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Bobber Fishing! The Ultimate Guide To Using Fishing Floats

The Fishing Bobber | Tips, Techniques and How To

It’s difficult to explain why float fishing is so special. Perhaps it’s the natural and sensitive method of presenting the bait or the addicting tendency to fixate your eyes on every movement of the float. Watching and waiting for that magical moment when that float gets pulled under. The calm before the storm if you will.

No matter your reason, float fishing is an extremely effective fishing style, and floats are an essential piece of gear that every fisher should have in their tackle box.

Float fishing, or “bobber fishing”, is one of the most versatile fishing techniques out there and has many advantages:

  • The ability to suspend bait at a specific depth, so you have a better chance of catching fish that hang out close to the surface
  • That suspension keeps your hook and bait off the bottom of the lake or stream where it can easily get snagged on debris in the water like branches, vegetation, and trash.
  • Floats are also great for added visibility of the bait, and so you can more easily detect fish strikes. Not to mention it gives you something to keep your eye on when you are fishing.

A common misconception is that float fishing is just for kids which couldn’t be further from the truth. Look in any experienced or professional fisherman’s tackle box, and you’ll find a large assortment of bobbers. In fact, float fishing is historically one of the oldest fishing techniques. As early as 1921, a company in England had a fishing catalog offering more than 250 styles of fishing floats. It’s even mentioned in the book Treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle which was published in 1496.

With over 500 years of rich float fishing history behind us, it is highly unlikely that is going away anytime soon. We designed this article as an ultimate guide to using fishing floats so you can master this versatile fishing style yourself. We will cover the different types of popular bobbers, when to use a bobber, and how to use a bobber.


Different Types Of Fishing Bobbers

different types of fishing bobbers

Fishing bobbers come in many forms including styrofoam, plastic, and even balsa wood. Most bobbers are brightly colored to make them easily stand out in your eyeshot, and some can also be set up with bright glowing paint if you are into night fishing.

Something worth noting is that the rounder your fishing float is, the more buoyancy you’ll find that it has. Alternatively, the longer or skinnier the fishing float is, the less buoyancy it’ll have. With time and more experience of using fishing floats, you’ll begin to get a better idea of which kind of float to use in different conditions as well as which bobber to use when targeting certain species of fish.

First, let’s dive into the most popular styles of floats:


1. Round Attached Bobber

50pcs/lot Hard ABS Fishing Bobbers Set Snap on Red/White Float Bobbers Push Button Round Buoy Floats Fishing Tackle Accessories Size:0.5/0.75/1/1.25/1.5/1.75/2 Inch (1inch-10pcs)

Arguably the most popular float on the market, rounder bobbers are easy to find, inexpensive, and easy to use. They attach in an in-line fashion where they simply bob up and down on the water. When picking the size of your round bobber be sure to use small ones for ultralight fishing and larger ones for heavier fish. If you use a large and heavy fishing bobber on smaller fish they will have difficulty pulling the line since the bobber is adding resistance above the water.


2. Slip bobber

thkfish Slip Bobbers Fishing Floats and Bobbers Balsa Wooden Fishing Slip Bobbers for Crappie Panfish Walleyes Bass Trout Pike 0.18oz(2.32"X0.67"X5.63in) 0.53oz (3.54"X0.79"X7.09in) 5pcs Red

Typically made of balsa wood and are a bit more expensive than traditional plastic or styrofoam bobbers. Slip bobbers are threaded onto the main fishing line through the hole in the top and bottom of the float. They are then fastened in place below using a small bead weight and your hook and at the top using a small plastic band or a little cotton stopper. Those stoppers on either end give you the flexibility to move the slip bobber up and down your line so you can set your desired depth.  


3. Spring Floats

thkfish Fishing Floats and Bobbers Balsa Wood Floats Spring Bobbers Oval Stick Floats Slip Bobbers for Crappie Panfish Walleyes 1"X0.7"X6" 5pcs

Also made of balsa wood and are a bit more expensive than traditional plastic or Styrofoam bobbers. Spring floats are aptly named because they have a spring on the bottom that easily attaches to your line by pulling the spring back and attaching to the little hook on the end of the spring. The spring floats will suspend in the water until a fish strikes.

Once that fish strikes, the spring floats skinny end (often called the mast end) will pop up and give you greater visibility. Since these are typically taller fishing floats, they are ideal for drift fishing because they give you added visibility among the current and small waves. 


4. Cigar Float

Thill Fish'N Foam Cigar Floats - Red - 2 1/2 in - Weighted Clip

These will fit on the line the same way as a round bobber. They are typically made of styrofoam and come with one end weighted so that when the fish strikes it will bob in a vertical fashion to give you greater visibility. Cigar floats aren’t quite as popular as round or slip floats but are still widely used around the world and worth having in your tackle box.


When To Use A Fishing Bobber For Crappie, Trout and Bass

Bobber fishing is an extremely flexible style of fishing. You can catch Panfish all the way up to sharks on float systems. But, primarily they are used for these types of fish:


Bobber Fishing For Crappie

bobber fishing crappie

Crappie tend to congregate at a specific depth so once you find that sweet spot, you’ll find that the slip floats locate them quickly and stay on them more efficiently than other rigs.

Alternatively, you can use stream fishing floats on lighter crappie. When balanced with the correct amount of lead weight you can slip through the current with minimal resistance leaving the crappie with no chance to escape. In part because the float will be submerged partially and will hook through their paper like mouths.


Bobber Fishing For Trout

bobber fishing trout

In the warmer summer season, trout tend to dive deep into cooler water. Naturally, a sinker rig would work better on that occasion. But during the bulk of good fishing seasons through autumn, winter, and spring they tend to move around more in search of a comfortable zone. That comfort zone is where the trout will strike and is best found closer to the surface with a slip bobber. Trout hit a wide assortment of bait when paired with a bobber so you can’t go wrong with nightcrawlers, minnows, crickets, or mealworms.


Bobber Fishing For Bass

bobber fishing for bass

A common mistake people make when fishing with bobbers for any fish, especially bass, is using a float that is too large. If the bass strikes the float and encounters too much resistance, it will most likely release the bait as a response. A good rule to follow is to use the smallest size bobber you have and float it close to the surface so you can retain as much sensitivity as possible. That way the slightest tug from below will be detected in your line.

Fishing for bass with a fixed bobber, round or oval, paired with a shiner bait fish is usually the way to go. Especially in shallow water around 6 feet deep. The fixed float rig can be suspended in a way that plants itself directly in the face of a shallow water bass if you fix the bobber between 2 to 4 feet above the hook. If your bait fish are lively and fresh, then any swimming should attract bass. With a presentation such as this, you won’t need to retrieve whatsoever. Just cast out and let the bobber wade around until you feel that jiggle or see a hard yank on the bobber.


How to Attach and Use A Fishing Bobber

One drawback to using fishing bobbers is they make it more difficult to cast. Often you end up sacrificing some distance and accuracy with a bobber attached as a result. A slip bobber is a godsend in this department because the line flows through it and gives your cast a bit more in-line rigidity. So while you may lose a little distance and accuracy when casting with the slip bobber, you gain the ability to set your depth.

Lob casting is the preferred method for casting a fixed float rig provided you are using a spin-casting or spinning setup. To easily accomplish a lob cast you should let roughly 3 to 5 feet of line dangle from your rod and raise the tip up so you can swing the lure back and forth like a pendulum. On the swing forward you’ll then sweep the rod tip up and out to release the line. Keep in mind distance isn’t easily accomplished with a lob cast or any bobber casting but in most cases, a short but accurate cast is all you’ll need.


How To Attach A Round Bobber To A Fishing Line

  1. Determine the proper depth you’d like to target fish at and pull that much line from your reel through the rod tip.
  2. The majority of round fishing bobbers have a plastic button on one side that you can press to lower and raise the short wire hook. Press that button on the edge to release one side’s hook and slip the fishing line under the wire hook. Then release the button, so it applies pressure to the line.
  3. Next, run that line down the side of the bobber and fully press the button, so the other side’s hook presents itself. Secure the line to that side of the bobber and release the button. Now the line is held in place at two points between the top and bottom of the round bobber, and you are ready to attach your hook, shot, and bait.

Related: Slip Bobber VS Fixed Bobber


How To Attach A Slip Bobber

Setting up a slip bobber may seem a bit more complicated, but after doing it a few times it shouldn’t give you any trouble. Any fishing line will do, but I find a 6-pound filament works best for assembling the slip float rig together.

  1. Begin by threading the line through a bobber stopper up to the desired depth you are targeting (1-3 feet is most common, any more than that makes casting a bit awkward)
  2. Next, slide a bead up the line. The purpose of that bead is to prevent the bobber stopped from sliding through the bobber. Snug that up to the bobber stopper.
  3. Then slide your fishing bobber up the line.
  4. Next slide a little barrel swivel followed by a leader (I use fluorocarbon line for the leader)
  5. Lastly, fasten your hook, and a couple shot sinkers to give it weight about 2 inches above the hook.


How To Attach A Bobber Stopper

  1. Push your fishing line through the small metal hole in the bobber stopper
  2. Take the line you just pulled through the hole and pull it tight so you now have two sides forming a small loop
  3. Slide the bobber stopper onto the line roughly an inch up
  4. Take the access line and pull it back through the bobber stopper
  5. Slide the bobber stopper to the desired location or depth


Final Thoughts

The beauty of fishing floats all comes down to creating that perfect bait presentation. A properly rigged fishing float can suspend your bait anywhere you want it and allows it to drift with the current naturally. That natural presentation combined with an ultra-sensitive strike indicator makes bobber fishing a highly interactive and effective angling technique. One that is true to the art of fishing and an absolute delight to master.

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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