Call it home field advantage times 9,000: Steve Wagner, from Winneconne, and father Russ, from Pewaukee, knew what it would take to win on the Wolf River system last Sunday. It came down to either a slow ride downstream, or a slow ride upstream, and Steve’s last- minute decision to go way upriver to just below New London was what won them $8,000 in AIM cash and $1,000 from Warrior Boats, April 23 in the second AIM Weekend Walleye Series Wisconsin Division Nitro Boats Open of the year.
How’d they do it? By leaving the Winneconne docks and making way through lots of no- wake Wolf River water to settle on fish both knew were there. “We were fishing probably 40 miles upstream, and we were targeting putting five quality males on our card,” said Steve Wagner, whose Yamaha 250 four-stroke, V21-21DC Warrior is the reason they also went home with that $1,000 Warrior Cash bonus for winning in a Warrior. Wagner said they knew there was a lot of 14- to 15-inch fish lower in the river system. But they also knew that those weren’t enough to net the win. “I still wasn’t sure I was going up there, and at 6:30 a.m., we decided to take a gamble,” Wagner said. “I figured there would be a lot of boats farther down and I think getting away from the others helped and the cold front that came through really knocked down the lake action. I knew there were a few fish coming from the Long Point area on Winnebago, but conditions Sunday weren’t quite right.” It took them more than two hours to anxiously cruise upriver to fish. “We got up there a little after 9. We made one drift and lost the first three fish. I looked at myself and said ‘boy, it’s going to be one of those days, I guess.’
Each 15-minute drift would mean a fish or two caught, recorded and released, he said. In all, they landed about nine. “By about 9:30, we had our first landed, and by 10:30, we had our weigh fish. They ranged from 17 and 17-1/2-inchers to an occasional 18. And we were lucky to also get one 20-1/4- inch spawned out female. That one was the key. For some reason, females have been pretty tough to come by. That’s pretty surprising for this time of year,” he said. “We were dragging 1/8-ounce jigs, which is pretty common here, with half-a crawler. Just cast it out and hold on, and drag it, keeping your boat across the current. That way you get an even drift.” The return to Winneconne was faster with the current, but still nearly two hours. “Then we trolled Winneconne for about an hour. I figured we’d see if we could find some spawned-out females, and all we caught was a couple of sheephead. I did not expect 10.27 pounds to be a winning weight,” he said.
Neither did the second-place team of Rick Henricksen and Tom Zollar, from Green Bay, who brought their Mercury Optimax-powered Triton upstream to near Fremont to drift, snap jig and vertical jig with 1/16 th and 1/8 th -ounce jigs tipped with crawlers, minnows and plastics. They’d been scouting the area the last three weeks. They finished with 9.55 pounds. “Some fish will really pound that vertical presentation and some will pick up the bait and you almost have to line-feed them when you’re drifting,” Henricksen said. “No presentation was better than the other so that’s why our key was showing the fish different things. Knowing the size range from following the run, I knew if we could get three or four of those 18-inch fish, we’d have a really nice day.” They managed to land fish from 16 to 18-3/4-inches and go home with $2,400. Besides the money, the Wagners also won a prize package from AIM sponsor Vibrations Tackle of over $150.00. “I love my Warrior. They’ve sponsored me for a lot of years, and I’m really glad they’re a backer of the AIM circuit,” Steve Wagner said. Both teams also will fish all AIM Wisconsin events. “This year I was very excited about the tournaments,” Wagner continued. “I figured AIM was putting together a pretty good schedule and it led me to decide to fish it this year.” His Warrior will bring them back to the same area, Sunday, May 21, this time in Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, for the third of four Wisconsin contests, not including the Wisconsin Championship on Green Bay in August. As of this writing, the Winnebago event is sporting a full field of 100 boats.
The third place team of Mike Gengalo, of Merrill, WI, and Ted Winkelman, New London, took home $1,800 for 8.63 pounds. Finishing fourth and getting a $1,500 check were Matt Johannes, Pine River, and Jason Miller, Winneconne, for 8.14 pounds. In fifth, Mike Kasper, Neenah, and Reid Raschke, Appleton, boating 7.95 pounds, good for $1,300.
This weekend, the AWWS moves west to the plains of North Dakota and the Missouri River near Bismarck/Mandan, for the season’s first North Dakota Division Warrior Boats/Mild 2 Wild Motorsports Open on Sunday. We’ll preview that event Friday.
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™) 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-Release™ format, which is integral to its dynamic events and unparalleled consumer engagement. For more information about AIM™, AIM Pro Walleye Series™, AIM Weekend Walleye Series, AIM sponsors and AIM anglers, visit www.aimfishing.com. AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats, LLC. AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Navionics, Garmin, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Vibrations Tackle, Pro Chattrr, National Fleet Graphics, Gemini Sport Marketing, Warrior Boat Center