Walleye Revolution Hits Winneconne; Will Spread to North America!
Apr 30th, 2009 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Apr 30th, 2009 at 12:00 AM
The world witnessed the roll-out of the newest walleye revolution at Winneconne, Wisconsin April 25. Spear-headed by AIM (Anglers Insight Marketing, an organization owned by competitive anglers), the future of tournament walleye fishing was unveiled.
Previously, walleye tournaments were catch, keep, weigh on stage at the end of the day, and release or eat. Now, all AIM tournaments in 2009, their inaugural season, will be Catch – Record – Release™ (CRR) immediately. The innovative concept went from concept through dozens of modifications encompassing thousands of hours of meetings and testing, until rolled out at Winneconne.
AIM president and CEO Scott Matheson, Plymouth, Wis., said, “Trust me, developing strategies on paper is one thing, going live with real people, real cameras, real fish, real technology and real wet weather is quite another, I was cautiously optimistic until I saw the teams success on the entire operation.”
Also participating was Andrew Klopak, Lund Boat president. He said, “CRR will spark the passion and bring fun back to tournaments. I was incredibly impressed by the technology, which will prove extremely meaningful for industry sponsors and individual anglers.”
Long time touring pro angler and Championship winner, Tom Kemos, Oconomowoc, Wis., said, “I’m ecstatic; this will change the dynamics of tournaments.” Jesse Buechel, Fond du Lac, Wis., rookie touring pro said, “This is the future, and it definitely gets an A-plus from me. It answered anybody who might have been a naysayer. New technologies prevailed.”
When all the tech crews, modern weigh-in stage, TV screens, sound system, cameras, computers and wiring were connected, the action began at Critter’s Bait Shop, near the fabled Fox River and lakes of the Winnebago system. The anglers tested the system, reported their results, and compared notes to fine-tune procedures. Matheson reviewed the goals of CRR:
• Eco-friendly release of fish at boatside;
• Fish waters previously ineligible due to restrictive tournament regulations;
• To showcase the fishery for what it is;
• To benefit all aspects of competition, and bring back fun;
• The Angler that catches the best fish will win.
After meeting and understanding the goals and technology, anglers hit the water
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They caught walleyes, measured and recorded them with digital cameras, wrote down the measurements, and turned in the camera’s memory cards for scoring purposes. Following the on-water experiment, all anglers critiqued the process, and focused on improving the protocol.
A stage show followed, with large screen monitors highlighting the on-water action with video and close-up fish photos while contestants were being interviewed. Matheson said, “It became an interactive show, and will cater to the demands of the fans who will feel they’re in boats with the anglers.” As additional systems are integrated, several stealth-cams will be worn by contestants to show the action, video will be streamed to headquarters and podcast as well as retained for the stage show. GPS tracking of top final day contestants will feature their daily movements. He said, “Many past PWT and FLW amateurs and co-anglers fished with the pros and were pleased that so many fish were shown on screen that the lack of live fish was a non issue, it was not just a weigh in, it was a show.”
Lund’s Klopak, a competitive angler himself, said CRR will determine the best angler every time. With AIM tournaments set within major festivals, the local community and the entire walleye fraternity benefits. “I like the fact AIM will communicate what they’re doing in real-time via the internet instead of waiting months for a TV show. Anglers will target the best fish, and showcase their tactics so fans will be immediately plugged into the fishing environment. I’m extremely encouraged and optimistic about the future of CRR and AIM.”
Pro Kemos said he quickly developed a system for handling fish. “I was nervous at first, but after a couple fish, I settled into a routine. I measured walleyes the normal way; then my partner also measured them, and we agreed on the length and recorded it. I shot the photos over the shoulder of my partner as he held the fish on the ruler. The measurements were confirmed when the MMC cards were submitted.
“The entire in-boat process took less than 60 seconds, which is at least equal to the time to make a decision in a no-cull or slot-limit tournament,” Kemos continued, “I like it. It doesn’t matter who catches the fish, because they all count. It allows us to fish all day and weigh our best fish. Truly, the best pro will win.”
Rookie AIM pro Buechel said, “I wanted to take part and learn how to do things. I also wanted to become as efficient as possible. It took about 20 seconds to measure and photograph each fish. CRR is the future of Pro-Am (and maybe all) tournaments. I also know where to locate my sponsor logos for maximum exposure.”
AIM chairman of the board Pat Neu, Forestville, Wis., said the entire test exceeded his expectations. “This was extremely easy to execute; proved it’s a fair system; and the images were very clear even in the high winds and rain,” he said. “With CRR, we will conduct quality tournaments on the best bites at the best times of the year.”
Neu was most excited about the look and feel of the stage show and fan reaction. “There’s virtually no difference between this weigh-in and one with live fish on stage. The live fish are in pictures and video and flashing in front of the crowd on large monitors. The fans are in the boats with the pros,” he said.
Gary Parsons, Glidden, Wisconsin, multiple winner with many Angler-of-the-Year titles from various circuits, TV show host, and a student of the tournament game, said, “CRR will bring back excitement and create the absolute best competition in the sport. It’ll be like the good old days, but instead of upgrading all day, we’re catching and recording all the fish. The angler can catch the best fish possible during the course of a full fishing day.”
Parsons proposed the CRR method many years ago, and watching it unfold before his eyes, said it was like a dream coming true. “The test proved there is no way to cheat or fudge measurements. It is the fairest form of weigh-in ever.” he said. The photos were easy to verify, and he said all anglers can feel very secure. The brief time to record fish amazed him, “I didn’t even lose position in the wind and current,” he said.
AIM tournaments occur during major community events that already draw huge crowds. Openings exist for pro anglers and co-anglers. The season opens May 22-24 on Saginaw Bay in conjunction with the Bay Fest Festival in Bay City, Michigan. One of Wisconsin’s largest July Fourth “bashes,” the “Fire Over the Fox Festival,” occurs July 2-4 in Green Bay, with the AIM tournament showcased to tens of thousands of fans. The third event occurs on the Missouri River, as the headline event during the Akaska, South Dakota Walleye Festival.
The AIM International Walleye Championship occurs on northern Minnesota’s large Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena, Sept. 2-4. The top of the class from the previous three tournaments along with anglers invited for their successes in numerous other United States and Canadian tournaments will participate in the Championship.
Anglers Insight Marketing, LLC™ is a unique tournament organization owned by stockholders, with the majority being professional walleye anglers. AIM professionals are among the “All Stars” of professional fishing, with hundreds of years of tournament experience, countless victories, championships and Angler-of-the-Year titles. This insight and knowledge has been harnessed to provide the finest tournament experience for all participants, along with the maximum exposure for host tournament sites and corporate partners.