Tom Backer doesn’t let much slip by him, especially when he’s armed with slip-bobber rigs. The North Dakota walleye pro with eight years on the Professional Walleye Trail uses slip-bobbers to target summertime walleyes in wood and weeds at Devil’s Lake and elsewhere.
Slip-bobbers are effective from Memorial Day to the end of summer, he said. A recent outing produced several walleyes, including one that stretched 27 inches.
The key is the right rig in the right place at the right time.
Use 10-Pound-Test Line
Start with 10-pound-test line on a spinning reel matched with a 7-foot, 6-inch rod. The extra length helps take up slack during a hook set. Although, Backer uses thin, plastic bobber stops that don’t move once they’re in put in place, good high-quality thread style bobber stops work as well.
Next, add a Thill float and a barrel swivel. Then from the swivel, tie on a 2-foot leader of 8-pound line. That way if you get snagged and must break off, you only lose what’s below the swivel instead of losing the entire rig, float and all. Tie on a plain hook, NO-SNAGG hook, a small 1/16-ounce Max Gap jig, or a NO-SNAGG Veg-E-Jig. Experiment with style and color.
Add enough weight to balance the float, add a leech, and you’re set. Split shot will do. But consider using a rubber-core sinker to avoid pinching and weakening the line. A 1/4-ounce rubber core sinker works well with a Thill Center Slider.
Backer concentrates on shallow wood, just 3 feet to 5 feet deep, early in summer. Most years, he’ll move deeper to the 12-foot to 14-foot range by late July and early August. This year, that transition has come a little later, he said. The wet year and high water are keeping walleyes shallower than normal for a longer period.
Backer likes the trees with branches that spread out rather than ones that are straight up and down.
“The bigger fish are in the thickest trees,” he said. “The heavier the concentration of trees, the better.”
Eliminate unproductive areas by looking for points and inside turns in the tree line.
Keep Boat Steady
Tie both the front and rear of the boat to the wood if you can. That eliminates lost anchors as well as needless boat movement that causes bobbers to drift and may cause snags.
“I don’t like the boat moving around,” he said.
Try fishing a Veg-E-Jig without a float straight up and down over the side of the boat for more vertical hooksets. Casting too far away leads to hang-ups, too.
Contrary to the normal rule-of-thumb when walleye fishing, Backer prefers to use slip bobbers in calm water.
“That’s against the grain,” Backer admitted.
But, he has good reason. In rough water, the tree branches move about and scare out baitfish and walleyes, he said. Rough water also makes snags more likely.
“Generally, if it gets too rough, I like to troll”, he added.
Fish One Foot Off Bottom
Set the bobber stop so that the bait rides about a foot off the bottom. In thick cover, set the bait two feet up so the leech can’t swim into the branches and hang up. A higher setting also gives you more time to set the hook before a walleye grabs the bait, swims back into the wood and gets snagged.
For the same reason, set the hook fast to avoid trouble. Don’t be afraid to horse the fish up.
Use slip-bobbers to target vegetation, too.
“There are lots of fish in those weeds,” he said. Again, Backer eliminates wasted time by focusing on the points and inside turns in the weed-line.
Great places to try are pockets in the weedbed, especially larger clearings surrounded by vegetation where walleyes can lay in ambush.
You should give prime areas like those up to a half-hour to produce. When he moves, he moves only a short distance, maybe 20 yards or so.
The time of day doesn’t seem to be a factor in how well wood and weeds produce, he added.
Try slip-bobbers in heavy cover in summer. Don’t let walleyes give you the slip.
For a fine assortment of Fishing Gear, click here.
Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson write a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Ted has many fishing achievements, including a victory at the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later. (Ted’s sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle Rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu and Nautamatic TR 1.)