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By Nick Harrington, Mack's Lure Pro Staff
Bottom bouncers have become a staple of the walleye fishing industry. The reason they are so popular is because they are easy to run, versatile, and just downright catch fish. This setup is so simple, yet it can have so many alterations for differing styles of fishing. In this month's issue of the Mack Attack Magazine, I'm going to discuss the system I run.
I like to use a stouter rod when bottom bouncing. This is because I like to run bigger bottom bouncers and have a firm backbone when I set the hook. I favor a 6'6-7'0 medium-heavy rod with a fast- or moderate-action. The reason I favor these setups is because I still have a good feel for what is happening with my line, but I also have a firm backbone for setting the hook and fighting a fish.
For reels, I favor a larger spool baitcasting reel. Line counters are not critical for bottom bouncing, but if you are fishing with someone that has not bottom bounced much, it helps to make sure that lines are set at the right depth.
As far as line, I favor 8-12 lb. Berkley Fireline. This is because it has no-stretch properties, which allows me to feel every pebble that the bouncer ticks across and also even the slightest of bites. It's also strong for reeling in larger fish, especially with the heavy bottom bouncer. Also, because it's easy to see, you can always tell the angle that your bait is running.
When I am backtrolling, I like to run 1.5 oz. bouncers out of the front of the boat and 3 oz. bouncers out of the back. This allows me to let a little more line out from my front rods and the back rods stay right below the boat. This keeps my lines away from each other and avoids tangles, as well as bounce across all snags and still get a firm hookset.
Mack's Lure Pro Staff Mason Propst has a different style of avoiding tangles. He runs 2- to 3-oz. bouncer on all of his rods, but he also runs a long and short rod system to fish this setup effectively.
"I like to use the 8-foot rod to get the bait further away from the boat, while the shorter 6-foot rods keep it tighter," Propst says.
This system allows him to fish the same weight, depending on the depth, but still avoid tangling. When he's fishing shallow, he runs a 2 oz. bottom bouncer, but will go up to a 3 oz. when fishing deeper.
I prefer two types of blades. Early in the season I like to use smaller blades. I occasionally use a size #0 Colorado blade, but the majority of damage I do when fishing with a smaller blade is with a Mack's Lure Smile Blade.
I really like the Smile Blade 0.8, as these are a nice, compact profile that adds a little flash and vibration to your bait. This makes it attractive, but doesn't steal the show. I love fishing these blades at very slow speeds, but they are also extremely versatile in that they also work great at faster speeds.
How I like to approach the rig early in the season is to have a size #2 to #4 Aberdeen or Octopus hook with a single 5 mm. bead. Usually, either the plain setup like that is going to be the top option or simply sliding a Smile Blade 0.8 onto it will be the ticket.
As the season moves on, blades seem to be a bigger factor. Generally, I will just put a different colored blade on. If I have multiple anglers in the boat, I will keep one plain hook out (or possible put out a size #2 Colorado blade). I will generally keep my Smile Blade out, but as the summer progresses, I will be switching towards size #3 Colorado blades. I really like the metallic colors with these blades. Gold and silver are colors that I feel are pretty universal and baits I often have out when fishing a new body of water or if I just do not know what to do. As far as Smile Blade colors go, my favorites are Hot Pink Silver Tiger, Chartreuse Sparkle, Gold Sparkle and Silver Scale.
Towards the fall, I begin the transition to size #3 and #5 Colorado blades. This time of year, the bigger blades resemble the bigger prey species and many walleye are going to be chowing on them. The larger baits are also going to give off more flash and vibration, and very appealing, especially in dark and dingy conditions. Many anglers are switching to crankbaits this time of year, but large blades do some tremendous work.
Bottom bouncing is a very simple concept. This article outlined the basic setup, but when walleye anglers get their minds to work a simple concept can become very complex. This was all about laying the foundation for the basic bottom bouncing rig.