible weight. Instead, my big walleyes were a quarter-inch short of the slot about five times,” Schilling said. “And I also don’t have to worry about a fish dying in the livewell, or having a judge make a call about whether a fish was releasable or not. It takes all human error out of the equation, it’s better for the fish and the fisherman, and every other aspect.”
Schilling of course uses every technique in his arsenal to catch his fish. But if he has the choice, pitching plastics in the shallows is his favorite presentation. “I enjoy that the most. I was able to do that in Saginaw last year and on Day Two of the tournament, with only a half-hour left I made three pitches to shore, missed one fish, but the next one was 25 inches! Then I was right there in sixth or seventh place. I made a last-minute move and made three casts and caught three of the biggest fish of my tournament at 25, 24 and 23 inches. I earned fourth place for that. “
Schilling’s other finishes were 15th at Green Bay, 10th on his Lake Oahe home waters, and 12th at the weather-shortened 2010 AIM Championship. He did not travel to the 2010 AIM Bay Mills Invitational, but hopes to for this year’s event June 2nd to 4th. The Invitational was the nation’s highest percentage walleye tournament in 2010, thanks to its sponsor Bay Mills Resort & Casino. Besides the invitation-only format, this tournament is also unique because the AIM Pro Anglers are limited to using artificial baits only.
Schilling says he would like to launch his boat at every AIM tournament this year to fish with his partners Jarrad Fluekiger, from Alma, Wis., and Tom Gatzke of Merrill, Wis. But his Oahe Wings and Walleyes business is literally catching on strong and might inhibit those plans. “My heart’s going to be at every tournament. I just hope my schedule allows my body to be there. We just got done with the best fishing and pheasant season we’ve ever had. I know where my bread and butter are and I have to take care of that first. But I’ll try to get to every AIM tournament, for sure,” he said.
“I like competitive fishing. I live to fish. Everyone has a chance to kick your butt day in and day out and you’ve got that chance to kick theirs. If you compete as a Pro Angler or a Co-angler you’ve competed with the best in AIM tournaments. And if you win, you’ve beaten the best.”
If you’re interested in either a guided South Dakota walleye or pheasant trip, contact Schilling at http://www.oahewings.com.