The Art of the Jog-Fish

As a longtime runner, I have gotten used to squeezing my runs into daily life, often getting up early and running before my morning commute to work. Like many, during the COVID lockdown, I worked from home, and it was easier to get a run in. It didn’t take me long to realize that instead of going for a run, I could go for a quick fishing trip and still get to work on time.

I’m much more obsessed as a fisherman than I am as a runner; in fact, part of why I run is to stay in shape for fishing. Over the course of the lockdown, I began applying the principles that I use when I go out for runs to my fishing trips. As a runner, I realize that setting a personal best every day isn’t a viable goal, though every run should have some purpose, even if it is just to get out and have fun.
kayak bluefish

Shortly after the lockdown started, I began doing what I call jog-fishing. I started making a quick morning trip that allowed me to get to my desk on time every day. I still did my regular trips, where I went out for 3 or 4 hours of quality fishing time on the weekends or at night, but every week I was able to squeeze in a couple of one-hour trips before work.

Getting in a quick trip using the kayak isn’t quite as easy as doing a quick trip from shore. The rigging and launching of the kayak eats into fishing time, so I have tried to minimize the time it takes to get ready. The advantage of using the kayak is that I can cover more water, which is helpful when the fishing turns out to be slow.

It’s easiest to launch from the bed of a truck or a trailer so you don’t have to rig everything at the water, so those of us who cartop must learn to limit what we bring. I keep my gear in a Hobie H-Crate with rod holders so I can pop it in the back of my kayak and be ready to go. I add my fishfinder only if I expect to need it; it stays at home if I’m fishing weed beds or sight-fishing.

Hobie H-Crate
A nice crate, like this H-Crate from Hobie, makes it easier to rig the kayak for each trip and makes my gear more accessible.

Gear is the same strategy. I rig the rods I plan to use the night before and limit myself to just 2 or 3 set up with the lures I expect to use. I also have a bunch of Plano boxes, each with different types of lures, meaning I can just throw a couple of boxes in my crate the night before and I’m ready to go.

It is helpful to choose spots close to home because the less time on the road, the more time you get to spend fishing. I’m fortunate to have several water bodies within a 20-minute drive. I also consider where I will launch, looking for places that are close to the water and require little effort to get out. Over the last year, I have discovered quite a few new launch sites near me, all of which I chose because they are close to areas I want to fish.

Once you have chosen where you are going, figure out what you want to do before you get on the water. I usually have a reason for each jog-fish trip. Sometimes, I go out to explore the water and learn new areas; other times, I plan to fish a specific spot using a specific technique. When I’m exploring, catching fish isn’t necessarily the goal because I’m also looking for areas to come back to another day. I watch my fishfinder to see what is around and take a few casts in fishy-looking areas to see what is there. When I go out to catch fish, I usually pick an area I know and start with a technique that will put some fish in the boat.

Jog-fish trips are a good time to try out new techniques and break out some new lures. After I catch one or two fish, I try another tactic to see if it works. The number of lures that I have used over the last year has increased quite a bit, primarily from trying new things on these short trips.

I have also discovered quite a few new spots. Some of my best finds were while I was traveling to or from my planned spot and I noticed a tree or rock pile on my side-scanner. I often drop a waypoint on these spots and come back another time.

I also spent more time fishing for species I don’t normally target. I went many years without catching a stocked trout, but last spring I had fun chasing them in the kayak. In some ponds, I keep an eye out for carp. The side imaging on my Humminbird is great for finding pods of carp and they tend to stay in one area for a few days. If I locate them on a trip, I usually hit the area again in the next couple of days with a loaf of bread.

This crappie fell for a shad dart retrieved in front of a blown-down tree.

Bass and crappies have been my favorite targets. They tend to bite early and are abundant in the ponds around me. I’m fortunate enough to be able to get to a few striper spots quickly, and one advantage of stripers is that I can go in the dark to get a little extra fishing time.

I try to get the most species that I can out of each trip’s chosen fishing spot. This spring, I was fishing a small weedbed and spent the whole hour on an area just bigger than my living room. I kept my distance and worked the area for a couple of bass first, then I followed it up with some small jigs for panfish before I made a few more casts for bass.

Sometimes, it seems that catching panfish get the bass riled up – they’re probably attracted by the smaller fish struggling while they fight. It is often easy to spend the whole trip in one small area if I am picking apart structure like a weedbed or submerged tree.

I haven’t gotten skunked too often on a jog-fish, and I think’s probably because I went out early. My goal was to launch before sunrise and be on the area I wanted to fish before the sun came up since the period 30 minutes before and after sunrise is usually the best time to fish anywhere.

This month, the sunrise is later, but there is still plenty of time to get a quick trip in before work. As life get back to something more normal, I hope to keep the jog-fish as part of my repertoire.

Adding the jog-fish to my routine has put me on the water more often and made me try new things, It’s an easy way to improve as a fisherman and a good chance to change your expectations from catching a big fish to learning something new or just having fun.

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