A ball player doesn’t usually slide into first, but for Kyle Hetletved and partner Aaron Schuck, Slider paddletail plastics got it done on Devils Lake Sunday, as the pair slid into first and a win worth $4,000 in the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Woodland Marine Open.
“Devils Lake lived up to its name, and the predictions that this would be a pretty shallow bite did too,” said AWWS National Tournament Director Denny Fox.
That was confirmed by Hetletved, of Langdon, North Dakota and Schuck, of Bismarck, who stayed all day in Pelican Lake, at Devils Lake’s northwest end. Hetletved is pretty familiar with Devils and has a camp on the west side. This was only his second AIM tournament. They had a mixed pre-fish, with some days very good, but on the Saturday prior to the event, not so much. “We got only one walleye,” Hetletved said. “It was slow because of that cold front and I think there may have been a bug hatch too.”
The pair turned their Mercury Verado-powered boat into the bay and began casting the rocky shallows with jigs and those Slider paddletails, keeping their boat in eight to 10 feet of water. “We got a 24-incher first, then a 21, I believe, and two 20s in a row, then went to our other spot and got a 24, and went to our last spot and caught two 23-inchers,” Hetletved said.
“We caught them pretty quick, within a couple of casts. I caught one and then Aaron caught one. I thought we’d need a 26 or 27, and I caught one pre-fishing,” he said. Then the excitement of potentially finishing in the money got in the way, he admitted.
“We started working our jigs way faster than we should have been and didn’t catch another one. That turned out to be enough but I didn’t think it would be,” he said, at least at first, until they mentally added up their card back on land. They ended officially with 26.14 pounds.
“Aaron was up getting the trailer and was talking to a few others and it didn’t sound like people were doing that great, and he came back and said ‘I think we might have a shot at this.'”
“I didn’t talk to a whole lot, but once we heard that fifth place was about 18 pounds, and I knew one boat had 22, I thought, well, maybe we do have a shot,” Hetletved said.
Devils Lake’s water level, which was down at least four feet from last year’s AIM tourney when they finished sixth didn’t bother them too much. “You just had to slide out a bit deeper. But it seemed to work okay, the fish were still there,” he said. Hetletved also praised AIM’s Catch- Record-ReleaseTM format. “Other contests on the lake aren’t and I wish they were. I really like how this is set up, let the big ones go and hopefully you can catch them again.”
For the second-place team of Travis Clemens, of Velva, ND, and Jason Ramberg, also from Langdon, it was a two-peat in Clemens’ Nitro ZV21, powered by a 350 Verado a boat/motor combo that he only got the Tuesday before the tournament. They also finished second last year. Having lived in Devils Lake about 15 years, he knew where to go, and that too, was Pelican. This year, their 22.64 pounds of ‘eye was good for a $2,000 check. The winds, which blew up to 40mph earlier in the week, made a tough pre-fish, he said.
“The weather was cold and the water dropped 15 degrees beginning the Wednesday before. I knew the wind was going to switch so we knew it was going to be a tough bite,” Clemens said. “Last year we had around 29 pounds for second. I fish Devils a lot and usually first is around 30 pounds. And, we only weighed four fish. We caught five but one was too small, only about 10 inches. Our first fish came about 10 a.m. and was about 23.”
Pelican Lake, he said, is a water body he describes as “having a lot of places to wreck a boat.” Especially that new Nitro. They fished five to six feet of water with Berkley Gulp splittails, which totally out-fished the live leeches they also brought with them. Crank baits didn’t do it, either.
They concentrated on the lakes’ cattails. “It’s mud and we felt a lot of the fish were eating small minnows and laying in the mud when there’s a cold front because the bottom will warm up faster. We caught our first weigh fish after 10 a.m. when the water warmed a bit,” he said.
One more run to their second cattail spot had them scrambling until they found fish. “We caught our biggest fish, a 28-1/2-incher, and then our last fish was about 21-1/2.”
Clemens says he plans to enter the remaining North Dakota AIM tournaments for a chance at heading to Bismarck for next year’s National Championship Shootout. “I fish the Missouri so I’m looking forward to it. That’s where the new state record was caught so there could be some good fishing there,” he added. That 15-pound, 13-ounce hawg walter taken May 18 near
Bismarck’s Fox Island boat ramp hopefully has a cousin or three willing to be caught and released next June.
Here’s how the rest of the top five fared: Third place and $1,500 went to Scott Larson, Mayville, ND, and Jason Anderson, West Fargo, ND, for 18.83 pounds. In fourth, Jeremy Sandvik, Devils Lake, ND, and Forrest Balvitsch, Grand Forks, ND, close behind with 18.55 pounds, for $1,250. Fifth place and $1,000 went to Kyle Olson, Cando, ND, and Brandon Moren, Pierz, MN, for 17.82 pounds.
Next up in North Dakota is Lake Sakakawea at New Town, on the west end of that giant water body, on June 17. But, not before June 1 and 2, and the 2018 AIM Warrior Boats National Championship Shootout, taking place on Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage at beautiful Treland Resort. Watch AIM’s Facebook page and ProChattrr for complete daily coverage to see who goes home with that $50,000 Warrior V1898DC/Yamaha four-stroke/Garmin electronics package. Stay tuned.
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIMTM) is a unique tournament organization created and 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 tournament competitors, the tournament host communities, and the brands that partner with it. AIM is also committed to maintaining healthy fisheries across the nation by the development of the exclusive AIM Catch-Record-ReleaseTM format which is integral to its dynamic events and unparalleled consumer engagement. For more information about AIMTM, AIM Pro Walleye SeriesTM, AIM Weekend Walleye Series, AIM sponsors and AIM anglers, visit www.aimfishing.com.
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