Pulling blades behind a bottom bouncer is a slam dunk, bread-and-butter tactic for summertime walleyes. We reached out to Tony Roach, one of the best walleye guides out there, and asked him a few questions about how he approaches bottom bouncing throughout the summer months.
How do you select bottom bouncer style and weight?
“I use two different types of bottom bouncer: a slip-bouncer and an R-bend.
“What I like about a slip bouncer (ie. the Slick-Stick) is that it’s tall and keeps your bait well off the bottom, so it’s not dragging. I like to use them when I’m fishing mud flats, gravel bars and lighter rock.
“What’s nice about an R-bend bottom bouncer (ie. the Rock-Runner BB) is that it’s extremely snag-free when you’re running through rougher cover. They are great up in Canada when you’re fishing around big, heavy bedrock and boulders.
“With bottom bouncers like this you’re either maintaining contact with the bottom or you’re “bouncing” just above it. Ultimately, this means that you’re desired speed and depth are going to determine whether you want a larger or a smaller bottom bouncer.
“Often, weight selection is going to come down to trial-and-error. If I’m trolling at 1.0-1.2 mph with a 1.5 ounce bottom and I’m not getting consistent contact with the bottom, I’ll simply upsize in half ounce increments until I’m achieving desired bottom contact.”
How do you determine the right leader length, blades and hooks?
“Spinner rigs and setups can be just ad diverse as the bodies of water you fish, however if I’m fishing heavy rock in Canada, I’ll use an R-bend bottom bouncer with shorter leader. Shorter leader are less likely to get snagged up in the rocks while they’re dangling behind you bouncer.
“I like to use #2 and #3 Colorado blades with a series of beads/floats, paired with several different hook configurations based on the type of bait I’m using.
“When you get out into the Great Lakes or in suspended applications for walleyes, I like to upsize my spinner blades a little bit, going to #4’s or ever #5’s. Depending on water clarity, as well, there are times when I’ll actually add a little long leader. Mille Lacs Lake is a prime example of a lake where you might use a longer leader when you’re pulling out on the mud flats. Out there, I tend to use 6, 7, even 8 foot leaders, which most guys aren’t accustom to. They’re more used to running 2-4 foot leaders.”
Do you prefer plastics or livebait?
“It all depends on where I’m at and what the situation is. I tend to use a lot of nightcrawler, minnows, leeches, however, there are times when I actually prefer plastics. It can be tough to keep livebait on your hook when you’re running your rigs through big schools of bait or small perch. In these situations, I’ll use a ringworm or a minnow profile bait.
“Another situation where I occasionally like to use artificials over livebait is in the weeds. I’ll use a minnow or shad profile plastics, a small swimbait, a crawler imitation bait, or a ringworm.
“Overall plastics can be great because they really cut down on the prey fish gnawing away at your bait and they help keep your rigs from fouling up as you run through weeds.”
What are the biggest benefits of pulling bottom bouncers and blades?
“Blades are a great tool for covering water. They work great when the walleyes are scattered through secondary breaklines, humps, deep weed edges, etc. and aren’t loaded up on one particular point. They allow you to go from fish-to-fish-to-fish and really cover water quickly.
“I love power fishing — there’s nothing worse than sitting on a spot where you’re just slowly, methodically picking off fish when you know you could pull blades and start putting fishing in the boat one after another just by adding speed to the equation (which is often the case).”
When choosing a rod for bottom bouncing, what characteristics are you looking for?
“Today, I’m using a 7-foot medium-heavy, moderate action St. Croix Eyecon rod (Bounce-N-Troll). I’m looking for a rod with plenty of backbone, but a nice soft tip. The tip is great for when the fish originally strikes the bait, and the backbone allows you to get a good hookset once the bait is secure in the walleye’s mouth. This setup does a great job of hooking fish by itself while sitting in a rod holder.
“Rods with a little more backbone are also great when you’re pulling heavier bottom bouncers. This allows the rod to have a more desirable bend as you troll and has plenty of power to get a good hookset.”
What about the reel?
“I like using reels that have plenty of line capacity and a good drag system. It’s nice to have some drag if you happen to hook a bigger walleye and the rod is in the rod holder.”
What is your preferred line for bottom bouncing?
“When it comes to line, I go back and forth between monofilament and braid. Mono is typically my go-to, particularly when I’ve got rods in the rod holder because it allows the fish to load-up nicely. If you’re running braid, you’ll often have fish hit your rig and then pop off because there’s no stretch in the line and the hook gets ripped out of their mouth.
“Now there are other times when I do like braided line. It can be great when I’m holding the rod in my hands as it allows me to identify strikes or feel when something’s wrong with my rig. With braid, you can feel every tick on the bottom and thump of the blade. Nothing’s worse than pulling your rig around for a half hour with debris on the hook. The no-stretch characteristic of braid helps to minimize that problem.”
Any parting advice?
“Spinners are a great technique to putting walleyes in the boat all season long, no doubt. However, sometimes the slightest change in your presentation whether it’s tweaking your baits, changing blade colors, sizes or hooks can make a big difference. Sometimes it’s the subtle things that make all the difference in the world.”