Back Bouncing

Bouncing Around: Backbouncing Basics

Once you hook your first fish back bouncing, you’re sure to be hooked yourself.  Some may be skeptical hearing about it or even trying it for the first time. It seems like a lot of weight and a lot of distraction with a huge cannon ball banging around on the bottom and you may be doubtful that this technique works. Your wrist may get tired and you may be wondering if you’re even fishing correctly. I know these were all things I felt when I was trying out this technique. It was actually several different trips that I tried backbouncing with little success, but a lot of encouragement until I finally understood what was happening along the bottom. Rest assured this extremely effective technique is absolutely deadly if there is a fish around.

I’m hooked!

In the drift boat we had only ever hooked one fish back bouncing and the chrome springer reared its ugly head before the fisherman even realized there was a fish on his line. That was enough to convince me however, our buddy tried to drill into our heads what a silly technique this was. The first time trying backbouncing for fall Chinook and it was lights out; The COOLEST experience and so rewarding. Walking the weight around a clay bottom, it was difficult to tell what the bottom was, and what a fish tap was. I skeptically continued to bounce with several pauses every few bounces to see if I had a fish. “Set it and forget it!” Our buddy said. And I did just that! “FISH ON!” I had to have had the fish working on my bait for well over a minute and having never hooked a fish with this technique, I didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like!

I felt an instant throb and huge, angry head shakes. “Well, he’s pretty mad!” My rod was 8ft, 12-25lb and I needed every last bit of backbone to land this river monster. Sweating and shaking, I nervously battled this fish and hoped that it was the fish that ran out of energy before me. When I finally got the fish to the boat, we decided this native fish was going to back into the river so that it can make more backbounced, bait eating offspring.

I was convinced prior to catching this fish, but this fish holds some sort of “first fish” place in my heart. We fished in 12ft of heavy boils in a spot that we only get floats successfully fished if you hit the right boil and a hole that kicked plugs out. We got bites almost every pass and the entire boat was released of all backbouncing doubts. In fact, our buddy went out and bought 2 rods for backbouncing the next week, and he didn’t even have a boat!

What is this “backbouncing” technique you call fishing?

Backbouncing really allows the angler to fish holes that are difficult with most other techniques and allows you keep bait in front of fish rather than running past a fish over and over again. A similar presentation as using a bait or jet diver, you create a wall of bait and back the fish down until it decides to try out your decadent bait. You aren’t exactly bouncing back, but walking your bait down river; essentially backing the fish down.

Which holes?

All water! Well, not ALL water, but the ideal backbouncing water is going to be at least 5ft deep and medium to fast current. However, do not limit this technique to only these holding waters. It works great in almost any water; however, a different technique may simply be more ideal or easier to fish. You’ll need to be able to anchor or hold at the top of a hole and this can be very difficult depending on the current and depth but you can either fish from an anchored position, rowing the boat and slowly backing it down, or starting anchored and rowing down if the run is long. Boils are great, but you often do not need as much weight and you need a bit more current to fish a boil.

You will ideally back bounce from a boat, however, depending on the current and position on the bank, you can do this technique bank fishing. So long as you can stand at the top of a hole and run your bait down the hole with the current.

Geared Up From the Rod Up!

When you’re backbouncing, the rod is everything. You need a stout rod with a very strong back-bone with a contrasting, sensitive tip. G Loomis makes 3 different rods with different lengths and weight classes, my preference being the BBR 964C GL2 8′. This is a bit stouter than your typical diver/plug rod but you may need to use up to 5 ounces of weight and you need your rod to be able to lift the weight off the bottom with as little effort as possible. You do however need a sensitive tip to feel the weight hit the bottom in the heaviest currents and to feel a Chinook bite.

When you do set the hook, you don’t need a bass master hook set, let the rod put in the work! The stout rod will be firm enough to easily set the hook deep into the fish’s mouth along with the help of a heavy weight and braided line.

Set Me Up!

There is quite a bit more terminal gear needed for back bouncing than most other fresh water techniques, but all components are quite necessary and worth every penny. The basic concepts of this set up are to have a sliding dropper and the option for your leader to spin and move around freely without getting twisted up.

  • Your main line needs to be braid because mono has too much stretch. I use 40lb Power Pro in high-vis.
  • Start with a T, slider, or you can just use a large barrel swivel. You can use something fixed however, with a sliding dropper, the fish will be able to pick up your bait without feeling the pressure of the weight and only feeling the pressure of a tight line.
    • Your dropper leader should only be about 10-12lb mono line. This is so it will break off before the rest of your set up, including a leader. While a weight is much more expensive than the rest of your set up, you’ll be glad you don’t have to re-tie this entire set up when you’re on the river.
    • Your dropper length should only be about 6-8”. Just long enough to keep your bait off the bottom.
    • I suggest using a snap swivel to attach your weight. This allows you to quickly switch weights without having to tie anything.
  • Next, you’ll want to add a couple of beads as spacers
  • Then, attach your beaded chain. This should be a 4-6 beaded chain (4 beads pictured below). This is merely so your leader can move freely with a smaller chance of wrapping around your main line and tangling up.
  • Your leader should be about 3 feet. Too long and your bait will float too high, depending on it’s buoyancy and too short will keep your bait too close to the terminal gear, weight, and too low.
  • I use 4/o to 6/o hooks when backbouncing. You typically want large baits which hide the hook well, and you want to really be able to set the hook good into the fish.  Because you can really target larger fish, I don’t take chances with small hooks.

Ready….Set….GO!

Once you’re line up and ready to begin fishing, release line out and let your weight drop straight to the bottom. Once you hit bottom, lift your rod tip just a few inches and release a few inches of line at the same time as lowering your rod tip back to starting position. Pause for a moment and repeat the lifting and releasing/dropping.

The lift is really everything. If you lift too high, you will pull the bait too much making it appear too unnatural. If you don’t lift high enough, you won’t back down fast enough making it more unnatural. If you are fishing from a boat, if you don’t life high enough/let out enough line, the boat will catch up and pass your weight making it impossible to finish your run.

Your weight should be heavy enough to sit on the bottom, but light enough to pick up and move with the current. If you get hung up or can’t let enough line out to actually move by the time the weight hits the bottom again, your weight is too heavy. If you are moving over a foot every time you lift and let out line or if you weight is sliding along the bottom while you are paused, you need a slightly heavier weight.

With a boat backing down, it is easier to fish the entire stretch or hole in one pass. While you can back bounce from an anchored or bank position, you can only go so far before your line angle gets too flat and the lifting/setting becomes difficult. You will reach a point where you’re weight simply won’t go any further downstream and you will not be able to let anymore line out. This is where the rowing comes into play.

Bait me up!

The best thing about backbouncing is that you can essentially fish any bait/lure you please. Because it’s just sitting in front of them rather than passing by them like float/drift fishing, it will often “work” on your bait before biting. You can add a cheater, Corkie, or Spin n Glo above your eggs which will help with keeping your bait up, however if you are using a large chuck of eggs or your eggs have a lot of buoyancy, this isn’t necessary unless you want the added color or action.

You can also back bounce a plug! For the holes that are just too deep for a plug, instead of having a bait, you can attach a plug and back the plugs down the same way you would if you were rowing. The strike on this is more aggressive than with bait and should be immediate. No waiting to feel if the fish is there, it will simply take the plug down and fish on! Keep in mind that plugs dive naturally so you need a longer leader (4-5ft) and a longer dropper (at least 1ft) to make sure that your plug isn’t just diving into the rocks.

What Was That?!

When a fish starts working on your bait, you will feel it when you are dropping your weight back down. It often feels like your weight might be hitting bottom and slowly dropping off a small shelf or rock, however, this is the weight pulling on the bait. When this happens, you may want to pause for a few more seconds to see if the fish takes the bait completely or try bouncing another time to see if you feel it again. If the fish is more aggressive, you will feel a bit more action and you can let out more line. Your weight is on a slider for a reason. If you simply let out line when the weight is on the bottom, all you do is allow the current to pick up the bait and pull the line through your slider. Your weight will stay in place; however, you can give the fish more freedom to take the bait without feeling tension before you set the hook.

When you do set the hook, it’s an aggressive reaction typically because the fish has been working on your bait for so long and because your gear is so heavy. Not always, but big fish hold in big holes which are ideal for backbouncing. Some of the largest fish I’ve seen were caught backbouncing and they wouldn’t have been caught in that hole with any other technique because the water was too deep and fast.

Surely you’re convinced! This is my favorite technique and is absolutely deadly if there is a fish in that hole. There is no doubt about that, so get out and try it!