Scroll Top

Junk Fishing 101 with Tadd Johnson

Junk fishing to me is a very natural form of fishing and one of my favorite ways to spend a day on the water. 

Tadd Johnson with a Toledo Bend Bass
Tadd Johnson with a Toledo Bend Bass

It brings me back to my youth when running a pattern was just not an option. Since I was fishing from the bank or in a small paddle boat I had access to, it was too big of a commitment to change spots.

When your options are more limited, you find ways to catch fish off many different things that are located close together. You may catch one off a laydown, then one off a dock, catch one out of a small pad cluster, and then catch one-off some submerged cover you did not even know was there. You just fish everything that gets in your way.

We have been taught pattern fishing and it is great to be on an amazing pattern catching them cast after cast. Some the most memorable days I have ever had fishing, was when I just had a rod or two on the front deck and all the room I could ask. That scenario is heavenly, but that really does not happen all that often & in reality, my front deck usually looks like a yard sale with rods scattered all around my feet and me trying not to break any of them.

So, you need to know what to do when it just does not go that way. I think if fishermen keep an open mind more often and did not get so dialed in to a specific pattern, they would be more successful at times. I like to think of junk fishing as the opposite of pattern fishing.

You may ask when is the best time to junk fish? Here are some times I think you could really benefit from junk fishing.

  1. When pre-fishing for a tournament:  What I try to do is break down the lake into a small area. Go there and fish everything that gets in my way. I may force myself to not even pull the trolling motor up or start the big motor for a specific period of time. I will have quite a few very versatile baits on my deck to give me the flexibility to use in many situations. Some of my best baits are 3/8-1/2 ounce jigs, Texas rigs, bladed jigs, spinnerbaits, buzz baits or other top waters, weightless stick baits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, jig worms (shaky heads) and Carolina rigs. There are many more, but these are some of my favorites.  Once I feel that I have a good idea of what’s going on in that area I may go to other areas to see if what I found out holds true.
  2. When out fun fishing:  When I get to go out fishing just for fun, I love junk fishing. There is nothing better than catching five fish with five different baits on five different pieces of cover without picking up the trolling motor. Just remember that kid fishing from the bank and catching everything you could access.
  3. When teaching youngsters to fish:  It is our natural instinct to just assume that they are biting better over on the other side of the lake. It’s something that almost always weighs on every fisherman’s mind. Inexperienced fishermen even more so tend to think it is all about the spot and there is always a better spot than the one you are on. That can be true but more times than not there are way more fish within casting distance than we could ever imagine.
  4. When fishing is tough:  Those days where bites are very hard to come by and it just seems that the fish have lockjaw. This is where your best odds to catch a limit might just be junk fishing. We have all heard the pro talk about this, “I got five bites all day and they were all on different things.” When fishing is tough, fish everything and more importantly keeps a bait in the water. Try different presentations, cover, weights, colors this is all part of the junk fishing game plan.
  5. When looking for a big bite:  I have seen that many times those really big fish are somewhat loners. They are old, crabby and lazy! But guess what they also need to eat. When I have a really good limit and I need a big bite to upgrade, I turn to junk fishing. I’m looking for isolated targets that may not be super noticeable to everyone. It could be some sunken debris I found with my graph. Could be alone boulder an isolated dock, a very small patch of reeds. I’m looking for junk that would be a good home for a big, nasty, crabby fish.

There is a time and a place for both junk fishing and pattern fishing, I use junk fishing to help me develop my pattern.  Do not get to locked into a pattern or you may lose contact with the fish. I have fallen victim to this so many times and I know that there are many more days like that to come. When that happens, I try to remember what it was like fishing as a kid from the bank or that paddle boat and just fish everything I can.

Tadd Johnson Giving a Seminar to High School Bass Angler's
Tadd Johnson Giving a Seminar to High School Bass Angler’s

Tadd’s Favorite Top Three Rods for Junk Fishing…

  1. Voodoo II 7’2” Heavy
    “This one is an absolute must-have, it is the most used and versatile rod I own and if I had to choose only one rod to use for the rest of my life this would be the one.”
    Tadd uses it 90% of the time for his jig or Texas-rig unless he is punching heavy cover. It is also a great frog and buzzbait rod.  This rod also shines when skipping docks and overhanging trees, as the tip is perfect for skipping and has the backbone to pull the fish out from under heavy cover. It handles both braid (30-50 lb) and fluorocarbon (15-25 lb) lines great.
  2. Surman 50G 6’10” Medium-Heavy
    “This rod’s action is perfect for baits that you present horizontally and when you don’t want to pull it away from them too fast.”
    Tadd uses this rod for most of his subsurface moving baits, like spinnerbaits, bladed jigs and crankbaits.  He will step up the action and length when using a deep-diving crankbait. 
  3. Oracle Pitching Stick 7’8” Xtra Heavy
    “This rod changed my life when it comes to flipping heavy cover with braided line heavier than 50lb test, I can pitch and punch all day for multiple days if needed and not be completely wore out by the end of the day.”
    From flipping deep or shallow grass, pads, reeds, any thick cover that extra length is needed, along with the power to leverage the fish out, the Oracle is the pinnacle of rods.

Related Posts