The tradition of using something that floats to suspend your bait in water is older than you’d expect. The tradition goes way, way back in Europe, where anglers use them on everything from bottom feeders to trout. In some places, they’re overlooked as being more of a blunt tool, or something you’d associate with taking your kids out for their first time. But when used correctly, the bobber is an elegant tool that can yield big results. So maybe it’s time we take a second look at what the bobber is capable of.
If you’ve been overlooking the utility of fishing bobbers, reconsider. We put together a list of the best bobbers available and a short guide on when to use them. Read on for the details!
What is a bobber?
In its most basic form, a bobber is anything tied to a fixed point on your line that floats. Its function is to suspend the bait at a certain depth. This is especially useful in shallow water, or if you’re targeting certain kinds of fish with predictable habits. Bobbers vary in terms of the materials they use, their visibility to the fisherman, their visibility to the fish, and their sensitivity.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of kinds of bobbers, or “floats” for different uses. The variations in design are almost endless. Materials vary greatly too. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll be sticking to bobbers made of plastic, foam, and wood as these are the three main kinds of bobbers you’ll encounter. Each has its merits, differences in cost (as always), and can be more or less eco-friendly.
Types of Bobbers
The many differences in design between bobbers give them different properties. Different bobbers have different specialties, as you can imagine. We’ll give a few examples noted in our list, but rest assured there are hundreds more with more minute differences.
For smaller fish, highly sensitive waggler type floats are the way to go. These fall along a spectrum, with more sensitive, slim designs excelling in low wind, and larger, stouter designs winning out in conditions with higher wind. For beginners, a classic rounded red and white bobber is best – they’re easy to use and highly visible. There are many variations on this simple design, including clear bobbers that are less visible to fish. If you’re after trout and river fish, a foam bobber will allow you to quickly adjust its position on the line. This increases your ability to target particular spots on the river where fish are hanging out.
When should you use a bobber?
You really can use a bobber just about any time you go fishing. There are bobbers specialized for ocean fishing, river fishing, and lake fishing. On its own, fishing with bobbers and floats can be artful much in the same way that fly fishing or lure fishing is. It requires good forward thinking. And when you determine the exact right setup – with the right bait, bobber, positioning, and at the exact right depth, you’ll start picking up bites left and right.
Bobber fishing can also be used to supplement other kinds of fishing. Many anglers will bring two rods with them, one to set up on a bobber and another to cast lures with. Hedging your bets like this increases your chances of nabbing a bite one way or another without requiring much more of your attention.
Lastly, the versatility of bobbers can’t be overstated. By changing your setup you can target your bait to everything from catfish to bass to salmon and steelhead to bluegill to whitefish to trout. Nothing is off limits. You just need to know where to look, at what depth to suspend your hook, and the best bait for your target fish.
The Eagle Claw Balsa Style bobber is one of the most sensitive on this list. it excels in a good cross section of the conditions you might encounter on a given day, and is easily adjustable, giving you lots of options for how to use it. The top side is highly visible (a plus for you), but the bottom side is easy to overlook for a fish. Because of the way the line attaches to the bobber, you can set it as deeply as you’d like, be it two feet, or twenty.
For versatility, sensitivity, and visibility, the Eagle Claw Balsa Style bobber is a winner. Not intended for beginners, it does require some finesse to use properly. The other main downside is that it’s comparatively pretty expensive. For high performance, this is one of the best options out there.
- Good in lots of conditions
- Versatile for placement
- Visible AND stealthy
- Not for beginners
Everyone has seen something resembling the Eagle Claw Snap-On. The classic red and white design makes it highly visible to the fisherman, which is a plus. They’re also very easy to use, with sliding hooks on either end that attach the line easily. If you’re just starting out using bobbers and floats, these are a great cost effective option to get you going.
The Snap-On doesn’t excel in many areas, however. They aren’t the most sensitive, nor the least visible to fish. They do a good job at their intended purpose, are cheap, and good for experimenting with bobbers for newbies. While there’s something to be said for that, they aren’t what you’d call “high performance”.
- Easy to use
- Highly visible
- Not as sensitive
- Don’t cast as well
A thin, streamlined waggler like the Thill Gold Medal TG is a specialized tool. They cast exceptionally well due to their aerodynamic shape, and resist drag from wind more than bulkier, rounder designs. Best of all, they’re highly sensitive to touch. You’ll notice any kind of movement in the shaft of the bobber much more easily than with a round model.
This level of precision puts wagglers like the Gold Medal TG into a particular camp. They do very well under certain conditions, primarily in rivers, when targeting smaller fish. There is also a significant learning curve when using them. This doesn’t make them less effective, just harder to use.
- Extremely sensitive
- Cast well
- Better for river fishing on smaller fish
- Learning curve
- Not as versatile
The Trout Magnet E-Z Trout Float is perfect for fishing trout and other river-dwelling fish with minimal hassle. They’re cheap, easy to set up, easy to adjust, and incredibly light.
They do well in moving water where the visibility of the fish is less of a concern (hence the bright color) and will do well to stay afloat in the current. They’re highly visible to the angler, and sensitive enough to tell you what’s going on under the water.
All these things combined makes the E-Z Trout Float perfect for trout fishing. They’re not as elegant or specialized as a waggler, but moreso than a rounded bobber. If you’re trout fishing, there’s nothing better for it.
- Easy to use
- Highly visible
- Great for trout fishing in rivers
- Not as good on still water
- Not as sensitive as some
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Rainbow Plastics Tough Bubble. These are designed to be completely invisible to fish, and they are. They’re most similar in design to the standard round bobber, making them easy to use. They also stand out for their durability. The plastic of the bobber’s shell is really high quality and will last a long time, which is a plus.
They’re not as sensitive as a waggler or foam bobber, which is a minus for performance. But if you’re in really in clear water what you’re most worried about is keeping the bobber under the fish’s radar. And in that regard, the ToughBubble shines.
- Very stealthy
- High quality durable plastic
- Long lifespan
- Fairly cheap
- Lacking touch sensitivity
- Not as highly visible
Keep Calm and Float On
Many anglers learned how to fish for the first time using a bobber before moving on to different methods. But the humble bobber remains an outstanding tool for fishing all types of conditions. The next time you go out, give it a shot!