During the middle of summer, when the temperature gauge begins to spike, bass fishing often morphs from a relaxing endeavor into a battle of wills. With temperatures hovering near triple digits, only hardcore anglers will leave the comfort of air conditioning for a sultry day on the lake. Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle begs to differ.
For this Elite Series pro, summertime can be prime time for cashing in on warm water bass. Swindle has earned a solid reputation and built a stellar career around an often-misunderstood method. Junk fishing, as the technique is termed, isn't really all that "junky" it turns out. "The misconception about summertime fishing is that you have to find deep ledges in 17 or 18 feet of water and throw big, deep running plugs," Swindle explains.
"For me, summertime is the perfect time for junk fishing." When the surface temperature of the water begins to crest, Swindle doesn't hesitate to fish areas that most anglers would avoid, with baits many anglers wouldn't be caught dead with. "I love to throw small crappie crankbaits up on shallow flats where most guys would think that it's just too hot for there to be any fish," he says. More than anything else, junk fishing is about being versatile and keeping an open mind. "For me, the summertime offers more versatility than any other time of the year," the Toyota Tundra pro offers.
"Most fishermen get too one-dimensional when it turns hot. "They think, 'I'm going to throw this big plug and root the bottom up all day.' Not me, man. I'm going to throw a small finesse jig or throw small crankbaits in shallow cover. I'm going to really swap it up." Swindle's junk fishing arsenal ranges from the obvious to the obscure, but everything has its place and time.
"I've been known to go old school and break out a little spin bait, like a Little George, and just rip it off the bottom on light line," Swindle reports. "The fish are still there; you just have to be versatile enough to get them to bite." One common misconception about junk fishing is that the casting deck has to be covered with a plethora of rods covering a wide range of techniques. Swindle could not disagree more. "Most people think that in order to be a good junk fisherman, your front deck has to look like someone robbed a tackle store," he quips. "If you've got 10 rods on the deck and tackle spread everywhere, you're not junk fishing, you're just confused!"
For Swindle, junk fishing is as much about running a pattern, or often times multiple patterns, as it is about using a wide spectrum of baits. "Junk fishing is about being able to take four or five baits, such as a drop shot, shaky head, crankbait, Texas rigged worm, or a finesse jig, and apply them all over the lake. "When I'm junk fishing, I can take those baits and fish a barge tie-up, a boat dock, or a wash-out at the end of a boat ramp and fish them all with equal effectiveness. If you've got a big pile of rods out on the deck just flailing baits at the bank, you're just hoping to get lucky."
Swindle maintains that proper junk fishing isn't just for pros — it's a skill that can be mastered by weekend fishermen to identify patterns on unfamiliar waters. "I think it's great to apply if you're fishing a weekend tournament and you only have one day to practice," he says. Offering a tip for anglers to use the next time they're out to pin down summertime bass, Swindle suggests:
"If you'll rig up a couple of spinning rods with 8-pound fluorocarbon line and tie on a shaky head worm and a little finesse rig, you're halfway there.
"When you find fish set up around visible cover, most times you can get five bites pretty easily," Swindle reveals, while pointing out that in most tournaments, you're only able to bring five bass to the scales anyway. "Getting the first bass in the box is often the biggest challenge," Swindle adds.
"Once you've got five bites, you can uncover a little more of the subtleties that exist in the areas you've fished and upgrade your bag. Junk fishing for the weekend warrior is the way to go on pressured lakes in the summertime, no question about it."
Originally published July 2011