Bobber (Float) Fishing: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Bobber (Float) Fishing

Fishing is one of the most relaxing and rewarding activities that a person can enjoy.

For many of us, the image of a serene riverbank and a fishing rod in hand is the epitome of relaxation. But what if there was a way to make fishing even more exciting?

Bobber fishing, also known as float fishing, involves suspending a small, colorful buoyant device on the surface of the water, attached to the fishing line. The bobber acts as a visual indicator, letting the angler know when a fish has taken the bait.

One of the best things about bobber fishing is that it's accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of experience. Even if you've never held and cast a fishing rod before, you can easily learn how to use a bobber and start catching fish in no time.

Another advantage of bobber fishing is that it's highly versatile. You can use it in a variety of settings, from lakes and rivers to ponds and streams. You can also target a wide range of fish species, from small panfish to larger game fish like bass and trout.

So whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to try something new, this is a method that's worth exploring.



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How Does a Bobber Work in Fishing?

Fishing with a bobber is a simple process that allows us to position our bait anywhere in the water column. From just below the surface, to almost at the bottom, your bait will always be in a perfect place where all the fish are feeding in a given moment.

Along with bobber, this setup requires a swivel. It is used as a connection between two parts of your line, and it enables the end of your line (from swivel to hook) to spin freely. This way, the line wont twist and downgrade your fishing performance. Of course, swivel is mounted on a line below the bobber.

Sure, you can also create a setup without the swivel ...

Casting a bobber can be a bit tricky for a beginner, especially if you wish to achieve great distance. Round and light bobbers slow down and reduce your casting distance. Increasing the weights or using weighted bobbers may help here.

Bobber is not only used for suspending the bait, but as a bite indicator too. When fish is checking out, or even biting your bait, bobber will be influenced by this movement. From gentle nudging to submerging, you will be able to figure out exactly what the fish is doing!

And that is basically it. Bobber fishing and setting up bobber rigs are suitable even for beginners so don't worry and try it!

What are the Different Types of Bobbers (Floats)?

History of fishing bobbers is very long and it is one of the most popular fishing methods in the world, from the time when fishing was a way to survive, not just a hobby.

There are numerous manufacturers, types, and varieties of bobbers.

Most of them are plastic or styrofoam, but there are even wooden ones. They are colorful or even illuminated for nighttime bobber fishing.

We divide them into two main groups:

  • Fixed - it is set in place whit no possibility to move it up and down your fishing line. The desired depth of your bait must be decided before you set up your bobber. The fishing line is attached from both sides, up and down.
  • Slip - this one can move up and down your fishing line and you can change the bait depth. It is hollow and the fishing line goes through it. This one is a bit harder to set up, but we will explain that later on.

Bobber (Float) Fishing - Groups

Fishing bobbers also have different shapes:

  • Round - Most popular floats for numerous users and beginners. Made of plastic, easy to set up. Available in different sizes. To choose a size just follow a simple roule: The bigger the fish the bigger the float. If you use big ones for small fish you may end up empty-handed because fish won't be able to pull the fishing line. They are in a group of fixed bobbers. Ideal for dock/riverbank fishing.
  • Cigare - Cylinder shaped, made of styrofoam. Not as popular as the round ones. Easy to set up, they are fixed bobbers too. One end is heavier so when the fish pulls it stands upwards. Ideal for light biting fish.
  • Slip - This one goes into the slip bobber group. Hollow in the middle, made of basla wood. Bead weight below and rubber stopper above hold it in place. Their main advantage is the ability to move along the fishing line. The price of those is also a bit higher. Light and thin ones can detect the lightest bite and are very popular in Europe and are pencil shaped. Oval shaped are larger.
  • Spring - they have a spring on the bottom part. Spring is attached to your fishing line and it holds the bobber in place. This fishing bobber is also made of balsa wood and the price is higher. They are the best for wavy waters.

Bobber (Float) Fishing - Types

How to Set Up the Bobber for Fishing?

As already mentioned, fixed bobbers are easier to set up than slip. That means that fixed ones are better for complete beginners.

Let's start with more complicated one. If you think that is too hard, then the subsequent one will seem like a child play.

Slip Fishing Bobber

Having just a bobber here is just a beginning.

You will need few more items here; bobber stopper, sliding weight, swivel, hook (different hook sizes exist) and bait.

When using slip bobber you have to follow a few steps:

  • STEP #1: Determine the desired depth for your bait and pull that length of the fishing line.

  • STEP #2: First item you should fix to the fishing line is bobber stopper.

  • STEP #3: Fishing bead is the second item. It is optional but advisable to have. It takes out the possibility your bobber stopper will end up passing through the bobber.

  • STEP #4: Attach the fishing bobber. There is a narrow hole down the middle of it and you need to pull the fishing line through.

  • STEP #5: Next step is to attach sliding weight. Make sure you use the right one. Too heavy can submerge the bobber and too light will cause this whole set up to "dance around" while in water.

  • STEP #6: Set up the swivel. Make sure the distance from the bobber is correct.

  • STEP #7: Finally, tie down your hook, put on your favorite bait and get started.

Fixed Fishing Bobber

When using fixed bobber you have to follow a few steps:

  • STEP #1: This one is much easier to set up ... 

  • STEP #2: Determine the desired depth and pull out that length of the fishing line.

  • STEP #3: Locate the "button" on one side of the fishing bobber and press it.

  • STEP #4: Slip the fishing line through the wire hook and relese the "button".

  • STEP #5: Fully press the "button" and attach the fishing line to the other side of the fishing bobber.

  • STEP #6: Add the hook.

Bobber (Float) Fishing - How to set correctly

Can I Use a Bobber in Saltwater Fishing?

If you know how to fish with a bobber, you can use it in any water, from stagnant to moving, and from smallest ponds to oceans. Of course, all those factors will determine the shape and size of a bobber you are using.

In saltwater, currents are often stronger and there are waves and movement that can influence your bobber.

Among the most popular choices for saltwater is a simple slip bobber setup which allows you to easily adjust the depth of your bait. Besides, slip bobbers are easier to cast, especially for a beginner.

When it comes to float size, for saltwater you can use a bit bigger one than in freshwater, if the currents and waves are strong.

But don't go too big! If the fish feels too much resistance on the bait, it will not bite it. Choosing to big bobbers is a frequent beginners mistake.

What Types of Fish Can be Caught Using a Bobber?

Bobbers can be used for a majority of popular fish species, from small ones to bigger.

Beginners often choose bobber setup for bluegills, perch, suckers, crappies, walleyes, and smaller trout.

If you already know the basics about bobbers, you can land bigger trout, catfish, carp, and even bass! These four will be explained in more detail in the following chapters.

As already mentioned, you can also use bobbers for saltwater fishing! This includes tarpon, snook, snapper, mackerel, redfish, and many other pelagic fish.

Carp Fishing With the Bobber (Float)

Various floats exist on the market specialized for carps...

Carps can be heavy so you should use the proper size of bobbers. You can use the ones you have available.

During warm seasons, carps are usually in the more shallow waters or closer to surface.

One kind of specialized carp bobbers can be described as bait (food) dispensers. With this bobber carps can be caught using carp pellets as bait. Using this kind of pellet feeder waggler float is very efficient.

Pellets fall around and attract fish. You can cast them straight and the line won't tangle if they are full. They are actually cigar shaped bobbers that have crate shaped feeders located at the base.

They are used for fishing in upper water layers. Upper part of this bobber looks "normal" and you can see them as regular floats. Those upper parts are colorful but the "food dispenser" part is transparent. They can be cast and they do not tanhle the fishing line if used correctly.

These may not be the best for beginners ...

Despite those specialized bobbers you can still catch a carp in the "old fashioned" way, with standard bobbers and some standard baits like corn, bread, worms and more.

Bobber (Float) Fishing - Carp

Bass Fishing With the Bobber (Float)

For this fish is best to use fixed bobber, round or oval. You should use them together with shiners or other bait fish. Casting is difficult if fishing in shallow waters where bass usually resides. "Lob cast" is the method that should be used.

Setup for shallow water bobber bass fishing:

  • If using bait fish attach your bobber few feet above the hook.
  • Put a split shot about 10 inches (25.4 cm) above the hook.

When you set everything up and if the water is still just let the bobber float. If necessary you can move it around a bit to attract the bass.

Bass is one of the fishes where size of the bobber is very important. If the bobber is too big fish can feel the resistance and it will let go the bait. When they bite the bait you will see and feel it on your bobber.

Bass usually swims in the water current direction so your bobber could be carried towards you.

If you want you can use slip bobbers too for deeper water but it is not necessary.

Bobber (Float) Fishing - Bass

Trout Fishing With the Bobber (Float)

Depending on of the season, trouts can be caught fly fishing but also with using bobber.

If you try this in summer you will most likely fail because at that time of the year trouts are in deep waters so its better not to use bobbers.

Autumn, winter and spring are the seasons when bobbers are useful for trout fishing as they tend to be closer to the surface. Slip bobbers are the best ones to catch a trout.

Setup for trout fishing:

  • See in the paragraph above how to set up a slip bobber,
  • tie a swivel and attach about 15 inches (38.1 cm) long fishing line below.
  • attach a hook.

As a bait you can use smaller minnows or insects or PowerBait® Power Eggs®.

Catfish Fishing With the Bobber (Float)

If going for a catfish, you should use slip bobbers. It is especially useful in deep water.

They usually reside in inaccessible areaas and holes on the water bottom and floats are crucial to catch them. There are specialized bobbers for catfish but you can use any good one you have.

Setup for catfish fishing:

  • Set up a slip bobber.
  • Fix a split shot sinker 2 or 3 inches (7.62 cm) above the hook.
  • Attach the desired hook.

While researching which bobber to use and, how to use it, don't get discouraged by all the information you find. It may seem complicated but after just few times you will master your skills.

And one more thing (TIP!) if you want to be successful - for catfishing always use only the best catfish baits!

Bobber (Float) Fishing - Tackle box

What are the Advantages of Using a Bobber for Fishing?

Fishing bobber has many advantages, and some of them were already mentioned. Here is a short recap of those and some other benefits too in case you are not convinced that this is a great technique!

  • Ability to position your bait at a specific depth.
  • It is used as a bite indicator.
  • It has ability to "detect" and show you even the smallest activities around the bait.
  • Prevents bait snagging along the bottom.
  • Enables you to see exactly where the bait is in a body of water.
  • When there is a gentle wind or current, the bobber will slowly drift and drag the bait through water which can increase biting chance.
  • Ability to change depth of presented bait after every cast with a slip bobber.

As you can see, bobbers can be extremely useful and are excellent tool for both beginners and experienced anglers!

What Kind of Bait Should I Use With a Bobber?

Most important thing about how to use bobber in fishing is pairing it with the best bait.

I already mentioned some baits for specific species, and of course, the bait selection is chosen in accordance with many factors, including not just fish, but also time of year, weather conditions, and everything that can influence behaviour of fish.

Here is a list of most popular baits that can be used with bobber, divided into 2 groups.

Live bait:

Other bait:

Some anglers use them with all kinds of processed bait such as stinkbait or punchbait for catfish.


Are There Any Specific Fishing Regulations Related to Bobber Fishing?

Bobber fishing may seem simple and basic, and some people could assume that it is not regulated at all. However, the truth is a bit different.

Although bobbers are mostly fine to use and are not strictly regulated, there are some exceptions. For example, state of Oregon requires bobbers to be used in certain conditions, and it is strictly described how the rig must look like.

Check it out and see for yourself ... 

Besides from such specific requirements in some places, bobber fishing is generally not under strict laws.

Of course, you must obey rules about hooks and baits allowed, with or without bobber. As an angler, you are responsible to familiarize yourself with the law valid for a state/body of water you are fishing at.

Other Short Facts About Bobber (Float) Fishing ...

  • When fishing do not expect the fish will bite the bait and submerge the float. Float is just an indicator.
  • When properly set it increases casting distance.
  • Fixed bobbers are harder to cast. The longer the length between a bobber and a hook the harder it will be to cast.
  • Slip bobber increases casting distance.
  • Slip bobber has one flaw, the leader distance between the bobber and the bait can not be maintained during the retrieve.
  • For still and calm water you want to use bobbers that are less buoyant.
  • Wind and waves will ask for higher buoyancy floats for the same fish (the difference is not huge but it is still noticeable).
  • Bright colored bobbers are easiest to see but classical, two colored ones are better to observe for gentle strikes as the fish will just tip over the bobber instead of pulling it.
  • Less stable bobbers which lean and rock on the waves will move the bait more and consequently lure the fish.
  • Proper setup is the key for success (always use the best bobbers with the TOP brand fishing rods).
  • With bobber always use the correct type of fishing rod.

Bobber (Float) Fishing - Setup 


Using bobbers (floats) for fishing will open the door of new possibilities and improve your experience.

Results will come and soon you will ask yourself: "How come I did not think of this before?".

When used properly, fishing bobbers will allow you to position your bait as you desire. Natural water currents will carry it around and you will have a perfect indicator of the exact moment when the fish strikes.

From the easiest setups to more complicated ones, there is always something new to learn and try.

Whether you are a professional, or you are just discovering bobber (float) fishing there are endless options you can do and make the most of your fishing day.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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