Swing it for more Walleyes -
How to fish the pendulum system

by: Mark Martin

I've always looked at the winter months as the time when I can begin to catch up on some learning.  You see from the period from April through September is the tournament season on the professional Walleye trail (PWT) where I compete.  during that period magazines stack up next to my reading table, waiting for this season when I can finally find some time  to study the written word.  So sonce I'm thinking so hard about what I am going to learn for the coming fishing season , why don't I take this opportunity  to pass along some wisdom that I am sure will put more walleyes under your belt next season also.

    Sure I can fish a jig and also pitch to shallow walleyes or work them in weeds but when it comes to my bread and butter, everyone has one .  the one that i am so effective at and have great confidence in cashing a check is trolling , not just any trolling, but trolling with bottom bouncers.  bottom bouncers is actually a misnomer because they are quite a bit more versatile than just fishing on the bottom.

    A bottom bouncer itself is just a 90 degree bent wire, with a weight cast to the leg that sticks out towards the bottom and a trailing arm that you attach your bait to.  bottom bouncers can be  of varying weights typical weights in my box are 1/4 to four ounces.  the also can be painted or plain lead, and in most instances I fish painted, it adds an element of attraction to the trailing bait presentation.  Bottom bouncers     are made by a variety of companies all claiming certain traits that make there designs better than the others.  the one aspect of a bottom bouncer design that is truly imperative is , does it spin and twist your line if you pick up speed or hit bottom.  this you can only find out by experimentation of many different kinds or listen to the advice of an old pro like me ( I don't feel that old.  The only bottom bouncer I use , for the previous reason stated is the Northland Rock Runner.  It has an "R" bend where you attach your line and this simple bend will keep you fishing productively without tangles and spinning as long as your not dragging them on bottom.

    Now the bottom bouncer itself is part of the equation to successful trolling but not the only key.  The rig that fishes the bottom bouncer is just as important.  Working up from the bottom bouncer the next element is the line.  Although many fisherman use mono filament lines as there main line.  I have a distinct advantage over them by using 20 lb. test Berkley Fireline.  Because Fireline has no stretch , it transmits information to me up the line.  I have much better feel and am able to keep my rig at the precise depth to make it effective. You see many fisherman make the mistake, knowingly or unknowingly in the ease of mono, of having there bottom bouncer in the contact with the bottom to much, especially if it's a soft bottom.  when fishing a contour edge, we need to keep the rig slightly above the fishes head.  This is because all predators look up to feed, and a rig presented below them may go unnoticed.  I want my bottom bouncer to lightly tick the bottom, just occasionally.  In fact the ideal depth would be when I drop my rod tip down to the waters surface. the bottom bouncer makes contact with the structure.  By constantly checking for the structure I am fishing with in a foot or so of the bottom, and right over the walleyes heads, and this process of checking for the bottom attracts attention.  Fireline transmits that slight bit of information to me immediately, no matter what the bottom content is, so that my presentation spends more time in the productive fish catching zone.

    Now that it's up the line to the ideal stick and gear ( rod and reel) combo to maximize not only our feel for this type of fishing, but give us the ability to haul in some monster eyes once we hook em.  A long rod is required with my personal choice being the Gary Roach 7'10" medium action collapsible rod teamed with a Abu-Garcia 5500 reel.  The good news is that this is the same rod I use for many applications, including a planer board rod, so if you get this one it has a great deal of versatility.

    Now once were geared up its time for bait selection.  Although you can present a variety of baits with a bottom bouncer the primary weapon is the spinner rig for fishing crawlers and  leeches. For reasons you'll understand better in a moment the spinner rig of choice for me is the Northland Float N' Spin.  Ideal snell length for fishing structure  is 4 to 4.5 feet  and for open water  lengthen it to 6 to 8 feet.  There are reasons why the Northland Float N Spin is a superior rig.   One reason is the float that keeps my presentation from falling deeper than my bottom bouncer when reducing speed.  Because speed whether fishing structure or open water is the key to fishing a bottom bouncer for maximum effectiveness.

    Here is an example that should go a long way in helping you understand how to use a bottom bouncer and regulate its fish catching ability with speed with planer boards in open water.  If I want to present baits to fish I have marked on my Lowrance LCX depth finder at 20 feet I'll use a 3 oz bottom bouncer and let out 27 feet of line trolled at about 1/8 to 1/4 m.p.h. this will take my bait down to about 17 to 18 feet deep, right over the fishes head where I want to be.  Now let's say I mark a school of fish  at 15 feet on my Lowrance LCX  and I want to put bait in there faces right now not on the next pass, because they might be gone by then .  The way i do that is what I call fishing the Pendulum .  By Increasing my speed to about 2 to 2.2 m.p.h. the bottom bouncer immediately rises upward and by the time the bait comes by that school, it is right over there heads and if they are active they'll hit it.  This is a prime example of the Pendulum theory of fishing. where I swing the bait up to the fish for the fish that appear on my depth finder screen.

   The other end of the Pendulum would be fishing the same rig, under the same set of circumstances, my Lowrance LCX shows me a group down at 23 feet deep.  to swing the pendulum down and get the bait right in above them I simply hit the idle resume button  it kicks the speed down from 2.2 to 1.4 on my Mercury 15hp four stroke kicker motor and pendulums the bait down.  As my Lund 2025 Pro V glides down on speed the bait is presented right to the fish and POW.  In a perfect world. I've just caught a fish that otherwise would not have had an opportunity to see or hit my bait.

    The Pendulum system requires perfect boat control along with precise speed adjustments.  although extremely effective  at producing fish for years this was a very cumbersome technique because I was forced to, steer my boat, control the throttle and fish all my rods at the same time.  i already know what happens when I have a great multitude of tasks to take care of when fishing, some of them invariably suffer.  Well the task of Pendulum fishing  has become much easier with the advent of auto pilot systems for kicker motor  not only does it steer my boat  automatically , adjusting for cross currents and cross winds but also controls my throttle so i can adjust my speed  without ever touching the motor.  I simply stand anywhere there is a fish finder in the boat, and a small hand held remote  about the size of a microphone and make speed and steering adjustments.  There is also a button on the remote that when hit , immediately idles the motor down and when hit again, brings the boat back up to the speed it was at before the button was hit, It allows me to work the Pendulum more effectively than ever before.  That means more fish on the end of my stringer and after all that's why we go fishing! 

Tight lines and good fishing!

Mark Martin


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