Bobbers, Floats, and Corks, Oh My!

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chain pickerel

The author with a monster-sized chain pickerel he hooked into while bobber fishing.

Few things are as basic or as ubiquitous in fishing as bobbers, floats, and corks. Virtually all of us who grew up fishing remember sitting on the bank of a pond, lake, or river, and casting out a bobber. We remember watching it, and in our mind begging for it to suddenly shoot down beneath the surface.  We remember when it finally did disappear, and there was a fish on the end of the line. But we probably also moved on from bobber fishing. We bought countless lures, fishing “systems,” and maybe even bought a boat to leave that bank far behind. Here’s the thing: as old-school and simplistic as bobber fishing is, it’s shockingly effective.

chain pickerel

The author with a monster-sized chain pickerel he hooked into while bobber fishing.

I was reminded of this while fishing for pickerel just last week. Pickerel aren’t exactly “glory” fish, but they are impressive apex predators for their size. Although they’re most often caught by accident while fishing for other species, many people do enjoy targeting them in specific with spoons, spinners, and swim baits. Me? I like fishing for them with a bobber suspending a small dart or jig, tipped with a minnow. And say what you will about the sporting aspect of things, this is a highly effective way of catching these fish.

While I drifted my bobbers – three of them, fan-casted with one off the stern, another amidships, and the third off the bow of my boat – there were two kayak anglers fishing the same waters. One was kayak-trolling spoons (from a pedal yak), and the other was casting plastics. They caught some fish, and I could see both were having a great time. I credit them for their fish-catching abilities, as well as their inclination to release the fish they were catching. But drifting my bobber and minnow, I’d hazard to say I caught twice as many pickerel. Is that, in and of itself, what fishing is all about? Of course not. But don’t sell the ol’ bobber short. Don’t forget that what worked really well 40 years ago still works well today. And the next time you want to feel a bend in the rod, don’t get too caught up in all those fancy lures, gear, and boats. Remember: a bobber, float, or cork might just be the most effective way to get a fish on the end of your line.


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