Getting down to the wire can mean more fish this winter
The Conventional Spring Bobber
The conventional spring bobber is designed for use inside shelters. In any temp below zero-degrees, conventional spring bobbers ice up. If you’re hole-hopping outside, make the move to modern titanium models.
With regards to The How, I typically fish conventional spring bobbers on shorter, 18- to 20-inch rods, where I’m right over the top of the hole and resting the stick on my leg, keeping my eyes on the wire. I’m barely moving it. I’m way less aggressive with the conventional spring bobber than I am with titanium. I’m simply watching it for ticks and bites that I wouldn’t detect without it. Fished still, they’re hair-trigger sensitive, perfect for light-biters.
Another advantage of conventional spring bobbers is you can fish them on lots of different rods because they insert easily into their tips. But make sure to hang onto the threader that comes in the Frabill package or you’ll have to find a sewing needle to thread line through, especially with nearly invisible 1- or 2-pound test line. I’m often fishing Northland Fluorosilk in these sizes, which I like because as a fluorocarbon they sink and get the bait down to the fish quicker. Makes a difference over the course of a day. If the fish are deeper than 20-feet I’ll fish Northland’s Bionic Ice Braid in 2- to 4-pound test.
Outside The Box: Titanium Spring Bobber
For hole-hopping, I turn to the benefits of Frabill’s Titanium Spring Bobber. Even in arctic conditions, titanium indicators remain supple and resist icing up, making them the ideal outside spring bobber. They clip easily to a variety of rods and adjust in or out, allowing for fine-tuning of bait movement and bite indication sensitivity. You can set the spring for lure weight, which becomes extremely critical when fishing ultra-light baits like 1/64-ounce jigs and delicate, up-biting fish. In this size I’m often fishing Northland’s Mooska jigs, which offer a little glitter and flash—or the Northland Slug Bug, a great horizontal bait with micro-plastic quiver tail. Rat Finkees and Marmooskas also work well because they’re almost neutrally buoyant and easy for fish to inhale.
Unlike the conventional spring bobber, you don’t have to worry about threading line through the titanium with a threader/needle. It also slides easily back to a stow position so the bobber is never bent, whether it’s in a rod case, tube or bucket.
Look Through The Scope
When I’m fishing larger baits like Northland Puppet Minnows and jigging spoons over neutral, subtle-striking fish, Frabill QuickTip rods with the red indicator become my go-to sticks. Equipped with 3- or 4-pound test, the red dot helps me determine if the line twitched or moved, inside a shelter or while hole-hopping. I look at it like the red dot on a scope. If that moves or twitches, it gives me the opportunity to set the hook.
The ‘Down’ Bite (Panfish Suck)
As mentioned, spring bobbers can make all the difference when fish are in a neutral to negative feeding mode. And like it or not, that can be a lot of the time.
In my playbook, these situations call for finesse. First step—stop fishing vertically and go horizontal. This puts fish physiology in your favor. During neutral and negative feeding periods, crappies, bluegills, and perch will react to a bait by simply expanding its mouth cavity to draw in water and the bait—what biologists call suction feeding. Then a complex series of senses in the fish’s mouth goes to work determining whether or not it’s worth eating. Of course, it all happens lightning fast—and without a spring bobber this type of feeding isn’t even detectable. But the spring bobber picks it up—this is what we call a ‘down’ bite.
As soon as I see that spring bobber move down, I set the hook. Now, when you get a hook right in that crease in the upper lip, you know that’s exactly what the fish has done, like a trout rising to take a fly. The fish inhaled the bait.
The ‘Up’ Bite
When fish get aggressive, sometimes they’ll ram and mouth the bait and move up just a little bit in the water column. That’s when the spring bobber moves upward—what we call an ‘up’ bite. Without a spring bobber, it’s amazing how many anglers miss this kind of bite. Most anglers also fish line that’s too heavy. A fish will grab the bait, but let go when it swims up, feeling the line resistance in the water.
But throw on a spring bobber and spool up 1- or 2-pound test and that fish has no idea it’s been duped. The light line is critical to the system. Sometimes even 3- and 4-pound test is too heavy to detect ‘up’ bites on a spring bobber. As far as line types, when I’m fishing under 20-feet I’m fishing mono; over 20 I’m using braid.
Whether it’s a piece of yarn, a nymphing bubble, a slip bobber, or a piece of titanium wire, strike indicators all perform the same tasks—to help anglers detect strikes and catch more fish.
Give wiretapping a try this winter—I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
1) If you have bad eyes like me, carry “cheaters” with you or stick with colored lines when possible—it’s just easier to tie.
2) Developing your back-reeling skills prevents breaking line when fighting those big ones close to the hole. And remember, slide them out of the hole, don’t lift them. It’s 1- to 2-pound test for goodness sake!