Brad Laabs column: Here's a great technique for finding, catching fish
Every summer, from mid-July until the end of September, you can count on a great search technique to locate fish and consistently catch the aggressive fish for several different species.
That search technique and fishing pattern is the art of "bottom bouncing."
The concept is simple. A bottom bouncer is typically a wire with a wire arm that has a weight on the bottom leg. The bouncer is attached to the main line and the arm can have many options of presentations trolling behind.
The most common is the spinner in a 4-6 foot length that can offer a minnow, leech, or most often, a night crawler.
Plastic baits on the offering side have also started to become more popular, especially when using these along weed edges looking to catch aggressive sunfish and crappies.
A plain leader line with just a hook can also offer a minnow, leech, or crawler, and may be a better choice during cold front conditions.
A "slow death" rig has also made a resurgence the last few years after being a very popular presentation on a bottom bouncer 20 years ago. The "slow death" can be done with a special hook or an octopus hook. The night crawler needs to have a bend in it to make it swirl as it is pulled and is usually only about half a night crawler.
There are a host of new spinner-type baits made for pulling on bouncers now. The bouncer can also be used to present crank baits. It works particularly well to present shallow running baits in deep water.
A rule of thumb for using bottom bouncers is to have about one ounce of weight for every 10 feet of water fished. Most times your speed for pulling baits will range from .8 mph to about 1.2 mph. There are times when more speed will work even better and jumping up to 1.5 mph can be worth a try.
You may even jump up to 1.8 if pulling crank baits. The faster you go, the more weight you may need. The deeper you fish ... the more weight you need.
It is important to keep your presentation at less than a 45 degree angle. You don't want to jut drag the bouncer. Make sure you are using a spinner blade size that works well for the speed you are moving. It is easy to check by just holding over the side and dropping a little ways so you can still see it running in the water. If it is running right, drop it to the bottom.
Most times the fish will just grab the presentation. Sometimes you may need to hold with slight pressure and drop the rod back to the fish, and then sweep your hookset. Some anglers prefer to just put the rod in a holder, wait until the fish hooks itself up, and then remove from the holder and reel it in.
A great alternative to the bouncer is the "three-way rig." There are several ways to rig this up. The first and most common is using a three-way swivel. One end ties to the main line, one ties to a "dropper line," and the other is the leader/spinner/crankbait.
The dropper line can be from 6 inches to 2 feet. Most leaders will be just like you use with the bouncer in that 4-6 foot range. You can tie your own or use pre-tied/store bought options. The dropper line will have a snap clip or crank bait clip tied to it so you can easily change weights.
Bell sinkers or stick weights are the most common weights used on a three-way dropper. If pulling spinners, hooks, slow death, or other modern spinner options like butterfly spinners, stick to dropper lengths of 6 inches to a foot.
Jump up to 18 inches to 2 feet for crank baits. Another way to make a three-way that also works well for dropping to feed line, is to slide a barrel swivel on your line and tie to another barrel swivel or swivel and snap.
Put your dropper line with a crank bait clip on the barrel swivel that will slide on your line, and tie or clip your spinner onto the barrel or snap you tied to your line.
A huge note for those that fish rivers. A three-way rig fishes in river current way, way better than a bottom bouncer, as they have much less resistance and friction in the water. You still have several weeks to play around with the bouncer or using a three-way.
(Brad Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)