Sonar slip walleyes: watching strikes on the big screen.
FEW IF ANY ANGLERS KNOW MORE ABOUT PRESENTING SLIPBOBBER RIGS FOR BIG WALLEYES THAN GREG BOHN, AUTHOR OF MASTER THE ART OF SLIP BOBBERING. SLIP-FLOATING PROFESSIONALLY AS A GUIDE, A WRITER, AND A TACKLE-INDUSTRY PLAYER FOR 30-PLUS YEARS, BOHN IS A BOBBERING MAESTRO. HE'S ALSO A PIONEER IN THE ART OF INCORPORATING SONAR INTO SLIP-FLOAT PROGRAMS.
"It's all about watching walleyes hit drifted slipbobber rigs on 10-inch electronic screens," he says. "It's unbelievable. The technique uncovered secrets regarding how walleyes strike float rigs. Nothing tells you what's hot and what's not quicker than this method. When you can see walleyes reject, you know it's time to tweak. It's the same reason we feel blind when ice fishing without sonar: watching fish react to a rig tells us when everything's right, and it tells us when we need to change something. Visual strikes are exciting, but so are rejections, because you can see the fish react one way or the other. Now I feel blind when slipbobbering without sonar in open water."
Bohn also insists that developing his sonar system has revealed locations big walleyes use that he never would have guessed--much less fished. "Drifting float rigs while watching my electronics has taught me plenty," he says. "I feel like I have an edge over every other corker on the lake."
SLIPS OF THE TRADE
The key, Bohn says. is maneuvering the boat in a manner that keeps the rigs vertical and in the cone of the transducers mounted fore and aft. "It's tricky" he warns. "I'll be the first to admit I've wrapped a few rigs. One clear byproduct of the technique is the ultra-fine boat control you pick up along the way. Drift speed has to be strictly controlled, and rigging has to match speed. It's not easy. The rigging has to keep the bait straight down, under the boat. When the rig is pushed or pulled beyond the capacity of your weighting component to keep it straight down, the rig will no longer be in the strike zone, at the desired depth off bottom."
Bohn notes that any electronics work, but some pick up things like swivels and tiny terminal items better than others. His choices include the Lowranee LCX-110, with its highly visible 10-inch screen, and the Humminbird 917c and 787c. All these units offer high definition (HD). "Increased pixel counts provide sharper imaging, allowing me to lock onto light jigs suspended under the boat," he says. "But to see them in a moving boat in open water, I have to adjust the electronics. I shut off the auto sensitivity feature and manually increase the sensitivity, generally to between 80 and 94 percent, depending on depth.
"It's important to understand cone-angle boundaries," Bohn adds. "Wider cone angles allow you to pick up more activity, but with less density in terms of returning signals. The Humminbird 917c has dual transducers, one sending out a 60-degree wide beam and the other sending down a narrower 20-degree beam. With both transducers, I can keep a rig in view almost all the time if it's within 20 feet of the boat. Dual transducers expand the coverage area equal to your depth.
"Of course, keeping one or two rigs right under each transducer is key," he says. "When the cone angle is perfect and the boat is straight, I can watch 3 or 4 rigs at once." Most days are less than perfect for slipbobbering, Bohn admits. "Winds in the zero to 5 mph range create optimum conditions, and winds from 5 to 10 mph are the best. Ideally you have steady breezes, a slight chop, and clouds. Winds at 10 to 20 mph still allow you to drift, but it's best to anchor in anything greater than that. Some days the boat and the rigs have to be drifting along or strikes are few and far between, so days with light winds often produce better fishing than calm days."
Bohn often employs a driftsock or two and control-drifts with his Vantage 80 transom-mount Minn Kota. One large sock (36- to 42-inch) is attached to a cleat near the bow in most conditions. In bigger winds. he attaches a second, smaller (25- to 30-inch) sock to the cleat. Bohn back-trolls to create a drift in calm weather. "But too much assisted movement pulls the rigs up out of the zone," he says. "Clients and I lower all rigs right beside the boat, eliminating casting. No casting means virtually no tangles, but speed becomes critical. To keep those rigs in the zone, the boat should be traveling 1 mph or less most of the time. That includes downwind movement or natural drift in combination with assisted movement or controlled drift. However, sudden changes in direction and speed trigger strikes, so the idea isn't necessarily to keep the rigs stationary."
Bohn practices his trade with 9-foot Mr. Slip Bobber Float Stick Rods from his Strictly Walleye website lineup (gregbohn.com). "The additional length allows me to better position float rigs within the cone "When you're fishing closely with two rods side by side, it's easier to adjust position and control drifting lines with a longer rod. When fishing straight down at boatside, a 7-foot rod is sometimes preferable.
"The key is a medium-light action combined with enough backbone to lift the float up, and retain enough power to set a hook."
Bohn uses Shimano Symetre series 1500 and 2500 spinning reels. "Symetres have a drag lever," he says. "They're user-friendly. Set the lever far left for a really loose drag, which is the best setting for rod-holder duty. Set the lever dead center and it's perfect for fighting fish." Bohn spools up with 8- to 10-pound Stren Magnathin when employing 6- to 8-pound snells.
Rod holders secure the rods much of the time oil Bohn's boat, but he likes to have a rod in hand for jiggling and twitching the spinner rig.
"It's amazing how many walleyes are triggered by twitching the rig or changing the speed of the rig, and that's another reason why it can be important to watch walleyes react to the rig. Pull to increase speed and push the rod tip toward the float to decrease speed. This can be done with the boat, too, when rods are in holders. Hits happen fast so you have to be ready to pull that rod."
Bohn has mastered the use of shells and specialized spinner rigs under a slipfloat, using Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle Mr. Slip Bobber Rigs that he designed. "Bladed rigs provoke 50 percent more strikes when drifting," he says. "But they provoke 50 percent fewer strikes when you're anchored in calm weather. That's when you want to use less attraction and more natural livebait appeal." The Tru-Turn version, offering a Tru-Turn hook, comes prerigged with a bead and petite blade above the hook, a 24-inch 10-pound leader, and a swivel.
"Oversized hooks on these rigs provide better hookups under a float," he adds. "And you can use the components to simply tie the rigs to lighter snells when walleyes get fussy."
The Bobber Bug rig is similar but sports the vertical jig Bohn designed and made famous for slipbobber techniques. Determining which way to go--plain hook or leadhead--becomes an interesting process. "The petite Indiana blades on these rigs can produce dramatic results. These blades spin with the slightest movement," he says. "When livebait scrambles to avoid an oncoming predator, the blade flashes even more. I constantly change bead size, blade color, jig size, and hook size, until the cream rises to the top. It doesn't take long to spot the hot rig when you're watching "fish react. Observing walleyes' responses is the key to tuning your snell rig. Mr. Slip Bobber Rigs can be changed out in seconds, so when you get a hit on a specific combination, you can quickly match it on every rod in the boat.
"When walleyes follow a rig but lose interest, it's time to switch rigs. That's a primary advantage when using sonar to watch strikes." He primarily uses 1/32- to l/8-ounce Bobber Bugs when fishing jigs. As a general rule, use hooks in calmer weather and jigs in windier weather. The windier it is, the heavier the better. But that's just a general rule. He might try almost anything in any conditions, when he's able to watch walleyes react. Sometimes the added movement of a rig lightly weighted at the bottom triggers more strikes in waves.
Bohn weights his rigs with Water Gremlin Rubbercor sinkers. Lay the in the slot, twist the rubber knobs each end in opposite directions, and it becomes a removable sinker. Bohn uses 1/16- to l/4-ounce sizes, depending on wind and wave action. Weights match the size of the Thill Pro Series slipfloat already on the line, combining smaller weights with Smaller floats. He attaches the weight directly to the snell, about halfway between hook and swivel.
"I also use the Thill Euro-style wagglers. Standard stipfloats lean toward you when being pulled, but wagglers have the line flowing through a hole in the bottom of the stem. and lean away from you when pulled. That connection makes a waggler less likely to get blown around in waves, where the brightly colored stem above the water is tall and highly visible, so I like waggler-style floats when fishing 30 feet from the boat or more."
The spread and placement of bobbers is called a "drift set." Proper positioning covers the water more efficiently and avoids tangles when fish run with the bait. Bohn never fishes more than 6 rods. On a typical day, the first set is lowered into the water alongside the boat, adjacent to the transducer. The second set goes out about 15 feet from the boat just beyond the main driftsock. A third float is placed 15 feet out and 15 feet or so from the second, and the rest are staggered strategically out to about 30 feet. "Beyond 30 feet," Bohn advises, "most days you can't see the float often enough in waves, and you can't catch what you can't see when using floats. When repeated strikes occur on sets placed out at 30 feet, it's a sign that walleyes are spooked or in a finicky mood."
Bohn gets to know an area with his electronics before drifting through, looking for points, inside turns, and breaks, in an effort to plan his drift. "Slipfloats work best when the bait is positioned 1 to 3 feet off bottom." he says. "It's not always possible, but if you get to know the area first, you can plan a drift that keeps most of the baits in the zone 80 percent of the time or more. Avoid snags by setting the depth of each rig a foot higher than the shallowest point you marked when first patrolling the spot. Walleyes generally prefer to surge up out of weed-cover or rocks to take a rig, rather than scrounge for it on bottom."
Bohn also uses GPS plotter trails to follow the same track after a hot drift, or to stagger each drift after following a dead trail, "Never interfere with the drift, stop the boat, or make speed adjustments when strikes are occurring. Once you interfere with that successful rhythm, the strikes stop coming every time."
Bohn baits his rigs with minnows, crawlers, or leeches, usually carrying all three options on the boat on any given day, often with a variety of minnows ranging in size from small fatheads to larger redtail chubs. "Let the walleyes tell you what they want," he says. It should be noted that In-Fisherman staffers have had great success with Berkley Gulp! Leeches, wacky-rigged Berkley PowerBait Crawlers, and other scented softbaits under floats. In fact, these options often produced more action than livebait.
Bohn's slipfloat tactics work spring through fall in big lakes, little lakes. reservoirs, flowages, rivers--even the Great Lakes. He learned he could improve his odds every day on the water by watching walleyes react to slipfloat rigs with electronics, adding new wrinkles and improved efficiency to any slipfloat program.
"A drifting slipbobber system excites walleyes, regardless of lake choice, time of year, or fishing conditions," Bohn concludes. "Catching walleyes with slipfloats is always fun But watching them strike on screen, right below the boat, is priceless." Not surprisingly, the more proficient you get at Bohn s sonar slip system, the more common such moments become.
BY MATT STRAW, GREG BOHN, & WALLEYE IN-SIDER
RELATED ARTICLE: Night moves.
GREG BOHN IS NO STRANGER TO FISHING THE NIGHT SHIFT, particularly on clear lakes where monster walleyes go on nocturnal feeding rampages, Last April, Walleye In-Sider outlined Bohn's dark secrets ("The Floats and the Darkness") that produced an amazing 1.292 walleyes from 18 to 30 1/2 inches long in 68 all-nighters during the 2007 season. Bohn says '08 was even better.
Briefly, the key to his system is intercepting walleyes' night raids on a lake's sweetest offshore structure, typically boulder-strewn humps rising sharply from depths of 50 feet or more before topping out 12 to 20 feet beneath the surface. Sandbars peppered with weeds or rocks are second-tier spots.
After locating and thoroughly scouting prime lies by day, Bohn returns in the evening. He idles in upwind, kills the engine at least 150 yards from the spot, then drifts closer and anchors along the drop-off--the perfect position for lobbing casts to the structural crown. Go-to rigs are Lindy Pro Series snells, sporting either a 1/8-or 1/16-ounce Bobber Bug or #4 to #6 Aberdeen, shot-balanced beneath a Thill Nite Brite or Finesse Nite Brite float. Rod-N-Bobb's Lucky Jack, the Blue Fox Firefly, and Northland Tackle's new Lite-Bite are other worthy options. Floats are set so that livebait--a Texas-rigged whole crawler or leech impaled just below the sucker--dangles 2 to 4 feet above the bottom.
To be clear, this isn't the twilight-bite-in-bed-by-10 deal, it's hardcore. Bohn fishes from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m, giving each area at least an hour to produce before moving to a new nightspot.--Dan Johnson
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|Title Annotation:||FOCUS ON FLOATS|
|Author:||Straw, Matt; Bohn, Greg|
|Date:||May 1, 2009|
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