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Bottom Bouncing from a to z

Discussion in 'Walleye & Saugeye Discussions' started by Lewis, Apr 18, 2004.

  1. Lewis


    This article has been "bouncing" around for awhile,but it is a very informative article on bottom bouncing..

    Bottom Bouncing As I Know It

    By Phil Rolfe

    Rods and Reels
    From my experience in fishing Canada professionally for over a decade, there is one rod and reel set up that works better than any of the others-----------hands down. Now, there are people who use some other types and use them well. But to my way of thinking, they have to work harder to accomplish the same thing. The best setup is a baitcasting rod and reel, far and away the best. Not just any baitcasting setup, either. First the reel, I prefer a reel with a flipping switch. For those of you who are not familiar with this type, a flipping switch will allow you to meter out line by engaging the thumb bar and thumbing out the line, when bottom contact has been made, release the thumb bar and the reel automatically engages in the static position----or simply put the spool is locked up. This allows for one hand operation, a plus when bouncing all day. It helps alleviate the fatigue factor. The drag should be set at medium strong tension, you can pull out line, but not easily. Close enough. For rods, I used a St. Croix PC 66M. This rod is 6’6” with medium action and a fast tip. Most of the summer I am pulling two ounces of lead because the depths worked are in the 20' range. That is the home of summer walleye. Sure you may find them deeper, or shallower, but they spend most of their time in that range. Remember not all medium rod actions are created equal. This rod has fast tip and plenty of backbone. If you are going to try another rod, hang a two ounce bouncer off the tip and shake the rod up and down. It will be obvious if the rod is two whippy--------the biggest danger. You want to see a little bit of bend, not a bow in the rod. The drag of the spinner and the line will add further weight to the tip. For line, I used ten pound Trilene XT. It was tough and it stood up under abrasive conditions. I tried but quickly abandoned the no stretch hi tech lines. With those lines, there is no give, so the rod has to handle all the shock. A lot of ripped lips and lost fish. Keep in mind, I fished in stained waters.
    I feel it necessary to say that I know a couple of pretty good anglers who use a spinning rod and reel to bounce with. Now, I plainly feel that this is harder to operate then the bait casting setup. The rod should have a fast tip and enough backbone to handle the two ounces. The medium sized spinning reels work good, don't go to small otherwise you won't be able to put enough line on the reel and will be quickly adding new line. The best way to let line out is to definitely not let the rig free fall. All this will accomplish is to put twist in the line and create a jumbo mess between the line and the rig. Line needs to be metered out. Here's how. Let four or five loops come out from the reel and then interject your finger against the spool. This will stop the descent, pause for a second, and then do the same thing until you find the bottom. A controlled descent is the only way. Even though this rig goes against my grain, it is workable, and for those who only have one type of rod, it can be done.

    Bouncers, Snells and Blades
    Many geographic areas in North America require different methods for bouncing. For example, Laurel River Lake in eastern Kentucky is a highland reservoir with great depths exceeding 200 feet. It's shoreline was timber which was cut off at approximately the same height----two feet. You need to run above those stumps or you will be snagged all the time. Spending more time getting loose or replacing tackle then fishing is what you will get.

    I am going to discuss is bouncing on the shield. Most of the lakes in northwestern Ontario are rocky bottoms generally and if you drag a bouncer you are going to get hung up. Or if pull a snell that is too long and consequently rides too low, same thing will happen. I prefer the Lite Bite setup by Quick Change. I like this bouncer because the line runs through a weight snap and allows you to feed line out on lazy fish. Similar to the way line goes through a Lindy Rig weight. The bouncer is straightforward with a single wire strand with lead half way down. I have gone weeks without a snag and bounced everyday. It's all in the technique (coming up). I carry weights from 1/2 oz. to 2oz. Used to carry 3 oz., but they stopped making them. Good thing too, they were killing me. Mostly I used 2 oz.. That was mainly because I fished most of the year in the 20' range. Exceptions, were early and some in the middle of the summer when the fish were ultra shallow and I used lighter weights.

    For snells, years of experimentation have shown me that something in the 30" range works best in all but the clearest of waters, which most of northwestern Ontario is stained. The bouncing style is I use is to run the bouncer a foot off the bottom and then bounce it on the bottom to a cadence. With a snell of thirty inches which always rides lower than the bouncer; it is right in the fish zone. I prefer snells with either two or three hooks. Hooks placed about 2.5 inches apart seem to hook up good. Of course, a Quick Change clevis is mandatory cause I change blades often, always searching for the hot blade. Snell test is 14 pounds, but can be vary to your pleasure and always high quality mono, never Spider Wire. For beads, I use 4 or 5mm in a variety of colors. I really didn’t see any difference in performance with bead colors. Actually, I liked to use a stacker bead with one bead ahead of it next to the clevis. It is easy to assemble and works just as well.

    For blades I carry a mixture of Colorado’s, Indianas, and willows---with equal amounts of each. I carried small, medium (most), and large sizes. Hammered colors worked best for me in nickel, brass, gold, and copper. Plus, a mixture of the other colors. Have a few darks for the dark days. Generally, I used Colorado’s early in the season until the fish got warmed up and really hitting. Colorado’s are like the knuckle balls of blades. As the waters warmed, I would speed up and use the slider-----------the Indiana. Then during the warmest water of the season, I would run the fast ball---the willows. I also carried some specialty blades, but generally someone would have to give me them to try; I like to keep things simple. I found that many blades were designed to catch the fisherman rather than the fish. But that's the nature of the fishing business. The fish don't really care how much tackle you have. However it is ok to experiment, just don’t get carried away with it. Do keep what you do have neatly boxed, it catches more fish.

    Coming up will be bouncing techniques. Bouncing is really a simple game, there is just a few absolute techniques and we will cover them, and after one trip to Canada, you will have it down. Your fishing will never be the same, I can guarantee you that your fishing catching confidence will grow tremendously.

    Bottom Bouncing----The Technique
    To begin with, I use one ounce of bouncer weight for every ten feet of depth that I am fishing. Unless, there are special circumstances, such as running extra fast, then I will run heavier weights; sometimes two 2 ouncers attached to the weight snap. You can attach more than one bouncer to a weight snap if you need to run heavier set ups. Let's say for discussion purposes, that we have marked fish in twenty feet, which is a depth range that I fished most often, especially after the water warmed up to near year‘s maximum. I would have two ounce bouncers on and be running a willow leaf. The fish will almost knock the rod out of your hands.

    Wait a second, I want to make an important point here. I want to have approximately a 40 degree line angle going into the water. Gives the best hook set and best bottom control. To little line angle and you don't get a good hook set, and to much angle and you don't get good bottom control, but a lot of snags. Neither is desirable. What determines line angle? Bouncer weight and boat speed.

    Ok, with that said, let's put on nice big crawler and get going. That's all I ever use, a big fat crawler, that's all I ever needed to use. It's up to you, leeches and minnow will work, but I like the crawler. The new plastic worms are doing ok. I doubt however if they are up to the standards of a fresh healthy crawler, but that is not the point here. In letting the line out, I press the thumb bar and while keeping my thumb on the spool to control rate of decent, I meter out the line until the rig makes content with the bottom. Another key point here, if you let the rig free fall, you will get line twist and possibly a big mess besides and it some cases the rig will be rendered useless. So let her out steady slow. Ok, we are on the bottom. Engage the reel, and lift up the rod tip up a foot. In a couple of seconds bounce the bottom. If you don't feel the bottom, let out more line, not to much just enough to find the bottom. Engage the reel again and lift the rod tip up foot. Then bounce the bottom to a cadence, don’t drag it. The snell will ride lower then the weight but will be in the prime fish zone but above the snags. Once you feel that tell tale tug, drop your rod tip back towards the fish and then slam it forward----driving the hooks home. That is really all there is to it.

    If you get snagged which should happen infrequently, it is best to go back directly over the snag and rip straight up, almost every one will come out. If you try to rip it out from an angle, you will seldom get it loose. So take the time.

    If I go through a bunch of fish, and don't have the right action, I am changing blades, and sometimes styles and sometimes------------both. Don't hesitate to change blades. I would always start with something in hammered finish. I have more confidence in them. I know there are guys who just jig and are die hard about it. I will tell you this with no uncertainty whatsoever. A good bouncer guy will catch more fish then the jig guy day in and day out. Actually the best setup is using the bouncer to find them, then if they are grouped, then jig them, otherwise stay with the bouncer. It is the best search tool on the Canadian Shield to find and catch walleye. It is easy to learn, and can make an average or below average jigger into a great fisherman. So give it a try. You won’t need to hire guides, you will find them on your own fish, and I assure you that you will become a fish catching machine.

    Boat Control
    Although, I prefer to bounce from the bow because of better control options, it also is possible to back troll and drift with bouncers as well. Control is best accomplished using the latter two with the aid of a drift sock. But first something about the advantages of using a bow mount, the method I feel that is vastly superior to the other two. First of all, there is absolute control and precision with a bow mount that the other two methods lack. By going into the wind, you can control your speed precisely because the wind is helping you by putting a force on the bow. Going downwind, you are at the mercy of the intensity of the wind. It really boils down to wind or no wind. If it is light or non existent it does not matter which way you go. A bow mount, if cable driven, allows you precise depth control, you can stay right on your contour line constantly------- depending on your skills. The more you do it, the better you get. I used the Pinpoint system which would automatically follow a preset contour. Then again, I fished about 150 days with very little time off each season and it really aided in the fatigue factor as well as better and easier boat control.

    Drifting with a drift sock down wind is a good method, although not as precise as the bow mount. You can use the main motor to move you in and out to stay on the proper depth. Tie the drift sock to the middle of the boat which will make it perpendicular to the direction of the wind, in other words you will be drifting sideways. In some windy conditions, you may need two drift socks. It works, but it is a bit more cumbersome.

    The worst of all boat control presentation for bouncing is back trolling--------also the wettest and most uncomfortable. You are working much harder than you need to here. Of course back trolling has pretty much gone by the wayside as technology has advanced bow mounts to such a large degree of superiority. Time to put a unit on the bow if you are running from the rear. A good bow mount setup needs a depth finder at the bow, using a swivel from the one on the dash is a less than ideal arrangement and leads to poor boat control. If you are running one of those, pop for a few bucks and get set up correctly. Bouncing is a simple game, but there are some absolutes that can not be ignored. Boat control and boat setup are a few of those. If you see a boat without a bow mount, you would be 98% correct in assuming that person utilizes bouncing very infrequently. I find this amazing that bouncing has taken such a bad rap among certain fisherman, when the reality is that it is the best search weapon yet for finding walleye. Once the fish is found, then it is up to you which method will work the best. By all means bring out the jigs, lindy rigs, or slip bobbers.

    Bouncing--A Little Trick
    As the water temperatures rise to some of the highest levels of the year, the fish’s metabolism is really cranking and they will chase baits to a much greater degree than any other time. At this time you can really slam some nice fish and do it quickly. I like to add two 2 ounce bouncers to my weight snap ( who ever said you can only run one weight) and run a willow leaf blade. Here we are not going to worry to much about following contour but more fittingly described as being in a depth range. The fish are occupying more of the water column because the temperature is more equally distributed. Some will be deep, some shallow and some in between. I like to run this method in about ten feet of water. You are probably wondering about why so much weight. Well, we are going to crank up the bow mount to 75% power and let her fly. Remember that speed and weight determine line angle. We want to be able to feel the bottom and we don’t want to get hung up by having to much line angle. The fish will really wack this one and you can nail some real brutes. I remember one pass down of about two hundred yards around Eagle Island on the Woods when we nailed four fish over 25 inches. When they hit this presentation, they are serious. Speed or the lack of it can provoke strikes. In the summer, fast is better as a rule. The key here is speed, being relatively shallow (especially in stained water), and not worrying about the exact depth. You will be amazed on the amount of territory you can cover here.

    Bouncing---Another Trick
    I like to target the fish that have laterally suspended off a hump. A fish has two choices when moving off a hump, move down or move out. I think most move out, rather than down. However most fisherman move down. I am speaking of the deep water humps here, something in the twenty foot range for example. Anyway, when you are bouncing a hump or a shoreline and you come to the end or the drop off to deep water, just hold your bouncer at the same level you did when bouncing the hump and tool around out over deep water. You will be amazed at the fish you will catch suspended, they usually run fairly good size and hit like a ton of bricks. So just run right off the edge and hold the bouncer at the same level as the hump. Make a figure eight type of maneuver with your boat, and then go back on the hump and repeat. It is good to mark the edge of the drop off with a buoy.

    Bouncing In The Spring
    Spring time is a time of change from hard water to coldwater to warmer water. At first when the water is very cold, just after ice out, the fish are deep because it is warmer and more consistent. However, as water warms as opener arrives, the eyes have moved shallow to eat, spawn, rest, and eat again Now in the early morning as the water has been cooling, they may be a little deeper, but as the sun warms it up they will be shallower. What is shallow, I consider it to be around ten feet to as little as six inches. I bounced a lot in the spring, it was the best way to find constantly moving fish.

    Fish will hold to a spot as long as there is food. However, once that wanes, they are on the move again. The best way to find them quickly is to pull a bouncer. I use Colorado’s (medium to small) for this. For weight, something in the 1 oz range works nice. Fish the flats and points and hit the bays, the shorelines between bays and key on fish holding spots. The main shorelines are the ticket as the off shore humps are not going yet. That happens a little later on. Once fish are found, you can crank them or jig them--------or keep bouncing. This works so much better than randomly checking areas with a jig which is way to slow. However, if you have known fish magnets like waterfalls or fast moving current, then you have more options. I use crawlers as I do for every other season as well. However, the bait is a preference thing. They all work good. Leeches can be iffy in the early going though. Step on them, to make them run straight in the cold water. Minnows are great, use one hook snells with a stinger.

    Late spring in Canada is June, which is summer in the lower 48. However, it still can be brisk up there. Fish start along the shorelines and move to the center of the lake as the water warms up. So the first humps to get action are the ones closest to the main shorelines. Check these as the shoreline action begins to tail off. The water should be in the mid sixty degree range as this really starts to hum.

    Bouncing In The Summer
    As the water warms up even more, and the water temp becomes more equal from surface down into the depths, the fish have more options for food and comfort, and safety of course. It is this time of year that the fish have moved to their summer haunts. They are now mostly gone from the main lake shorelines and utilizing the off shore humps, flats and island shorelines. However, a few will still be along the main lake shorelines and bays. I find the 20+_ depths to be quite important at this time of year. Not to say that some won't be shallower, but the bulk of the population will be deeper most of the time. However, it depends on the forage base. Walleyes will be feeding on whatever is easiest, so if they are keying on shallow baitfish, then they will be shallow. This is more an exception then a rule, however. Some years, a shallow bite will be stronger then in other years, and some years it seems that they are all shallow. You can actually site fish them with cranks or light jigs. But once again, I think this is the exception. I like to work main lake shorelines of off shore islands. Especially the ones with round rock about basketball size as opposed to hard granite shorelines. These round rock shorelines give the forage places to hide and the eyes are there looking for them. With a bouncer, you can quickly cover ground and locate the active fish. Then work that area. Speed can be increased as the fish are now willing to chase a bait, and it will trigger inactive fish in many cases. Speed is now more productive then going slow. Slow is for early season and late fall.

    Flats--------Walleye’s Secret Structure
    One of the most common areas that are almost completely overlooked by anglers are flats. I remember one of my best spots on the woods, was a long flat which was surrounded by deepwater. It was snag free and appeared to be featureless. Yet from the beginning of summer until fall, this spot held an abundance of walleyes. For those who have fished with me, it was Bird %$#$ Island, it was bald and held a lot of gulls.

    Anyway this spot never let us down. There were always fish on it. Flats are never totally devoid of structure, they just look that way. But there are little depressions, troughs, a boulder here and there, maybe a clump of weeds. Usually soft bottom, they also hold all kinds of bugs and worms which the eyes will root out. Flats are easy to find, they are the areas on the map where the break lines are spread quite a bit a part as compared to the sharp breaks where the break lines are close together. I preferred flats in the 15-20 foot range. I will guarantee that once you find one, you will have it all to yourself. How is a jig guy going to cover a flat. He's not. You may think I am bias in favor of bouncing. You are right, it's the best search tool for walleyes. However, I do believe that jigs, spinner rigs, and cranks all play apart in obtaining the best success. There is a time for each. I think a fisherman who only jigs is only playing with half the cards and will be consistently out fished by a versatile angler who uses all methods.

    Bouncing Doesn’t Work ?????
    Bottom bouncing does not work well when you are fishing very shallow or need a horizontal presentation. You are better off fishing with jigs or crank baits in those circumstances. Jigging can work better when the fish are tightly grouped on a piece of structure, like an inside turn for example. Of course, the bouncer is probably what found them for you to begin with. Bouncing is not the way to go on very small humps, however very small humps don't hold many fish anyhow. And finally, I would jig or crank bait, just below waterfalls or rapids in wash out areas or eddies.

    Forget The Naysayers
    Years ago, many years ago, I started bouncing while working for a fishing travel education company. I was the only guy bouncing and got a lot of lip for it. I was told that bouncing was about as exciting as watching ice melt. However, catching fish is very exciting----------and bouncing allowed me to do that. I also observed guys that couldn’t catch a cold jigging, become very good anglers after learning to bounce. Their fishing self images began to rise and they now had the arsenal to find spots on their own and many times out fish our so called pros. It was very rewarding and made a tremendous difference in my fishing career.

    I really feel that anglers that utilize all the methods and the right one for a given situation will out produce those guys who are set in there ways. Be versatile, keep it simple, and have fun.
  2. I Need All The Help I Can Get....... :d

  3. Great Artical.

    KSUFLASH respect our rivers please

    I am now tired...lots of reading, but it was very informative. Thanks for the help.

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