Some of the top walleye anglers in the country are on Lake of the Woods this week for the AIM Pro Walleye Series tournament. The three-day competition gets underway Thursday and continues through Saturday, with fishing from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
A total of 42 tournament pros and their co-angler partners will depart from the Wheeler’s Point Access near the mouth of the Rainy River, and daily weigh-ins will be held at 5 p.m. at Willie Walleye Park in Baudette, Minn.
Joe Henry, executive director of tourism for Lake of the Woods, said AIM — short for Anglers Insight Marketing — tournaments are different from most competitions because anglers “catch, record and release” their fish rather than bring them to the scale for weighing in.
As Henry explains it, every tournament pro receives a digital camera SD card and is required to photograph the walleye on a measuring board, hold it up for a photo and then record the length of the fish on a tally sheet; the fish then is released.
Besides reducing mortality, Henry said, the AIM tournament “CRR” approach allows anglers to get credit for “slot fish” they wouldn’t be able to bring to the scale under Lake of the Woods regulations, which require the release of all fish from 19½ to 28 inches.
When tournament anglers return to shore, they turn in their SD card and length sheet, and photographs of the tournament fish then are projected onto a screen and live-streamed online for spectators.
“It’s quite unique,” Henry said.
Besides the tournament, other events on tap include free test rides on the Rainy River in a Skeeter boat with a 300-horse Yamaha motor Friday and Saturday at Willie Walleye Park, a boat parade at 4:15 p.m. Friday, a walleye feed at 5:30 p.m. Friday and a “walleye party” at 8 p.m. in the Baudette VFW Club.
Saturday, there will be a Farmer’s/Flea market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., kids events from noon to 4 p.m., and a kid’s fishing seminar featuring Marianne Huskey — currently ranked second in the AIM standings and the only female touring walleye pro — at 4 p.m., with a tackle give away for all kids in attendance. After the final weigh in at 5 p.m., Sportsman’s Lodge will host a “Party with the Pros” event at 8 p.m., which is open to the public.
One thing’s for sure, if recent fishing reports are any indication, tournament anglers will be showing off some impressive catches in the next few days.
“On fire” is how Henry describes the fishing. “Our fishery right now is probably the best it’s ever been,” he said.
Henry said Lake of the Woods Tourism signed a two-year contract with the AIM promoters, so the tournament will be back on the big lake next summer, as well.