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Bobber Fishing for Steelhead: Top Tips and Tricks

Steelhead trout are one of the most popular game fish in the USA because it can be found in multiple places. These amazing fish migrate from the rivers and lakes where they hatch and move to the big ocean, then return to the river or lake to spawn one more time. 

Bobber fishing is a popular technique for catching steelhead because it allows you to fish in places where other gear won’t function well. Moreover, it will enable you to fish distant seams above and below your position. 

So, if you’re interested in bobber fishing, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about bobber fishing for steelhead and how you can improve your chances while catching this sought-after fish. So, keep on reading. 

What Is Bobber Fishing For Steelhead?

Bobber or float fishing is one of the most popular fishing techniques for steelhead. You simply cast a bobber out with a jig suspended and watch it glide until it disappears, which means that you’ve caught a fish.

For bobber or float fishing, you need a special rod, so you might want to try with a less expensive one if you’re still a beginner. 

A bobber is a piece of your fishing equipment and is a buoyant or floating item that connects to the fishing line to control the depth of the bait and keep it where the fish are biting.

When the fish bites, the bobber moves and acts as a visual indicator, so you know that there’s a fish on the other end of the line. 

This is how the bobber allows you to fish in less accessible parts of the water because it can float further than where you throw it in the first place. Bobbers also give you more control over drift when you’re fishing around a submerged structure. 

Author Note: Most anglers choose spinning reels, while some use baitcasters while using a bobber. However, compared to other fishing techniques, the setup is simple and easy to learn.

The key is not to let the jig touch the bottom, and the float will tell you that you’re successful by bobbing or going underwater. 

Types of Bobbers

Fishing bobbers on water surface

There are several types of bobbers that anglers use. Each one of them is suitable for a specific fishing situation to multiply your odds of catching different types of fish. The most common types are slip and fixed bobbers. Bubble floats are also widely used with smaller lures and spinning reels. 

Slip Bobbers

Slip bobbers are suitable for steelhead fishing because they provide good depth control and allow you to cast further.

You can also use slip bobbers to catch other types of trout, walleye, and panfish when they’re found deeper than 5 feet. 

These bobbers slip up and down your line from the hook to the stop, which is a knot in your mainline. You can slide it up and down according to your desired depth. 

There are different types of slip bobbers, as some of them are designed to show better bait sensitivity, while others are perfect for reducing wind drift. This allows you to choose the ideal bobber based on your current fishing situation. 

Most bobbers are made of plastic or foam, but wooden and weighted types will increase your casting distance. Rigging up a slip bobber takes a little bit more effort, although it’s still easy to learn. 

Fixed Bobbers  

Fixed bobbers are more widely used because they’re great for all types of fishing. Unlike slip bobbers, these ones are fixed along the fishing line, regardless of the depth. The classic ones use recessed hooks, while the other ones use a spring.

Fixed bobbers are made of foam, plastic or wood, and can be oval, round, or pencil-shaped. 

If you want to hold your bait at a shallow depth, using a fixed bobber will work for you. You can release the spring or hook to adjust the depth of the bobber by moving it up or down.

You don’t need a stopper because fixed bobbers don’t move. 

Top Tip: Fixed bobbers will work for you if you’re fishing in shallow waters because they’re more challenging to cast within deep waters.

In addition, the line will be more prone to tangling if you’re not careful while casting. 

Bubble Floats

A bubble float is a 2-piece bobber with an internal tube that holds both parts together. A bubble float can help you cast using finesse lures. 

Your fishing line passes through the tube like a slip bobber, but you have to pull the two parts apart and twist them in different directions to lock the line in place.

You fill the bobber with water by submerging the bobber to cast further, even if you’re using an unweighted lure. 

What Are the Different Bobber Shapes and What Do They Do?

Two Bobbers in Water

Bobbers come in different shapes, and these are not just for aesthetics, as each shape is suitable for a specific purpose and a unique fishing situation.

Luckily, most bobbers are suitable for trout fishing, so they will work for you if you’re trying to catch steelhead. 

However, they will offer different sensitivity and casting distances. Moreover, each shape works for a special kind of lures and will have an ideal depth where using it will lead to the best fishing results. 

For fishing in shallow waters, pencil bobbers will offer the highest sensitivity. These bobbers work with finesse lures and jigs but cast for a short to moderate distance.

For a longer casting distance in shallow waters, you can achieve better results with bubble bobbers. 

When you’re fishing at a depth between 6 and 20 feet, oval-shaped bobbers will work, whether they’re fixed or slip bobbers. Cigar-shaped slip bobbers will also work and will allow them to cast at a longer distance. 

How to Choose the Best Bobber Color For Steelhead

Choosing the color of the bobber has nothing to do with your personal preferences when you’re shopping for your angling gear but is related to visibility.

Since one of the main benefits of using a bobber is to show you when the fish starts biting, then you should be able to see it easily. 

Bobbers are supposed to be brightly colored, but some bright colors might not be as visible as they should be when cast in the water. Different colors will work for various water and weather conditions. 

If you’re fishing in stained or brackish water, yellow and white bobbers will stand out.

They will also work where the water is lined with trees that make the water look dark, but they won’t work for you in bright sunlight, which can make the bobbers difficult to see in the water. 

If you’re fishing on a bright sunny day, using a black or fluorescent orange bobber will be a better option. This is why it might be a good idea to get a double-colored bobber, so you can use it in different weather and water conditions. 

Where Can I Go Bobber Fishing For Steelhead?

Steelheads are found across the West Coast, extending all the way from Alaska to California, but they’re more abundant in different areas due to hatchery programs. You’ll often encounter many baby steelhead in these areas.

You can also find steelhead when they return to the rivers to spawn. They’re also common to find in the Great Lakes region. 

In most cases, anglers will crowd around river banks to catch these fish. This is why it’s important not to cast over other anglers who are fishing at the same spot. 

Author Note: Look for steelhead in rocky or gravelly areas, as steelhead prefer to gather in areas where there’s some cover. Even in shallow waters, steelheads prefer areas where the cover makes them more difficult to see. 

Using a bobber will work for fishing among the boulders because you can bounce your bait into the pockets where the fish are hiding.

Steelhead can also be found in a calm area in the river where the water slows down before a rapidly moving area. 

How to Set Up the Bobber For Steelhead Fishing

fishing bobber and hook

If you’re a beginner, fixed bobbers will be easier to set up, so they will work for you if you’re a beginner. However, slip bobbers will grant you more success while casting further. 

Slip Bobber Setup

  1. Start by determining the depth of the bait and determine the length of the fishing line. 
  2. Secure the stopper, then the fishing bead to stop the stopper from passing through the bobber. 
  3. Attach the bobber and pull the fishing line through it. 
  4. Attach a weight, and make sure to choose the right one. If the weight is too light, the bobber will move around in the water, and it will sink if it’s too heavy. 
  5. Set up the swivel and make sure that it sits at the proper distance from the bobber. 
  6. Attach the hook and choose your favorite bait. 

Fixed Bobber Setup

  1. Choose the right depth and pull out the required length of the fishing line. 
  2. Locate the button on the bobber and press it. 
  3. Slip the fishing line through the hook and release the button of the bobber. 
  4. Attach the line to the other side of the bobber. 
  5. Add the hook. 

Wrap Up

Bobber fishing is a great way to catch steelhead as well as other types of fish because the bobber serves as a visual indicator that tells you that you’re about to achieve success.

There are different types of bobbers that you can choose from, depending on the condition of the water and your experience as an angler. 

Happy Hunting!


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