Sometimes it pays to fish local as Lake City residents and brothers Christopher and Joseph Kujawa finished first and second, respectively, in the inaugural AIM/Quest For The Best tournament.
“It’s not too often that an event like this comes to our hometown. We just hold the entire field in high regard of their capabilities. We didn’t grow up aspiring to be tournament anglers. To actually be on the water to compete against the people we look up to and admire was great, and to beat them was even more special to us,” Joseph Kujawa said in a press release.
The Kujawas were on the water pre-fishing four or five days prior to the tournament and had a good idea what they’d be doing. Namely, Pool 4.
“We never fished Pool 3, and there wasn’t time to learn it all,” Joseph said.
The last day of practice they put together a program trolling Number 5 Berkley Flicker Shads and Rapala Shad Raps along Lake Pepin’s Wisconsin shoreline. They downsized because of a recent mayfly hatch to more closely match what the fish were dining on, catching fish up to 29 inches. The plan was to head to the lake in the morning and return to the Wisconsin river channel to finish the day. However, issues arose.
“Our first couple of spots didn’t produce, and finally around 10 a.m. we decided to head up to the river to collect a limit of whatever was willing to offer,” Joseph said.
They pushed further onto the flat they were targeting, catching two to four at every pass, their first just over 12 inches, then 18, 19 and 20. Then around 11 a.m….
“We put 20 pounds in the boat in two fish, that was a huge weight lifted off us,” Joseph said. Two more came in and by then their smallest fish was 19 inches.
The brothers led the first day of the tournament with 40.30 pounds.
On the second day, they headed to the same flat they did so well at, making their first pass and catching some 20-inch fish. On their third, again using trolled jumbo leeches, they netted their biggest of the day, a 27-inch fish.
Then the current changed so they adjusted their run and ended up picking up a few more. When they left, they had an estimated 23 pounds.
“We had one more place to try on the way back, and there we upgraded two of our fish in the rain. We felt we had around 25 pounds,” Chris said. “At that point, we figured we had either first or second but weren’t sure. We were pretty nervous going in.”
When they finally learned at the weigh-in broadcast live on AIM’s Facebook page that they’d won, they were ecstatic.
“It’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve ever won, since it was our home water,” Chris said. “We usually spend most of our time on the lake and the fact that we won it in the river meant a lot because we’d been trying to figure that out. And the level of competition, with a lot of local heavy hitters, and a lot of big-name national tour guys, and we were able to do it, it’s special.”
Coming in at second place with 61.25 pounds were Kyle Brantner and Nathan Patraw, both from Pepin, Wis. In third place with 55.22 pounds were Jarrad Fluekiger, of Alma, Wis., and Joe Newcomb of Pepin, Wis.