A Passion for Setting Records: Four World Records, Two on Rapala Lures

When it comes to angling world records, Katie Wells has the magic touch. After securing four world records in one calendar year – two on Rapala fishing lures — this angler is only getting started.  

Miller, South Dakota – At the bottom of a dam with water rapidly rumbling, tossing and spraying at her ankles, Katie Wells stands with her feet firmly planted on the shore and her brow furrowed.

With one International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) world record and two Key West Tournament wins already under her belt, another record catch would further secure her standing as an elite angler. So far today, she has caught a largemouth and smallmouth bass (one for each hour that she spent on the water), but that isn’t enough. To complete the Bass Grand Slam that she yearns for, Wells needs a white bass. Any white bass.

A South Dakotan herself, fishing on the Missouri River in Fort Thompson is this angler’s bread and butter. She knows this water. She knows these fish. She shouldn’t have doubts, yet with daylight slipping by and her morale going with it, she decides she only has one more cast left in her.

So, she tosses her line into the water, knowing full well this is the last time she will make this motion today before giving up.

Lo and behold. A bite.

Immediately, the mood changes. Wells’ furrowed brow lifts in excitement as she pulls and cranks and finally reels a beautiful catch from the white, bubbling water. She holds it up for the whole ecosystem to witness and there it is…finally, a white bass.

This is already exciting considering this finishes out Wells’ goal to complete a Bass Grand Slam. However, looking at the size of the fish, Wells had an inkling this one was special for another reason. No measurements had confirmed it yet, but this intuitive angler just had that feeling. This was a world-record catch.

“When we got that white bass reeled in, my husband Jay and I looked at it and we were like…it’s got to be close,” recalled Wells, who took her first IGFA world record with a 32-pound, 14-ounce black grouper in Key West only a few months prior. “We found the flattest rock we could and got the measuring sticks set out…and it made it. It was great.”

Wells secured this catch with a Rapala® Clown Husky Jerk® on a 10-pound test fishing line. The final measurement came in at 42 centimeters, securing an official IGFA All-Tackle Length record for the white bass. Though ecstatic at this catch, this ambitious angler had bigger dreams than two world records.

“It’s so surreal sometimes until I get the certificates in the mail and I’m like, ‘Whoa, I did that,’” said Wells. “But I am always looking for the next challenge and a new adventure.”

From Hometown Fishing to World-Record Angler
Wells’ fishing career began at a very young age. Her earliest memories are fishing in the summertime with her father on the Missouri River. When it got cold, the pair took to ice fishing. Unfortunately, Wells’ youth ice fishing career ended after she stuck her foot in an iced-over hole when she was 11. She didn’t pick up the sport again until met her husband, Jay Wells, in her early twenties. The rest is history.

Since the meeting, the pair have traveled across the country together, enjoying the sport in Key West, Florida; Idaho; Wisconsin and more. Wells’ passion for the sport escalated to the point of record-breaking talent after she won the women’s division of the Key West Tournament twice.

“After that, we started looking for the next challenge,” said Wells. “We got to looking and we realized that some of these records would be fun to attempt to go after. We just wanted a new adventure and it all kind of fell into place at the right time. We’ve had some really good luck.”

‘Good luck’ is a humble way to put it. Wells is now the holder of four IGFA world records. Her first, a black grouper caught in Key West on Mother’s Day 2022, came in at 32 pounds and 14 ounces, securing the 20-pound line class women’s record. Her second world record was the Fort Thompson white bass. Her third was a coho salmon caught on a Rapala OG Slim 6 crankbait near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to set the 12-pound line class women’s record. And, finally, her fourth was another coho salmon, which broke the All-Tackle length record in late 2022.

Wells Secures Third World-Record Win with OG Slim® 6 Crankbait
Wells earned her third world record under similar circumstances to her second, although this time, she was in Racine, Wisconsin trolling up the Root River for coho salmon. The forecast called for stormy weather the next day, so they decided to be on the boat from sunup to sundown. After an hour and a half without one single bite, the fishing finally turned around. The overcast weather and depressing grey of the sky nearly caused her to quit early. Wells’ attitude of steel and humble spirit helped her push through.

“It was dreary, but I looked over at the back of the boat at the rod and I realized, ‘Huh, that’s a fish!’”  That’s when Wells reeled in her winning coho salmon with a Rapala OG Slim® 6 Crankbait.

The trip allowed for Wells to make many new and good memories.  “It was the time of the football season when the Packers were not doing well. There was a boat fishing next to us and he happened to snag into an Aaron Rodgers jersey that he pulled up out of the river,” said Wells. “I married a man from Minnesota, so it was a pretty sweet moment to witness.”

“I hope for the best sort of deal when we’re fishing because I don’t want to be sad at the end of the day. I have a good time when I’m out fishing. Even when I don’t catch a fish. Catching these world record-size fish is just a bonus.”

So, you want a world record? 
For other world-record seekers, Wells has one piece of crucial advice: Don’t let anyone else touch your fishing rod!

“One of the hardest lessons I learned is that if I’m going to enter a fish for a world record, nobody else can touch the fishing rod after I start to fight a fish,” said Wells. “I had one heartbreaking experience where I had a huge coho to enter, but he wrapped around a pole on a dock in the river that we were fishing. To get it off, the guide took the rod from me so I could step up onto the dock to unwrap it. That was a big, big no. I have to do all the fighting myself. Nobody else can touch the rod and nobody else can help me short of making sure I don’t fall out of the boat.”

After four world records, who knows what Wells will accomplish next? But one thing’s for sure, the world better keep an eye out for Katie Wells. She is nowhere near finished yet.

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