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Young Guns: Mueller, Kotkosky, Finish Atop Season's First AWWS Wisconsin Tournament on Fox River

Published By  OutdoorsFIRST Media
Published April 13, 2017

Sometimes-no, often-it pays to listen to your parents. And in 26-year-old Tyler Mueller's case, it paid big time, especially the paying-attention-to-the-little-details part that locks you onto a pod of big walleye. Mueller feels that attention to those little things his angler dad told him about helped him and partner Matt Kotkosky boat the five fish that earned them a win and $8,000 in their first-ever AIM tournament, the season-opener AIM Weekend Walleye Series Wisconsin Division Nitro Boats Open Sunday, April 9, on Green Bay's Fox River. And his dad, Todd Mueller, of Appleton was the first person Mueller called to say that what he learned from him hooked the 42.86 pounds of big females to take it all. "I wanted to call and let him be the first to know because he's the reason I'm fishing. I grew up with him as he fished tournaments professionally and locally for a while," Mueller said. "He always instilled in me to stay humble and pay attention to details. Whether it's the way some crankbaits run, or when you catch a fish, how neutral or aggressive it is, or catching them on a certain type of break. Those are some of the small things people sometimes overlook." He and Kotkosky, from nearby Little Chute, didn't, pulling bright pink, purple and green No. 9 Flicker Minnows and No. 7 Flicker Shads through a spot they'd found pre-fishing Friday and Saturday to land just seven fish, but that's all they needed. "We pre-fished Friday and Saturday and trolled boards up and down the whole river and even out in the lake, and didn't have anything, but then we got on that little break," Mueller said. That break was near the Highway 172 bridge, and it was a lucky break to find it. "Everybody was in the area but this was a little spot on a spot," he continued.

"We made a pass and found fish from 23 to 25 inches, and left. We jigged the river and cast some baits and caught a couple of small fish. We talked about it Saturday and decided we'd go back and be happy to catch those." That decision made the difference. They fished that break, he said, while other boats nearby concentrated on a "smoother" flat. "On our first pass Sunday, we had a 25-1/2-incher, and on the second, a 26-1/2-inch fish, and the third pass, we had a 29-1/2, and the fourth, a 26 or 27, and that was it." Between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., things slowed. "Then about 1, we had a board go back for a 28-1/4, and we were very happy with what we had. We got the first four, and the fifth was a 15-incher, and when we upgraded with that 28, that's what sealed the deal. We made one more pass and got one fish, a 20- or 21. I just threw it over the side because I knew it wasn't going to help us, and we left to go back about 2 p.m. to give ourselves extra time in case something happened to the boat. "We did the math on the weights and thought, no way we had that much," Mueller added. When they tied up at the dock, that's when he made that special call. "I'm thinking today it really hasn't hit yet what we did," Mueller said Tuesday. "Denny Fox (AWWS National Tournament Director) told us, 'you fished against some really good people and what you did was pretty incredible.'" 

Finishing second on the Fox and earning $2,400 with 38.82 pounds were the father-son team of Jeff and Ronald Erickson, from Appleton and Pulaski. Jeff reports that the pair also concentrated on the river in about 10- to 12-foot depths to card their five fish. "I knew the fish were in the river and temps were going to rise on game day, and that's where we went," he said. Heading downstream, they concentrated on an area that they knew post-spawn females would be jetting through on the way to Green Bay proper. "It was a grind. We got our first fish at 9:30 a.m. and our last at 2:15. Water temp was 45 in the morning and the last couple of days were warm, so we decided to target spawned-out females. At day's end the water was 48 and the fish were flying down the river," he said. They used dark colored Flickers to get their fish, ranging from 21-plus to 28 inches. "If we could have upgraded that 21 to a 24 or 25, we could have won it, but we didn't have the time." Mueller had nothing but good things to say about AIM's Catch-Record-Release™ format. "I love the format and the way AIM tournaments are run. I think this saves a lot of fish and a lot of headaches too. It seems like everyone's catching onto C-R-R and liking it," he said. Proof of that could well be AIM's next Wisconsin event April 23 on the Wolf River Chain near Winneconne. The 100-boat field is already filled, three weeks before launch. Teams will also have the opportunity to score from Garmin. The team winning with Garmin electronics during any 2017 AIM Weekend Walleye Series tourney will receive an extra $1,000.

Finishing third on the Fox and taking $1,800 with 37.27 pounds were Jacob Kaprelian, New Berlin, and Rob Korth, Pulaski. In fourth with 33.36 pounds, good for $1,500, were Lynn Niklasch, Oconomowoc, and Mark Kumorkiewicz, Pleasant Prairie. Fifth place with 29.89 pounds were Steve and Jason Goebel, both of St. Cloud, who took home $1,300. The top 15 finishers went home with checks, and will again at Winneconne. 

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM) is a unique tournament organization created and owned by many of the most accomplished and recognizable professional walleye anglers, along with others who share the mission of advancing competitive walleye fishing and making it sustainable into the future. AIM is committed to marketing excellence on behalf of its tournament competitors, the tournament host communities, and the brands that partner with it. AIM is also committed to maintaining healthy fisheries across the nation by the development of the exclusive AIM Catch-Record-Release™ format, which is integral to its dynamic events and unparalleled consumer engagement. 

For more information about AIM™, AIM Pro Walleye Series™, AIM Weekend Walleye Series, AIM sponsors and AIM anglers, visit www.aimfishing.com. AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats, LLC. AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Navionics, Garmin, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Vibrations Tackle, Pro Chattrr, National Fleet Graphics, Gemini Sport Marketing, Warrior Boat Center