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This week's Feature Blog

Bottom Bouncing Spinners in Rivers

By: Mark Romanack

Recently the author had the privilege of sharing the boat with Bruce and Nick DeShano of Off Shore Tackle. Pulling spinner rigs in rivers is one of the most overlooked ways of “getting your walleye on”!!

It’s no secret that crawler harnesses (aka spinners) are deadly effective on walleye. What is surprising is that very few anglers know that spinner rigs are just as effective in rivers as they are on natural lakes and the Great Lakes. For many anglers, rivers are the domain of the jig. While it is true jigs and rivers go together like peanut butter and jelly, once the water temperature hits 50 degrees, pulling spinners can and often is more effective than jigging.


To effectively pull spinners in rivers requires some basic knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, spinner trolling in flowing water requires pulling with the current, not against the current. A bottom bouncer simply isn’t the most efficient tool for reaching the bottom when going against the current. However, by simply trolling with the current the game changes dramatically.

Pulling bottom bouncers downstream makes it much easier to maintain contact with the bottom and also to fish with modest lead lengths. Depending on the water depth, in most cases a 2, 3 or 4 ounce bottom bouncer will get the job done. In some cases where the water depth is over 40 feet, bumping up to a 5 or even 6 ounce bottom bouncer may be required to maintain contact with the bottom.


When pulling spinner rigs downstream speed is an important part of the presentation. The trick is to pull at a speed slightly faster than the current is moving. If the boat is moving too slow, the spinner will not rotate consistently, but will instead spin, flutter and sputter in the water.

Because different rivers feature different current speeds, the best approach is to put the bottom bouncer and spinner rig over the side and then adjust trolling speed until the blade of the spinner is spinning consistently.

Once the ideal speed is identified, the bouncer rig is lowered to the bottom until it can be felt ticking along the bottom. At this point the rod can be placed in a conveniently located saddle style rod holder, or the angler can hold the rod in anticipation of the strike.

A gasoline kicker motor does a nice job of trolling spinners in rivers, but in recent years I’ve settled on using an auto-pilot style electric motor for spinner fishing. Lowrance’s Ghost is an electric motor that features a GPS navigation system that allows the motor to hold a course and also to maintain precise trolling speeds. This motor can be controlled with a traditional foot pedal or operated using a touch screen Lowrance sonar unit through a technology known as Gateway.

The author (left) recently teamed up with Captain Don Ollie on the Detroit River in route to filming a very informative episode of Fishing 411 TV. While many think of the Detroit River as a jig fishing paradise, the “D” is also a great place to troll spinners on bottom bouncers for quick limits of fish like these.


Just about any fishing rod can be used for bottom bouncing, but the ideal rods are those that have a soft tip and a very slow action or evenly bending rod. Most fishing rods feature a fast action that allows the tip of the rod to bend, but the butt section of the rod remains straight.

If the rod is too stiff, it will become harder to detect strikes. When a slow action rod is used, the rod becomes a strike indicator. Also, a slower action rod will allow the fish to grab the bait without feeling immediate pressure or resistance. This encourages the fish to gobble down the crawler and ultimate to become hooked more consistently.

At Fishing 411 we use a Daiwa North Coast NC862M action for bottom bouncer fishing. While this rod was designed for back-trolling steelhead plugs, these rods feature the ideal parabolic bend necessary for effective bottom bouncer fishing. Daiwa also makes the same rod in a NC962M for those who prefer the forgiveness of a slightly longer rod.


A baitcasting rod such as the Daiwa North Coast series matches up perfectly with low profile baitcasting reels such as the Tatula series. The 200 series Tatula has the ideal line capacity for fishing bouncer rigs.

An alternative to the Tatula baitcasting reel would be the Lexa 100LC. This low profile line counter reel is light and very handy for duplicating lead lengths precisely.

Bottom bouncer fishing is a game that is best played with monofilament fishing line. The natural stretch associated with monofilament plays perfectly into the bottom bouncing presentation. Remember, the goal is for the fish to bite and the rod to bend telegraphing the strike before the fish realizes it has made a mistake. Low stretch lines create almost instant resistance that often leads to the fish dropping the bait before the fish is hooked.

A premium monofilament line in the 10, 12 or 14 pound test range is perfect for bottom bouncer fishing in rivers.

Pictured here are some basic tools required for targeting walleye on spinner rigs in rivers. The Eagle Claw bottom bouncer teamed up with Hildebrandt HammerTime Walleye Harnesses is a deadly one-two punch for post-spawn river walleye.


The market is flooded with commercially produced harnesses that feature blades of every color, shape and size imaginable. Keeping it simple is probably the best advice when it comes to selecting spinner rigs.

A number 4 Colorado blade is pretty tough to beat when it comes to fishing spinner rigs in rivers. Pre-tied harnesses such as the Yakima Bait HammerTime Walleye Harness come tied on 15 pound test fluorocarbon and feature legendary Hildebrandt blades. Some of my favorite blade colors for river walleye include the Pink Confusion, Boy/Girl, Firetiger and Citrus.


The river walleye spinner bite starts to heat up about the same time the jigging bite is slowing down. The beauty of fishing spinners at this time of year boils down to the ability to run two or more lines per angler. Setting up a trolling rig of four or even six bottom bouncers amounts to a “fish harvesting” system!

For those who haven’t taken the plunge into fishing rivers with spinners, this presentation is easy to learn, highly productive and one of the best ways yet to come toe to fin with a bunch of walleye!


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