How To Bobber Fish For Trout (Explained)


by Robert Ceran

Catching trout with a bobber and a hook is not only one of the easiest ways to catch them, it’s also one of the most fun ways.

It’s always a thrill to watch your bobber plunge down, just before you lift your rod to set the hook, and feel the resistance of a strong trout at the end of your line. 

However, even if bobber fishing tends to be easier than most other trout fishing tactics, it’s still important to choose the right bobber fishing setup, and fish it in the right way in order to catch trout successfully with bobber fishing.

In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know in order to set up a good bobber fishing rig, and will give you our best tips on catching trout with bobber fishing.

How to bobber fish for trout

The best method to bobber fish for trout is with a slip bobber rig, which is by far the most versatile setup when it comes to bobber fishing.

Using a slip bobber enables you to fish at a wide range of depths in pretty much any fishery.

All you have to do is change the position of the bobber stop on the line, and hey presto – you’re fishing at a different depth.

Because of this versatility, the slip bobber is one of the most commonly used trout fishing rigs, and you can use it for all species of trout.

You just need to use a different size hook and line, depending on the size of the trout that you want to target. 

Once you master slip bobber fishing for trout, you can adapt it to many different fishing situations, which will undoubtedly help you to catch a lot more trout.

In fact, there are very few trout fishing opportunities where you can’t use a bobber, so it’s really worth learning how to use it.

Now let’s dive into the details and cover how to set up a bobber fishing rig for trout, and how to use it effectively.

How to set up a bobber for trout fishing

Now let’s talk about how to set up a slip bobber fishing rig for trout. You’ll need the following tackle components:

  • Size 8 to 12 bait hook
  • Medium size sliding bobber
  • Plastic fishing bead
  • 6 to 12 lb test monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line
  • Bobber stopper
  • Split shot weights

When you have all of the components listed above, assemble them by going through the following steps:

  1. Start by threading your trout fishing line through the hollow tube of the bobber stopper, and move it up the line a couple of feet. Then slide the stopper knot off the tube, and pull the tag ends to tighten the bobber stopper knot on your line. Tighten it just enough so it doesn’t move around, and remove the tube of the bobber stopper from your line.
  2. Next, thread the line through a plastic bead, then through the hollow tube of the slip bobber, from top to bottom. Add a split shot to the line below the slip bobber to stop it from sliding off the line.
  3. Tie your line to the hook. The best way to do this is with a snell hook if you’re using an eyeless octopus hook, or with a palomar or fisherman’s knot if you’re using a hook with an eye that you can thread your line through. 
  4. Set the depth at which you want to fish by sliding the bobber stopper up or down the line, and add one or more split shot weights about a foot away from your hook in order to get it to sink down in the water.
  5. Now you can bait the hook, and cast out to start fishing. You may need to adjust the number of split shot weights, depending on the size of your float, and what bait you use.

A large part of fishing with a bobber rig is about adjusting your setup depending on the conditions you encounter.

For example, you may need to adjust the depth setting if you notice the water is deeper or shallower than expected.

Note that you can also tie a barrel swivel between your hook and the bobber if you’re using live bait, since that will prevent your line from getting twisted.

Trout fishing with bobber and powerbait

One of the best ways to catch trout with a slip bobber rig is to bait your hook with powerbait, which works extremely well for catching stocked rainbow trout, as powerbait resembles the food they used to get in the trout hatchery.

When fishing powerbait for trout with a bobber rig, it’s important to add enough split shot weights to make your baited hook sink down in the water, since powerbait is usually buoyant, and tends to float up in the water.

Also, since trout are usually found within 1 to 3 feet of the bottom, you need to adjust the depth setting of your sliding bobber so that your baited hook is presented to the trout at the right depth.

You can achieve this by progressively setting your bobber deeper and deeper, until it fails to stand up straight in the water.

When your bobber lies flat on the water surface, that means your split shot weights are lying on the bottom. When you hit this depth, readjust your depth setting to make it 1 or 2 feet shallower, so your baited hook will be right above the bottom.

When using powerbait as bait, you can either opt for a size 8 to 12 single hook, or a size 10 to 14 treble hook.

The advantage of a treble hook is that it keeps the powerbait on the hook for longer, and it also helps to increase the hook up percentage.

What trout species can you catch with bobber fishing?

You can catch almost any kind of trout species with a bobber fishing rig, including deep water species like lake trout, as well as steelhead and several salmon species. In fact, it makes an ideal salmon rig for river fishing.

That being said, the most commonly caught trout species with bobber fishing are stocked rainbow trout, which are also the easiest to catch this way. 

Bobber fishing for lake trout

Even though lake trout like to hold in water deeper than 60 feet in summer, they can still be caught with a slip bobber rig, since you can set it to any depth you want.

And while lake trout are usually targeted with jigging and trolling lures that are easy to get into deep water, there are times when it makes sense to use a slip bobber with live bait to catch them.

Especially when lakers are heavily pressured and don’t respond to conventional tactics, you can probably get them to bite on a live bait fished under a slip bobber. 

When bobber fishing for lake trout it’s best to use large bait fish like suckers or chub as your live bait, and weigh them down with a heavy sliding sinker fished  under a big walleye or pike bobber. 

First use a fish finder to identify the depth at which lake trout are holding, and then lower your baited hook down (by continuously sliding the bobber stop up the line) until you hit the right depth.

Bobber fishing for rainbow trout

Not only are rainbow trout the most common trout species in North America (due to the fact that they are stocked in many lakes and rivers), in addition to this they are also a great species to target with bobber fishing.

You can use a slip bobber rig baited with powerbait, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs or corn, and suspend your baited hook slightly off the bottom for hungry trout to eat.

If there are weeds on the bottom where you are fishing, adjust your bobber depth to keep your hook slightly above the weeds, as that’s the depth where rainbow trout like to cruise in hunt of food.

In cases like that it’s important to make sure your hook doesn’t sink down into the weeds, as the trout won’t see it there. 

When you’re float fishing for rainbow trout, always keep an eye on your bobber, and wait for it to go down completely before setting the hook, as that will help to avoid short strikes when the fish are just nibbling at your bait.

If you do get a lot of nibbles, but no real bites, try to reduce the size of your bait, or switch to a different bait presentation to figure out what the fish want to eat.

If nothing happens, and your bobber just sits there, check your bait at least every half hour, to make sure your hook is still baited.

Finally, when it comes to rainbow trout, it really helps to add scents to your bait, as that will help to set your bait presentation apart from everyone else’s.

Some of the top performing scents are garlic, tuna, and shrimp bait scents, but also experiment with others to find what works best for you.

Bobber fishing for brown trout

If you’re bobber fishing for brown trout in streams and rivers, it’s usually best to downsize your float a little, since you don’t want to spook the trout (especially in clear water conditions).

The best baits to use for trout in streams and rivers include nightcrawlers and mealworms, but you should also try out pink plastic worms, beads, and flies drifted with a bobber rig.

Bobber fishing for steelhead trout

Steelhead trout are a migratory form of rainbow trout that spend several years in the ocean and then return to the river system where they were born.

Not only does their lifestyle resemble that of a salmon, but they also grow to much larger sizes than regular rainbow trout, which makes them extremely exciting to catch. 

Bobber fishing is one of the best ways to target steelhead, and you can use a wide variety of baits such as plastic worms, beads, salmon roe sacs, and jigs that are drifted with the current underneath a bobber.

Cast your rig upstream of where you want to fish, and let the current carry it to the steelhead.

You should aim to get your bait presentation down close to the bottom (and may have to add extra weight to achieve that), as that’s where the primary steelhead strike zone is.

Final remarks

This concludes our article on bobber fishing for trout, which is one of the most accessible and reliable ways to catch them in many different settings.

That’s why bobber fishing is such a great way for beginners to get their first experiences with trout fishing.

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