How to Pick the Right Fishing Bobber for Every Situation  


Whether you call them floats or bobbers, what’s undeniable is that they’re a useful aid for catching fish. Some anglers shy away from bobbers because they don’t know which ones to use when. What do we recommend?

If you want to fish flies but you don’t have a fly rod, a bubble bobber comes in handy. For reaching further into the water’s depths, try a slip bobber. Pencil bobbers are recommended for fishing in tranquil waters.

This guide to bobbers will go through all 8 types, explaining what the bobber is and the fishing situation you should use it for. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable fishing with bobbers!

A Bobber for Every Occasion – How and When to Fish with Bobbers

1. Dink Bobber

What It Is

Starting our list is the dink bobber, a long, cylindrical, and dense bobber that’s made of foam. Considered easier to use than other types of bobbers, dink bobbers are customizable in that you can set your line to get the bobber into the correct position.

You can catch fish species of all sizes with a dink bobber. You have to keep a close eye on it as it floats in the water (which is why bobbers are known as floats). Like many bobbers, the dink will act as a visual indicator that a fish is pulling on your line. 

When to Use It

Dink bobbers work best when you have a leader line that’s between eight and 10 feet long. The float will generate friction as it pulls. In Canada especially, anglers love using dink bobbers for catching steelhead. 

2. Bubble Bobber

What It Is

The next type of bobber on our list is the bubble bobber. These hollow, translucent floats fill with water. The more water you add to the bubble bobber, the more proficient it is at casting long distances. 

A bubble bobber features a rubber stopper that you take out when you want to fill it up. You’re supposed to then feed your fishing line through the bobber’s middle, which is often tapered by design. 

Fill up the bobber, put the stopper back in, and maybe add some live bait or a jig or even a wet fly.  

When to Use It

For fly fishing especially, a bubble bobber is a great choice. You don’t even necessarily need a fly rod to fish with a bubble bobber, which makes it a handy addition to have in your tacklebox. 

If you’re fishing in a lake or river where the fish are especially skittish, bubble bobbers are useful as well. Since they’re translucent, fish don’t necessarily even see the bobber, especially as it floats along on the surface of the water. 

You may be likely to catch more panfish, catfish, and trout with a bubble bobber on your fishing line. 

3. Pencil Bobber

What It Is

A pencil bobber, which is also referred to as a cigar bobber, is a long and skinny type of float. Its sensitivity is a lot higher than other bobbers, which is something to keep in mind. 

Compatible with lure options such as minnows, grubs, and other live bait (including bigger bait), the pencil bobber is quite versatile. Once you toss it into the water, it stands up straight and floats vertically. It’s quite a sight to behold. 

How does a pencil bobber float like that, you ask? The bobber features a weight on one of its two ends. In rougher waters, even though that’s not the ideal application for these floats, a pencil bobber should still stand.

When to Use It

Due to the aforementioned sensitivity of a pencil bobber, this float is useful when you need to detect a bite the moment it happens. You can then begin reeling in and will hopefully have an excellent catch on your line.

In calm conditions especially, the pencil bobber is a great type of float to have ready to go. If you’ve struggled to see other bobbers when you cast them out far enough, due to the way that a pencil bobber stands vertically, it’s a lot harder to miss. 

4. Balloon

What It Is

Okay, so this next one isn’t technically a bobber, per se, as it’s literally a balloon like you’d find at any party supply store. You inflate it, attach it to your fishing line, and use it as a bobber. 

One of the biggest benefits of floating balloons on the surface of the sea is that you get a lot of bang for your buck. If your balloon pops, you can always inflate another. 

Plus, a bag of balloons is low-cost, so you won’t mind that the balloon isn’t reusable. 

You can choose whichever color you like for your balloon so it’s easily detectable, including if you’re long-distance casting such as fly fishing. 

You also can’t miss that fateful, exciting moment when a fish pulls on your line, as the balloon will noticeably go under the water.

When to Use It

Nighttime fishing is one exceptional time to use a balloon as a bobber. You can select a bright balloon color such as yellow so that even in the inky blackness of the night, you can trace the balloon as it undulates on the surface of the water.

Balloons are best when fishing for larger species. A smaller fish might not have enough bite force to pull an inflated balloon under the water, but that won’t be a struggle in the slightest for a bigger fish.

Avoid using balloons in waters with strong currents. The current can pull the balloon to the point where it seems like a fish is biting when it really isn’t. That can be very disappointing! 

5. Slip Bobber

What It Is

Among one of the most popular types of bobbers is the slip bobber. Why do anglers love it so much? The slip bobber can do what a lot of floats can’t, and that’s get deep into the water. 

Here’s how it works. A slip bobber can move up or down your fishing line, which is why it’s known as a slip bobber. This motion of the bobber is how you customize its depth in the water. You will need a bait stop with a slip bobber, which is a rubber attachment or a plastic bead.

The sensitivity of slip bobbers is remarkable as well. Now you’re getting a better understanding of why slip bobbers are so renowned. 

Not all slip bobbers are made of the same materials. Some are fiberglass and have more weight than the average slip bobber. Their construction also lends them exceptional durability. 

Wire slip bobbers are stable, but they’re heavier than even fiberglass. For a strong slip bobber material that weighs less, choose carbon. 

When to Use It

For fishing in deep waters, there may not be a better type of bobber than the slip bobber. However, don’t be mistaken and assume that slip bobbers are only for deep casting, as they’re not.

You can push the bobber higher on the line when fishing in shallow bodies of water. Then, if you’re eager to reel in panfish and pike, push the bobber about midway down the line.  

You’ll also find that using a slip bobber makes for more effortless casting, which is great. 

The sensitivity of slip bobbers, although maybe not quite as refined as a pencil bobber, should help you better detect that precise moment when you’re getting a bite on your line.

6. Popping Cork

What It Is

The dink bobber isn’t the only cork float in town. The popping cork is another one. Its cork body measures three to five inches in length. The rest of a popping cork’s construction is hard plastic and Styrofoam.

Why is it called a popping cork, you ask? When the float is struck by a fish, you hear a telltale popping sound.  

You can select from an unweighted popping cork or one with extra weight. An unweighted cork does have its uses, but many more anglers will gravitate towards the weighted popping cork. After all, the weight keeps the popping cork floating upright like a pencil float does.

Further, you’ll find it easier to cast with a weighted popping cork than an unweighted one. It’s like the difference between a bubble bobber that’s filled with water versus one that isn’t.

When to Use It

When you’re fishing near grass and structures, a popping cork is a handy attachment on your fishing line. You might also reach for one of these bobbers when you want to catch trout and you have live bait on your line. 

Long-distance and short-distance fishing alike is both appropriate uses of a popping cork. 

7. Push Button Bobber

What It Is

The push-button or ball bobber is one of the more traditional bobber designs. It’s usually made of hard plastic such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS. The bobber is two-toned, as it’s half white and half red. 

The buoyancy of a push-button bobber is one of its biggest attributes. Usable with heavy and light bait alike, a push button bobber has an internal spring-loaded clip to connect to your fishing line. Once attached to the line, the ball bobber doesn’t move.

Low-cost and lasting, a push button float is something you should have in your fishing arsenal in case you need it. 

When to Use It

Beginner-friendly since they’re so easy to use, you’re likely to see new anglers using push-button floats the most. 

For fishing in shallow bodies of water, a ball bobber is a highly recommended option. You should also rely on a push-button bobber when you’re doing short-distance casting, as it won’t cast to nearly the same distance as a lot of other floats we’ve talked about. 

8. Spring Slip Bobber

What It Is

The last type of bobber is the spring slip. This looks a lot like a slip bobber but with an external spring on it. 

You can use a spring slip float two ways. One such option is fixed mode, where the bobber doesn’t move. 

The other is sliding mode. Like a slip bobber, the spring slip bobber can then move about your fishing line, but only to the extent that the stoppers on the line allow for. 

When to Use It 

Considering its versatility, you can use a spring slip bobber in many scenarios that you would a standard slip float. That includes fishing in shallow and deeper waters. 

Obviously, the greater the depths of the water, the more useful the spring slip bobber’s sliding mode is. For shallower waters, you can leave the float in fixed mode. 

Final Thoughts

Fishing bobbers each bring something unique to the table, even the ones that look similar such as a spring slip bobber and regular slip bobber. By learning about the advantages and disadvantages of each, you can play up the strength of each bobber to catch more fish! 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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