The sun was at high noon and we had a 1-2 foot chop on Hamlin Lake. The rod tips were bouncing in unison with the waves when one tip stayed down. Quickly my son grabbed the rod and set the hook.
After a decent battle a nice walleye came from 83-feet of water with a three-ounce bottom bouncer and a floating jig head buried in the corner of its mouth. The bottom bouncer weight has proven valuable over the years for many species.
In the simplest of terms a bottom bouncer is a sinker on a piece of wire in an L shape. The weight portion is near the center of the wire. A piece of wire between 3-4 inches will remain from the weighted portion. When fished correctly this greatly reduces the amount of snags.
Your main line is attached to the center of the L and a second dropper line is attached to the short arm that has no weight on it. From this point you have unlimited options that we will detail in a moment.
Now with the Do-it-Molds I can make my own bottom bouncers at a much lower price than when buying from the store and it is fun. The initial cost is the melting pot and the mold. The beauty of this set-up is that you can buy a mold for just about any type of lure or sinker that has lead in it. The melting pot will last for many years and the cost quickly returned.
Your mold will have a number of openings for various weights. I like to pour 3 sizes at once. Place your lead into the melting pot and once melted use a ladle to pour into your mold. It only takes a few minutes for your lead to firm up and you can remove it from the mold and pour the next round.
Once the lead is poured and cooled your bottom bouncer is ready to go unless you like to paint the lead. Each year more anglers are painting their bottom bouncers and you have two different types of paint to use. You can use the vinyl, air brush paint or the powder paint. They all work quickly and do a nice job.
Some paints can be applied without a brush and other types you will need to brush on or spray. Both work well and it becomes a personal preference. Painting two colors on the same bouncer eliminates needing to carry double the number of bouncers.
There are days where the painted sinkers really shine. So I find myself painting more frequently and have found no ill effects from doing such. Most productive color should be of no surprise; chartreuse and florescent get the nod almost each trip out.
If all of your fishing will be in depths 30-feet or less you can get buy with a quarter ounce up to an ounce. As you go deeper or when faced with high winds or a river current you might want to go heavier. When we fish depths pushing the 80-foot mark we often use weights between 2-4 ounces.
The correct method when using a bottom bouncer is to tick the bottom and bounce it up off of the bottom. This up and down motion creates slack in your line and less resistance for the fish. Do not drag the bouncer on the bottom.
When drifting you will see your rod tips bouncing and jumping off of the bottom. You want the action that comes from ticking the bottom and then jumping off of the bottom. The same applies when trolling if the fish are tight to the bottom.
Suspended fish can be caught with the countdown method. If the fish are down 20 feet and you have a 45 degree angle in you line you will need between 25 and 30 feet of line out.
The most popular bait is the crawler harness. My favorite is a floating jig head, a single hook with a few beads and then the spinner rig. I use a leech the most and find that a start and stop movement of the boat really turns the trick. An artificial crawler such as the Bass Stopper from K&E Tackle works well as does a crankbait.
A crawler spinner rig allows you to cover more water in a shorter time frame. This becomes a great search rig. Once the fish are found a slower approach is often more successful unless fishing one of the Great Lakes.
This is where I love a plain hook or a floating jig head. The bouncer will create slack line with the grab and release of the bottom. This slack line makes it much easier for the fish to suck in a bait without any resistance. I often use a blood or red hook followed by a chartreuse hook when not using a floating jig head. When you feel a fish or when the rod tip signals a fish set the hook. No need to let the fish run, it almost always has the bait.
Walleye and bass anglers do real well with a fat crawler or a leech. During the cold water period a large minnow works great. Pike anglers will experience plenty of action with a red tail chub or a sucker minnow.
If chasing big bluegills, plump perch or a platter size crappie a mini worm rig from Stopper Lures, a mini worm spinner rig or a pinky jig works real nicely. When chasing panfish I use the smallest weighted bottom bouncers.
Another cool technique is the use of a panfish spinner from Bait Rigs and a leaf worm or a red worm. This is a deadly combo on hand size bluegills and perch. I can’t say if I ever seen another angler using these small mini spinners before but the really shine and the bouncer will locate the fish in a hurry. Just remember to go very slow, this means turning the motor on and off and gliding. It will appear to many that you are not even moving.
If the fish are close to the bottom a longer lead line is used. If the fish are up off of the bottom a shorter lead is suggested. Your speed will also dictate the correct weight and the amount of line needed. Remember that tour goal is to keep your line at no more than a 45 degree angle.
Rivers are another great place for a bouncer. When trolling with a bouncer move into the current. When drifting try slipping with the current or matching the current speed.
This is another area where I rarely see a bottom bouncer used. Rivers are perfect for this technique but remember not to drag your weight. You will snag and lose it all. Hold your rod in your hand and try to skim the bottom and lift up and down. You can create some slack in the line by pulling forward or slightly up with the rod and then dropping it back.
My favorite bait is half a crawler or a leech when targeting river fish. A plain hook, a single hook and spinner or a floating jig head are all good options.
In rivers or when targeting suspended fish the use of a crankbait does wonders. In rivers just move slowly upstream and let the plug do the work. Lures that run well under slow speeds would include the Heddon Tadpolly, the original floating Rapala and the Smithwick Rogue.
Crankbaits work well in the river, the connecting waters of the Great Lakes and whenever suspended fish are found. Once again an overlooked aspect of bouncers can be for the small boat salmon anglers.
When the fish are in close and in depths of 30 feet or less you can target the salmon with a bouncer much in the same manner as suspended walleye. Because your speed will be faster a heavier bouncer is suggested.
I would also use a longer drop line, often just shorter than that of your rod length. Spoons or flies work equally as well as crankbaits. Some anglers remember the old salmon runs when anglers used the Tadpolly of Flatfish. I still use them a lot and I use the Rapalas and Rogues.
Good walleye waters would include most connecting lakes and streams to Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, Black Lake, Burt Lake, Manistique Lake, Lake St. Clair, Saginaw Bay, Deer Lake and Houghton Lake.
I like a lure that can be used in many applications so I can keep the cost down and I like techniques that render themselves to more than one species or situations. A bottom bouncer is a fast way to locate any species and often one of the best methods where ever you fish to stay on top of the action.