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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
When it comes to catching trout a stealthy natural presentation often means the difference between success and failure. Over the years I’ve tried a number of presentations from sliding sinker rigs fished with an open bail, to slow trolling or drifting weightless threaded crawlers. A few years ago while fishing Eagle Lake I was turned on to slip bobber fishing by my good friend Jim English.
Jim and I had been trolling for about three hours with zero results when Jim suggested we give bait fishing a try. As we headed for an area where we had marked a lot of fish on the sonar Jim rigged up our spinning rods with slip bobbers and light fluorocarbon leaders. I thought I’d seen it all it terms of trout rigs but this was a new one for me.
After anchoring we each pinned a lively ‘crawler on our hook and tossed out our rigs. Less than a minute had passed when my bobber disappeared below the surface. Fighting the temptation to set the hook immediately, I let the fish run for about 30 seconds before closing the bail.
As the line came tight I felt the power of hard fighting rainbow. Just as I brought my fish to net, Jim hooked a nice’ bow of his own. Over the next hour we were in trout fishing nirvana as we caught and released several nice fish before ending the session with four quality rainbows between 2lbs and 4lbs.
Aside from the hard battling trout we caught that day what really stood out was the way we had caught them so readily with slip bobbers after being blanked trolling. Since then slip bobbers have become my go to rig when a stealthy approach is called for.
Like most trout anglers I prefer to use lures whenever possible. Now, when the trout are actively feeding and chasing bait lures work great. Unfortunately, trout are not always actively feeding. In fact much of the time the fish are in a neutral state. Sure they will feed if an easy opportunity presents itself but they aren’t going expend energy chasing a fast moving lure. It’s at times like these when slip bobbers really shine.
Slip bobbers offer trout anglers important advantages. First and most importantly they allow you to present baits and jigs at specific depths. This allows you to put your offering in the trout’s strike zone and keep it there. This is crucial when the trout are inactive.
Secondly, they allow the fish to take your bait without feeling significant resistance. This is important when the fish are behaving tentatively since if they feel any unnatural resistance they will likely spit out the bait.
For those who have never fished with them slip bobber rigs can seem complicated however they are really quite simple. Begin with a light action spinning rob spooled with 6 pound monofilament. Thread your line through a plastic or string bobber stop. Then thread on a 1/8 inch plastic bead followed by your bobber.
Below the bobber tie on a small black swivel. Above the swivel place one or two large split shot on the line. To the swivel attached a 30 inch 4lb test fluorocarbon leader. Tie a #8 or #10 wide gap short shank hook to the business end of the leader and you’re ready for action.
Before baiting the hook you’ll want to adjust the bobber stop for a desired depth. This process is simplified when fishing from a boat with sonar unit. If you don’t have a fish finder or are bank fishing you’ll have to do a little guess work as to the best depth to target. In general you’ll want to present your bait just above the depth at which the trout are holding. Remember trout see upward, if your bait is below their depth they will not notice it.
To adjust the bait’s depth simply slide the bobber stop up your main line until it is the desired distance from the hook. The bobber stop can safely be reeled onto your spool allowing you to cast with only the bobber and leader protruding from the tip of the rod regardless of how deep you will actually be fishing.
In terms of bait, most of the standard offerings such as worms, salmon eggs, crickets, and meal worms will produce results. You’ll want to avoid using floating baits such as Power Bait which tend to create a lot of tangles when used in conjunction with a bobber.
For me night crawlers and live minnows produce the most consistent action. If you’re interested in big trout a lively minnow is hard to beat however be sure to check the regulations before using minnows since they aren’t legal at some lakes.
When you get a bite, its tempting to rear back and set the hook right away. However, it’s smart to fight this urge. When the fish are inactive, they will often mouth the bait and swim around with it for a period of time before swallowing it. If you set the hook too soon you will often miss fish. I like to give the fish 30 seconds or more to fully commit before I close the bail.
In addition to natural baits, jigs teamed with slip bobbers can pay dividends. For artificials rig up the same way as described for bait fishing simply substitute a small 1/32 or 1/16 ounce tube or marabou jig for the bait hook. When using jigs I like to wiggle my rod tip. This causes the jig to move up and down erratically, imitating a wounded baitfish. A strike is signaled by the bobber twitching under or moving sharply on the surface. When this happens, it’s necessary to set the hook quickly and with authority before the trout can spit it out.
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