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Miltona’s Wolden and Leininger win AIM Pro Walleye Series state championship

Miltona's Tyler Wolden holds up a big walleye that he caught on Lake of the Woods with Nate Leininger, also of Miltona, that helped the duo win the AIM Pro Walleye Series Minnesota state championship Aug. 17-18. (Submitted photo)1 / 3
Miltona's Tyler Wolden with another big walleye that helped him and teammate Nate Leininger with the AIM Pro Walleye Minnesota state championship this past weekend. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
Tyler Wolden and Nate Leininger of Miltona hold up their plaques for taking first place at the AIM Pro Walleye Minnesota state championship on Lake of the Woods Aug. 17-18. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Tyler Wolden and Nate Leininger of Miltona are both familiar names to all who follow the AIM Weekend Walleye Series, especially the Minnesota division. After this past weekend, they should be even more familiar.

Wolden and Leininger won the Yamaha Motor Corp. Minnesota Championship with 91.25 pounds on Lake of the Woods, an AWWS record for a two-day event.

The tournament took place Aug. 17-18. Wolden and Leininger run a local guiding service called Lakes Area Guide Service.

“All I could say was, ‘Wow.’ These two had this lake dialed in,” said AIM National Tournament Director Denny Fox. “Both they and the second-place team were fishing roughly the same spots, with one exception. In fact, the top five had it nailed, totaling just shy of 438 pounds of gravel lizards, in only two days. And the best part is, they’re still in the lake for you to catch again, thanks to AIM’s unique Catch-Record-Release format.”

That exception may have been the reason for that 2.6-pound difference to bring Wolden and Leininger first place and the accompanying $9,000 and a 2019 Warrior Boats National championship Shootout berth.

“We did find some colors that worked better,” Wolden said. He added that they had to go through multiples, a minimum of 10 styles, throughout the days.

They managed to finish second in Minnesota Team Of The Year standings, behind the winners by about .75 Points.

Wolden said that while he didn’t want to go into too much detail, they brought it home hauling cranks on lead core, using multiple colors to see what the fish preferred both days. They fished in the same locations on the lake’s north side. Those choices were also being affected by the smoky haze from the nation’s numerous wildfires, he said.

“With the fires going on, the mornings were hazy, and until the sun came up higher, we’d be changing colors as it got brighter throughout the day,” he said.

Here’s that winning difference: instead of sticking with their morning program of starting on an area with gravel/rock transitioning to mud all day, in the afternoon, they headed to the mud in the middle of the lake’s north end to pad their card and pick up some monstrous walleyes to win.

“We started on a gravel and rock transition, but as the day went on we also had a school in the middle of the area in mud that would turn on for us in the afternoon,” Wolden said. “So about 11 a.m. each day, we went to our mud fish and were able to upgrade.”

Rather than fish that turned on for a bit and then went to sleep, Wolden said that action was steady all day, both days.

“The bigger fish were in packs so you had to weed through a lot of smaller ones to find them, and just working really hard each day to find them,” he said. “Our biggest on day one was a 29-1/4, and on day two our first fish was a 30-3/4-inch walleye. Those were our two bigs. We had a couple of 28s and multiple 27-inch fish.”

Wolden also laid their success square at the feet of their teammates in two other boats, including the team of Randy Topper of Cohassett and Chuck Hassee of Walker, who took fifth, earning $1,700 for 85.20 pounds.

“It was critical to our success. I like to say hungry wolves hunt harder, so that teamwork is what did it,” Wolden said. “We set ourselves up to win and we knew we had to get into that 40-pounds a day area. The day prior to the tournament we had just about 50 pounds, so we knew we had to put 45-plus on our card, but you just never know.”

(AIM Pro Walleye Series press release)

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