Fishing bobbers bring back all sorts of memories for most anglers. Those little red and white balls floating on the water as you sat there waiting for a fish to bite. The bait you cast out there three seconds ago was still sinking. You were fighting every fiber of your being not to reel back in and check to see if that bit of worm was still there or not. Those are great memories. I honestly don’t remember if the bobber ever went under or not. I don’t think I left it alone long enough to make it that far.
These days I fish all over the place and catch a variety of fish. One week I might be fishing off South Carolina, bringing in some blue fish with a few clients, while the next, I might be back at home casting flies for mountain trout. It’s great to be paid to do what I love. I’m lucky. I still remember those little red and white bobbers, though. That’s because I still use them. Maybe not as often as I did when I was younger, but I definitely use floats of one type or another.
There have been several days that I’ve just wanted to relax and cast a line out with my boy. We sit at the lake and hook up a couple of bobbers and let the fish do the rest. Other times I might want to use a pencil bobber due to wind conditions while trout fishing at one of my favorite fishing lakes. I fish with fairly large minnows there, and the trout take the bait in such a way that I can’t feel the bite without the bobber. It keeps me in the game.
Bobbers aren’t appropriate for every situation, but there are definitely times that call for them. Salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest, chasing Redfish in the Gulf of Mexico or catching trout on a windy lake, whatever the circumstance, the proper bobber will help immensely.
The idea behind the bobber is simple. The bobber typically floats on the surface while the bait is a few feet below. The fish bites the bait, causing the bobber to move, thus alerting you. Once you’re confident the fish actually has the bait, set the hook, and it’s fish on! Some bobbers work differently in that they can be filled with water to go below the surface. These work as slip bobbers and are more of a weight than a bobber. They carry your line through the water column to tempt more fish into biting.
Let’s look at the different types of fishing bobbers:
- Types of Bobbers – The main styles
- Round Fixed Bobbers
- Cigar Floats
- Slip Bobbers
- Spring Slip
- Bubble Floats –
- Popping Cork
- Dink Float
There are so many great bobbers out there to choose from when choosing bobbers. The bobber aisle at the tackle shop can be overwhelming. Do you buy the cheap ones or the pretty balsa ones that cost more than your first rod did? First, good question. Second, that depends on what you want to do. If you want to see fish strikes and are planning on fishing a few feet below the surface without changing your depth, you can get the cheap round ones. Let’s explore the types and dig a little deeper.
The Main Types of Fishing Bobbers
Fishing bobbers can be separated into two main categories. There are stationary, or fixed, bobbers, and free moving bobbers, or slip bobbers. Fixed bobbers attach to the line and keep the bobber in place, allowing the angler to set the depth of the bait at the height of the bobber.
The typical rigging for the fixed bobber is to attach the swivel, leader, hook, or jig, and finally, the bobber. Most fixed bobbers have either a clip or a plunger apparatus that allows them to be placed on the line after it’s been set up. Determine the depth you want the bait and attach the bobber above the swivel. Connect a split-shot or two below the swivel if necessary.
The slip bobber works by threading the main line through the loop or hole in the bobber before attaching it to the swivel. Once attached to the swivel, connect the leader and hook or jig. The bobber will move up and down the line at will, so if you want to stop it at any point, use a bobber stop.
1. Round Fixed Bobber
Round fixed bobbers are the same as they were when you were a little kid. They still work the same, so if you just cast it out three seconds ago, trust me, your bait is just fine. If you are a new angler, I would recommend using one of these. If you’ve been fishing for years, I’d recommend taking an hour at the lake and just sitting back with one to remind yourself of the good old days.
The pros to using these bobbers are that they’re still cheap, easy to use, easy to rig, and easy to cast. They are available in a wide variety of sizes, including gigantic. I have one that won’t fit in any tackle box I’ve ever seen. I don’t have an idea of what to do with it. Maybe I’ll go shark fishing with it.
There are cons to using these, like sizing to your bait. If you use a bobber that’s too big for your bait, the fish will bite, and the pull on the bobber will yank the bait straight out of the fish’s mouth. If the bobber’s too small, it’ll sink under the weight of the bait.
Casting these can be tricky if there’s too much distance between the bobber and the hook. It’s possible to get the line wrapped up around the bobber, which can be a hassle. Practice makes perfect, so keep at it.
Round fixed bobbers range in price from $2 to $15, depending on how many you want to buy at a time.
2. Cigar Floats
Cigar floats are great for fishing with heavier natural baits. They are generally able to hold up a good amount of weight while showing strikes well. In certain calm water scenarios, I like them to keep my bait just above weed beds.
These floats are easy to set up, as they work much like a round fixed bobber. You just press down on one end, and it exposes a hook to catch your line. You can then connect to the other end. Once you cast out, the float stands upright. If it’s not, you either rigged it incorrectly, or it’s the wrong weight for your bait.
The pros for cigar floats are their ease of use, high visibility, and their ability to handle heavier baits.
The cons are that they tend to get pulled around by winds and currents more than most bobbers.
They range from under a dollar to $20 for a variety pack.
3. Slip Bobber
Slip bobbers allow the line to move freely through them. That’s a great feature for bank fishing for big game fish like catfish. You can cast out and put on an indicator, leave your bail open, and wait.
It’s possible to set a range of depth with a slip bobber, unlike a fixed bobber. Bobber stops will allow you to allow the line to move a few feet one way or the other, however you want to place them. That allows you more control of where your bait is in the water column.
Adjusting the bobber stops is easy and will allow you to quickly access different depths. Getting into different water levels lets you fish more effectively, eliminating that “what if” feeling when you leave the lake at the end of the day.
There are several styles of slip bobbers, and materials range from cheaper plastic to expensive balsa.
4. Spring Slip
Spring slip bobbers are just like slip bobbers with an included fixed bobber mode. Fishing deep water is perfect for the slip setting, while shallower calls for the fixed style. The spring on the bottom is the perfect answer to that.
Wrap your line around the stem, and the spring will hold it in place, making it perform the same as a fixed bobber. This unique addition has made this bobber very popular, and for a good reason. It adds flexibility to an already great design.
Pricing on this bobber is a bit higher than most, though, in a sense, you are getting two for one. Pricing ranges from $8 to $30.
5. Bubble Floats
Bubble floats are what happens when ingenuity comes around to fix a small issue. Fly fishing with a spinning rod isn’t easy. The fly doesn’t weigh anything. The line doesn’t weigh anything. How do you get the fly to move? Introducing the bubble float. The bubble float has a hollow body that can be filled with water to whatever level you want, or you can choose to leave it empty. It’ll give you the weight you need to toss the fly wherever you want.
Another option is to fill it completely with water, allowing it to sink beneath the surface slowly. It’ll take your bait through the entire water column as it makes its way to the bottom. I’ve fished several lakes with this method and have had great success over the years.
They range in price from $2 to $5
Wagglers are great once they’re in the water. Until then, they can be a challenge. They are quite long, and casting is difficult. They don’t weigh much at all, so they don’t get any momentum in the air.
Once they get to the water, wagglers show their worth. A slight nibble sends them wiggling all over the place. It’s hard to miss a bite with one of these on the line.
If it starts to go under, you’ve definitely hooked a fish.
7. Popping Cork
Popping corks are made of…wait for it…cork. Well, most of the time anyway. Some have Styrofoam or plastic, but most are cork. They are typically used for redfish.
The pros are that it’s easy to cast, it’s accurate, and it can be cast quite far. Once the float hits the water, you start your retrieve. It starts making a popping sound that attracts every toothy critter around.
The only cons of these floats are the prices. Some of them can be quite expensive. They’re worth every penny. A quality product that will bring in redfish time and again is worth it. Prices range from $7 up to $45.
8. Dink Float
Dink floats are simple, user-friendly, and very basic. They’re a piece of foam that you wrap the line around. The line stays tight as long as you keep it back from the hook about 8 feet or so. The line tension keeps everything flowing smoothly.
These floats work by sight. You have to keep an eye on them. They will twitch but not give any line feel when a fish bites. It’s a good bobber to use on moving water because the tension keeps the bobber tight easily.
Dink floats are pretty inexpensive, starting around $2 and going as high as $10. They aren’t going to break the bank, but they aren’t going to be the most informative floats either.
Good old yarn. The same kind grandmas used to make mittens with. I prefer bright orange yarn. Not mittens, just yarn. Fly fishing without a dry fly or terrestrial means that you don’t have a float or a strike indicator. Yarn works perfectly. It does the same basic function as a fixed bobber in that it will keep your nymph from sinking too deep while also alerting you to a bite.
It has come a long way from the knitting circles when I would snag some from my mom as a kid because now I have to pay $10 for what I used to cut off with a pair of scissors, but the quality is the same. Yarn indicators are extremely helpful for fly fishing, particularly for those learning the sport.