Tackle & Techniques: the perfect rig!

Tackle & Techniques: the perfect rig!

Aug 30, 2015

How to Catch 2,000 Fish in a Day!

By Mike Pehanich

What’s a good day for you?

Five fish? A dozen fish? Maybe a 50-fish day?

Believe it or not, guys like John Wilkins and Jeff Kolodzinski sometimes measure their per diem catches by the thousands.

In fact, when Small Waters Fishing met with Wilkins in Oak Brook Terrace, Illinois, two seasons ago, he made it clear that anything short of 2,650 would be a disappointment.He stated his goal in writing and it at his fishing station when he started his day.

Wilkins followed tight rules and had round-the-clock judges on hand to record his catch.of 2,011 fish in 24 hours.

Wilkins followed tight rules and had round-the-clock judges on hand to record his catch.of 2,011 fish in 24 hours.

He had arrived with a plan and a purpose. Wilkins was out to break Jeff Kolodzinski’s then reigning Guinness Book of World Records single-day (24-hour) catch record of 2,649 fish.

Wilkins had arrived and pitched camp amid an entourage of family, friends, fans, press members, a team of judges to witness the catch count, and an atomic clock to make it 24-hour official!

It didn’t take long for the buzz and banners to attract bystanders. Word spread, and a curious crowd swelled around the record seeker and the half dozen rigged poles on a neatly set up rack an arm’s length from his perch — a comfortable fold-out chair complete with fixed shade umbrella with bait table, bait and angling accouterments within arm’s reach.

Wilkins fell short of the world record, but his Illinois record catch number – 2,011 — did dazzle.

More importantly, Wilkins demonstrated that catching fish can be downright simple if you apply sound principles, plan well, equip yourself with basic tools, and, well, get out and do it!!

How was he able to pull off this amazing feat? More importantly, how can a fisherman accustomed to consistently modest catches goose his catch rate by the dozens, hundreds or even thousands?

Here’s what Wilkins did and what he teaches through the Chicago Fishing School and the Chicago Suburban Fishing Club that he founded.

SWF Note: To newcomers to fishing, I always hammer home the two principles that I deem essential to anyone learning to fish or introducing newcomers or young people to fishing, particularly bank fishing for panfish and anything else that might sniff their bait.

First, fish where the fish are! Find a lake and an area of that lake that host an abundance of fish. This seems absurdly simple, yet so many fishermen take little time to learn the waters they fish and home in on the areas where fish concentrate. Instead they waddle over to fishing piers and cleared banks and beach areas whether they hold fish or not. Countless articles have been written on fish location and fish habitat. This isn’t one of them. But I would be remiss if I did not repeat this ever important principle.

Secondly, go light, a key principle in Johnny Wilkins’…

Wilkins carefully equipped his fishing station and chummed the area with Marukyu ground baits that were largely based on krill and insects -- natural food and attractants for a wide range of fish species. Judges witnessed and recorded his catch throughout the 24-hour period.

Wilkins carefully equipped his fishing station and chummed the area with Marukyu ground baits that were largely based on krill and insects — natural food and attractants for a wide range of fish species. Judges witnessed and recorded his catch throughout the 24-hour period.

Simple plan

Johnny Wilkins always thinks “light,” as in “light tackle.” His line is gossamer thin, his hooks tiny, and his soft split shot the size of grains of birdseed. The rest of his tackle is similarly matched.

“My floats (bobbers) and terminal rig set-up is ultra-sensitive,” he says. “Most people don’t realize how quickly a fish can take and spit out a bait. If you are not properly rigged, you may not detect or be able to react to the strike.”

Line – A main line testing 4 to 6 pound test is a good place to start. He uses light monofilament leader from 0.75-pound test to 2-pounds for the most part, but often turns to fluorocarbon which is less visible and generally more abrasion-resistant than mono. Says Wilkins: “Fluorocarbon is expensive. You can save a little money with monofilament all the way up to the short hook leader.

Hooks — At the business end of his line he ties tiny hooks, usually a #12 or #14, though it is not unusual for him to opt for a #16 or even #18. “I use hooks made from hardened steel,” says Wilkins. They are thinner and lighter than the hooks most fishermen use.”

SWF Note: Now hooks that size can be hard to find and hard to handle, but I would still recommend you stay with #10 or #12 hooks as much as possible and go no larger than a #8 unless you are using bait too large for such hooks or encounter an abundance of large fish like bass or catfish. Even then, I would start small and ease my way up rather than start big. Wilkins snells his hooks — using very light leader material once again — for easier handling and replacement on the water. Tiny hooks can easily disappear from your hand when you are on the water or bank.

Float (a.k.a.bobber) – If oversized hooks are barriers to success, those giant “beach ball” style red and white bobbers will trip up your fishing even worse! Fish are sensitive to resistance when they nip at or inhale a bait, and if the fish finds a tiny wax worm or red worm offering unnatural resistance even that tiny fish brain knows that something is not right! Wilkins opts for long, thin floats that offer little resistance and can be balanced to respond to the slightest nudge from a fish. For competition, he uses a slim prototype bobber with fine antennae ends. He hopes to bring the float to market next spring. For everyday fishing, he currently recommends Gapen floats & bobbers.

Bait and Attractant

Wilkins employs a mix of live bait and ground bait attractant in his fishing.

Wax worms, spikes — Wax worms and spikes (maggots) are best known as ice fishing baits, but — truth be told — they are equally effective on panfish and other species throughout the open water season. In fact, they were John Wilkins’ baits on his 2,000-plus fish day. Spikes are tougher than wax worms. They can be hooked in the head and keep wiggling. Wax worms don’t last long on the hook.

SWF Note: The source of the attractiveness of both these baits to fish seems have deep roots. Their simple shape and subtle squirming action are probably reminiscent of the plankton that play such an important role in the fish’s diet during the formative years. And even when they are dead, squished and waterlogged, they leave a scent trail that fish lap up.

Marukyu's krill-based chum is one of Wilkins' primary attractants.

Marukyu’s krill-based chum is one of Wilkins’ primary attractants.

Ground bait attractant – Before he begins fishing, Wilkins seeds the area with attractant, a Marukyu ground bait or a mix of wax worms, spikes, and ground bait. Once he has lured a concentration of fish to the area and sparked active and even frenzied feeding, he will continue to spread handfuls of attractant across the area to sustain the action. “The Marukyu baits are phenomenal,” he said. “They use krill and insects and other natural foods fish feed on. That is why their baits are superior. There really are no other products that compare to theirs. The only drawback I found the day I was trying to break the record was that they drew in too many big fish!”

SWF Note: Now Wilkins was not out to catch BIG fish the day of his 2,011-fish catch. With the world record in his sights and a needed average of almost two fish per minute, he hoped to have limited encounters with lunkers.

The species he caught that day were bluegill, channel catfish, bullhead, carp, largemouth bass, golden shiners, hybrid sunfish and even fathead minnows that didn’t realize that they would be biting a hook rather than riding one that day. On a numbers hunt, every fish is equal to the next. No matter its size, its species, or the color of its skin or scales, every fish counts the same!

Though most of his fish were small, he did catch 12 fish that most freshwater anglers would deem “big.” The largest that I witnessed was a 6-pound carp. Six other fish broke his line, to further slow his angling progress. Shocking to many was that he caught even these big fish on his simple delicate tackle and tiny size 12 to 16 hooks.

Pole/Rod – For numbers fishing and much of his competitive fishing, Wilkins fishes with a telegraphic graphite pole – no reel – from eight to 42 feet long! The pole eliminates mechanical failure and line twist issues, and it enables the angler to swing a fish in and return his bait to the water in less time than it would take to cast and reel.

The action on these poles is very fast with very little bend throughout most of the poles until you get to the soft, fast-flexing tip section. About 7/8 of the pole is stiff; the remaining section is soft and limber. “That soft tip section allows you to use light line because it absorbs the shock,” says Wilkins. “But because the pole is stiff most of the way up the blank, that allows you to get a fast hookset. That is important because bluegill and crappie and anything you use this rig for — and some people use it for trout — can eject a bait so fast! A slow pole will kill you.”

In place of rod and reel, Wilkins uses telescopic graphite poles that he can extend anywhere from eight to 20 or even 30-plus feet in length.

“For speed (“numbers”) fishing, I usually go with a 3 meter pole, which is 9.5-10 feet long because on some lakes, you don’t want to be too far out. Now sometimes you need that extra three or four feet to get to the deep edge. But in most cases the 9-10 foot pole will do it. But note that most of these poles are listed in ‘meters’ – 3 meter, or 4 meter.”

Of course, Wilkins fishes with rod and reel as well, though not when he is out for a lightning quick “numbers” catch. His rod and reel choices are well conceived, too, but they are subjects for another time!

Marukyu baits are available at Lee’s Global Tackle (www.leesglobaltackle.com; phone: 847/593-6424) and Wacker Bait & Tackle (phone: (708) 450-0305).

For additional information on Marukyu products, contact Munenori, Kajiwara at 630/299-6508 or check out the Japan Import Tackle website (www.japanimporttackle.com)

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