Justin Johnston has developed his kayak fishing skills to the point that he regularly catches nice cats like this.
Blending Kayak Catfishing with YouTube
by Ron Presley
Thirty-eight-year-old Justin Johnston follows his passion for catfishing out of Lenoir City, TN, where he primarily fishes Fort Loudoun and Watts Bar Reservoirs on the Tennessee River. He has developed his own skills to a level that he willingly shares with other anglers on his Kayak Catfish YouTube channel.
Johnston’s passion for fishing is much deeper than just catching fish. He got into fishing in a serious way in his teenage years and never looked back. In fact, he has followed his appetite for catfishing and his love for the sport to create Kayak Catfish which has become one of the most popular YouTube fishing channels. He has grown the channel to more than 300 posted videos, more than 72,000 subscribers, and more than 10 million video views since 2015.
“It wasn’t until my early 20’s that catfish became my primary target,” reported Johnston. “After hooking into that first big catfish, which was my first big fish of any species, I was sold on catfishing and have been doing it ever since.”
Although Johnston is primarily known for his catfishing, he recognizes the value in paying attention to anglers who target other species. In reality fishing tactics often overlap between species. In fact, he credits a bass angler with influencing the way he fishes.
“I would say that Buck Perry was the biggest influence in regards to how I fish,” reported Johnston. “He is the godfather of structure fishing. A couple of my friends put me onto his teachings a few years ago. Buck was a bass fisherman but his lessons apply to all species. When I started applying what I learned from his books, my catch rates went up dramatically in both numbers of fish and size of fish.”
Johnston says he agrees with the old adage that there is no such thing as a bad day of fishing. But he also believes the anglers can learn from those days that are not as pleasurable as the others.
“I agree with that notion,” Johnston said. “But there are certainly some days and times that are more enjoyable than others. As I get older, I tend to have less tolerance for inconsiderate people on the water so I try to avoid peak pleasure boating times. Instead I plan my trips for early morning or late evening hours on weekdays to lessen the frustration and maximize my enjoyment.”
Johnston is a strong advocate of catfish conservation and does his part to educate the public on the importance of putting those trophy cats back in the water.
“I am a firm believer in releasing trophy size catfish,” stated Johnston. “It just takes too long to grow fish of that size. With more and more people getting into catfishing and with technology making it easier than ever to find them, it is imperative that we protect our big fish. I try my best to advocate for CPR of trophy size fish on my YouTube channel in hopes that it will help change the catch-and-kill culture that has plagued the catfishing community for years.”
Johnston has a highly recognizable and infectious laugh. It is a reaction to about anything that amuses him and sometimes he makes his own amusement. His easy-going personality is perfect for his YouTube persona because he tends to be a prankster at heart.
“I would be afraid to ask my friends how they see me,” joked Johnston. “They would probably tell the truth. I am pretty sarcastic by nature and love to do some friendly trash talking any time the opportunity presents itself.”
His entry into the world of YouTubers came because of necessity and economy. He signed up for a channel as a digital solution to a very practical problem.
“The YouTube thing kinda’ happened by accident for me,” recalled Johnston. “I initially uploaded some video clips to YouTube in late 2015 because I was out of storage space on my iPad and YouTube was a free place to put them. I never imagined anyone would actually watch.”
As fate would have it, one of those clips got several thousand views. It opened Johnston’s eyes to the high level of interest that anglers had in learning to catch catfish from a kayak or at least be entertained by it.
“I realized that the people watching were going through the same struggles that I did when I first started,” Johnston said. “Back in those days, there just wasn’t much information on the internet about catfishing from a kayak. You had to learn through trial and error.”
That recognition led Johnston to put together a tutorial video that covered the basics. His hope was that by sharing his knowledge with other anglers the channel could be a resource for new people getting into the sport.
“To give that tutorial video some credibility, I put out a few more videos,” explained Johnston. “I used those basic techniques from the original video and demonstrated their effectiveness. Things somehow just kinda’ snowballed from there.”
There is no doubt that Kayak Catfish is a successful YouTube channel, but it wouldn’t be without the driving passion that Johnston has for catfish and all the wonders that come with it.
“There is just something special about being on the water at sunrise,” concluded Johnston. “Nature is coming alive. I love listening to the sound of turkeys gobbling and birds chirping while watching the sun rise over the tree line. It’s a very calming escape from the chaotic world we live in. With that said, I do love catching fish too. The adrenaline rush from hooking into a big fish is a thrill that is hard to replicate. Doing it in a kayak just adds to the experience.”