A useful tool for beating the bushes, long casting the flats, and deep drifting the Gulf, a slip bobber can be a real asset. Whether you’re casting tight under the Green Monster or pitching big bait to rolling tarpon, this presentation can put your bait in the mix and at the right depth.
Slip bobbers are a familiar tool for bass, crappie, and walleye fisherman up north and on southern lakes and weed choke ponds. The simple modified float setup gives flats, bay, and Gulf anglers an option for employing suspended bait. Floats of varying sizes and shapes can be conveniently set at about any reasonable depth with this easy one- or two-step rig.
Here are some options for setting up a slip bobber rig. Depending on the bait you choose to present, bobber sizes will match the hatch for aiding in casting and floatation. Obviously the bigger the bait, the larger and more buoyant the float will have be. There is a myriad of sizes, shapes, and weights of floats. Most typical here in Florida are the popping corks, weighted and unweighted. Popping corks are designed with a couple of options for attaching to the main line or search leader. The standard configuration entails placing the line through the slot provided on the poppers, then wrapping the line around the cork and through the slot again. Inserting the keeper pin or stick will secure the popper in the desired position. This holds the popper in place and yet allows it to be moved and adjusted to the desired depth for bait presentation. If you fail to double-wrap the line around and through the cork you may find your popper sliding up and down the mainline and, worse yet, perhaps flying off the line.
Deploying a popping cork as a slip bobber couldn’t be simpler. The stick or pin pervading with the cork comes with a channel through the middle of the it. By simply threading the line through the channel the cork will able to slip up and down the line. Simply reinsert the pin into the bobber and you’re ready to go. This configuration provides superior leverage when casting, since all the terminal gear, bait, and cork are near the end of the line. The slip bobber arrangement has the casting characteristics of a large plug, providing a nice tight bundle of terminal gear close to the rod tip. This arrangement increases accuracy, casting distance, and less chance of nasty tangles while hefting a cumbersome bait, sinker, and leader. It’s a spot-on method once you get the hang of it.
Close work around and under the mangrove canopy can be improved and simplified when all your terminal gear is closer to the rod tip, thus forgoing the whirligig, spinning action generated by a long search leader dangling below the popping cork. Popping corks, plain round corks, Styrofoam ball floats, and “Fat Bob” stick bobbers are all employable in this manner. This method will place your bait tightly under the narrow mangrove canopy and deadfall areas when used in coordination with a “Chip Shot” sidearm-style cast.
Determining the targeted species, bait size, and depth of presentation will dictate the size of float needed. Location of the stopper knot that allows the bait to sink to the desired depth is determined by careful observation of your depth finder. Generally, you’re probably familiar with the depth under the mangrove canopy and typical zone on the flats; no problem here, simple experimentation will reveal the proper placement of the stopper knot.
Deeper areas and offshore structures will require, again, moderate research with your depth finder. Deeper drifts and stationary bait placement over structures will determine where the stopper knot needs to be tied on your search leader or mainline. Several options can be examined as to what would be the best location of the stopper knot.
I prefer adding an extra-long section of leader that will allow several wraps of leader material on the reel spool, very typical of offshore tarpon set ups. Generally speaking, large baits floated over structures or among rolling or cruising fish will imitate the depths of diving plugs such as the deep 15–20–25 ft. divers. Figure your bait will suspend in or around the schooling fish or over the sunken structures. Greater depth will, of course, be better served by simply weighting and soaking baits on a dead drop. The ability to suspend several baits over a structure, ledge or spring without hands-on management can increase hookup ratios.
Stopper knots can be made with several easy options. The easiest and most obvious is the leader to mainline connection. With a predetermined depth in mind, the leader can be measured and secured with a plump uni-knot or other variation, just so it will stop the line from threading through the hole or channel in the float. With large baits and longer drops on the floats, employing the several-turns-on-the-reel-spool method to add in loading the rod and increase casting range as needed. The bulk of the bait or added weight will overcome the bumping of the stopper knot through the rod guides. The same is true of the shorter leader arrangements. Care in casting and a smooth stroke will help avoid snapping your baits off; easy does it, easy-peezy!
Stopper knots can be assembled using a number of fine materials. I like colored yarn; it's soft, non-abrasive, and easy to use and store. I applied the yarn stopper to the leader or mainline with a single uni-knot, about 3 to 5 turns should do. They can be slid up or down the leader to adjust bait placement depth. I’ll squirt of minuscule dab of super glue or fingernail polish on the knot to help keep in place; it can still be adjusted as needed with a firm grip.
The float size, channel( i.e. hole, dimensions), and line diameter will dictate the stopper knot size. Fine-diameter line and small float holes will allow other materials to be used for stopper material. Braided line or mono are good choices if you’re not a fan of yarn.