It may not look like much, but the Bottom Bouncer has made a
major impact on walleye fishing success since it first hit in the water.
Walleye tournaments have been around for a long time, gone through many different evolutions, and continue to gain a larger following every year. Many of the advances in tackle and techniques that make us all better walleye anglers today were discovered during those early, formative years. In the 1970’s, out of the Plains of the Dakotas, arose just such an innovative technique, one that has forever made it’s mark on the walleye fishing world … the Bottom Bouncer.
Many of us that were competing in the early days of “The Walleye Wars”, balked and ridiculed this gaudy contraption at first. Walleyes were a “finesse” fish, prone to presentations of small hooks, light line and methodical ploys. This hunk of lead molded on an “L” shaped piece of wire was going to have no place in the tackle box of a true walleye man. Oh boy were we wrong! And many of us learned our lessons the hard way.
Whether or not it can be documented, it’s safe to say that since hitting the scene, the Bottom Bouncer has accounted for more prize money won in walleye fishing than any other piece of tackle. So what makes this particular weighting system so effective? Simplicity, for one … Bottom Bouncers are popular among many anglers, pros and weekenders alike, because they are simple to fish and do so many things right. They have the ability to present a bait just off the bottom where it’s more visible to the fish. Then there’s the fact that Bouncers allow you to fish live bait, (a proven deadly method of catching walleyes), at speeds that cover water more efficiently than a jig or a slip-sinker livebait rig. A Bottom Bouncer can be fished in snaggy situations that would literally eat more conventional livebait rigs. If you were able to watch a Bouncer as it ticks along the bottom, you would see that as it encounters a rock or a log, it creates a “cam” action causing the trailing bait to sweep forward often triggering a bite from a following walleye. As long as you fish a Bottom Bouncer correctly, so that the wire “foot” just ticks along the bottom, it’s impossible to be fishing it wrong.
To best demonstrate some of this “tackle phenom’s” versatility, let’s study a couple of case scenarios in which Bottom Bouncers proved to be the “money winning” presentation factor.Sprawling Lake Oahe in South Dakota was one of the reservoirs that gave birth to the Bottom Bouncer way back when, and it’s still a deadly tool used there today. During the June 1998 PWT tournament held there, Bottom Bouncers played a key role in Gary’s dominating win. Fish were holding on deep main-lake points in 45 to 70 feet of water. These were not aggressive fish, but by presenting a lively Creek Chub on a 7 foot snell behind a 3/4 ounce Bottom Bouncer, Gary was able to best the rest of the PWT field with over a nine pound advantage. Using that light of a Bouncer in those depths is not typical, but the presentation forced Parsons to move very slowly with his bow mount trolling motor, allowing the Chub to swim enticingly in the walleyes’ faces. He had already located the fish, so there was no reason to move quickly searching for them, and the bouncer presented the bait at a level easily spotted by the fish.
The weight of Bouncer you choose depends on the speed and depth at which you are fishing. In this case, the light Bouncer fished painstakingly slow proved to be the perfect presentation.
In August of 1998, on the Bay of Green Bay, Parsons parlayed the use of Bottom Bouncers into his second major win of the season. This was a very different scenario than the one he faced in South Dakota. Here the fish were scattered, roaming a large hard-bottomed plateau dotted with peaks and humps … sort of a “humps on the hump” kind of a spot. An ideal situation for a Bottom Bouncer/Spinner combination. Using 3 ounce bouncers towing Open Water Spinners dressed with crawlers, Gary was able to troll the area with his kicker motor at just under 1 mph contacting walleyes cruising the humps. The heavy Bouncer enabled him to cover water efficiently, while keeping the bait down in the strike zone at all times.
The win propelled Parsons back to the top as Professional Walleye Fishing’s All-Time Money Winner (at that time), and it was no coincidence that Walleye Tackle’s All-Time Winningest hunk of lead played a big part in it.
We have only touched on all that could be written about the Bottom Bouncer. This relatively simple piece of lead and wire opens up a door to a whole new world when it comes to catching walleyes. Suffice to say, if you haven’t added Bouncers to your bag of walleye tackle tricks, you’re missing the boat.
If you’ve spend hours perched on the bow of your boat with a bottom bouncer rod in each hand, you soon learn the importance of a well-balanced outfit. The problem is that even the most balanced of rod and reel combos can be thrown out-of-whack when you tie a 3 ounce Bottom bouncer to the end of your line. Bass Pro Shops has added a new feature to many of their rods, including many of the Walleye Angler Signature Series rods, that is designed to help an angler balance any combo for better comfort and sensitivity for a long day on the water.
The XPS (Extreme Performance System) Weight Balancing Kit can be purchased to fit with rods designed with XPS handles, like the Walleye Angler Signature Series model WA66BBT Bottom Bouncer Rod. These rods allow you to remove the butt cap, and add varying weights to the back of the handle to aid in balancing the rod to any reel, or lure presentation. The kits come in three sizes to fit rods from UltraLights to Heavy Action Flippin’ Sticks. A well balanced rod enables you fish long hours with less arm fatigue, have better feel of what’s happening at the business end of the line, and therefore helps you catch more fish.
Look for the Bass Pro Shops exclusive line of XPS rods in the Bass Pro Shops Catalog, or at a Bass Pro Shops outlet near you.
Not all Bottom Bouncers are created equal. Early models were formed with the wire twisted into an “eye” at the bottom of the “L”, where the main line was connected to the Bouncer. The problem with this was that many times, while battling a fish, the line would wrap and get caught in the crease of the “eye”, resulting in the line breaking and the fish swimming away to be chased another day.
Better design makes for better Bouncers, and better Bouncers mean more walleyes.