The thought of bobber fishing for walleyes doesn’t instill a sense of excitement in a lot of anglers, and seems simple to the point of being crude. The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth, and when done right it, is a form of art. It’s a lot more than simply clipping on a bobber and waiting for something to happen; A whole lot more.
Successful float fisherman have found that this tried and true method can get a bait into areas that heretofore have been nearly impossible to fish. By putting the right bait in the right place, and keeping it there, you can maximize your chances for boating ol’ marble eyes. A float (a.k.a. bobber), can do exactly that, but to get the job done certain factors have to be taken into consideration. The key is knowing where, when, and on what, to bet all of your hopes on a float.
The “where” is ninety percent of the equation, and will determine if a float is the best application for the given situation. Areas that would get the thumbs up are shallow rocky reefs and bars, ( the obvious), as well as deeper points and humps, and even specific areas along weed edges. Specific areas include deep weedy points, inside turns, and open pockets in the middle of a weed flat. All of the aforementioned areas can help to concentrate fish, and is a situation custom made for a float and live bait presentation. Anytime walleyes bunch up in specific, easily identified areas, floats have a chance to produce.
Flats, gradual breaks, and anywhere you find fish that are spread out, gets the thumbs down. For floats to be effective, you better have a concentration to work, as the method is simply too slow to cover a lot of water. Situations like these call for quicker methods, like rigging, or even trolling, which can allow you to move much quicker, and get your bait in front of a much larger audience. Bringing a float to a trolling or rigging bite is like bringing a knife to gun fight; You’re going to come up a little short.
At the center of the presentation is the float itself, and there has never before been so many options. The latest entries are the European style floats, which have earned a spot in the walleye angling lineup. Although the sleek European floats can be effective, they are definitely not for every situation. Where they have proven themselves is under tough conditions, and dead calm water. The sleek, slender style, offers little resistance to a fish that has taken the bait, and will keep him holding on longer, giving you more time to set the hook. Too much resistance and a light biting walleye can easily reject the bait, leaving you empty handed.
Where they don’t do well is under the onslaught of heavy waves, which just so happens to be when shallow water walleyes are most active. The problem with the slender profile float is their lack of buoyancy, which allows the float to slide into, and under, the first good wave, never to be seen again until reeled back in. A situation like that calls for a good old fashioned Styrofoam slip bobber, which has the ability to stay on top of the heaviest seas, and can help to keep your bait in front of the fish, where it belongs. To keep the resistance problem to a minimum, add as much split shot as you can, while still retaining the ability to stay on top.
The whole idea behind a float is to suspend a bait, like a leech, minnow, or night crawler, and there are several options. The first option would be the use of a plain hook, which is used most often. Good hook selections would match the size of the hook to the bait being used. Leeches call for hooks in sizes six to eight, like the VMC Octopus Needle Point series. Crawlers are better suited to hooks in sizes four to six, while minnows may range from six to even a 1/0, depending on the size of the minnow.
Another option is to replace the plain hook with a small jig head. Jig heads do a couple of things, including giving the bait some color, as well keeping a swimming bait pinned in place. Leeches and minnows tend to swim up, and out of the walleye zone, and who would blame them. Jig heads in the 1/32 to 1/4 ounce range are the ticket, with size determined by the type of bait your using, and the existing conditions. Heavier waves and larger baits call for larger jigs. The key is to use just enough weight to get the job done.
Hooking options include running the hook through a leeches sucker, which is the tail end (contrary to popular belief), and will allow it to keep swimming and attracting ’eyes on the prowl. Crawlers can be hooked through the middle, which will help to nail the short strikers. Another method uses a half of a crawler, that is threaded onto a jig head. If you’re using crawlers and missing fish, try the half crawler option.
One of the toughest part of successful float fishing is setting the hook, after a fish has taken the bait. One of the keys is getting all of the slack out of the line, before the set. To help with the slack factor, longer spinning outfits in the eight to nine foot range are in order. Longer rods with light tips allow you to pick up more line on the set, which will result with fewer misses. Another key is waiting until you feel some of the weight of the fish in the rod tip, before giving it the old heave ho. If you set too soon, chances are the fish will feel the commotion and spit out the bait.
Float fishing has gone high tech, and is a weapon that deserves a spot in any serious walleye anglers arsenal. The next time you run into walleyes in a bad neighborhood, or with a bad attitude, try giving a float a try, as you just might surprise yourself.