2014 AIM-WWS OtterTail Recap

AWWS - BauerLast weekend kicked off the 2014 AIM Weekend Walleye Series MN with the first event on Otter Tail Lake.  This was my first AIM CRR (catch-record-release) style tournament and despite our dismal finish, the tournament format was excellent.  Jim Miller and the AIM Board of Directors did an excellent job organizing the event making the first stop a great success.

Our practice started Friday afternoon when we arrived to Otter Tail Lake.  Never having been on the lake, we spent a lot of time running around, watching the graph, and spent very little time actually fishing.  From a structure standpoint the lake was a little overwhelming with loads of reefs and sharp drop offs making it hard to identifying key areas, especially for someone that really only fishes the river.  By the end of day Friday, we had identified a handful of spots that we planned to spend some time fishing Saturday.

On Saturday we started fishing on the south end of the lake, slowly bouncing our way north fishing various breaks and flats we’d identified the day before.  The bite was a grind, but by the end of Saturday we had roughly 14lbs using the AIM conversion chart for our best 5 fish and I was actually feeling fairly good about our bite for the tournament on Sunday.  Saturday night at the rules meeting we spoke with a lot of the anglers and it seemed everyone had similar results, the fishing seemed slow but there were fish to be had with some nicer fish mixed in.

Sunday morning we blasted off and headed to our first spot, a community area on the south end of the lake.  We caught a couple nice fish here in practice the day before with several smaller fish and with any luck we could do it again.  With the bite being slow, I felt a fish or two in the low 20” range with 3 smaller fish would put you right up there.  The majority of the boats fishing this spot were on a break line in 9-14ft of water, dragging small jigs with shiners or rigging with shiners.  We were doing something different, pitching 1/4oz Magnum Jigs with BIG shiners (4inch or so) up on the flat in 7-8ft of water – the fish we had in practice pounded this presentation (almost like a river fish!).  In practice we caught 6 fish from 15-22 inches doing this – not the numbers people were getting on the break but better size.  As luck would have it, they were nowhere to be found on Sunday when it counts.  Due to lack of producing spots we found on the lake, we opted to grind it out until about 11am.  By then we finally accepted those fish had moved, the bite had changed, and unfortunately we didn’t make the right adjustments.  The rest of the day turned into a frazzled scramble running to the north end and back, trying to CRR any fish we could.

We ended the day with 3 small fish for 3.36lbs, a disappointing finish to what potentially could have been a good day.  Looking back, I believe my biggest mistake was putting all my confidence in a shallow bite that had all but vanished for us and fishing for fish that simply were no longer there (at least that we could find).  By the time we pulled the plug on that bite, ran around the lake with nothing to show, and came back to join the crowd – we were not able to effectively present our baits and get bit, despite many boats around us catching fish.

Congrats to Drake Herd and has father on a first place finish with 22+lbs! (Go Warrior Nation!)  I met Drake last year when he did some filming with Warrior Boats – Drake is a humble guy that can obviously put some nice fish in the boat!  Also congrats to Justin Schneider with Woods and Water Insurance on his 3rd place finish.  Justin’s day started slow but he was able to rally back with a nice finish placing in the money!

Overall we had fun fishing the tournament, learning about a new body of water, and talking to old friends and meeting some new ones.  The new AIM WWS tournaments are proving to be an excellent option for guys like me that are strapped for time and don’t have dedicated tournament funding, but still want to fish competitively.  The tournaments are held on a Sunday so little time away from work/home is needed.  With a newborn baby at home and a full time job, I’m lucky to get out fishing as much as I do right now!  I’ll be fishing a local tournament down in Red Wing this weekend and will be fishing the next AWWS event on Lake Mille Lacs, June 8th.  With any luck I’ll get down to Pool-2 in between events for some fun fishing, it’s been a while!  I’d highly encourage anyone that’s interested in fishing one of these events to join in – it’s a great format.

Pete

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