Fishing with a bobber or float of some kind is a common technique for panfish species like bluegill, perch, and crappie. And the excitement of watching your bobber get dunked and fighting a big bluegill into your hand is something no fisherman ever forgets.
For new anglers, the right techniques to set up a fishing pole and fish with a bobber may not be intuitively obvious, so we’ll break down what you need to know and explain our recommendations in a way you can clearly understand.
Want to know how to fish with a bobber?
Table of Contents (clickable)
- How to Fish a Spinnerbait
- How to Fish a Spoon
- How to Fish a Jig
- How to Fish a Popper
- How to Fish a Jerkbait
- How to Fish a Crankbait
- How to Fish a Topwater Lure
- How to Fish a Fluke
What is a Bobber?
Chances are, when you think about bobbers, you picture the round red and white bobber that’s an incredibly common sight on the banks of lakes and ponds.
Bobbers like these are designed to suspend a hook - or sometimes a jig - beneath them, allowing you to float your bait at your desired depth.
They attach to your line via two snaps, allowing you to adjust their position and thus increase or decrease the depth of your presentation.
The downside to bobbers like this is that they don’t allow you to reel your line in past them, so you need to cast with a length of unwieldy line and bobber.
That doesn’t make for great accuracy, but it’s a fine technique for bank fishing.
How to Rig a Bobber
Rigging a bobber is pretty simple, but it’s much easier to watch than to explain:
Setting up a fishing pole with bobber is pretty easy. All you’re doing is opening two snaps, one on the top and one on the bottom, and fitting them over your line. Then, you can adjust the position of your bobber, setting the depth of your terminal tackle.
It’s better to do this after you’ve attached your hook or jig, so begin by rigging your terminal tackle.
Typically, I’ll use the Palomar knot for my hooks or jigs, and it’s a great knot to learn. We’ve written an easy-to-follow guide that teaches you how to tie it, so check it out:
How to Tie the Palomar Knot: A Complete Guide
How to Fish with a Bobber
Two techniques are common to bobber fishing: live bait and jigs.
Live bait fishing with a bobber
Your choices for live bait with a bobber are expansive, with crickets, nightcrawlers, and minnows being the three most popular options.
We’ve written a complete guide for new anglers covering fishing with live bait, so if you need to know the ins and outs, check this out:
Types of Fishing Bait - Everything You Need to Know
Here, we’ll review some of the basics.
Crickets are amazingly effective, and one of my first real fishing trips involved throwing crickets under a bobber to fat bluegill. Every time a cricket hit the water, a bluegill swallowed it within seconds.
Widely available at bait shops, a good cricket cage like the Frabill Cricket Cage Tube is a sound investment to keep track of these little critters.
Both ends are removable, so getting crickets in is simple. And the funnel-shaped end has a stopper that allows you to shake a cricket out into your hand without opening the entire cage.
It’s easy to rig crickets.
Get a firm but careful grip on your cricket and slide the point of your hook under the exoskeleton below the head, keeping the point shallow to avoid piercing the cricket’s organs. Push the point through the cricket’s back, and slide it gently into place on the bend of your hook.
For other cricket-rigging options, check out this video:
For crickets, I prefer a long-shank hook like the Mustad Classic Cricket in #6 or #8.
These long-shank hooks are just perfect for crickets.
You can dig around in your yard or garden and find plenty of nightcrawlers, but they’re also readily available at bait shops. Bigger is typically better, but small worms work, too!
And a fat, juicy worm on your hook is something most panfish simply can’t resist.
With nightcrawlers, a baitholder hook is a good idea, as its rear-ward facing barbs really help to hold your worm in place.
For bluegill and other sunfish, give a #6 Eagle Claw baitholder a try.
Those barbs on the shank hold your worm right where you put it.
These Eagle Claws come pre-snelled on tough leader, and they’re easy to attach to your line and hard to break free or rough up. That makes them ideal for situations where you’re pitching a bobber in and around logs, stumps, branches, and rocks - the places fish tend to take cover.
Rigging a nightcrawler is pretty simple, but the right technique isn’t obvious.
You don’t want your worm to look like this!
To rig your worm correctly, start with the head of the worm and run the hook straight into the top, feeding the worm’s body onto the hook as you slip it around the bend toward the shank.
You'll notice that those upward-facing barbs let you slide that worm’s head up toward the eye - and that’s something you want to do.
Keep feeding that worm upward until you’ve got the head snug against the eye, or even over it a touch.
When you’ve got the right amount of worm on your shank, pass the point out of the worm’s body and let the rest dangle free.
You want your nightcrawler rig to look something like this.
You want some work hanging off the hook, creating an attractive presentation that looks like an easy meal.
Here’s a great tutorial to watch to learn this simple technique:
Among crappie fishermen, minnows are revered as the live bait choice without equal. They’re also effective on small- and largemouth bass.
Two kinds are commonly available at bait shops: the fathead and the golden shiner.
Fatheads are the more robust of the two, meaning that they’ll survive longer on your hook, remaining alive and swimming and attracting more fish.
But you can catch your own minnows, too, using a trap like the one offered by Frabill.
But never catch minnows in one body of water and transport them to another - that’s how you introduce invasive species!
Instead, use them where you catch them.
Rigging minnows is pretty easy, though if you’re fishing for crappie with a minnow under your bobber, you’ll want to use a large Aberdeen hook. I typically use a thin wire Aberdeen hook in the neighborhood of a #2 and #4, moving up to a #1 for really big minnows.
That thin-wire construction is also going to extend the life of your minnows, which is always a good thing.
I like to run my minnows under a slip float, rigging them just like I would for bluegill.
Now, there are a number of different ways you can rig a minnow, and it’s worth reviewing your options. But to keep it simple, I recommend that you start with tail hooking,
To tail hook a minnow, run the point through the minnow’s tail between the dorsal and tail fins. You’re looking for the spot where there’s plenty of meat to secure your hook but no delicate organs to pierce.
Your minnow will be alive and kicking for quite a while rigged like this, and it’ll be encouraged to swim away from the hook, causing erratic motions and lots of action.
Keep in mind, however, that crappie and other fish take minnows head first to avoid their spines. You’ll need to pause after the strike, give the ish a chance to really take your hook, and only then move to set it.
That pause is essential, and if you wait just a heartbeat, you’ll lock them up tight!
Bobber Fishing with Jigs
You can also run a jig under your bobber, a fantastic technique for catching panfish like crappie.
Attach your jig with a Palomar knot, and let its shape and color work for you.
Great choices of jigs for panfish include options like Marabou jigs, and their fuzzy bodies and long skirts really attract strikes.
But don’t forget about small jig heads armed with tiny soft plastic trailers.
We’ve discussed how to rig jigs properly, with easy-to-follow instructions:
How to Fish a Jig: A Guide for New Fishermen
Consider options like ⅛-, 1/16-, and even 1/32-ounce jig heads sweetened with a Strike King Mr. Crappie Thunder Bait.
Go for natural colors when the water is clear, and bright hues when the water is stained, murky, or muddy.
Colors like this are perfect for when visibility is low.
When the water’s clear, choose browns, greens, and other natural colors.
How to Fish with a Bobber
If you're using live bait, there’s not much to it.
You don’t want your bobber suspending your bait so deep that it touches bottom, and you don’t want it floating on the surface either. In shallow water, less than 10 feet or so, start with something like an arm’s length of line between your terminal tackle and your bobber.
Cast into a likely spot and watch your bobber. Keep your rod tip and low, and reel in any slack in your line.
When a fish nibbles bait, it’ll rock a bit, but wait for your bobber to pop under water and then set the hook by quickly snapping your rod tip upward.
With a jig, you can use the same technique, but it’s more effective to gently pulse your rod tip from time to time to get your jig moving a bit. That extra action will definitely attract more fish.
Don’t overdo it, though. A nudge every few seconds is more than enough!
Fishing with a bobber is a time-honored tradition and an effective way to load an ice chest with keepers.
We hope you’ve learned something from this article, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.