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The Joy of “Junk” Fishing

There’s nothing wrong with species specific fishing. There are bass boats, bass clubs, bass tournaments, crappie classics, catfish rodeos and many more examples targeted fish for different reasons or different seasons but every once in a while it’s nice to take a break and do what we call “junk” fishin’. You don’t have to abandon your self-proclaimed label or the hash tag you use on social media. A few minor changes in mind set, tackle box and fishing rods is all you need to start jerking in some junk fish. What are junk fish? When do you revert to junk fishing? Under weather and water extremes, when you’re trying to catch supper or when you are fishing with no time restraints, it may be time to try junkin’. Just casting for whatever is willing to bite. Relax bass fanatics you know you (and all of us) have “accidentally” caught a different kind of fish while searching for that BIG bass.

My partner Debbie admits, “most of the time I’m fishing for bass, I do like using soft plastics and especially the Ned rig. Using these types of baits, I catch everything on them. It’s fun catching other species, they all hit differently and fight differently. I caught a five-pound channel catfish on a small tube bait and light spinning equipment, and a 15-inch crappie on short five-inch plastic worm. I like crawfish imitators on a 1/8th ounce leadhead, you never know what’s next.”

The Joy of “Junk” Fishing
Imagine a lazy float down a post card pretty river where each turn offers a view of different fishy looking water. You may be sitting next to a steep bluff bank, a weed chocked cove, a underwater stump field, maybe even a swift water section with scattered boulder or the “blue hole” clear and deep, all these present the possibility of multiple types of fish. You could possibly have many types of fish swimming the same waters and ready to test your tackle.

The Kayak Advantage –

With access to waters unreachable to many watercraft the kayak gets you to places where fish may rarely see a bait. Drafting inches of water, the silent drift and up-close presentations are ideal for the angler that just wants to “get bit.” Secluded waters of all kinds exist almost everywhere, and these places are golden for the willing, adventurous “junk” fishing junkie. Paddle, pedal or motor in and reap the harvest available to the flexible fisherman.


Gear Up and Pare Down –

A little knowledge of the area will yield the potential target catches for the place you choose to fish. There are several categories of artificial baits that are worth of a spot in your tackle boxes. Spinners, cranking lures, surface plugs and a variety of soft plastics all deserve consideration. You’re hauling around the same lures as usual but maybe downsizing and limiting colors. I do subscribe to the theory that big baits catch big fish so you may want to sneak a few of your favorites into the trays of your tackle box. Smaller soft plastic baits are deadly for this type of fishing. An assortment of sizes, shapes and colors is highly recommended. TIP: In this style of fishing smaller lures and slower retrieves are often rewarded with numerous hook ups.

The Joy of “Junk” Fishing

Go Live –

While most people choose and use artificial lures you may want to opt for live bait. You can buy or catch minnows and tote a minnow bucket along or in your kayak. Everything will eat a properly presented minnow. My set up is a #10 light wire hook, a few small pinch-on spilt shot for weights and a float about a foot up on the line. This same system works well for fishing bits of live nightcrawler worms. The crawlers can be kept in a cooler and again can be purchased or dug up for the thrifty fishing community. We prefer spinning combos for this type of fishing. A six-foot medium action rod and mid-size reel spooled with six-pound test line is perfect.

At the End of the Line –

What can you expect? Name it. Every species of bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, I even caught a rainbow trout (surprised me and the trout) on a small silver tube. The same baits, tactics and presentations will fool walleye, carp, all kinds of the sunfish family and essentially everything that swims. A good stating point is to cast out start a slow steady retrieve interrupted by an occasional twitch, continue the swim and twitch. Still no action, time to “polish the rocks.” Let the bait drop, start a slow bottom dragging return with the frequent pause and be aware of the pickup. With a little experimentation you will whittle down the lures you throw and recognize certain situations more conducive to catching the “junk” fish.

Details –

Sometimes you’ll hook into a monster and then the details will decide if you lip em’ or lose em’. A few simple steps. 1. Tie a good knot. If you’re not sure retie. 2.Set the drag to slip a little under pressure. I tie a three-pound weight to my line and make sure it will give under pressure. 3. Keep fresh line on your reels. 4. Set the hook! If the bait feels different or heavy, lean into it. Hook sets are free. 5.Don’t panic, play the fish, let the rod and reel do the work they were designed to. 6. A rubberized floating net is a good idea. C.P.R. = Catch, get the quick Photo and Release what you don’t want to keep for a meal.

The Joy of “Junk” Fishing

If we are keeping fish, I like a mixed stringer for balancing the meal and retaining the balance of the resource. For bass we keep the smallest legal fish, they are the most naturally renewable. Hand-sized bluegill, and a few slab crappies make for fun and food.
Don’t be surprised if you become addicted to the joy of “junk” fishing and learn to love the next fish at the end of the line.