Getting a Feel for Walleyes

By Nick Simonson


Summer fishing success often depends on finding those locations where walleyes are feeding, cruising and schooling.  Detecting those prime pieces of underwater real estate comes down to a matter of feel, and keeping contact with the bottom is a great way to identify those transition areas from sand or mud to gravel or larger rocks, which provide cover and edge habitat for Ol’ Marbleyes.  Utilizing a bottom bouncer and any number of related lures pulled behind it will help provide vital clues and a way of connecting with fish once key transition areas are identified.
The leg of a bottom bouncer does more than just prop a spinner or slow death rig up and prevent it from snagging in structure, it can also be used to feel out the bottom as it is pulled along behind the boat. A steady pull signifies a consistent bottom, like mud, clay, sand or sometimes flat rock.  A tick-tick-tick usually suggests gravel or other small-rock substrates.  A larger jump or pull on the rod tip will signal the wire bouncing off a bigger rock or boulder.  Putting the pattern together, anytime a bottom bouncer slips from a smooth surface to a more broken one, a key transition area is identified and is worth noting on a lake map or a GPS – especially if a bite follows.
Utilize low-stretch superline like PowerPro, Fireline or the like on a sensitive graphite rod to get a better connection to the specialized sinker.  Hold the rod in hand to get a feel as to what things are like below as the information telegraphs up the line and compare what’s detected by touch with what can be seen on a sonar screen.  Where more than one rod is an option, have a second bottom bouncer rig on a reel loaded with monofilament and set in a nearby rod holder.  While the more sensitive (and less stretchy) superline can be used to detect changes and bites can be handled with a drop-sweep hookset by hand, the rod rigged with monofilament can play a little bit and load up against the weight of a fish if it bites.  Just remember to frequently check the rig in the rod holder while trolling along.
Not unlike pheasants, deer or other wildlife, walleyes utilize edges for feeding, travel and, if needed, a quick escape to cover, such as a deeper stretch nearby or a rockier area that provides more concealment.  As prey items such as perch or other small panfish often utilize the same edges, these areas are worth noting and fishing with more rigor once they are detected.  Finding spots in both deep and shallow water and adjusting presentations based on weather conditions or daylight is an effective way of being able to move between prime areas during low light and daytime hours. By running spinners or other similar trolling rigs on a bottom bouncer, the rig provides a two-in-one seek-and-connect combination for walleyes in any stretch where a transition area occurs.
Beyond the obvious purpose of presenting a bait in the strike zone to summer walleyes, bottom bouncers, when partnered with sensitive no-stretch line and a good rod, can explain a lot about why fish are relating to a certain area in a body of water. Utilize them to get a feel for those prime places that walleyes use this time of year to recover from the spawn, enter their summer patterns and feed straight into fall.  Wherever the changes are detected in the substrate below, it is likely that fish will follow.  Be ready for the bite and make it a point to mark those places for great fishing all season long.


Featured Image: A walleye comes to net thanks to a bottom-bouncer and spinner trolled over a transition area.  Bottom bouncers help telegraph shifts in bottom composition and identify changes in the substrate which attract walleyes. Simonson Photo. 

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