Want to be an AIM Pro Walleye Angler?
Apr 21st, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Apr 21st, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Fishing one of the AIM Pro Walleye Series™ tournaments as a Co-angler is the best way to learn more about different techniques from the professional anglers who have years of experience. It’s also a great way to learn how to fish specific bodies of water and get a first-hand look at what the grueling life of a professional angler is all about.
44 AIM Pro Anglers are competing at the 2011 tournament in Winneconne, Wisconsin. Co-anglers are paired with a different Pro Angler each of the first two days. On Day Three of the tournament, the Pro field is reduced to the top 50% based on their cumulative weights. In a separate drawing, half of the Co-anglers are selected to fish the final day for free.
Some anglers especially enjoy the opportunity to fish with the top-name Pros. Every day is different. The Pros provide the boat, all the tackle, and make al the location and presentation decisions. It is an intense learning experience. Even Co-anglers fishing on their “home” waters will learn new techniques that are sometimes a real revelation.
Other Co-anglers are refining their skills in order to prepare themselves for the step into the professional ranks. DePere, Wisconsin resident Tom Nelson is fishing the Winneconne tournament as a Co-angler. It’s his first tournament experience.
“I love walleye fishing and, living on the Bay of Green Bay, I have a love of nature, too.” The 33-year-old DePere fireman and paramedic has been fishing since he was five years old. He’s using this experience to see whether he wants to continue fishing for fun or fish more competitively.
“I want to see if tournament fishing is something that I enjoy and would want to do more often. I might turn professional but I want to fish a couple of tournaments as a Co-angler first. My wife is okay with it as long as I can swing it financially down the road,” he said.
Because he’s never fished in tournament conditions or as a Co-angler, Nelson isn’t sure what to expect.
“My expectations going into this tournament are to come here and learn. Every little bit I can pick up will help me. I’m going to listen to the Pros that I’m teamed with and see how they go about their day and how they approach the water,” he said. “This experience can’t do anything but make me a better angler.”
Nelson does have some local experience, having fished the Winnebago System several times previously. The accessible tournament waters are vast, with flood conditions bringing strong currents and loads of debris. The walleyes are just coming off the spawn. The changing conditions will make the event a challenge.
“I think everything is on the table in terms of tactics to get the fish to bite,” Nelson said.
Bernard Blohm fished as a Co-angler in the 2010 AIM Pro Walleye Series tournament at Green Bay. He feels he has a pretty good idea what to expect on the Winnebago chain. “I fished last year with Carl Wenckebach, Joe Okada, and Gary Parsons. I learned quite a bit,” the Green Bay resident said.
“I fish the Bay a lot. Carl fishes the way I fish, but Joe and Gary fish totally different than the way I fish. They use techniques I had never seen or used.”
“At Green Bay last year, on the last day, I was fishing with Gary Parsons. He was using bottom bouncers that he, his son Chase, and Keith Kavajecz designed. We were fishing in 30 feet of water with planer boards. When I fished with Joe, we were dragging stick baits in July. Normally, that time of the year we use crawlers. We were dragging stick baits over higher reefs and that was where the fish were,” he said.
Blohm, 55, works at the paper mill in town. “I live a mile from the landing in Green Bay. That was like fishing in my backyard and I still learned a lot,” he said.
“The Pros were really great and would answer any questions about what they were doing, why the boat was set up a certain way or why they were using certain techniques. It was like going to a seminar. All three of the Pros that I fished with had the new high-definition depth finders. They use them to kind of ‘hunt fish.’ Once they located a pod, they would circle until they got them to bite. They use their electronics a lot,” he said.
Having fished both bass and walleye tournaments, Blohm is no stranger to high-pressure fishing. “These guys (the AIM Pro Anglers) do things a little differently than we do. They ‘back reel’ while we always use the drag. When they pull crawler harnesses and get a bite they free spool the line and let the fish have it, then tighten up before setting the hook,” he said.
Blohm says he thinks he’s too old to turn Pro. “My body can’t take the pounding these guys experience on the water. They go through water that I wouldn’t put my boat or body through,” he said.
If he’s not going to turn professional why does he fish as a Co-angler? “It was a very good experience. That is why I am going again,” he said. He is looking forward to the pre-event Rules Meeting where he will learn which Pros he will be paired with for the Winneconne tournament.
Robert Cardena normally spends his workday as a registered nurse in a Minnesota hospital outpatient surgery setting. The 36-year-old from Gem Lake fishes local tournaments near home. He’s fishing his first “Pro-Am” tournament as a Co-angler. “I want to go Pro in a few years,” he said. “It’s been my dream to fish professionally.”
Cardena says fishing as a Co-angler is all about learning. “I’m going to keep an open mind and learn as much as I can. These are the best fishermen in the business.”
The daily weigh-in is being hosted by Critters Sports in Winneconne. The action begins daily at 5:00 pm, indoors in case of inclement Wisconsin spring weather. For all unable to attend, the weigh-in will also be streamed live on the AIM website, www.aimfishing.com.