Rigging Takes Final AIM Minnesota Division ‘Warrior Boats Open’ On Mille Lacs
Aug 7th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Aug 7th, 2015 at 12:00 AM
Usually on Minnesota’s big Mille Lacs, rigging with live bait is best early in the season, from the early-May opener into June. But, fishing the final AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats Open division qualifier here, at least two teams found it works in late July, too, well enough to propel them atop the leader board to take first and second place on Sunday, July 26.Team Mark Feriancek of Maple Grove, MN, and Doug McCallum of Hanover, MN, took top honors and also $6,000 with 24.13 pounds, working the lake’s mud flats with leeches, while Jordan Weiss of
Elk River, MN, and John Odle, of Onamia, MN, fishing their first AIM tournament, but not their last, took second place and $2,000, netting 21.90 pounds with leech and crawler rigs.
“We pre-fished on Saturday and like anytime you pre-fish, you find and eliminate spots,” said
Feriancek, who is no stranger to the lake. They had a hunch where they would need to go: the mud flats on the lake’s west side, about 1 to 2 miles offshore. They rigged with leeches, hung with ½-ounce weights, slowly trolling around .5 to .6 mph, knowing that if they trolled any faster, they’d stir the lake’s smaller walleyes into biting instead.
“It was dead calm most of the day and we weren’t rigging with an open bail. We used closed bails with the rod in the holder. They weren’t feeding hard; they hit almost like the lure had snagged in the mud,” he said. After filling their card, a decision had to be made.
“We had a “kicker fish” spot (a kicker fish is much larger than the average size walleye) to hit on the way in, and we were able to pull the last fish, a 27 1/2-incher and card it. We actually had one to the boat right before that, it was 24 or 25 inches, just out of the reach of the net, and it got off. We put another leech on, turned around and went over the same areas and were fortunate enough to find the other one. We knew the spot would hold 1 or 2 fish, glad it was 2″
Usually, he said, most Mille Lacs anglers use leeches in May and June, but turning on fish is a priority in a one-day tournament, and the pair felt that live bait would do the trick faster than cranks, so they used the largest they could find.
“This is a great, fun format and I know we’ll sign up again. We really liked the Sunday format,”
Feriancek said. “There are those of us who can’t travel far and this gives everybody a chance. AIM’s format makes every fish count and people can get excited about it, and more than anything, the fish you catch stay alive. This is the way to do it, and it’s easy to get used to.”
Jordan Weiss and teammate John Odle also went with live bait, like the winners, using ½-ounce sinkers, Number 8 hooks and 10- to 12-foot snells.
“I stuck with crawlers for the most part and John stayed with leeches, which worked for him. I like to blow a little air into the crawler’s tail to give them a little lift” he said.
During two days of pre-fishing, Weiss said, one day they did okay, and the second, they couldn’t get a bite. “But it seemed live bait always gave us something. Usually this time of year the crank bait bite starts to heat up.”
Concentrating on four different flats in 31 to 34 feet of water, they landed lots of fish, but many were small.
“We’ve got such a strong 2013 year-class of small walleyes, they show up everywhere. We were laughing because the minimum to measure for the tournament was 12 inches and that seemed to be what we were getting in the morning. So we figured we might as well record them and hopefully upgrade later, and it wasn’t until late morning that we finally started getting bigger fish,” Weiss said.
“We finally got a 24 ½-incher in 32 feet of water and we were able to upgrade a couple more.” In fact they upgraded two more, both 25 ½ inches, that came in the afternoon as they moved deeper.
“When you’re running live bait you can fish it quite a while, but you want a swimmer right out of the bucket. If you don’t get a bite in 15 to 20 minutes I take it off and put on another,” he said.Because neither team could fish any of this year’s other AIM Minnesota division qualifiers, they won’t be at the championship next month, but both say they’re planning to fish AIM events next season.
“I’m really impressed with this format,” Weiss agreed, after his first AIM experience. “You’re not penalized for getting the wrong bites. It’s good for the sport, and good for the resource too because these fish are being immediately released. It’s more of a pure fisherman’s tournament, seeing who can put together the best bag. It’s a really fun format and I’m looking forward to next year, absolutely.”
Third Place went to Scott Hansen, Janesville, MN, and Brian Nelson, Mapleton, MN, earning $1,600 for 21.72 pounds.
Fourth Place was Derik and Josh Walcheski of Pierz, MN carding 20.11Pounds and a check for $1,400.00
Fifth place was secured by Nate Gilkey of Waconia, MN and Shawn Fleming of Monticello, MN with a 19.03 LB Bag good for $1,100.00
Watch our face book page on Thursday to learn the winner of the Navionics BIG FISH THURSDAY.
Now, it’s on to the Championships in all divisions. Remember, every captain who has entered three of the four qualifiers in Minnesota and Wisconsin are able to enter the division finals. The first-ever Great Lakes Division Starcraft Marine Open Championship, taking place on Saginaw Bay, is, as the title implies, open to anyone to enter.
The Minnesota Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats Division Championship, is Aug. 28-29 on Lake Winnibigoshish. Host site: Denny’s Resort, Bena, MN, offering motel rooms and cabins, RV hookups, a full bar and a protected harbor at the south end of Lake Winnie.
The Wisconsin Weekend Walleye Series Nitro Boats Division Championship is Aug. 21-22, on the Bay of Green Bay. Sponsoring is the city of Oconto, site of other AIM events.
The Great Lakes Division Weekend Walleye Series Starcraft Marine Open Championship is sponsored by Saganing Eagles Landing Casino and Eagle Bay Marina Aug. 14-15, on Michigan’s Saginaw Bay.
Contact: Denny Fox, AIM National Tournament Director, 920-505-0122; [email protected]
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owned by many of the most accomplished and recognizable professional walleye anglers, along with others who share the mission of advancing competitive walleye fishing and making it sustainable into the future. AIM is committed to marketing excellence on behalf of its
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