Bottom bouncing for walleye: Why you’re probably doing it wrong
It’s an all-time great walleye presentation, but many do it wrong. Here's why
I’ve been spending plenty of time lately bottom bouncing for walleyes and can’t tell you the number of fish that have paid a visit, if only for a few brief moments, to the inside of my Kingfisher.
It is just such a deadly technique, no matter whether you’re using a standard bottom bouncer with a 45-degree bent wire arm or one of the neat new single arm models like the Tait Sticks handmade by buddy Cameron Tait. It doesn’t matter, either, whether you’re pulling crawler harnesses, crankbaits or Slow Death.
But a couple of things have puzzled and mystified the folks I’ve had in the boat fishing with me recently, who haven’t bounced around in the past. So to clear up the confusion, let’s begin with the most important issue, the name of the technique itself—bottom bouncing.
When most folks hear the term, they immediately think that it implies a constant bouncing of the sinker along the bottom. It is a logical assumption, but it is simply not the case.
In fact, in most lakes, rivers and reservoirs—especially the countless thousands of waterbodies spread across the Canadian Shield—if you try to bang bottom for long, you’ll generally let out too much line and drag the bouncer into the rocks, boulders and snags.
And that is never a good idea.
So, if you’re not supposed to drag bottom bouncers, how do you fish with them? It starts by picking the proper weight bouncer for the depth and speed that you’re fishing. And here are a couple of important rules.
The first is to use a one-ounce bottom bouncer for depths around ten feet deep, a two-ounce bouncer for up to 20 feet and a three-ounce bouncer to stay 30 feet down. Of course, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that a 1.5 ounce bouncer will generally be ideal for fishing in 15-feet, a 2.5 ounce bouncer for 25 feet and so on. But take note: this is a very general rule, as bottom bouncers are extremely speed dependent, so the faster you troll, the heavier you’ll want to use.
How will you know when you’ve selected the proper weight for the job? Your line will never trail alongside the boat at more than a 45-degree angle when your bouncer is close to the bottom. So, if you have to let out so much line in order to maintain bottom contact that your bouncer is trailing back at less than 45-degrees, use a heavier bouncer.
Now, back to banging the bottom.
Once you’re trolling at the proper speed and you begin letting out your crawler harness or crankbait, you’ll eventually feel the bouncer touch bottom. This is the signal to engage the handle on your baitcaster—don’t use spinning gear to bounce—and don’t let out any more line.
At this stage, I like to wait a few seconds, pull the bouncer forward and then let it drift back. If it touches bottom on the drift back, it is usually perfectly positioned. If it doesn’t, on the other hand, you might want to slowly and carefully let out a bit more line to fine tune the presentation.
The key to bottom bouncing is having the bouncer riding along anywhere from a few inches to a foot or so above the bottom, letting it touch down only after you pull your rod forward and then it drift back.
One other quick point to remember: Bottom bouncing is ideal—at least when you’re first starting out—when you find the fish scattered across a fairly long, flat, uniform structure, like the bottom or a specific contour. When you become more proficient, you’ll troll with your reel in free-spool and your thumb on the drum, so you can let out more line as you troll deeper or reel in line as you move shallower.
The bottom line, however, is that the name notwithstanding, bottom bouncers are tools that allow you to briefly touch, feel and maintain bottom contact, rather than drag them through it.