Want a system that allows you to go anywhere in Northern Ontario and score big time on walleye? A method that you can use to catch fish in shallow water, deep water and just about every depth in between? A presentation that is so trouble-free and straightforward that it is perfectly suited to newcomers and experts alike? An approach you can use from early spring until late fall that minimizes snags and maximizes the amount of time you have your lure in the productive zone? Then follow the lead of AlumaCraft boat pros Cameron and Brennan Tait and bottom bounce your way to walleye success.
The father and son team, who profess a love for Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country, say the benefit of employing bottom bouncers is that you can build an entire walleye fishing system around the unique weights, with the bent wire arm and moulded sinker on one end, line tie in the middle and leader attachment on the other end.
"Most anglers know that trolling is a great way to locate walleyes," says Cameron. "But once they find the fish, they often stop and switch over to a jig or live bait presentation. Brennan and I don't do that. We generally stick with the program that is working and keep trolling."
"What I particularly like about using bottom bouncers," says Brennan, "is that they let you fine-tune and control your depth and speed. And at the end of the day, depth control and speed control are the two most important variables you need to be concerned about."
What the younger Tait is referring to, of course, is being able to consistently put a lure in front of the fishes' faces at the speed they want it swimming, and then keep it there for the maximum amount of time. Bottom bouncers let you do this, unlike most other presentations.
"That is the neat thing," says Cameron, who was among the Day One leaders at the recent Kenora Walleye Open on Northwestern Ontario's Lake of the Woods, anchoring his four fish limit with a gorgeous 27.5-inch walleye. "When you match the weight of your bottom bouncer to the depth the fish are using and the speed they are finding most appealing, you can troll even the tiniest crankbait -- a lure that normally dives down only 7 or 8 feet in 27 or 28 feet of water. You can put it in places the walleyes have never seen it before."
While dad likes presenting hard-bodied baits behind his bouncers to catch giant opal eyes, son Brennan possesses a particular passion for pulling spinners.
"There is no question that crawler harnesses are what most walleye anglers troll behind bottom bouncers," says Brennan. "For the simple reason, they are so effective. But when I say 'effective' I am talking about the big picture."
"Let's say, for example, that I am pulling a crawler harness behind my bouncer on a soft bottom mud flat on Lake Nipissing, Lake Esnagami or one of the many walleye lakes in the Wawa or Chapleau area. I'll typically use a long 4, 5, even 6-foot leader to put some space between my bouncer and spinner. On the other hand, if I am fishing a hard-bottomed structure on Rainy Lake or Eagle Lake in Northwestern Ontario, where there are plenty of snags, I'll shorten the leader up to three feet or less."
"I also like using a slightly heavier bouncer in situations like this so it is not trailing too far behind the boat. When you look at your line when you're trolling, you never want it at more than a 45-degree angle. But, when I am fishing a horribly snaggy structure with a heavier bouncer and shorter spinner, I can carefully feel my way around the bottom, keeping it up and out of the rocks. And wherever the bottom bouncer leads, the short crawler harness follows without getting snagged. It is a deadly way to fish the hot spots that other anglers avoid because they are afraid of losing their terminal tackle."
If you're starting to think Team Tait is obsessed with bottom bouncers you're right. The fact of the matter is, they've even taken to custom making and selling their own single arm versions that they call Tait Sticks. Unlike traditional bottom bouncers that typically offer anglers only a choice between models varying in one-ounce weights, the Tait Sticks differ by as little as 1/8- or 1/4-ounce. So, you can fine-tune and choose between bouncers weighing 2.25, 2.5 and 2.75 ounces, for example, all the way up to deep water, heavy river current models in the 4- and 5-ounce range.
"From years of experimenting," says Cameron, who is also a Cabela's Canada Pro Staffer, "Brennan and I have discovered that sliding single-arm bottom bouncers give you maximum flexibility and versatility when you're walleye fishing. They're super sensitive and a god-send over the traditional wire arm design when you're fishing in windy wavy conditions. And because we make them so precise, in terms of weight, you can let them fall to the bottom and fish them like a slip sinker rig when you feel a walleye hit a live bait single hook presentation, or better yet, just drop back your rod tip for a split second so the bouncer tilts, long enough for the walleye to take your bait."
Whether you use a traditional bottom bouncer this summer or one of the new magic Tait Sticks, the message is clear: You can bounce your way to walleye success anywhere in Northern Ontario.