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Crash and Burn
By Jason Mitchell

The bottom bouncer is an incredibly effective and versatile piece of equipment for walleye anglers. Over the past few years, there seems to have been an emphasis on using the bottom bouncer as more of a rigging tool. The bottom bouncer can become a tool for efficiently presenting a live bait snell or harness precisely through structure. With this application, the presentation is often fairly vertical or close to a forty five degree angle. Many anglers who prefer to use bouncers in this method preach to never let out too much line or let the bouncer drag. This is generally a slow and precise method of presenting the rig through rock, following break lines and generally staying on structure. There are plenty of other ways to use the same bottom bouncer as this piece of wire and lead offers a unique level of versatility.

Jason Mitchell of Lindy Little Joe There are a handful of days each summer while guiding where the fish should be where they were the day before but are not. Frustrating and mentally exhausting when everything is the same as the day before except the fish are gone. The reality is that there are all kinds of reasons after the fact but out on the water, there are no rules. The fish could move anywhere for a variety of reasons. They could be up the shoreline, deeper or shallower, off relating to some entirely different structure. The more frustrated I get as the clock ticks, the faster I find myself fishing. Very frustrating when you make a handful of decisions, tried what should work and still can’t get back on top of fish. By now, the sun is beating into my brain and my customers start second guessing every decision I make.

Unless you have some really good info, too much running at this point can make the situation much worst as far as trying a different part of the lake twenty miles away. I can guarantee you that the fish that were in the area yesterday didn’t all pack up and move that far. They usually move, but usually you can see the part of the lake they moved to from where you found them the day before. Sometimes, dropping water pulls fish out of the bays and rising water pushes fish back into bays further but you can bet that the fish are somewhere you can visually see.

I don’t know how many days where I have been reincarnated from the whipping post by dropping some heavy bottom bouncers down and moving quickly through areas in an attempt to find fish. There are a couple of factors that make this bottom bouncer dragging so effective. First, a heavy enough bottom bouncer keeps you just off the bottom regardless of speed and easy to adjust with fluctuating depths. A heavy bottom bouncer and harness is much more versatile than even a crankbait behind lead core. You can burn over the top of a five foot hump and fish all the way down to twenty feet by making minor adjustments to your speed and amount of line out. You can do the same with lead core but not nearly as easy. If you have somebody in the boat that isn’t staying on top of finding the bottom, the bottom bouncer is much more idiot proof if you have enough line out and going fast enough where the fish just hooks itself. Another factor is that the mile and a half to two mile an hour speed that you can move these bouncers through areas is a really nice speed for logging sonar data and marking fish with your electronics. The final selling point, speed is often an overlooked trigger. There are so many times where we have a tendency to fish slower when we think we have the location narrowed down. Common sense tells us that sitting on top of fish makes more sense than moving fast and spending a portion of our time out of the zone. When we are fishing memories, we often have the sweet spot dialed into our heads and we often have a tendency to fish the spot slow, maximizing our time where we have a hook down where we think there should be fish. Most days, this strategy makes perfect sense and the fish make you look good. There are those days however where for whatever reason, you can fish slow and swear there isn’t a fish within a mile. Kick up the speed and all of a sudden the same fish that couldn’t muster the ambition to snip at a squirming leech on a light, dainty snell will attack a harness sped through the water.

The mistake many anglers make is not fishing heavy enough. Use a bottom bouncer that finds the bottom. This is not finesse. Also, use a heavy main line. Many anglers are using a heavy duty Fireline for added sensitivity but there are also anglers that swear by Berkley 10 pound XT for this application. You want a tough and abrasion resistant line because when you have a heavy bouncer crashing along way back behind the boat, you will find snags and you need to power through them. The snell needs to be heavy as well regardless of whether you use a plain snell, spinner harness or bead. Plain snells work well because with a heavier snell, you can kick up the speed and not worry about your bait spinning so much that the line twists into a mess. Many anglers are rigging half night crawlers to spin on purpose. Ten to fourteen pound Berkley XL is perfect. Even with the heavier mono snells, the half crawler can still roll and spin seductively, especially if you use the tail end of the crawler. Just adjust your speed and adjust your crawler on the hook until you get a nice roll through the water that really gets the soft flexible tail to flap.

This crash and burn tactic of using heavy bottom bouncers and heavy line to find fish may seem crude to some walleye anglers but the effectiveness can’t be denied. If the fish aren’t hooking themselves, you aren’t going fast enough. No feeding line or dropping the rod way back, the fish are just bang, bang and on. Dragging the wire and lead is effective and efficient when the chips are down. What can really be surprising about using this method is exactly where you stumble into fish again. Sometimes, fish just end up on a part of a flat or shoreline and there is no visible indicator that the fish should be where they are. This aggressive use of bottom bouncers is a great way to find these fish.

Editors Note: The author, Jason Mitchell is a legendary guide on North Dakota’s Devils Lake and designer of a premium lineup of walleye rods called the Jason Mitchell Elite Series Rods, www.jasonmitchellrods.com.

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