Friday, July 8, 2011

Slip-bobber Bass'n (and Crappies too!)

Slip bobber fishing is an often under utilized technique in my part of the world. I picked it up just over 4 years ago and have not looked back since. It is the perfect technique for pan fishing and early season bass.


Like all techniques the equipment you choose will be the key to your success, this isn’t you grandfathers red/white bobber, these are upgraded bobbers designed to cast a mile, walk in the water and still be seen in all types of light conditions.
There are a ton of Slip bobbers available on the market today, my personal bobber of choice is the  “Mr. Crappie Slip bobber” made by Betts. These previously were a Bass Pro Shop exclusive but can now be found almost anywhere.

The key to what makes this bobber a success is the body shape, the long oval body allows me to cast this bobber with great accuracy and walk it in and out of open patches of water. (see more on “walking a bobber” below).   I  also prefer to use a weighted bobber, this allows me to use lighter jigs/baits and still cast long distances. Weighted bobbers have a small piece of led placed at the bottom of the bobber, not only does this improve casting as mentioned above, but is also ensures your bobber sits up properly while fishing it.

Other Options: Obviously Thill is one of the major bobber manufacturers in the market today. They make a quality product and provide anglers with a wide selection of bobbers for all your needs. here are a few of the thill bobbers in my arsenal

Tip: Try to avoid slip bobbers that have the long thin stems on the bottom of the bobber. Although these stand up well in the water, they do no walk as well and may slow down your retrieve.

Most slip bobbers come with string ties and beads. These are used to set your desired depth for fishing. Personally I don’t use the string and opt for a rubber bobber stop. Again these are very common and can be found in most local tackle shops. The rubber holds tighter then string stops and can be adjusted multiple times without loosening up on your line.  Rubber stops are available in various colors, I like to use either a black stop or the high vis yellow stops. When fishing further away the high vis yellow allows you to see when you bait has reached its desired depth.

For Bass fishing Im usually a braid guy, but when fishing a slip bobber I do prefer to work with floro, as it slide more easily through the slip bobber it self.

Rod of choice for me when slip bobber fishing really depends on the species Im targeting. For panfish I love long rods that come in from 8ft to 10ft. These assist with long casts and hook sets at a long distance. If you are targeting bass, I will shorten the rod length down to the 7ft range and look for a Medium to Medium/Heavy with an X-Fast tip.  You want to be able to work the bobber, and still have the backbone to land the lunker.

My bait of choice when fishing is slip-bobber are “crappie tubes” these 1.5 inch tubes move well in the water with little to no action needed from the angler. They come in hundreds of colors and can be weighted as small as 1/32oz. My second bait of choice is a wacky worm rig. The bobber allows for extra distance on your cast, keeps  your bait off the bottom and imparts motion from the waters current.

If you like your live bait, a slip bobber can also be used when worm or grub fishing, split shots may be required to get you bait down, and in these cases I would move away from the weighted bobber.


There are many ways to fish a slip bobber and be successful,  the following this my preferred method to fish using a slip bobber.

Walk the dog (stop and go). As mentioned above I use bobbers that allow me to walk them back on the retrieve. By slowly retrieving the bobber and pumping the rod you get a motion very similar to  the top water technique “walking the dog”. What’s cool about this technique is that is allows you to combine two killer bass techniques in one. The bobber walks and causes commotion on top of the water drawing attention to your bait. The jig/bait acts like a follow-up bait softly jigging behind the bobber. 

I walk the bobber a few feet at a time and stop in and around and structure or holes I can see.  As with any technique the speed of your retrieve and the amount of pause will change depending on what the fish is looking for.

Spot, stop and wait is the second common technique, Once you set the depth on your bobber you cast to an area or hole/spot, and let the bobber sit. I will make small twitches to the rod tip to impart motion to the jig but I wont move the bobber very far in this technique. You hit your spot, wait, then yank it out and cast to a new spot.

Tip: Both of the above techniques will require some testing when it comes to what depth to set your bobber, that is something that will change with each body of water, each species and each day. Don’t be afraid to change it up, If I don’t know the depth of the area Im fishing I will start with about 2ft, watch the bobber and your bobber stop, it will tell you if the bait is sitting on the bottom or if something is wrong.

Last but not least I want to introduce a bobber that is not very well known or widely used. A casting bubble although not technically a "slip bobber" shares some of the same traits that the above bobbers do, and has a unique locking feature to replace the rubber stopper. Simply thread your line through the clear bobber, twist the end cap and an elastic band locks you bobber in place on the line. This bobber is great for casting fly's on spinning equipment. The bobber acts as a weight to cast for distance but stays on top of the water like float line. the shape of the bobber also works well as a strike detector.. if you have not yet tried one, I highly recommend it.

Bobber fishing is not just for kids or weekend warriors, they are a great technique that help you fish with small light weight baits and get them into areas you normally can not reach. They allow you to adjust depth and presentation with every cast, be sure to slip on a bobber this season and tell me what you think

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