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Bobber Fishing for Trout: Learn the Basics

Using bait and a bobber is often the first fishing technique you’re taught. And for good reason, a proper bobber fishing setup can catch you fish without much technical skill at all. Especially when you’re fishing for a hungry bite-happy species of fish like trout. But where the skill comes in for bobber fishing for trout is making the rig correctly, and know where/when to fish it. Are these questions weighing heavy on your mind? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.

In this learn the basics guide, we’ll get you up to speed on how to properly bobber fish for trout (as well as other small freshwater fish species).

We’re first going to go over which species of trout work best for bobber fishing, then we’ll go into detail on which equipment and supplies you need to bobber fish for trout. After that, we’ll review the best practices for bobber fishing as well as cover a few tips many people overlook.

By the end of the article, you’ll be ready to rock and roll with a bobber fishing setup!

How to Make a Slip Bobber Fishing Rig

There are several ways to make a bobber fishing rig, but the most versatile is the slip bobber rig.

This bobber fishing rig can be used for almost all kinds of trout in many different situations. The slip bobber rig is the most common trout rig! You’ll just need to adjust the size of your hook, weight, and bobber depending on the size of trout you’re fishing for. It also allows you to adjust the depth of your bait and hook by slipping the bobber to a depth predetermined by you. 

Author Note: You’ll need a hook, bobber, bobber stopper, fishing line, split-shot weight, a barrel swivel, and bait. You can follow the steps below, or watch the above video. Let’s make it!


  1. Decided the depth you want your bait to suspend at. If you know how deep the trout are that you plan on fishing, pull out that length of line from your reel. If you’re not sure, check out the place you plan on fishing ahead of time or ask your local bait shop.
  2. Once you’ve decided the depth, apply your bobber stop at this length. This will hold your bobber still at this point and suspend your bait in the water.
  3. Thread the remaining line through the bobber. There should be a hollow tube down the middle that the bobber uses to slide up and down your fishing line.
  4. Once you’ve threaded your bobber on the line, cut it with approximately 6 inches of the extra line when the bobber is against the stop.
  5. Tie your swivel onto this end and on to the remaining piece of fishing line. The swivel will prevent your line from getting twisted and tangled.
  6. Next, add your split-shot weight one foot away from the end of the line. Depending on how big the bait is you plan on using, you may need to add a bigger weight. Heavier weights also allow you to cast your trout bobber rig farther too.
  7. Tie your hook onto the end of the line with a Palomar or cinch knot to ensure it doesn’t slip off.
  8. Add your bait and you’re ready to go!

What Trout Can Be Caught Bobber Fishing?

Idaho steelhead trout caught

The short answer is all types of trout can be caught bobber fishing! In fact, pretty much every species of trout will go after a bobber fishing rig if it has bait they like and is presented correctly. Beginners, pro anglers, and fly fisherman all use bobbers or floats of some kind when trout fishing.

We’ll quickly go through some of the most common trout species and the slip bobber fishing rig setup that works best for them.

Bobber Fishing for Rainbow Trout 

Rainbow trout are one of the easiest trout to fish for. We recommend building a slip bobber rig with 4 to 6 lb test monofilament line and a size 6 or 8 hook. As far as bait goes, we recommend using either nightcrawler worms, canned sweet corn, or PowerBait. If you plan on using PowerBait, go with the trout flavored option. Rainbow trout are aggressive feeders, so you’ll know when they bit your bobber fishing rig.

Author Note: We like to fish for rainbow trout with an affordable spinning reel or ultralight rod and reel. Rainbow trout are also delicious, but be sure to prepare them correctly. And do not be tempted to eat trout raw!

Bobber Fishing for Brown Trout 

Use a similar setup for brown trout as you would for rainbow trout, except you may want to size up your hooks to a 2 or 4 and upgrade your monofilament line to 6 to 8 lb test. Brown trout go after similar bait as rainbow, so stick with worms, mealworms, or Powerbait. 

Bobber Fishing for Brook Trout 

Brook trout enjoy the same bait as rainbow and brown trout, but they often don’t grow as large. So either use the same size hooks and monofilament you use for rainbow trout, or size down to 3 to 4 lb monofilament. You can also go down to size 8 or 10 hooks. Ultralight spinning reels work best for brook trout. 

Bobber Fishing for Steelhead 

Steelhead are actually the same fish as rainbow, except they live in the ocean until they swim upriver to spawn. Because they spend most of their time in the ocean eating smaller fish, steelhead grow larger than rainbow trout and will require a larger bobber setup. We like to use 15 to 20 lb test monofilament paired with size 1/0 or 1 hook. For bait, we like using salmon roe or a bead rig. Both imitate fish eggs which steelhead love to eat. Go with a medium-sized saltwater spinning reel or saltwater baitcasting reel for steelhead.

Bonus: Salmon Bobber Fishing

Bobber fishing also can be quite effective for salmon – especially when they’re running upriver to spawn. Use an even larger setup than you would use for steelhead: we like 20 to 30 lb test monofilament or braided line paired with 1/0 or 2/0 sized hooks. Definitely size up to a medium to large saltwater spinning reel or bottom fishing reel for salmon.

Author Note: You’ll want to use salmon roe as bait, either as a single egg or in small bunches. Check out our salmon roe article if you want to learn how to make your own!

How to Fish the Bobber Rig

Here are a few general guidelines on how to fish your bobber rig for trout.

  • If there’s a current, cast your bait upstream so it will float past where the trout are hanging out. If the current is strong, you might need to cast fairly frequently. You can add more weight to your line to improve your casting capability and slow your float down.
  • Pay close attention to the bobber! Besides acting as a float to suspend your bait at the desired depth, it’s also a visual indicator of when a trout bites your bait! If something weird is going on with the bobber or you can’t see it, reel your line in to see what’s going on.
  • Don’t let your bait sit for more than 30 minutes without checking it/switching it out for something else. If there are fish where you’re fishing, they most likely will have found it and either taken it off the hook or decided they aren’t interested.

While being an indicator to detect strikes from trout, bobbers and floats also help position your bait so that it is at the optimum depth or strike zone on any given stretch of river.

Due to needing present your bait in a precise manner depending on the depth and current, slip bobbers are by far your best option.

With a slip bobber you and easily adjust your depth settings quickly until you get it just right, this will allow you to fish very effectively, and is the main reason fly anglers and avid trout anglers use slip style bobbers.

Bubble Floats

While our focus is on slip bobbers in this post, we also want to take a quick look at another bobber that is popular for this style of fishing, the bubble float.

Bubble floats are typically clear and feature a length of surgical tubing. When the bobber is twisted, the tubing tightens around the line and held in place. The bubble float works similar to a slip bobber in that it can easily be adjusted for depth.

Another interesting thing about the bubble float is that you can fill it partially with water. Filling the float with water adds weight and allows anglers to cast very light lures such as flies long distances using conventional spinning rods and reels.

Parting Thoughts

Bobber fishing for trout is one of the simplest forms of fishing but it can be difficult to get right if you don’t know what you’re doing. We hope after reading this article you not only know how to make your own slip bobber rig but also what size hooks and line to use depending on the type of trout you’re fishing for.

Do you have additional advice on bobber fishing for trout that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!


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