Fishermen often over-analyze a situation, make techniques and approaches too complex. We end up outsmarting ourselves.
We can cite a million reasons, from the weather to the calendar, for why fish should be in this spot or another when the truth is they are in neither. The same goes for tactics. Some anglers come up with the craziest variations on techniques when it's usually unnecessary.
Just look at the effectiveness of the ordinary jig or the Lindy Rig, for example. They are simple, easy to use and catch almost any fish that swims. They can be bounced on the bottom, cast and even speed trolled to take aggressive fish.
The slip bobber rig is much the same. It's simple and effective for every major panfish and gamefish species, from bluegills to crappies to mean and nasty muskies. All it takes is a little fine-tuning. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't know how to rig a slip bobber. It's a technique that everyone needs in his or her bag of tricks.
The basic slip bobber rig is comprised of four components: bobber stop, float, hook and weight. The weight can be anything from split shot to using a jig by itself. Size the rig down for panfish. Size it up for muskie, pike, catfish, even steelhead.
The bobber stop slides on the main line. Move it higher to make your bait float deeper. Set it close to the bait for shallow presentations. Once an effective depth is found, the bobber stop returns your bait to the same depth time after time.
Bobber stops come in different varieties, but the right thread bobber stop is the best. Thill thread bobber stops are easy to see, grip line to keep your depth setting true and easily slip through rod guides.
Next comes the slip bobber, or float, as the Europeans call them. The line passes through the middle from top to bottom. The float moves freely along it. The most buoyant bobbers are made of balsa.
The basic shape should be long and thin, like a cigarette or cigar. This reduces resistance when the fish pulls the float under the water. The basic design is varied for specific conditions. Some, with the buoyancy centered in the middle or on top like the Thill Turbo Master or River Master, are best for current.
Pick the smallest float you can for the job at hand. They come tiny enough to balance with ice fishing jigs. They can be purchased large enough to use with sucker minnows for muskies.
Use just enough weight to balance the rig. The float should stand upright and be weighted down just enough so that even the slightest touch on the bait is telegraphed to the float on the surface.
Some floats are matched perfectly for jigs of certain sizes. If not, add weight or change jigs. With hooks, add enough split shot weight to do the trick. Where to fish your slip bobber rig? That depends on time of year and the species you seek. Try the ice fishing jig/slip bobber rig with a wax worm or piece of nightcrawler near weeds for summer bluegills. Use a small jig and slip bobber or a hook and a minnow near brush piles and timber for crappie in spring and fall. When they go deep into the trees or suspend in open during the summer, a slip bobber rig can reach them. Crappies change depths in cover during the day, chasing plankton to eat. A slip bobber can help you find them. If the action slows, lower or raise the bait by adjusting the bobber stop.
Try a slip bobber paired with a jig or plain hook and a minnow, leech or nightcrawler for walleyes. Set it so it's just off the bottom. Locations can be around brush and timber, along weed edges, on windswept reefs or on humps. Add a Glow Stick or Nite Brite lighted float to fish the same spots after the sun goes down.
For monster flathead catfish, try bigger slip bobber rigs with large minnows, chubs or cut bait around log jams in rivers. The list of applications goes on and on. Try slip bobber rigs for whatever fish you chase. Keep it simple for success.
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