Traditional Fishing Floats: The Bobber

Besides the most critical component, the hook, there is no more traditional piece of fishing tackle than the bobber. Sometimes called a “float,” it is helpful for holding bait at an exact depth and a great way to detect fish biting activity. The classic round, red and white model occupies every kid’s tackle box but bobbers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.


Here’s why different bobber types are useful

  • Detection
    In general, the traditional round plastic fishing bobber requires more force to pull under and can hold heavier bait. They have two different colored halves to help detect subtle bites where the bobber may just roll over. Other signs of bite detection may include a twitch, disappearing quickly, steady movement, or if drifting in a stream or river, a halt.

    Some fishing floats are long and narrow. They are more sensitive and the initial bite shows when the float “stands up” before going under or moving determinedly. These floats are lighter and thus harder to cast as far as the round plastic type. However, because they are easier to pull under, they are less likely to be felt and thus alarm a fish.

  • Hold
    The standard round fishing bobber usually has an internal spring and a top and bottom J-shaped wire to provide pinch points to hold the bobber at a certain depth. Narrow standup type fishing floats usually have an exposed spring which pushes the line to a slot in the bobber. Because the pinch point is slightly wider, it is less damaging to the line. Even easier on the line, is a Styrofoam float that uses a peg after the line is slid through a small slit in the side.

  • Hold, Eventually
    A “slip bobber” uses a “stop,” which is a small knot of thin, colored string that can be slid up or down the line. This will let the angler cast a bobber which may be set at an otherwise uncastable depth of 12 feet or more to target suspended species such as crappie in a submerged brush pile.

  • Fly Fishing Detection
    Fly fishermen may use a floating line where the entire length of line resting on the surface may act as a long bobber and can help hold a nymph at a desired drifting depth. If additional detection is needed, fly fisherman may add a “strike indicator” which can be a small piece of yarn, or essentially a micro bobber.

When selecting traditional fishing floats, consider what species you are targeting and where/how it will be used. And then find great places to fish with different types of floats.

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to since 2011.