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 and when. What do we recommend?

Bobbers provide many basic uses when fishing for a variety of fish. Bobbers allow the angler to control the depth of bait and even lures, allowing them to dangle right in front of the fish they are trying to catch. Bobbers also allow the angler to visualize when a fish bites or is hooked, indicating the fish is ready to be reeled in.

This guide to bobbers will go through eight types, explaining each bobber and the fishing situation you should use it for. You’ll feel much more comfortable fishing with bobbers when you’re done reading! Once, you’ve decided which bobbers are right for your fishing experience, check out our article “Where to Attach a Bobber to a Fishing Line.”

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

Table comparing different bobber types and when to use each.
Includes bubble bobber, cigar floats, slip bobber, popping cork bobber, round fixed bobber, and waggler bobber.

1. Bubble Bobber

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.  

Bobber TypeCasting DistanceWind DriftOptimal Water DepthSensitivityCompatible w/ lures
Bubblelonglow2 to 4 ft. highjigs, wet flys

When to Use It

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

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. 

2. Cigar Floats

A Cigar Float, which is also referred to as a pencil bobber, is a long and skinny type of float. Its sensitivity is much 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 cigar 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 cigar bobber float like that, you ask? The bobber features a weight on one of its two ends. Even though that’s not the ideal application for these floats, a cigar float should still stand in rougher waters.

Bobber TypeCasting DistanceWind DriftOptimal Water DepthSensitivityCompatible w/ lures
Cigar Gloatslonghigh6 to 20+moderateminnows, grubs

When to Use a Cigar Float

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

In calm conditions especially, this 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 this one stands vertically, it’s a lot harder to miss. 

3. Slip Bobber

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 many 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 better at understanding 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. 

Bobber TypeCasting DistanceWind DriftOptimal Water DepthSensitivityCompatible w/ Lures
Slip Bobber30 to 60 ft. Medium20+HighJigs

When to Use It

There may not be a better type of bobber fishing in deep waters 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.

4. Popping Cork

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 cigar float.

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 filled with water and one that isn’t.

Bobber TypeCasting DistanceWind DriftOptimal Water DepthSensitivityCompatible w/ Lures
Popping Corkshort or longlow2 to 6 ft. HighJigs

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 are both appropriate uses of a popping cork. 

5. Round Fixed Bobber

The Round Fixed 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 round-fixed 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. 

Bobber TypeCasting DistanceWind DriftOptimal Water DepthSensitivityCompatible w/ Lures
Round FixedShortHigh2 to 3 ft. Low——

When to Use It

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

A ball bobber is a highly recommended option for fishing in shallow bodies of water. You should also rely on a round fixed bobber when doing short-distance casting, as it won’t cast nearly the same distance as many other floats we’ve discussed. 

6. Waggler

If casting is often difficult for you, then the waggler may be exactly what you are looking for. Because it is shaped like a dart, it helps it fly through the air more easily.

The wagglers are probably the most sensitive of the bobbers we are discussing today, which makes them very useful when trying to catch smaller fish.

The casting distance is short or moderate, and the optimal water depth is between 6 and 15 feet.

Bobber TypeCasting DistanceWind DriftOptimal Water DepthSensitivityCompatible w/ Lures
Wagglershort/moderateLow6 to 15 ft. Very HighFinesse Jigs

The particular waggler fishing bobber pictured above is made from high-quality balsa wood, has a strong buoyancy, and is very durable.

7. Spring Slip Bobber

The next 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 the fixed mode, where the bobber doesn’t move. 

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

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. 

8. Dink Bobber

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. 

How to Detect Bites When Bobber Fishing

To detect bites when bobber fishing, look no further than the bobber itself. It acts as a gauge to indicate if a fish has fallen for your bait, as does your fishing line. You may feel a pull on your line as well or notice that the surface brush is being actively disturbed.

Although each bobber functions differently from one another, they serve one common purpose. You can rely on the bobber to indicate whether a fish might have latched onto your hook. 

All you have to do is watch the fishing line and your bobber in kind. If both move, even subtly, then it’s probably time to begin reeling it in. 

 For more detailed information on how to detect bites when fishing with a bobber, click here!

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! 

To see my personal favorite bobbers that I use on a regular basis, click here!

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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