Unrefined as they seem, bottom bouncers work wonders, and in many cases are the best way to extract walleyes. Like any presentation, certain tricks can make a huge difference.
For example, walleyes often hang out in spots that will shatter the tackle and resolve of the unprepared angler. Rocks, timber, brush and broken shale—it all adds up to a headache. Fortunately, a bouncer’s long, thin wire dances across this nasty turf without hangups.
A snell snapped to a fixed-arm bouncer is lifted off bottom and out of snags. On the other hand, it rides just close enough to bottom to tempt walleyes relating to structure. My go-to rig for rough terrain blends a bouncer, spinner and multi-hook ’crawler harness. The rig cruises over snags, covering water.
Snell length must be trimmed to fit the circumstances. The overriding concern is to run the rig close to bottom without dragging. The snaggier the situation, the shorter the snell—down to a couple feet at the minimum.
If you’re live bait rigging, you can get by with a bit longer snell (up to 5 or 6 feet) because the leech or minnow will swim upward and provide lift. Longer snells allow for more drop and can be a problem unless you add a float to the snell.
Rigging is ideal when you find pockets of ’eyes focused on structure such as humps, the tips of points stretching into deep water, and bases of fast breaks.
Besides lift, a bouncer gives your presentation an unmatched erratic action. As the wire drags across a rocky or uneven bottom, it hops and kicks, transferring the action back to the bait. Fixed- arm bouncers are best for extra action. Straight-wire or sliding bouncers are more effective for live bait rigging, and when you need to feed line to biting fish. The downside is that when you let a fish run, the bouncer could hang up—it’s a risk you sometimes have to take.
Whichever style you select, it’s key to use a bouncer heavy enough to keep your line as near vertical as possible. A tight line allows precise presentations on contours, easier strike detection and fewer hangups. If the line drifts past 45-degree territory, sensitivity drops off and your rig may tip over. Fast moves in deep water may require bouncers up to 3 ounces or more.
No matter the speed or depth you’re trolling, there will be times you’ll get hit and come up empty. Catch these biters by stalling the bait in a straight trolling run; drop your rodtip back immediately after you miss a fish. Of course, this works best if you forego using a rodholder.
Give the fish as much time as you can before lifting the rod. The stall creates the look of an injured baitfish sinking to the bottom, and often triggers following walleyes. Rods in the 8- to 9-foot range help increase the amount of slack time you can give a short striker, and boost your chances of hooking up.
Depending on trolling speed, the whole process might take less than five seconds, but it can be deadly. It’s just one more trick to try the next time bottom-hugging ’eyes play hard to catch.