The two of us have much to be thankful for with regards to our angling careers. Not the least of which is the fact that we were fortunate enough to be “in the right place at the right time”. That is to say, our timing at coming into the walleye tournament fishing game could not have been better. We were there at the beginning of the MWC (Manufacturers Walleye Circuit), and we were there for the very beginning of the PWT (Professional Walleye Trail). Doing well in both of those venues was what has allowed us to grow with this sport and make careers doing what we love doing more than anything else – fishing for walleyes.
Admittedly, it was a sad day when it was announced that the PWT was coming to an end. But in reality it has created a new opportunity. An opportunity much like what we had when we were first building our angling careers. It has opened the door for a new crop of anglers to get in at the “ground-floor” of a new walleye tournament circuit … a new kind of tournament series that is geared toward bringing back the fun and true competition to competitive walleye angling. Will this new endeavor be the catalyst for a new regime of professional anglers? We think so. This will be a new era in tournament walleye fishing … a new focus on bettering not only the careers of those choosing the walleye game as their avocation, but doing so in a manner as to make such competitions less impactful on our fisheries, and strengthen the over-all state of the fishing industry itself.
As a group, professional walleye anglers are AIMing for new opportunities, thanks to a new organization, Anglers Insight Marketing, or AIM. Anglers Insight Marketing, LLC is a unique tournament organization which is owned by stockholders, the majority of which are active Professional walleye anglers. AIM™ Professionals are among the “All Stars” of professional fishing, with many tears of combined tournament experience.
The innovations to walleye tournament fishing this group will is bringing to the table will set-the-bar for tournament competition well into the future. Right out of the chute, the most notable innovation AIM will be implementing in their 2009 Pro Walleye Series events will be their unique tournament format. The “Catch-Record-Release™” format where teams of Pro Anglers and Co-Anglers will record the length of each legal walleye, take a digital photograph of the fish, and then immediately release the live fish. NO fish will be required physically brought to the “weigh-in” stage. Instead, each team will have the opportunity to bring in photos of ALL the legal walleyes caught and choose the largest seven to count towards their daily weight. (The length of the seven walleyes will be converted to pounds and ounces using a standardized formula prior to taking the stage.) Because all fish are immediately released, weigh fish can include fish over or under the “slot length” that would otherwise not be permitted under some local regulations.
The AIM Catch-Record-Release™ format has two huge advantages for the sport of competitive angling. First, AIM tournaments are scheduled at the best times of the year for catching the most fish for each tournament site. Secondly, AIM tournaments will reward the anglers that catch the biggest fish – not the anglers that were fortunate enough to catch fish in a certain order, dictated by local slot limits and possession rules.
Another significant advantage of the AIM Catch-Record-Release™ format is the elimination of fish kill that can occur using traditional weigh-in formats. The CRR format puts a positive spin on professional fishing and it has allowed AIM to schedule tournaments in communities that have received negative public feedback following tournaments events held in the past.
The AIM Pro Walleye Series™ tournaments will all be three day events. The Pro Angler provides the boat, all the fishing tackle and bait for the day. Each day the Co-angler will be paired with a different Pro Angler and have the opportunity to learn individual strategies and cutting edge presentations. The full field of 100 Pro Anglers and Co-anglers will fish the first two days. The top 50% of the Pro Angler field, based on cumulative weights over the first two days, will fish the third day of the tournament along with Co-anglers who were randomly drawn during the Rules Meeting prior to the event.
The circuit will consist of three qualifying tournaments and a Championship. Each tournament is being scheduled in conjunction with local “festivals”, which will no doubt maximize the exposure of the event and all involved (anglers, sponsors and host community).
The first qualifying event will be held May 22-24 in Bay City, Michigan. Anglers will have the opportunity to compete on the fantastic fishery of Saginaw Bay at the peak of the bite. A good spinner-trolling-bite and limits of large Lake Huron walleyes are anticipated. This event is scheduled around “Bay Fest”, the area’s first annual Memorial Day weekend celebration.
Next up will be one we are really looking forward too. AIM will set its sites on Green Bay, Wisconsin on July 2-4. This event will be held along with the “Fire Over The Fox” festival that attracts as many as 100,000 people to the Green Bay area. The AIM Pro Walleye Series™ tournament will precede one of the largest fireworks displays in the entire Midwest. Teams of anglers will fish one of the top walleye destinations in the country. Again, trolling should play a huge part in this event and daily limits of 25″ to 30″ walleyes are expected!
After two “Great Lakes” event, the third qualifier promises to be a real change of pace for the Aim anglers. On August 13-15, 2009, the AIM Pro Walleye Series™ will travel to Akaska, South Dakota to fish the expansive Missouri River reservoir, Lake Oahe. AIM will partner with the South Dakota Walleye Classic to stage a huge regional event. Anglers will have literally hundreds of square miles of the fertile Missouri River to explore. This event will place teams on the river at the peak of the late summer bite and will provide exciting competition with no slot limit restrictions or culling limitations thanks to the AIM format. Anticipations are that structure fishing tactics will dominate the competition, but on a Missouri River reservoir, the possibilities are wide open!
The season will then wrap up with the Championship on Lake Winnibigoshish (“Lake Winnie”) in Bena, Minnesota on September 2nd, 3rd and 4th. This championship, combined with AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ (C-R-R) tournament format, will provide excitement never before experienced in a walleye series championship.
If you have ever dreamed of getting into the Professional walleye fishing arena, opportunity may be knocking at your door right now. We believe the AIM Pro Walleye series will change the way tournaments are run and make big strides in improving not only our sport, the careers of some great anglers, but ultimately walleye fishing everywhere. And the new CRR format will bring us back to the head-to-head competition that this sport needs. It will eliminate the guesswork that slot limits and culling restrictions have brought to walleye competitions and allow us as competitive anglers to fishing on great bodies of water where the angler who catches the biggest bunch of fish wins! It’s going to be a fun ride – we hope you’ll check it out!