Among walleye anglers, the bottom bouncer rig is rightly famous as the ideal trolling method to produce trophy fish.
A properly rigged bottom bouncer, armed with a slow death spinner, is simply amazingly effective.
A simple design with complex consequences, the better you understand this exceptional rig, the more fish it will produce for you.
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Bottom Bouncer 101
At its most simple, a bottom bouncer rig allows you to troll just off the bottom while imparting erratic action to your lure or bait of choice.
The bottom bouncer rig from Cabela’s sports a looped line attachment site.
Properly weighted for your depth and speed, these rigs will slide over the bottom at about a 45-degree angle, allowing you to make full use of your electronics. Shallow, deep, or anywhere in between, pros know that a properly rigged bottom bouncer is almost impossible to beat for big walleye.
The magic in this design is an inverted “L.” Attached to your main line at the right angle, the lower, weighted arm makes contact with the bottom, sliding and bouncing along to create irresistible action. The upper arm connects your leader to your lure or bait, keeping your terminal tackle close to--but not on--the bottom.
The combination is nothing short of deadly.
Cabela’s offers a great bottom bouncer rig, available in orange, chartreuse, and plain metal, at weights of ½, ¾, 1, 1 ½, 2, and 3 ounces. That should cover you to a depth of 30 feet or so.
Northland Fishing Tackle makes a lighter version in ½- and 1-ounce weights.
And, of course, there are legions of rigs out there in addition to these.
Know Your Attachment Point: Strengths and Weaknesses
As bottom bouncer veterans can attest, however, not all bottom bouncer rigs are made equal.
The biggest difference between various models is the attachment point. While there are looped, crimped, twisted and looped, and “R” style attachments, the important distinction is closed or open.
It’s pretty easy to tell which is closed and which is open, right?
This matters because the attachment style determines how you want to connect the bottom bouncer to your main line:
- If you’ve got an open, “R”-style attachment, it’s best to run your main line directly to the bottom bouncer rig, using a strong, snug knot like the Uni.
That open design will allow the knot to slide, potentially moving out onto the upper arm.
Some anglers prefer this to a closed attachment, which can catch, tangle, and cut your main line--if it’s directly tied to the rig.
- If you’ve got a closed attachment of any kind, a strong snap swivel is an ideal connector.
Not only will it not get tangled, but it’ll also hold for all its worth and not let go.
Both techniques work well, though most walleye anglers find that a snap swivel and an open attachment don’t play well together.
How To Rig Your Bottom Bouncer Like a Pro
Bottom bouncers are easy to use and pretty forgiving, but that doesn’t mean you can just randomly grab a rig, slap any leader and lure on, and get to fishing!
Pros like Jason Mitchell recommend that for every 10 feet of depth, you add one ounce of weight to your rig.
As he explains, “Choosing the right weight is important so that you can keep the bottom bouncer along the bottom upright and close to the boat. There are exceptions of course, there are times when we will run lighter bottom bouncers behind the boat at faster speeds particularly along shallow flats but this is the basic starting point.”
Common bottom bouncer rig weights run the gamut from ½ ounce to as much as 3 ounces, typically in ½ -ounce increments.
But don’t fret over weights that are ½-ounce too heavy or light. Bottom bouncers are finicky, and this doesn’t need to be precise math. Err on the side of heavy, and your rig will make you proud.
Leader material and length
Nylon monofilament or fluorocarbon are the best leader choices for bottom bouncer rigs.
Both offer good shock strength, and heavy diameters will cut down on tangling quite a bit.
For reasons that we’ve discussed at length before, I prefer and recommend mono, as it’s easier to tie, creates stronger knots, and is available in a wide array of colors and heavy tests.
If you’d like to know more about monofilament versus fluorocarbon, take a look at our complete analysis in Best Fishing Line - Monofilament vs. Fluorocarbon vs. Braid.
I typically recommend starting with about 5 feet of 12- to 20-pound mono like Stren Original. I use a Uni knot for my connection to the snap swivel at the end of the upper arm, and if I run into tangling while trolling, I’ll either shorten my leader by a foot or two or increase the test strength to yield a stiffer leader.
By varying my leader length and test, I can pretty quickly dial-in just the right combination to keep me snag-free. Keep in mind, however, that the longer your leader and the lower your speed, the closer you’ll be to the bottom with your terminal tackle.
If pike are ruining your walleye fishing by breaking your line with their sharp teeth, stepping up to even heavier mono is always an option.
Easily the most tried and tested option is a double-hooked nightcrawler rig like this one from Berkley.
A newer offering that’s proving remarkably effective is the so-called “slow death rig” like this one from Mack’s Lure.
Both designs work to accomplish the same goal: a twisting, gyrating nightcrawler that rings the dinner bell for hungry walleye. Whether you choose a soft plastic or the real thing, neither will let you down.