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Guide Who Puts First-Time Angler on World-Record Paddlefish Says It’s a ‘Dream Come True’

March 19, 2024 - Blog

Chad Williams of Olathe, Kansas, might never be able to top his first day fishing for paddlefish. On March 17, Williams went on a guided trip with five other friends and family members on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, where the group caught several big fish during the opening weekend of the state’s snagging season. The paddlefish that Williams landed weighed more than 164 pounds, breaking both the state and world records for the species, according to a press release from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“I’d never been snagging before,” Williams said. “Never seen a paddlefish — didn’t even know what it was!”  

Jason Smith, the fishing guide who put Williams on the world-record paddlefish, says they snagged the massive, prehistoric fish only 90 minutes into the trip. It was their second fish of the morning.

“We were trolling double treble hook snag rigs down about 30 feet in 55 feet of water when Chad hooked his fish,” Smith tells Outdoor Life. “We were below the 60 Mile Marker lake area.”

Williams lies next to the paddlefish for scale; the fish measured 62.125 inches long with a 47.25-inch girth. Photographs courtesy Jason Smith

He says it took Williams about 10 minutes to get the paddlefish to the side of the boat. Smith and his mate Eric Leech then gaffed the fish and hauled it into their boat.

“Chad knew it was huge, but he had never seen a paddlefish, and never had fished much at all,” Smith says. “He didn’t realize what he’d done.”

Smith had a pretty good idea that his client had landed a record breaker. But the fishing was excellent, he says, so they kept on trolling and reeling in paddlefish.

“We caught about a dozen fish, and kept seven big ones,” Smith says. “We had a 90-pounder, an 80-pounder, another couple of 70s — all huge paddlefish. But they all looked like minnows compared to Chad’s giant.”

After quitting for the day, they loaded up the giant paddlefish and went to the nearby town of Montreal to weigh it on the certified scales at Three Brothers Meat Company. The fish weighed 164 pounds 13 ounces, which was just enough to beat out the current world record of 164 pounds even, according to the MDC. (The International Game Fish Association does not recognize snagged fish as potential records, so Williams’ fish does not qualify for an IGFA all-tackle world record.) The fish also outweighed the standing Missouri state record by more than 24 pounds, and it’s been certified in Missouri’s “alternative methods” category, as opposed to the traditional pole-and-line category.

Read Next: How To Catch Giant Paddlefish with Giant Hooks

MDC reports that Williams kept the meat for his family and shared some with friends. He plans to have a taxidermist mount the record paddlefish.

Paddlefish are an unusual and prehistoric species known for their long, paddle-like rostrums (also known as “bills”). Because these fish feed exclusively on plankton, they don’t strike baits or lures, and most anglers catch them by snagging them with large treble hooks. They’re prized for their good-eating filets and tasty roe.

The group caught a number of good-sized paddlefish that day, but Williams’ fish dwarfed them all. Photograph courtesy Jason Smith

Smith shared his go-to snagging rig with Outdoor Life, which includes an in-line trolling device known as a Dipsy Diver. He says he usually fishes these rigs on 80-pound braid.

“I tie the Dipsy Diver to a line end, and rig one hook two feet above it, and a second hook about eight feet above it,” Smith explains. “Dipsy’s are old salmon trolling devices that we’ve learned to use here to take snag hooks down, and we troll with them using bait-casting tackle.”  

Missouri holds a roughly six-week-long snagging season for these freshwater giants every spring, and Smith says his season is off to a roaring start — especially with Williams’ world record making the news.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Smith says. “I might not have been able to be the one reeling in the fish, but it’s just as fulfilling knowing I was able to put him on this world record.”  

The post Guide Who Puts First-Time Angler on World-Record Paddlefish Says It’s a ‘Dream Come True’ appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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