Put a walleye angler’s rod and reel arsenal next to a bass fisherman’s and one thing will jump out at you right away; the bass fisherman uses a lot more baitcasting gear than the walleye angler does.
It’s not surprising when you understand that baitcasting gear is ideally suited to handle the heavier fishing line and lures used in bass fishing compared to the spinning tackle used for many walleye fishing techniques. There is however, one classification of walleye presentation that is best done using baitcasting gear; bottom bouncer techniques.
If you are a serious walleye fisherman and haven’t incorporated bottom bouncer fishing into your bag of presentations, you are missing the boat, or perhaps more appropriately, the fish. The bottom bouncer does one job, and it does it very well … it keeps your bait near the bottom, and does it in a very snag resistant fashion. The key to bouncer fishing is to run it so only the lower wire arm is ticking bottom. Let out too much line and the bottom bouncer will tilt on its side, drag along the bottom and will be prone to snagging, and not fishing effectively.
The best gear I have found to control line length and thus be able to keep a bottom bouncer fishing correctly is a low-profile baitcast reel on a 6 to 7 foot medium action rod.
My favorite reel for bottom bouncing is Abu Garcia’s Revo Winch. It’s a low-profile reel so it fits comfortably in the hand, making it perfect for holding all day. I also like the fact that the Winch has a low gear ratio, 5.4:1, which allows the reel’s drag to work better. If you use a high gear ratio reel, the spool is picking up so much line with each handle turn that it doesn’t allow the drag to work efficiently. A lower gear ratio on the other hand, slows down the amount of line being retrieved and thus allows the drag to do its job. As I talked about in my blog on spinning reels, I’m a big believer is a quality, reliable drag on any reel I use.
A lower gear ratio on the other hand, slows down the amount of line being retrieved and thus allows the drag to do its job. As I talked about in my blog on spinning reels, I’m a big believer is a quality, reliable drag on any reel I use.
Controlling the line is a very important aspect of bottom bouncer fishing. It’s not unlike vertical jigging; only instead of fishing straight down, you keep the line at about a 45 degree angle to the rod tip. This allows you to maintain contact and control of the bouncer as you slowly cover the structure you are fishing. The low-profile reel also allows me to keep my thumb on the spool, so I can easily release line as needed, and just gives better control of the presentation.
The line used for bottom bouncer fishing is important too. A no-stretch line, typically something in the 10 pound test class, gives you great feel of what’s happening with the bouncer at all times. I like Berkley’s X9 Braid for this. It’s rounder than many other “super-lines”, allowing it to lay smoother on a baitcast reel which means it will come off the spool smoothly. The line’s small diameter also allows it to cut through the water much better than an equivalent size monofilament line, again contributing to better feel and control. Using no-stretch line is another reason I like a reel with a good drag I can rely on.
Bottom bouncer fishing can encompass a number of presentations, from spinner-crawler harnesses to “slow death” and various other live bait rigging techniques. There are also tactics using 3-way swivel set-ups that are fished very much the same way as bouncers and are much more effectively fished using a low-profile baitcasting style combo, making this style of gear an important part of your walleye fishing arsenal.