Interested in giving bottom-fishing a go? Great! I've gone ahead and highlighted the Top 10 issues that anglers face when bottom-fishing below. Make sure you know what's to come and tips to avoid them so you can bottom fish better!
1. Line Lay – How your line sits in the water
How your fishing line sits in the water can be the difference between catching and blanking. If a fish can see line, they are a lot less likely to take the bait. In an ideal world your line will spread itself across the bottom of the waterbody, even potentially slightly sinking itself – In reality, this rarely happens.
Generally, one of three things will happen:
- The line is floating
- The line is sinking, but is too stiff to conform to the contours of the lakebed
- Half of your line is floating, and the rest has sunk
I’d always recommend switching up which type of line you use, and to switch up the strength and type of it dependant on where you are fishing, what you're fishing for, and what you have on the line - whether that be a heavier weight, bait or lure, or even an in-line electronic or camera.
To help sink your line there are a few things you can try:
- Once cast, and your lead has landed on the bottom, dip the tip of your rod under the surface and do a couple of quick turns of the reel handle. This will help sink the link quickly by breaking the surface tension of the water. Doing this will alleviate half/fully floating line.
- Loosen off lines slightly, this means the line is less likely to be taut and will conform to the bottom of the waterbody (This is more important in the winter when fish are feeding more slowly and are more cautious). Doing this will help the line manipulate around the contours of the lakebed.
2. Snags – Stuff to get caught on!
Snags… These are the bane of any angler’s existence! Getting your line caught or wrapped around a log, or tree, or anything else in the water can be heart-breaking, especially with a fish on.
Unfortunately, there’s not a huge amount you can do when caught in a snag. Bringing me back to what I mentioned in #1. Know where you're fishing, what you're using, and what you're fishing for. If you're in a spot you can get snagged up on things use a heavier test line, try different motions when trying to free up the line, or if using something like a GoFish Cam, use a heavy test line and a less lbs leader line so if you do lose something on a snag it's your hook or lure and not the camera.
3. Sea / lake bed composition – What’s the bottom of the lake like?
Not doing your research on a waterbody before fishing there can again, be the difference between catching or not catching.
If the bed is full of silt, or weeds then your bait has a lot more likely to be concealed away from the fish, and therefore unlikely to catch anything! In situations where the lake bottom is silty/weedy then generally you are better off fishing with a popup (still bottom-fishing!) as this will raise the bait slightly off of the bed. Different marine electronics are a great way to scope the area you're fishing and gain insight on what the structures and composition looks like.
The bottom of some lakes are completely covered in gravel, now, this isn’t a problem for your bait disappearing, but this can present issues with presentation of your rig. If possible, always ask the lake owner what type of bottom the lake has, or even better, take a look yourself using a product like GoFish Cam.
4. Remembering where you’re fishing! – This one sounds simple, but it’s so easy to mess up!
With bottom-fishing, no float or marker is used. This can present problems when trying to remember where in that 50-acre lake you are casting.
This can cause more issues when you go to recast and are unaware of where your second rod is. You’re likely to get a cross over, which is far from ideal.
A quick tip to help you remember where you have cast is to place a popup in a PVA bag prior to casting, attach this to the hook. Once cast and the bait is set, the popup will rise up to the surface and give you a hook idea of your location.
5. Tackle – Hooks, rigs, leads etc.
Using end tackle that isn’t 100% suited to the situation at hand can be a huge issue when bottom-fishing (as well as every other style of fishing).
If you are trying to conceal a rig, then using a bright sand coloured lead on a green weedy lake will stick out like a sore thumb, this is the same with leadcore/leader materials. So try green weights/leaders for weedy lakes and perhaps sand coloured weight/leaders for sandy or gravel bottom lakes.
The quality of equipment is paramount, hooks need to be very sharp as with bottom-fishing they get blunted down very quickly, don’t use cheap swivels, buffers, etc... as they WILL break and you will lose your fish.
6. Presentation – Has your rig landed upside down?
The presentation of a rig is insanely important, it doesn’t matter if you’ve tied the most amazing/complex rig in existence. If it lands upside down, with the hook sat on top then I’m sorry, you’re not going to catch anything!
Before sending your rigs out for real, test them in a small tank, or plastic container. See how they sink and land on the bottom, if they land wrong, then make some changes to the rig, such as adding some weighted putty, or replacing half of your bottom bait with a popup. If you don't have a small tank to test them in, try tossing them in with a camera on your line to get underwater insight as to what that lure/bait presentation looks like.
7. Concealment – Fish are more intelligent than you think!
This one is simple, if a fish can see your rig on the floor, then it is unlikely to pick it up. Therefore you are even more unlikely to catch anything.
Keep rigs simple and minimal and as mentioned in the above point, use the correct tackle for your location.
8. Bait – Now, this one is tricky.
Bait is different for every location (and I mean that), most locations will fish well on different baits day by day!
Just make sure when you are fishing, take a variety of baits with you, whether that be boilies, or dead bait. I usually find taking a fruity flavour, a meaty flavour and some actual meat is fool proof.
Just don’t use anything that floats… (Popups are perfect though, on a short rig).
9. Bite Indication – Alarms and bobbins don’t always do the trick…
Knowing when you have a fish on can be the most difficult part of bottom-fishing, alarms and bobbins don’t always do the trick and you don’t have a float or marker to watch.
Alarms and bobbins are generally fit for purpose, you know, if your alarm goes screaming off, then I’d probably say you have a fish on. But… a lot of the time (especially in the cold weather), a fish will pick up the bait and not move, or just move a little.
In these times, keep an eye on your rod tips, but most of all, use gut instinct – If you think you’ve got something on, then you probably have.
This doesn’t really need explaining, bottom-fishing is slower than float/surface fishing, sometimes you will leave your bait on the bottom for hours and hours on end – I even know of people who will only change baits once every 24 hours! You just have to remember, eventually something will come along, just be ready for when it does!
Enjoy your bottom fishing experience and hope you hook on some big ones!