For some reason as we age, we want to expand our horizons. I remember the first time I picked up a bait caster and started, or attempted to start, flinging spinner baits for largemouth. It was an ugly sight, almost like the time I sat on the hill on North Main Street downtown in a VW bug trying to get my “New” car to move forward. Learning to drive a stickshift / manual transmission is much like learning to throw a bait caster – everybody around me was ducking for cover.
Sometimes the old ways of new things are the most fun and rewarding. I’m not saying that learning anything new is not a good idea – quite to the contrary. Learning is fun and exciting, but oftentimes it is just as fun going “Old school.”
At some point in every angler’s fishing life, we started out fishing with a bobber. Some of us teamed with a cane pole and bobber; others may have used closed-face, spin cast equipment and others spinning gear.
Whichever way you started, I would bet that bobber and night crawler played a huge part in the beginning of your fishing career. The reasons bobbers are used for rookie anglers are quite simple – it’s very easy to see if you have a bite. The bobber goes under water, and you tug on the rod, which is attached to the pole and, hopefully, you have a fish. Real basic, real simple.
While many of us have moved on from fishing under a bobber, I enjoy getting back to it. The reason is simple: it’s idiot proof, brings me back in time and it’s very relaxing. Here is a little secret from the fishing industry: bobber fishing is coming back.
A float-and-jig combination has been a long time tried-and-true technique for catching crappie and other panfish. Fishing with a bobber has always been one of the simplest ways for beginners to catch pan fishing, but the tactic can become quite sophisticated when savvy anglers tinker with floats.
The use of electronics has taught anglers where fish are holding. If one has found fish suspended in 8-10 to 22 feet of water, one of the best ways to get after them is keep your bait / offering where the fish are holding.
We generally correlate bobber fishing with crappie and / or panfish. While this is generally true, anglers from walleye to bass to muskie have been bobber fishing with good success.
A fixed float comes in handy for fishing shallow, open water areas; however, the slip bobber is preferred by pros for long-distance deliveries, pitching into tight spots or presenting their baits to suspended fish. Panfish experts can present their lures or live bait in a wide range of situations when they use the proper bobber setup.
During ice-off conditions, crappie and other panfish can be found in any structure that is available to them. Try a slip bobber rig to lure the fish out of the cover. Slide a bobber stop, stop bead and slip float onto your line, followed by a split shot and a long shank number 6 or 8 hook to complete the rig.
Set the bobber stop to the same distance on the line as the depth of the brush and then add a minnow to the hook. The rig allows you to cast 25 to 30 feet away from the boat to keep a safe distance from the brush piles, yet you can still make a deep vertical presentation to keep your minnows in the strike zone.
Attaching a fixed round or pear-shaped bobber like slip bobbers about 1 to 4 feet above a plastic tube, doll fly or horsehead jig is an effective rig for catching crappie suspended above shallow brush piles in the spring and fall. Cast beyond the submerged brush and slowly reel the bobber back to the cover. Twitch the bobber over the cover or let waves roll the bobber to impart action to the jig.
While trolling with minnows in rough water, excessive boat and rod movement can cause the bait to bounce around too much. You can solve this problem by using a slip bobber above a double minnow rig anchored with a 1/4-ounce bell sinker. The bobber holds the minnow rigs still in the rough water and keeps the bait in the strike zone and out of snags while trolling over stump fields.
A weighted bobber is ideal for pitching minnows into tight places such as low-hanging tree branches. Crimp a split shot about 3 inches above a number 2 hook and set the bobber about 1 to 2 feet above the float for your rig.
Learning how to use a slip bobber has always been one of the simplest ways for beginners to catch panfish, but the tactic can become quite sophisticated when savvy anglers start tinkering with floats. A fixed float comes in handy for fishing shallow, open water areas, however, the slip float is preferred by the pros for long-distance deliveries and casting or pitching into tight spots or presenting their baits to suspended fish in deeper water. Panfish experts can present their lures or live bait in a wide range of situations when they use the proper slip bobber setup.
We have discovered a couple different ways to catch suspended fish while fishing under a bobber.
When fishing early season crappie and other panfish on the clear-water lakes, burrow into brush, try a slip bobber rig to lure the fish out of the cover. Slide a bobber stop made of thread, a bobber stop bead and foam slip float onto a 6-pound fishing line. Tie on a large barrel swivel which serves as a weight for the rig and a connector to a 1 1 / 2- to 2-foot leader of 3-pound fluorocarbon line and attach a long shank number 6 or 8 hook for fishing a minnow. The slip bobber allows you to make long casts to the brush piles, yet you can still make a deep vertical presentation with your minnow.
Wind and waves create excessive boat and rod movement that cause your minnows to bounce around too much while slow trolling but you can solve this problem with slip-bobber rigs.
Slide 1/4-size slip bobbers on your lines with double hook minnow rigs equipped with 1/4-ounce weights. Slip bobber trolling will allow you to keep your minnows in the strike zone and out of snags as you move slowly over stump fields.
You can rely on a slip bobber rig when you need to pitch a minnow into tight places such as docks or overhanging shoreline structure. Using a weighted slip bobber will provide the weight you need to control your pitch and deliver your minnow on target. Set up your rig by placing the bobber stop on your line, followed by a bead, the float and a small bb split shot crimped about 3 inches above a number 2 minnow hook.
Fishing under a bobber is a lot of fun and should be used as part of every angler’s arsenal. There is a time and place for bobber fishing, whether open water or targeting structure. Give yourself a break this spring. Fish with a bobber, because you may be surprised how much fun you’ll have.