I’ve caught coolers full of fish under a simple red and white fishing bobber, tossing my worms and hooks into the shallow water of a bluegill spawning bed. And legions of crappie have succumbed to the allure of the minnows thrashing beneath my slip floats.
If you’re reading this, my guess is that you’ve had similar experiences--or would like to!
But there are anglers who look down on the bobber as amateurish, a sophomoric hold-over from childhood’s less sophisticated fishing techniques.
Don’t believe them!
From pike to catfish, largemouth to walleye, a fishing bobber can help you catch them all. And used properly, there’s nothing better in the world of fishing for suspending live bait or a jig at just the right depth to entice a strike.
But if you’re at a loss and unsure which fishing bobbers are the best options for you, keep reading.
Below, you’ll find reviews of the best fishing bobbers:
Table of Contents (clickable)
The classic red and white bobber that dominates the memories of your childhood, this once novel design hasn’t aged well.
Actuated by pressing a spring-loaded button to reveal a clip at the top and bottom, these bobbers are as easy to use as they are to see. Anyone can rig one, and they tend to stay put really well.
Ideal for young anglers who want to learn the sport, they’ll do their job just fine, alerting watchful eyes to the nibble of panfish.
So what’s not to like?
By design, these classic bobbers stay in place, gripping the line tightly. But that means that to cast with one attached, you need to set the distance you want the hook to ride below the bobber, reel the bobber to the end of the rod, and then cast with all that dangling line.
As you can imagine, that doesn’t make for the longest, most precise casts.
So why are these bobbers on our list?
One part nostalgia with an equal portion of ubiquity. You’ll find these little guys in every tackle shop and gas station that sells live bait, and truth be told, if you can handle a touch of awkwardness, they’ll work pretty well for everything from bluegill to crappie.
Anything more than the lightest jigs and a hook wearing a fat worm will overburden them in the water, however, so keep whatever you plan to float as light as you can.
Thill’s cigar floats are ideal when you need more buoyancy than a red and white bobber can provide, whether that’s because you’re running a big minnow for catfish or walleye or when you need to make a floating fish finder rig.
Especially in that latter example, you want a float that stays put, and the spring-loaded clamps on the Thill do just that. They’ll keep your hook suspended in the water rather than buried in the sand, and they can take the punishment of sharp shells, rough rocks, and the general abuse surf and pier fishing dish out.
And honestly, for casting from a pier, these cigar floats work well since precision isn’t typically an important consideration.
Micro-mini jigs and soft plastics are all the rage in ice fishing, and matching the hatch in size as well as color and action is always a good idea. The challenge of those micro options is a good bobber to hang them under, meaning one that’s light enough to pair perfectly with a tiny jig and soft plastic.
Thill has a solution in the Mini Stealth float, a perfect partner for your ice fishing needs. Available in a ⅞-inch size that’s ideal for tiny lures, this float is easy to use and just buoyant enough to keep your terminal tackle afloat without deadening its action.
Night fishing for panfish like crappie and bluegill can be exceptionally productive, but one of the challenges is detecting a bite.
A number of manufacturers offer glow-in-the-dark slip floats, combining proven casting enhancements with an easy-to-see luminescence. Among my favorites, you’ll find these ⅓-ounce slip floats from ThkFish.
With a silicone bobber stop and a simple bead, these floats are easy to rig and cast beautifully. And the glow sticks last through the night.
These slip floats are very sensitive, and even a tiny nibble will send them rocking wildly. That’s great for panfish at night, and you won’t need to worry about missed strikes.
Some folks have complained about the stickiness of those sticks, either that they won’t come loose or that they come loose too easily. For my money, just a touch of electrician’s tape can keep a loose stick in place, and your fishing pliers are more than enough to pull a stubborn one free.
If you’re fishing for reds in a salt marsh and throwing chunks of crab, live shrimp, or feisty minnows, you want a Cajun Thunder popping cork.
It’s that simple.
I’ve used these corks extensively, and they offer an unbeatable pairing of deadly noise and perfect buoyancy. Just pop them gently with a sharp pull on the tip of your rod, and they’ll send vibrations racing to the reds.
Easy to see against the greens, grays, and browns of inshore water, these are the go-to corks for reds in my book.
I also wouldn’t hesitate to use this big popper for catfish species like blues and flatheads that like to hunt live prey. Rigged with heavy mono and a big minnow, that popping sound really draws them in.
And there’s no reason in the world that this popping cork won’t be murder on walleye, pike, and muskie for the same reason.
All in all, this is one of my favorite options on our list.
When I’m fishing crappie, working a live minnow or Maribou jig in a stump field, there’s simply no better option than the Thill Pro Series.
Skip the smallest size, ½ inch, as they just don’t provide enough buoyancy for anything more than a hook and worm. The 2-inch model, by contrast, works like a charm for panfish of all kinds, and with some split shot and a hook, whether armed with a minnow or worm, you’ve got all you need!
For light jigs, these floats are a supreme choice, and from details like the brass insert to protect your line to the included knot stops, you’ll be impressed.
For big fish like pike, walleye, and catfish that just love a magnum-size minnow, there’s no float better than the Polaris No. 17.
An invention of the U.K., this pencil float does everything right. It pampers your line, preventing abrasion and nicks. It offers 1.23 ounces of buoyancy, allowing big minnows to swim crazily beneath it with enough split shot to keep everything vertical. And it’s easy to see when that bite does happen.
It just doesn’t get any better than this!
There’s no one bobber to cover all your fishing needs. But a good popping cork, cigar float, slip float, or waggler can make a world of difference if you match it to the species you’re after.
We hope that this article has helped you choose your next float, and if it has, we’d love to hear from you!
Please leave a comment below.