Bobbers, corks, floats… depending upon where you come from, fishermen have different names for the buoyant device that suspends a bait below the surface. But no matter where you go in North America or what you call it, the revered bobber rig is one of the most popular presentations in fishing. And deadly too!
There’s a magic and significance to bobber fishing. The sight of that float twitching, popping, or shooting down like a missile in reverse is one of the most exciting experiences in fishing – no matter what you’re fishing for. Best of all, bobber fishing is one of the easiest approaches to the sport. However, there are some tips and tricks to bobber fishing that can help you put more fish in the boat.
Most anglers in America use fixed floats almost all the time. But there are certain applications where slip bobbers are critical. In case you’re not familiar with what a slip bobber is, let me explain. With a slip rig, the bobber has a hollow ferrule through its center that allows the line to slide through it effortlessly. A “bobber stop” is affixed to the line above the float (along with a stopper bead). You can set the stop anywhere on the line that you want, so you can effectively cast and fish at any depth. It’s important to use monofilament line with this set-up, instead of braid. Braided “super lines” are very slippery and don’t allow the bobber stop to “bite” very well.
Let’s say you have walleyes or whatever species located on a deep-water hump that’s 26 feet deep. Set your bobber stop to 25 feet and presto, your bait hangs a foot off the bottom right in front of the fish’s nose. The typical bait used in a slip bobber presentation is a jig or plain hook tipped with live bait (minnows, leeches, crawlers, etc.).
When you make a cast, your bait will fall vertically to the location of the float. Since many species, like walleye, like to hit a bait on-the-drop, pay attention to your line as the bait sinks. If your float is set at 25 feet, and the line suddenly stops coming off your spool at 10 feet, then something has intercepted it on the way down. Reel up the slack and set the hook when this happens.
Another great slip bobber presentation, because of the way the bait drops vertically, is to use the rig for fishing pockets in heavy cover. Spot a little clearing in some cabbage, pads, reeds or whatever and pitch the cast on the spot. Your bait will fall straight down and hopefully there will be a game fish waiting there at that ambush point.
We’ve all used those classic, round, red & white clip-on bobbers, right? They float, so they do the job. But there are other bobbers in the store that can do a whole lot more for you. One such float style is what we call the “pencil bobber”. This is a favorite style for situations where a fixed bobber works best, which is typically when fishing for smaller fish. Why? Because smaller fish like perch will bite one of two ways: sometimes they’ll pull the bobber down, and sometimes they’ll take a bait and rise with it. Set the amount of weight under the long, skinny pencil bobber so it’s just enough to make the bobber float at a 45-degree angle. If a fish hits downward, the bobber tips up. If he hits it rising, the bobber lays flat on the water. Either way, you will see the bite and end up catching more fish! Give it a try.
Fixed bobbers, in my opinion, are also better than slip bobbers when fishing for spawning fish on the beds. Instead of the bait falling straight down, it falls with a pendulum motion on a fixed bobber. From my experience, this triggers strikes from protective spawning fish much better than a vertical drop.
You’re never too young or old to have a blast catching fish with floats. But remember, despite the simplicity of bobber fishing, there are always a few ways to maximize the effectiveness of any presentation. Go get yourself an assortment of bobber styles, shapes and sizes and experiment with them this summer. You’ll be glad you did.