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#22519 - 05/24/10 11:17 PM Panfish Bobber Basics - Bob Bohland
Matt Johnson Offline
Thorne Bros Pro Staff

Registered: 09/18/06
Posts: 3817
Loc: Ramsey, MN

Panfish Bobber Basics
By: Bob Bohland

The bobber is a perennial favorite among anglers of every skill level. Float fishing can be as easy as soaking a chunk of night crawler for bluegills on a small pond or as in-depth as power-corking for walleyes on Mille Lacs. Bobbers work well because they can hold a bait in the strike zone for long periods of time; often enticing bites from inactive fish. They allow a bait to be fished in cover without hanging up. They are a great strike indicator, and with their added weight on the line an angler can cast a small lure a much longer distance than would be possible on its own, which is very helpful for spooky shallow fish.

There are, however, many different variations on how to fish a bobber rig for panfish. One of the more popular rigs is the “popper rig”. This setup entails a traditional round float made of either plastic or foam. Ideally this is for fishing in shallower than 5 feet of water, otherwise it can become very difficult to cast. At regular intervals, snap the rod tip. This creates a popping/gurgling noise on the surface and causes the jig to dart about as if it is trying to flee. This method works well for shallow fish that are aggressively feeding and can also be rigged up with a small floating or suspending crankbait a few feet back from the bobber.

For super-shallow fish or those in gin-clear water a large colorful bobber may spook more fish than it attracts. In this situation, downsize your float to a Thill Shy-Bite. These bobbers have a small profile and will not spook fish when cast. They can be rigged as a stationary float or as a slip float for fishing deeper water. Alternatively, this setup also works well for dragging jigs over shallow weed flats where fish are spaced out. Cast the rig as far as you can in the direction of the flat and slowly reel it back in, adding a couple pops of the rod tip and some pauses will often trigger following fish. For windy days, switching to a Mini Super Shy Bite and an extra split shot will put the majority of the wide-bottomed bobber underwater and prevent your setup from drifting too much due to wind and waves.

One of the more unique float setups is the “dabble rig”. This involves a Thill Center Slider bobber with a small split shot on either end of it holding the float in a fixed position and making it lay on it’s side. Cast it out with either a small hair jig or a jig and plastic and shake your rod tip as you reel in just enough to keep the line tight. A lift bite will cause the back-end of the float to rise and a pull bite will cause the front end to rise. On days when the fish are biting really light you may just see the bobber stop quivering in the water. The Dabble Rig excels in shallow to mid-depths, and with all the various sizes of Center Sliders available, can be adapted to almost any species from bluegills to walleyes. I have even seen some anglers fishing cut bait for catfish with this method.

The alternatives available for fishing floats are as diverse as the bodies of water they are fished on. Give one of these rigs a try your next time out, or even add some modifications of your own. They will increase your ability to adapt to different conditions and amplify your catch ratio.
Good Fishin,
Matt Johnson
Guided Open Water and Ice Fishing

Ice Team - "Join the Team!"

Ultimate Panfish League

#22579 - 05/25/10 10:42 PM Re: Panfish Bobber Basics - Bob Bohland [Re: Matt Johnson]
dutch Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 03/31/09
Posts: 1360
Another very good article.

For even the tiniest slip bobbers, run a bobber stopper and a bead if necessary up the line between the bobber and the knot below it, or the bobber sliding against that knot will eventually damage it and result in lost fish. Catfishermen use bumpers between sliding sinkers and knots to leaders for the same reason.

Tungsten ice jigs with hook sizes down to 12 (or even 14) work very good for the most delicate presentations and offer a bit of extra weight to help pull lines through a slip bobber which is sometimes a problem with the tiniest offerings.

This is a very good way to see what is bumping the plastics on your crappie jigs that you cannot get a hook into, which are usually sunnies and unless you can land them, you may not release the size, which isn't always small. The smallest sizes of this kind of rig can also turn some shiners and chubs for use as bait for larger gamefish; use a tiny piece of plastic or a bread dough ball just barely big enough to cover the hook bend. For those of you outside Minnesota, whereever it is legal, this will also produce perfect flathead sized green sunfish from around shallow rocks, very often right at your toes, in fact. They are not legal bait in Minnesota, but they are in a lot of other places. Where it is legal, sunfish also make excellent bobber bait for stocked muskies, better than suckers by a mile.

Bobbers definitely still have a place in one's tackle box, and don't put away your ice fishing panfish jigs or the plastics you use with them just yet either. They all go together like peanut butter and jelly.