By Jason Mitchell
Bottom bouncers are incredibly effective in mid- to late summer for walleyes. I would dare to argue that bottom bouncers might provide the easiest way to catch walleye when fish are relating to deep contours, main-lake structure, and primary points.
What makes the bottom bouncer so effective? The wire will walk your snell or spinner harness over rocks and keep the presentation near the bottom. You can also troll a bottom bouncers if you’re trolling at a consistent speed and using a line-counter reel.
You can cover water and fish a bottom bouncer much faster than you can with a traditional live-bait rig. Move until you find fish.
Here are some tips for catching more walleyes with bottom bouncers this summer.
Choosing the right size bottom bouncer is important. You must match the weight of the bottom bouncer with the speed and depth you’re fishing. As a rule of thumb, use 1 ounce of bottom bouncer for every 10 feet of water.
This guideline will match boat speeds that range from .7 to 1.4 miles per hour. If you do want to burn spinner harnesses faster, or you’re in extremely snaggy rock, don’t be afraid to cheat a bit and run heavier bouncers as close to the boat as possible.
Here’s another rule of thumb: You don’t want to let out unnecessary amounts of line to find bottom. Keep the bottom bouncer as close to the boat as possible so that the bouncer stays upright and “walks” over snags. A good guideline is to run your line at about a 45-degree angle below the boat.
With bottom bouncers, don’t be afraid to put the rod in the rod holder and go. The forward momentum of the boat often hooks fish, and I often hook more fish by simply dragging the fish with the boat on the initial strike – particularly later in the summer. It almost seems as if aggressive fish in warmer water want the presentation to be pulled away, even when they strike and are hanging on the bait.
You will see the strike on the rod tip. Don’t stop or slow down; just wait for the rod to load up from the fish and set the hook with the forward momentum of the boat.
This is what makes the presentation so easy and great for new anglers or young anglers. Pick the rod up out of the rod holder and reel in the fish.
Many anglers use spinners or some type of spinner/crawler harness come midsummer. The vibration and flash attract fish. This combo also shines in turbid or dirty water or when fishing in windy conditions.
There are times, however, when less can be more. Plain snells can work well behind bottom bouncers especially at midday or during flat-calm conditions.
The reliable nightcrawler is tough to beat behind a spinner or rigged onto a “slow-death” hook. It also works well on plain snells or in conjunction with floats, props, or a single bead.
Generally, I like to use a full crawler on a two-hook spinner harness and a half crawler on a single hook spinner harness or snell. Leeches can also be a deadly option, especially with single-hook spinner harnesses or plain snells. You can also run big minnows such as creek chubs or redtails behind a bottom bouncer come midsummer. Just use a larger hook when using bigger minnows.
Soft plastics or synthetic bait options shine when fishing near weeds or when small perch, drum, or sunfish are tearing off live bait.
Most spinner harnesses come prepackaged in 5- to 6-foot lengths, and that’s a good average length for most spinner or snells. There are times, however, when shorter or longer can be better.
Lakes with zebra mussels or excellent water clarity often require a longer, 8- to 10-foot snell. Heavy rock, outside weed edges, or bottoms that have a lot of algae often require a shorter 3- to 4-foot snell just so the hook or bait never touches the bottom. Blades and slow-death rigs typically work better on shorter snell lengths, while plain-hook snells can work great on longer snell lengths.
Bottom bouncers and spinners enable anglers to cover water and find fish. Don’t be afraid to speed up to 1.3 to even 2 mph, especially when water temperatures are over 80 degrees. Speed often creates a reaction from fish.