Most anglers who’ve had the good fortune to fish Lake of the Woods the past few years would probably say these are the good old days for trophy-size walleyes on the big lake, but last week’s AIM Pro Walleye Series tournament drove the point home in a record-setting way.
Walleye pro Rick Olson broke the all-time size record for AIM — which stands for Anglers Insight Marketing — with a 32¾-inch walleye that was estimated to weigh more than 14 pounds. Unlike most fishing tournaments, AIM uses a “catch, record and release” format to estimate the weight of fish based on their lengths rather than bringing them to the scales. The walleyes are released on the water after measuring and a couple of quick photographs, which greatly reduces the risk of mortality.
Tournament anglers can “weigh” their seven largest fish each day of the tournament.
High winds forced organizers to cancel the first day of the tournament last Thursday, but Sam Anderson of Eagan, Minn., on Friday got off to a fast start with four of his seven fish weighing more than 10 pounds. He held the lead Saturday to win the tournament with a two-day weight of 98.92 pounds for 14 walleyes — an average of more than 7 pounds per fish.
Anderson landed a Lund boat with a 150-horse Mercury four-stroke and trailer package valued at more than $35,000 for winning the tournament. Olson finished in second place with 82.94 pounds.
Marianne Huskey won the AIM Angler of the Year award, marking the first time in the history of professional walleye fishing that a woman has received the distinction. She placed 14th on Lake of the Woods, which was high enough to keep her at the front of the back because of her finishes at previous AIM events.
The fishing tournament was just one of the events held in conjunction with the inaugural “Walleye Fest” in Baudette, Minn. Besides weigh-in events at Willie Walleye Park, there was a “Party with the Pros” on Saturday night at Sportsmen’s Lodge and numerous kids’ activities.
AIM will be back on Lake of the Woods next year.
“The entire community of Baudette and Lake of the Woods area were honored to host some of the greatest anglers in the world, AIM Pro Walleye Series and representatives throughout the fishing industry,” Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, said in a news release. “It was great to see the big crowds at weigh ins. Fishing for our community means so much to so many and we are extremely blessed to be able to show off our world class fishery, beautiful natural resources, friendly people and local businesses to visitors.”