If you listen to professional bass anglers talk about their tournament techniques, you will often hear the term “junk fishing” said negatively or as a sign that they do not have a solid pattern. Yet for some pros like North Carolina’s Bryan Thrift it can become a viable pattern in and of itself. “I love it, it’s like when everyone starts out fishing and they just fish along the bank at different targets. You are able to cover so much water doing it,” adds Thrift.
The best time of year to be a junk fisherman is any time the fish are shallow and around cover such as docks, laydowns and riprap walls. “During the pre-spawn through the post-spawn there are always going to be big fish shallow, but it’s something you can do all year long. Late in the fall and into the winter is when the fishing usually gets pretty tough as the lakes draw down, but when you are doing this you are just looking for the most aggressive fish in the area,” shares Thrift. Throwing a variety of baits and mixing it up as you go along the bank is a good way to hit only the most likely targets and high percentage areas. The FLW Tour pro also believes that it is one of the best ways to catch big fish and do well in a tournament situation. “This is a good way to catch big ones, when the fishing is tough and you can cover water and get five or six bites a day, that can be enough to win the tournament,” claims Thrift.
What to look for
When going down the bank, Thrift will scan ahead for targets and will form an idea of what he is going to throw at each specific target before he gets there. It’s a fast-paced style of fishing that may require a change in rods for only a cast or two. “I just fish what looks good and what I think would be good for each target,” states Thrift. His mindset is to fish an area quickly and keep moving which allows him to cover ground as he searches only for aggressive bass. No opportunity is wasted with a lure that is not fit for the given area, each of his rods has a specific purpose as he rotates through his arsenal. During the months around the spawn, Thrift believes fish will be grouped up in spawning ground areas but during other times of the year they are not as concentrated. With this in mind, most areas and targets are only good for one fish. “As the season progresses the fish really start to spread out,” shares Thrift. This confirms his approach to quickly cover water. “When the fishing is tough, the only way to do well is to cover water,” says the North Carolina pro.
► Riprap – Riprap walls hold bass year round due to their ability to attract baitfish looking for a place to hide. Bryan Thrift also believes they serve another purpose during the colder months. “Those riprap walls really hold the heat better. During the middle of the winter it may be a few degrees warmer by them and that is enough to attract bass that are looking to feed,” shares the FLW Tour pro.
► Docks – Docks are magnets for bass and bass anglers alike but they are consistent locations to catch bass. Since they are obvious targets that are frequently targeted by bass anglers, it sometimes requires more effort to present your baits where other anglers might have missed. Bryan Thrift is known as one of the best at skipping baits under docks and other hard to reach places. He designed a rod specifically for skipping baits under docks, aptly named the Damiki Bryan Thrift Signature Skipping Rod. The rod is shorter, a 6’ 8” model designed for ease in getting under overhanging cover such as docks, laydowns and other obstacles.
► Logs and Laydowns – Many shorelines across the country are covered with fallen and submerged wood. These are ideal locations for ambushing bass and Thrift will ply the area with a jig pitched to the best locations. The bases of the cover as well as deeper water where the remainder of the tree may be submerged are perfect locations for a jig. “I will pitch a jig to the likely areas and then once I’m done I will sometimes swim the jig in between targets and also if I am on a riprap wall between wood,” adds Thrift.
Top Three Junk Fishing Baits
► Squarebill Crankbait – The squarebill has been proven as one of the best ways to catch shallow water bass that are around cover. It was the first bait Thrift mentioned when asked about his “junk fishing” pattern. “I’ll throw the Damiki DC 100 anytime I am fishing around wood or rock. It’s a great bait for anything that is in the 2-5 ft range,” shares Thrift. His preferred color is called Real Shad and it is something that he is comfortable throwing across the country and during any season.
► Chatterbait – Thrift was one of those responsible for letting the world know about the Chatterbait, when he won the 2006 EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee, FL. He hasn’t put it down since and claims it has replaced his use of a spinnerbait almost entirely. “I haven’t weighed in a fish during a tournament on a spinnerbait in probably six years. I throw the Chatterbait more because it works in the same situations and you can also skip it under docks and wood and where you can’t get a crankbait,” shares Thrift. He will use the Chatterbait in and around docks and areas with vegetation where a crankbait would get hung up.
► Jig – The Damiki Mamba jig in ½ oz gets the nod for Thrift any time he is hitting on a single, specific target. “If you see a dock or a laydown, that is where I am going to pitch or skip that jig. I use a ½ ounce 99% of the time just to cut back on the amount of tackle I have with me; if I need a slower or faster fall I will just change the soft plastic trailer,” says Thrift. Bulkier trailers are good when he wants a slow fall whereas smaller profile soft plastic trailers help the jig to fall faster. Two of his favorite trailers are a Damiki Knockout creature bait and an Air Craw, also from Damiki. He fishes the jig on 15-20lb test P-Line fluorocarbon and will again adjust the line size based on his desired rate of fall.
Bryan Thrift has enjoyed years of success at the top levels of bass fishing by relying on a variety of techniques during the course of a day. His approach to specific targets and techniques and a willingness to fish on instinct have allowed him to be one of the most consistent pros on the FLW Tour. His best advice is to cover as much water as possible while fishing high percentage targets, and be willing to throw “everything but the kitchen sink” during the day.