The Guinness Book Calls it The World Record – 2,172 Fish Caught in a 24 Hour Period
Aug 2nd, 2021 by Keith Worrall
Modified Aug 2nd, 2021 at 2:54 PM
by Cory Schmidt For In-Fisherman magazine
2172: The Guinness Book calls it the world record for the greatest number of fish caught in a 24-hour period, all of them on a simple float and hook rig. Actually, Jeff “Kolo” Kolodzinski, a world-class match fisherman who’s represented Team USA in World Championships of Freshwater Fishing, caught 2,654 fish—roughly two bluegills, perch, crappies, or bass per minute—in one day from one waterbody last year.
Mick Thill and he Marathon Man
The numbers sound extraordinary because, well, they are. But the truth is, the energetic fishing industry veteran and talented angler doesn’t do this to break records or amaze anyone with his angling skills. Since 2011, Kolo’s Marathon Man event has been all about raising money for a charity called Fishing for Life an awesome faith-based organization that serves kids, families, and veterans through fishing and outdoors outreach. Kolodzinski estimates that his annual Marathon Man events have probably raised in excess of $100K—and as he’ll tell you, he’s just getting started.
A student of the late, great Mick Thill, Kolodzinski spent much of his youth traveling with the legendary match fisherman and float-fishing maestro to seven different countries, in perpetual search for a gold medal. “I was Mick’s stand-in and crash test dummy,” says Kolodzinski, who these days works as brand manager for Johnson Outdoors. “Back in the late 80s and early 90s, folks around Chicago and throughout the Midwest were clamoring for information on float-fishing and advanced shore fishing methods, which Mick brought over from England.
I became his sounding board and often the guy who ended up doing the seminars when he was too busy.” To that point, having scarcely left his home sphere around Gary, Indiana, Kolodzinski experienced the full magnitude of match fishing, advanced float methods, and their worldwide popularity during his first visit abroad. “It was 1991. Mick called to tell me he had good news and bad news.
The good news was, I was going with Mick and Team USA to Europe. The bad news, I’d have to compete on the men’s team because I’d just turned 18.”
Starry-eyed and unprepared for what awaited over-seas, Kolodzinski hopped on a plane to London, met Thill, and the two anglers drove to Hungary. “When we arrived at the venue (waterbody), the scale of match fishing completely blew me away,” he recalls. “Here I was with a single rod, a bit of tackle, and the shirt on my back.
Meanwhile, a luxury Mercedes van rolls in and out steps the fancy five-man Italian team. A second Mercedes bus pulls in, carrying their families. And a third 24-foot transport is packed wall to wall with rods, tackle, bait, and all their match fishing gear.” Kolodzinski would go on to compete at the highest levels, finishing in the middle of the pack that first year, tutored and trained at every step by team captain Thill. “Mick would ramble up and down the bank and do his best Bobby Knight imitation,” Kolodzinski says. “He’d holler and shout at you over the tiniest details, things that would go unnoticed by 99 percent of anglers today. He scared the living daylights out of me, but it was his nature as a perfectionist to keep us on the right track.
And at the end of it all, I went home and started catching more fish than almost everyone else around me.” On Great Lakes piers while fishing for salmon, trout, and walleyes, and rivers for catfish and carp, and ponds for panfish, Kolodzinski’s new-wave float tactics drove onlooking anglers to near-madness as they attempted to match wits and creels with the young angler. Many years later, there’s still a calculated reason why Kolo enters every Marathon Man event with the same 10-foot pole, fluorocarbon line, float, lead shot, tiny barbless hook and tub of bait.
Beyond Sinking Bobbers
It remains inexplicable that most American anglers still haven’t ditched the old plastic bobbers and adopted Thill’s float game. Having known Thill, I can attest that he liked to create the illusion of a secret elixir or that float-fishing was far more complex than a mere hook, line, and bobber. In fact, it’s all based on some very simple concepts. And that doesn’t necessarily mean it sinks. “One thing Mick always taught is that there’s no such thing as a nibble. If your float sinks or merely tips on its side, that means a fish has taken the bait into its mouth. Often, fish rise up as they bite, tip-ping the float on its side, but many anglers don’t identify this as a bite. How quickly a fish rejects the bait and hook depends largely on your ability to present a balanced offering and one in which the float offers next to zero resistance.”
Most of the precision floats sold in Europe denote max weight (sinker) load on the stem, such as 1 gram (approximately 1/32 ounce) for an ultra-sensitive quill float, for example. Thill Floats, now owned by Pradco, don’t display weight designations on its floats, requiring you to experiment until you find the right amount of lead shot. The goal with most floats is to achieve near neutral buoyancy in the rig, with the red tip of the float just barely protruding above the surface.
With slip floats such as the Thill Mini Stealth, one of the best performing panfish tools available, two BB size shot and a 1/32-ounce jig are a near-perfect match. For fixed-float fishing, Kolodzinski suggests steer-ing clear of metal spring versions, which abrade the line and create tangles. He suggests something like a Thill Mini-Shy Bite, which pins the line to the base of the stem with a small rubber sleeve. Float specialists often prefer to surround the base of a float with lead shot, perhaps a single Thill Double Cut Soft Shot or size-1 Raven Super Soft Split Shot on either side of the stem.
You can also convert a slip float into a fixed float with this method. But the motivation behind this weighing scheme is all about balance, near-neutral buoyancy, and keeping the lower stem completely submerged. Then, you add additional shot farther down the line if extra weighting is required. Beyond the round, earless soft shot, another slick option for precision weighting is to use a moldable, putty-style tungsten weight, such as Loon Outdoors Deep Soft Weight. Pinch off any amount of the charcoal colored putty, form it to shape such as a long string, and pinch it onto your line.
This stuff is super stealthy, won’t mar or damage your fishing line, and can be reshaped and reused again and again. I also prefer a string of putty when panfish are nipping at the split shot rather than the hook. Another effective option is to bunch the weights just below the stem, allowing a plain baited hook below a freer range of motion, including a natural descent that matches a sinking insect or bit of food. This can also be excellent with small, lively minnows, as the free range of movements works to induce sluggish crappies to make the kill shot. Particularly when used in conjunction with baiting (chumming) your fishing area with maggots, anglers like Kolodzinski often opt for this natural, free swinging hook method. He wants his descending tiny hook and maggot to resemble loose feed, or a free sinking terrestrial critter, which panfish rarely reject. For fishing deeper, he typically employs additional shot spaced in a shirt button pattern. This is particularly effective for use with a waggler style float such as the Thill Stealth or TG Waggler, which fish exceedingly well in windy conditions. Properly weighted and submerged, the bulbous base of these floats adds stability and slows its drift. In all but extremely shallow water, a waggler is the ultimate pan fish float. Again, the float should be weighted so only the top inch or two of the stem protrudes through the surface film. In windy conditions, dip your rod tip below the surface to prevent excessive line drag.
Float Tackle Mechanics
To use a waggler in slip float fashion for applications deeper than about 3 feet, it’s necessary to use a stop knot, positioned to allow the float to slide up the line, stopping the hook or jig a set distance above the bottom. This raises a few important notes about the right types of float rods. I’ve long believed that longer rods rule for float fishing, and that certainly holds true for both fixed and slip float applications. A long 8 to 10 foot rod can certainly be an advantage for setting hooks. More to the point, rod length is key to mending line as the float drifts and picking up slack line quickly, if necessary. Line mending as a fly angler would (removing slack and line bows) helps present your offering in a drug free, natural drift while maintaining contact when fish bite. Of course, extra length also helps you deliver the rig into tight windows, or even dip the float into pockets between aquatic plant mats—and then, to set and hoist fish straight out of the cover.
A rod-like the 9-foot St. Croix Panfish Series is almost the perfect soft, light, moderately fast-action tool and its length works both in a boat or from shore. But where most of these longer rods fail is in the diameters of their upper guides, which are almost always too small to allow for smooth passage of a stop knot. One workaround Kolodzinski suggests is to tie your own stop knots with a piece of thinner, soft braided line, such as 10 pound test Power Pro. A smaller stop knot makes a smoother passage through even micro rod tips, but may require frequent retightens. A stop knot can be tied in under a minute, starting with a 6 to 8 inch section of braid. Run the braid parallel to the mainline, form a loop, and then pass the looped tag end back through the loop 5 to 7 times. Moisten and snug the knot by pulling on both tag ends.
Trim the tags so just enough line remains to allow you to grip and retighten the knot, as needed. Slide a tiny plastic bead between the knot and the float. Finally, slide the knot to the desired position and go to town. When a bite occurs, reel slowly until the line is taught (not tight) to the fish. Drop the rod tip and then sweep it to the side, forming a deep arc, which is more than enough to drive the hook home. As noted, Kolodzinski now prefers fluorocarbon for his float-fishing leaders, despite that it sinks at about 2 1/2 times faster than mono. He feels the abrasion resistance and low vis nature of fluoro outweighs other factors, such as flotation and stretch. I’ll take this one step further, suggesting the use of a fluorocarbon coated nylon, such as ASSO New Micron 3, which can be spooled on a spinning reel while offering amazing consistency and excellent strength to diameter ratios. I use 3-pound test with tiny floats and super clear water and opt for 5 or 6 pound test around cover.
ASSO offers exceptional float-fishing lines, designed for match fishing and with the advantages of both fluoro and mono in one. While you’re shopping for ASSO line at yourbobbersdown.com, grab a Pan-fish Toothpick an invaluable tool for extracting deep hooks from tiny mouths safely and without damaging small hooks. The scarcity of match-quality floats in America has prompted many anglers to order from the UK. Harris Sportsmail (harrissportsmail.com) is one of several fine online retailers offering excellent precision float tackle. One of the more interesting options I’m excited to try this year are the inter-changeable float systems that allow you to mix and match different waggler bases to a stem. Weighted Guru Waggler Converters slip onto the base of a quill-style foam or balsa float, adding ballast and balance and matching different fishing situations.
Float-Fishing Quick Tips
Baiting— Where legal, free-offering bits of bait is a powerful method of attracting fish, firing up feeding activity and keeping them below your float. Something called a swim feeder is essentially a small hollow cylinder with holes. Attached to your fishing line—often just above your hook—the feeder is filled with maggots or other bait, which escape when submerged and filled with water. The swim feeder represents a type of fishing and a mindset that’s largely foreign to American anglers.
Power of the Plain Hook— While anglers commonly anchor their float rigs with weighted jigheads, Kolodzinski largely prefers a tiny Aberdeen, Kahle, or octopus-style hook baited with as little as a single maggot or plain minnow. The ultra-light nature of a tiny hook yields the most natural drift and movement and allows fish to easily inhale the weightless morsel without resistance. Don’t overlook tiny #12 to #18 fly-tying hooks baited with live larvae for the utmost in finesse.
Float ‘n’ Fly— Matching the eminent float ‘n’ fly technique for bass on a panfish scale, Kolodzin-ski suggests a Thill Mini-Shy Bite float and a tiny 1/64- or 1/80-ounce hair jig. Or, for longer casts, try a Double X Tackle Quick Float. Several clacker, rattler, and wobble float styles apply to float ‘n’ fly techniques as well. Retrieves vary widely, from various stop and go moves, popping in place, or just a continuous swimming cadence—all can be deadly panfish presentations, particularly for big selective bluegills or sluggish crappies. Also an especially great method for suspended fish.
Deepwater Perch— On the Great Lakes, Kolodzinski employs a bodied waggler float to target perch as deep as 42 feet. He uses two groupings of split shot. The first three small shot are placed 24 to 36 inches above the hook, while a second grouping of shot 18 inches up from there provides balance and ballast. He uses either a #6 bronze Aberdeen hook and live minnow or a #10 VMC 9299 octopus hook with waxworms or mayfly larvae.
Kolodzinski suggests that beyond its ability to suspend a bait at a given depth, a float can also convey data about the underwater terrain. “By watching how the float reacts as you cast to different spots, you can often discover little drop-offs, rises, weed patches and other fish-holding zones,” he says. “Sometimes, during initial casts from shore—or even a boat—I connect a pinch-on weight to the base of the rig and slowly retrieve it back. If the float tips over, the rig is sitting on the bottom. And sometimes, just a few-inch dip or rise in the terrain can be enough to hold fish. When you’re fishing heavily pressured water, particularly from shore, such minor details can help keep you on fish.”
This September 10 and 11, the Marathon Man will be back in action one more time. For an entire 24-hour span, Kolo will be watching his little float dabble, twitch, and dart below the surface—probably a few thousand times. “On the 20th anniversary of 911, we’ll be at the Sankoty Lakes near Peoria, Illinois, raising money for military families, especially for families who lost loved ones,” Kolodzinski says. “My goal is to catch 2,977 fish in 24 hours—one to honor each and every person who perished that infamous day, all through the language of fishing.” Kolo’s venerable match-fishing marathon will almost certainly happen live online a virtual float fishing clinic all anglers can appreciate.