On a lot of walleye waters, particularly shield lakes (but some reservoirs as well), a good number of walleyes relate to deep rock structure from summer well into fall. We did a show on Lake of the Woods in the summer of 2006 (available on DVD – has some excellent animations) where the fish were holding on deep rock structures, specifically humps with lots of rocks. This is the type of rock structure where the bottom is a minefield of rocks and crevices, making it treacherously snaggy to fish near the bottom. The key to success was to find a presentation that would allow us to work the bottom, cover some water but still avoid the snags as much as possible. Our best techniques were bottom bouncer fishing with spinners and a tactic known as Slow Death rigging.
Bottom bouncers are a highly effective weight system for a few reasons. One is that they allow you to fish on or near the bottom in very snaggy areas with minimal hang-ups, and they allow you to cover water a little faster and more efficiently than presentations like jigging or rigging. For them to work effectively, you must fish them at about a 45-degree angle from the rod tip, allowing the wire "leg" of the bouncer to just tick along the bottom ... that's what keeps this presentation so snag free. The weight of bouncer you choose will depend on the depth you are fishing and the speed you are fishing. For targeting fish in 20 to 30 foot, a 2-ounce bouncer is about right ... 30 to 40 foot, a 3-ounce is the typical choice. The heavier bouncer will keep your line straighter up and down (instead of dragging way behind the boat). This allows you to adjust quickly to just tick the bottom instead of doing a hard drag. You might even hold the bouncer just above the bottom and just touch it down every once in a while to stay close.
You need to keep a steady pull on the bottom bouncer. Do this in calmer weather with your trolling motor – in rougher weather you can drift, but be sure to use a drift bag to give you a more consistent pull.
What you run behind the bouncer will often depend on the mood of the fish. In some cases, when the fish are particularly inactive, move along slowly with a plain snell and bait (minnow, crawler or leech). But in most cases, as it was when we fished Lake of the Woods on this occasion, crawlers fished on spinner harnesses and the Slow Death presentation proved more effective.
Slow Death is a presentation using a specially bent hook dressed with a half nightcrawler. The hook causes the bait to spiral in a very seductive manner that walleyes (and many other fish) find hard to resist. Run this presentation much the same way you would a spinner harness, especially if the spinner bite tapers off on you.
The gear used for targeting these deep rock structure walleyes is pretty simple. A good quality 6.5-foot to 7-foot medium action bait cast rod like the Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Signature Series model WA66BBT or WA70BBT, teamed with a reel like the Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier model PQX10SD, is ideal. Spool the reel with a sensitive, yet abrasion-resistant line like Berkley Trilene Sensation or Berkley Trilene XT in 10-pound test. If you tie your own spinner harnesses, the best line I've found for this is Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon in 14-pound test. This gives your spinner harnesses the right amount of stiffness to trail well behind the bottom bouncer, yet they're virtually invisible to the fish. The fluorocarbon line is also very abrasion resistant, and stands up well to being dragged over rocks and other bottom cover. Use a fairly short snell (3 foot) and a small spinner blade (#1) to keep the spinner from dragging too much.
For the Slow Death presentation, the same gear is used, and I still like tying the leader using the Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon in 14-pound test. The line is strong, abrasion resistant and virtually invisible to the fish.
by Keith Kavajecz