One of the specialities of the BBG crew is slow trolling, or "bounceballing", for halibut here off the Southern California coast. It's
extremely productive when done correctly, and catches most everything else nearby in the water column. These techniques
will work for all other species of flat fish that ambush prey from the ocean floor, including fluke and flounder on the east coast.
See Bounceball Gear to view and purchase our custom products, developed after thousands of hours on the water and heaps
of fish. Rigging is done completely by the BBG crew. The prices are reasonable with rigging components available for those
who make their own.
Here's a few basic tips, rigging diagrams, and pictures (click to enlarge) to help you enjoy a day on the water with family and
friends. With the cost of fuel, and all the other crazy stuff going on these days, an economical and productive inshore trip is
more appealing than ever!
Bounceballing is simply slow trolling the bottom of the water column. To do it effectively, the boat must be set up to troll at the proper speed for
the rig deployed. The tackle must handle the weight needed. A GPS and Sounder keep track of your location and show the bottom composition.
The tackle needed is pretty simple. Spectra or other non-stretch braided line is essential as the mainline to handle the weight and transmit what's
going on below to the rod tip. 65-80lb works great. Level wind reels eliminate the need to constantly lay the line on the spool and are a nice feature,
as are lever drags to ensure the proper drag setting. The rod needs to be stout enough to handle the constant load. Glass is more durable than
graphite. Glass and graphite composite rods are a great blend. Acid wrapped rods are the perfect application for this.
Slowing the boat down to match the rig used is important. Most boats idle at about 3 mph. The fish will bite at this speed no problem. This is too
fast for a dodger that works best from 1.5-2 mph but not a problem when using a dredge or flasher. Some just use bait bridled in without anything
above with great results. Optimal speed for this application is .5 mph or thereabouts. A drogue, made by Hart and Hart, works great to moderate
speed. Two may be needed dependent on your boat and preferred method.
Bounce-ball rigs are easy to drop back if you just do a few simple things correctly. It can be a nightmare of tangles if you don’t. Here’s how I do
it, in sequence:
• Get the boat at trolling speed pointing in the desired trolling direction.
• Always keep the reel in gear!
• Get the rig over the side of the boat.
• Put the weight in the water first with the dodger trailing.
• Engage the clicker.
• Back off the drag slowly until the rig drops at a steady pace, never faster than the sink rate of the weight.
• Drop back until the ball initially hits bottom. It’s a pronounced thud.
• Continue to drop back just until the ball maintains occasional bottom contact.
• To check how close to the bottom you are, lift and lower the rod. The ball should hit on or near the bottom of the downward motion.
• If the angle of line scope is much greater than 45 degrees, it’s time to add more weight.
Watch the rod tips closely. The spectra transmits every bit of energy to the tip. Big fish are easy to detect. Small fish will jump on and are on for the
ride if you don't see the initial bite. If the rod loads up, the rig likely has collected grass or kelp and needs to be cleared. Rod tips also reflect the
bottom composition bouncing smoothly in sand and more pronounced in rock or gravel. Matched rods are perfect to compare against one another
to determine if something unique is going on with one of them.
Use your electronics to keep the bounceball rigs out of danger and monitor your location. Watch the sounder constantly to dodge structure. The
scope in the line gives a cushion for evasive actions. Be sure to speed the boat up for very sharp turns. Flatties like structure so this keeps the rig
working properly while making it easier to avoid any snags. The GPS shows location so you can anticipate what's coming up and remain in a good
area when they're on the chew. If you're just learning to bounceball, start in an area that's free of structure to get the routine down and practice a bit.
If you get snagged keep trolling. IMMEDIATELY grab the rod, drop it to the 10 o’clock position, thumb the spool, and lift it swiftly to the 1 o’clock
position. Do this a few times, if needed. Often it’s only kelp stuck on the cannonball and the rig frees itself with no time lost. If the snag persists,
back off the drag to little resistance. Stop the boat and clear the other lines. Don’t thumb the spool and muscle the snag out. Run the boat slowly
towards the snag reeling in slack line at the same pace. Once directly above, or slightly past the snag, stop the boat. Increase the drag pressure to
the strike setting. Bring the line tight with the rod tip near the water. Thumb the spool then raise the rod tip firmly to the 1:00 o’clock position, until the
rig is free.
Now that you know what to do, what rig should you use to get them to bite? Hmmm.....how long is a piece of string? Everyone has individual
preferences and who's to say one is better than another. Like anything else fishing, it all comes down to confidence and presentation. I don't like to
buy bait and love to create my own stuff and catch fish with them. Perhaps it comes from the old freshwater bass days.
Here's a few rigs that work for us. See Bounceball Gear to purchase our complete rigs or components to make your own.
Basic California Halibut Fishing Tips
Pound heaps of sand. Nothing worth doing is easy.
Fish where the fish are. Look for sand next to structure when in open ocean waters. The lobstermen know every rock out there. Use this to your
advantage metering and marking new spots near bouys during the season.
Halibut school up like other fish. When you find them, work the area hard. Use your GPS to keep track of bites and boat position. Always mark
spots where big fish are taken. There will be another one there sometime.
Halibut bite in spurts. The window of opportunity may last a few hours or 15 minutes. Be prepared with back up rigs. Don't waste any precious time
when the bite is on. Tide swings are typically a good time for the bite. Pay attention to them.
Lay the fish out nicely for the gaff shot. The halibut's flat shape makes it easy to surf them up with constant forward movement. Kick the boat in
and out of gear if necessary. Keep the head in the water.
Never gaff a halibut in the head. It's bony and the gaff will likely pull out half way up the rail. Try to stick them just behind the gill plate in the soft
Never let a halibut loose on the deck. They will go ballistic and it can be very dangerous. Keep them suspended from the gaff until the hooks are
removed. Then immediately stow them securely in the ice chest or live well. A small baseball bat does wonders to calm them with a few well placed
shots between the eyes.
Take great care of your fish. Bleed them immediately. Have lots of ice ready and make a saltwater slush to chill them down. Filleting cold fish is
bloodless when done this way and there is no need to rinse them off with water of any kind.
Here's an acid wrapped rod in
action. It's loaded from the bottom
of the rod, eliminating the side
torque of conventional wraps.
Here's a picture of my setup with our little skiff
|Hard bottom coming
up showing pending