CHICAGO, IL — The key goal of any angler is to catch fish. Some go for quality and species, but for Illinois angler Johnny Wilkins the goal is quantity. Wilkins, who runs his own fishing school in the Chicago suburbs, worries marketing and television have robbed folks of the joy of simply catching fish.
“I think the fishing is great everywhere, it’s just our equipment is focused on that little tiny point in the food chain pyramid,” Wilkins said during a Saturday appearance on Ram Trucks West Virginia Outdoors. “It’s all focused on just the bass or the northern pike or the musky. That only makes up about five percent of the fish in the water.”
Wilkins aims to show the world there’s joy in catching any species and it’s possible to catch a lot of them anywhere. This Friday, Wilkins will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most fish caught in a 24 hour period. The record is presently 2,649 fish.
“I believe about 138 fish an hour is world record pace,” he said. “That’s 1.8 fish per minute.”
The old record is held by Jeff Kolodzinzki, who spent a 24 hour period casting for bluegills in Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka. Kolodzinzki used a single cane pole and live maggots for bait. Wilkins, who is friends with Kolodzinzki, plans a similar approach.
“The record is based on a one-hook system, so the rig itself is very simple. It’s going to be the same as George Washington would rig up,” he said. “You find a willow reed and rig it up with a bite indicator and a hook, that’s it.”
Wilkins will start his fishing effort Friday afternoon at a pond in suburban Chicago and go at it all night. He expects the pace will be fast and furious. He has two big enemies, one will be fatigue.
“I’ll get pruny hands in there somewhere and then probably the brain going to sleep when you’re supposed to be real sharp getting bites,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready to go. If you’re slow to react you’re going to get a swallowed hook and that’s going to slow you down.”
The other potential pitfall would be a predator fish moving into his area. It’s possible all of the commotion of smaller fish feeding and being jerked out of the water could trigger a bigger fish to move in for a feeding frenzy. Wilkins said because the pond where he’s fishing doesn’t have many big predators it’s not likely, but definitely possible.
Dozens of volunteers are lined up for the event. Two will be dubbed official judges and will have to certify every single fish caught to meet the qualifications for the record. Another volunteer will have to video the feat.
“Getting the volunteers in order, along with all of the paperwork for the record, has probably been the hardest part,” he said. “I hope I have all of it right, but whether I do or don’t, I’m going to go for it and we’ll see.”