RUSSELVILLE, Ark. — Nobody likes to do it. Junk fishing. When all else fails it’s the go-to pattern for tournament pros. There is a lot of junk fishing going on at the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge.
Kevin VanDam is doing it. So is Ott DeFoe. Both anglers rank first and second on the scoreboard. They are not alone.
Junk fishing might not be the winning technique. There is nothing fancy about it. The junk term comes from the attempt to catch a bass from any casting target or cover encountered along a given stretch of shoreline. You are basically using everything in the tacklebox and casting at anything.
Junk fishing takes uncanny concentration. You never get into a groove with a single bait. Every lure change requires restarting the mind to focus on what presentation works best.
Randy Howell: Where to begin
The first decision is what to throw at the junk. That’s not easy to do with so many lure choices.
Randy Howell junk fished his way to 15th place on Day 1 at Lake Dardanelle. How he did that was by choosing baits that worked well during practice. None were standouts but showed promise if used collectively.
“Junk fishing is when you do so many things, use so many lures, and some work well but not better than the others,” he explained.
That collection of productive lures forms his junk fishing lure arsenal.
Howell says a common shortcoming of junking it up is fishing too fast. Changing lures and speeding up the process until you find the best choice is an easy temptation.
Being thorough is how Howell overcomes the temptation to fish too fast.
“Fish each lure like it’s the best choice at the given time,” he said. “If you think about changing too much it takes over your mind and you can spin out.”
With the short list of baits the bottom line for Howell simplifies the choices even more.
“Let the fish tell you what they want on a given day.”
Ott DeFoe: Listen to grandpa
Ott DeFoe learned his junk fishing lesson before the term existed.
“Rule number one taught to me by my grandpa was never leave fish that are biting,” he said.
Humor aside that sage advice makes sense. Like Howell suggests, the temptation is to run through a rotation of lures and checking each off the list.
“When junk fishing I like to focus on one area and instead of running and gunning, covering as much water as possible,” he explained.
DeFoe likes to keep a multiple-lure rotation in play instead of emptying the tacklebox.
Alton Jones: Top and bottom
Alton Jones’ junk fishing strategy covers the top and bottom of the water column. He avoids using lures that cover the mid-range depth.
The reason? Junk fishing targets are on the shoreline.
“My junk fishing lures are polar opposites,” he said. “I choose a topwater lure like a buzzbait or frog, and a Texas rig or jig to get down to the bottom.”
Another reason is how the lures can work in tandem to produce a strike.
“Lots of times I activate the bass with the topwater, get their attention, and then follow up with the bottom coverage lure and catch the fish.”
Michael Iaconelli: Tools of the trade
You can easily recognize a junk fishing junkie by the pile of rods and reels. A different outfit is tied on each. This morning that was the look on the front deck of Michael Iaconelli’s boat.
“I like to think of all those different baits like tools in a toolbox,” he explained. “Every bait, or tool, can fix a specific problem you encounter along a shoreline.”
Those problems, as noted by Iaconelli, are different types of cover where the bass might be. Strange as it may seem, junk fishing was the game plan all along for Iaconelli.
“This is what I call a junk fishing paradise,” he said of Dardanelle. “Every lure has a specific target zone.”
Watch this BASSCam video as he explains why. http://basscam.bassmaster.com/detail/videos/gopro-bassmaster-elite-at-dardanelle-presented-by-econo-lodge/video/5457374659001/watch-michael-iaconelli-s-junk-fishing-clinic?autoStart=true
The reason why junk fishing is in play this week is the widely fluctuating water conditions. Like Iaconelli implied, there are lots of target zones.
Lake Dardanelle is recovering from a flood of clay-enriched, muddy water coming downstream from Oklahoma. A recent period of heavy rain caused it all. The water went up, is coming down, and the main river channel remains muddy.
Bass don’t like too much mud and current. Hence, the perfect storm for a junk fishing tournament. Junk fishing might just become even trendier here as the weather continues to change.