Mick Thill Passes Away – Chicago Mentor

Mick Thill – He’s Our Teacher

Mick Thill, a huge influencer of local, regional and national fishing from the 1980’s until modern time has passed away, and will be sorely missed. Angling Hall of Famer, Mick Thill died in November 2018 in London, but will be missed here in Chicago where he called home. We were contributors to a recent Midwest Outdoors tribute article and will also do a tribute of our own coming up with the biggest Mick Thill photo gallery. I was honored to fish with Mick Thill in 2 of my 3 World Championships of fishing, traveling to Canada, China, Belgium, Portugal and fishing with Mick Thill as the Captain of Team U.S.A. This is the highest level fishing competition in the world. Here is the article which you can find in the February 2019 issue of Midwest Outdoors:


Chicago Fishing School – Mick Thill Tribute

Mick Thill was born in Skokie and traveled all over the United States teaching, no – preaching float fishing and trying to improve every single person’s fishing in the United States and even up in Canada. Mick Thill was voted into the Fishing Hall of Fame despite some influencers in the industry being either jealous, or put off by his teachings. While a few in the industry copied and even stole his fishing methods for their own, many dismissed him as a “European” or foreigner.

Compleat Angler - Mick Thill Favorite Book
Mick Thill’s favorite book recommendation – The Compleat Angler is considered #3 behind the Bible and Shakespeare. It is one of the most reprinted English books in the World. Photo from the Smithsonian.

European Prejudice or American Racism?

The prejudice against his different nature, accent, confidence were combined with the racist views against the fish he caught and the style of fishing were used against him (and float fishing). Bobber fishing in the U.S. has been put down for generations as being lower class. Lesser fishing – it has been written even in the late 1600’s as being views as a lower class pursuit. One of Mick’s favorite teachings was the The Compleat Angler written by Sir Isaac Walton. Another prejudice against Mick is that he was “smarter” than the average trade show speaker and many guides in terms of fishing. He COULD truly fish circles around them and would often challenge people that he would bet his truck – a float-filled limited edition Eddie Bauer – against anyone’s $10,000 that he could out fish you. Sadly, no one took the bait. We would have loved to see it.  Even in the 1680’s prejudice against fishing with live bait under a float was mainstream. Mick usually liked swimming against the current, and even fishing against it.

Racist Hate for Carp & Catfish

Racism in America is alive and well, and Mick took the lumps for it. He is a foreigner, trying to teach us to “N•gger fish” – people might say out loud or may think it subconsciously. I am positive Mick heard it. If they didn’t think the term, they at least had evil thoughts about this beastly-strong and careful-feeding fish.

Mick loved every fish that swims. He would use the common German imported carp to teach people to setup, hook and play large fish. This fish is the most readily available species in North America (stocked in the U.S. across country in the late 1880’s as a game fish and food – but mostly for Blacks, Chinese & Irish poor). This fish was available since it was stocked by the U.S. Fish & Game Commission for ANYONE to fish for who did NOT possess a new annual license privilege. While I don’t argue for White privilege – the carp to this day holds hatred, misinformation and is viewed as lower class here in the United States – while Mick Thill was upper class in fishing.

Carp and Any Fish Where His Favorite

Since he loved fish, loved carp, catfish – people passed some hatred and bias onto Mick and his teachings. While some were smart enough to realize what he taught was worth stealing and putting in their own classes (copying and plagiarizing directly from his seminars) – Mick told me who you are… , some didn’t approve of Mick because of this crazy fish hatred. The proof can be seen in the Hall of Fame entries that preceded him, it took years to get Mick Thill in the Hall of Fame.

Our own note- if it swims, is a challenge to catch, will bend your hook straight, bust your line and burn out a reel – not to mention, tear your arms off – isn’t that a good fish?

While Mick worked very hard forming local clubs, traveling to Boyscout events, meeting with DNR, working trade shows and even rubbing elbows with celebrities – he was all the time making converts. Getting fish on the hooks for others, it was easy for Mick. Most people fish with crap. Mick would provide hand-made floats from his workbench. Mick would set up perfectly-balanced live bait rigs and put them in the hands of his students. We draw much of our Chicago Fishing School passion and method from his teachings. Get fish on the line of people and they will be inspired to float fish. Mick was tireless in giving seminars, demonstrations and taking people out to convert them.

Mick Thill Creates USA Match Fishing

Give Mick Thill someone who wanted to fish – and he can turn them into a competitor who would destroy and out-catch all those around that person. Mick Thill put together local match competition clubs, he put together international fishing teams and many times used regular to below-average fishermen (and women) to do the job. He formed Chicago’s oldest match league – the Marquette Bank Anglers with help and also the oldest area suburban match league Chicagoland Bank Anglers.

Mick’s teaching greatness could be seen by the teams he assembled, even on short notice. One year, a local bank competition club he formed, tried a mutiny. In this club were members of the USA Fishing Team – several of whom Mick had recruited and taught tried to form a secret uprising. They also were jealous and resentful of Mick’s fishing or behavior.

Mick Crushes the Coup

6 of them tried to do a secret boycott of a USA vs. Canada, trying to embarrass Mick by dropping out at the last minute after committing to fish. The plan failed as word got to Mick. The match with Canada was going to take place early in April. Mick got to work in March and with one month, he single-handedly recruited and trained 6 new match anglers – including myself to secretly crush the coup. He trained these adults and even a couple of teenagers to use 42-foot poles, had us practice in local events, and scrapped together gear for us to compete against Canada. Mick’s teaching, dedication and time resulted in a USA win using 6, brand-new month-old fishers on the 42-foot pole. We crushed Canada and the local match scene was also then fractured. We had 8 of the top 10 finishers out of a possible 10 – only two Canadians fished better than our best 8. We nearly had

Chicago Match Fishing Casualty

While local match fishing tapered off – Mick was no longer recruiting and bringing anglers into this group. The match group dropped in numbers and events eventually dropped to 3 people and small groups. When I had joined this group, it numbered in the 90’s for members and featured events with over 50 competitors.  We had 57 compete in the U.S. Open the year I had the lead on the field with the biggest weight on day one (using one of Mick’s poles he had sold me) only to have my teacher come from behind to win the overall. I had to settle for a second place over all – Mick was a champion. One of the best people at catching all fish everywhere – he was a champion at getting people energized in the sport of fishing.

More Mick Thill to Come

Chicago Fishing School has a large library of photos we unearthed and will feature in a permanent Mick Thill museum page on our sister site: Live Bait Tackle.com  This site was formed to bring you the most complete float and bobber fishing site in North America and to keep Mick’s efforts alive in promoting the sport of float fishing. We are also creating a museum that will support the sport and hopefully reinforce the concepts of good float fishing for years to come.

Rest in Peace Mick Thill

– we hope you were able to use the last of your bait and that it was a last great day of fishing for you before you left us. We would like to think you are waiting to draw a peg up in Heaven for the next match competition – Chicago Fishing School