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Fishing articles by John Kolinski on Walleyes Inc. Your one stop internet fishing source
Taking AIM at the Future
By John Kolinski
Editor's note: John Kolinski is the 2002 Professional Walleye Trail Angler of the Year, the 2003 Illinois River RCL winner and a 20-time championship qualifier. He is the only angler to fish the AIM and B.A.S.S. at the same time. His articles can be read in numerous Midwestern outdoor publications and at several web sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, MinnKota, Humminbird Electronics, Uncle Josh, Fin-Tech Fishing Tackle, Off-Shore Tackle, Navionics and Optima Batteries.
Competitive fishing is about adapting to changes in conditions, interpreting cause-and-effect relationships and anticipating what will happen on a given day.
Anglers who do the best job of analyzing and acting upon the data available to them are usually the last ones standing on the big stage at the end of a tournament or the end of a season.
The same can be said of our sport in general. While our sport has certainly felt the bite of a tough economy in terms of participation and sponsorship, it has also grown because of those challenges.
Contrary to popular belief, the future of competitive walleye fishing has never been brighter.
As exhibit A, I offer the new Anglers Insight Marketing (AIM) walleye fishing circuit. It's not the local fishing derby our grandpappy knew.
AIM is the product of a handful of professional walleye fishing's brightest minds, who recognized the shortcomings of other circuits and addressed them with a sound business strategy and techno-savvy execution.
It isn't a takeoff of the old Professional Walleye Trail. It's an entirely new approach to tournament fishing. It's owned by its anglers and supported by its sponsors, not the other way around.
AIM is angler-friendly yet environmentally responsible, and that's one of the biggest reasons it has attracted interest from other tournament fishing organizations.
John Kolinski prefishin in his Triton boat When AIM's anglers catch a fish, it is recorded and released within minutes. No 50-mile boat rides in a crowded livewell with two or three stops to refresh the fish. No frisky, slippery walleyes squirting from an angler's hands onto a concrete floor. No washed-out, nearly lifeless lunkers being toted from the boat to the weigh-in stage, held up for pictures, and then tossed into a cooler to eventually become fillets for the local food bank or assisted-care facility.

In other words, AIM is committed to protecting the resource, not abusing it. As a result, it can acquire permits to fish nearly anywhere any time of the year, and more communities are receptive to hosting a circuit that doesn't threaten its fishery.
From an angler's standpoint, AIM increases my fishing time. When fish were kept and weighed, there were days when I had my limit by 9 a.m. and had to stop fishing as per state and tournament regulations and spend the rest of the day tied up to the dock, sitting in the boat and waiting for the weigh-in. It's hard on the fish and hard on the anglers.
Now, everyone is on a level playing field and luck doesn't factor into the outcome nearly as much as it might in a slot tournament.
Because no fish are kept, rules regarding the culling of fish don't apply. Whomever catches the largest fish wins. I remember so many days on bodies of water with a slot limit where I had to make a decision early in the day whether to keep a 17-inch walleye or throw it back. Too often, I made the wrong decision and regretted it later. I've also had too many days where every walleye I caught seemed to fall within the protected slot, while another angler got two or three of the "right" bites and finished better without actually outfishing me.
Now, each fish is recorded on camera and paper as soon as it's caught. It's photographed on an AIM-assigned bump board, photographed with either the pro or co-angler holding it, then released. At the end of the day, your seven largest fish make up your weight.
I feel like I'm a better host for my co-angler. With an empty livewell, there's more room for food and refreshments. With no need to fret over travel time, fish care and catching the right fish in the right order, there's a lot less stress involved. However, my heart did nearly stop during my first AIM tournament when I went back to the livewell to check my fish and there weren't any there.
Many people expressed concerns about the format of AIM weigh-ins. With no fish, how would they pull off an entertaining and dramatic show? With the technology AIM has employed, weigh-ins are actually more compelling than ever.
When we get to the dock, we hand over our cameras and memory cards, which are then quickly processed by AIM staff into a brief video that shows on the big screen behind us as we are interviewed by the emcee. We can get a little extra face time for ourselves and our sponsors by shooting our own video during the day.
For those who survive the cut to fish the final day of a tournament, web cams and tracking devices add a real-time dimension to everything. Fans can log on to the AIM web site ( and watch where each angler goes during the day and what he or she catches. At the weigh-in, all that video and data is edited and packaged for the big screen.
Co-anglers under the AIM umbrella aren't competing for big bucks. They pay $250 to fish two or three days with the pros, and the co-angler whose team catches one fish has the same chance to win a major prize as one who catches seven fish. It seems like it's made co-anglers who would have previously been fishing for big prize packages less inclined to break the rules by telling their pros where they were or what they did with other pros on previous days.
Beyond the world of AIM, there are other signs that walleye fishing is alive and well.
Major manufacturers like Triton and Mercury are certainly feeling the pinch as consumers delay decisions to make big purchases, but people still need bait, tackle and accessories.
Some circuits have reduced entry fees. Most have taken steps to reduce the travel required by anglers. In some cases, anglers feeling the financial pinch have changed to less expensive, less demanding circuits to stay in the competitive game. Some pros who previously made their living entirely within the fishing industry are taking on parttime work to bridge the income gap.
Eventually, the economy will rebound. Tournament fishing will come back stronger than ever. And those in the walleye game will be leading the charge.


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