How To Set Up a Slip Bobber: A Beginner’s Guide

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How To Set Up a Slip Bobber: A Beginner’s Guide

Slip Bobber Rigged
Fully rigged Thill slip bobber (Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler)

Slip Bobbers: An Alternative to the Traditional Spring Floats

When fishing for crappie or other panfish, many anglers enjoys using the tried-and-true “spring float” bobber. If you have fished at any point over the past five decades, you are likely to have used a spring bobber.

The spring bobber is probably the most common and popular “float” on the market. With hundreds of variations, like the Bass Pro Shops Premium Weighted Balsa Spring Float and the Mr. Crappie by Betts Stick Bobber are so popular because:

A) They are widely available


B) They are easy to use

You just compress the springs, connect your fishing line, and you’re set.

Easy enough, right?

But what happens when you want to target fish that are sitting fourteen feet below the boat? Trying to cast several yards worth of line is going to get old very quickly.

If this happens to you, maybe the slip bobber is a better option.

What is a Slip Bobber?

As the name suggests, this is a bobber (or “float”) that is attached via a “slip” method rather than a “spring” method.

Most slip bobbers will have small holes in the top and bottom so you can thread your line through. This method allows the float to slide up and down the line without needing to be readjusted.

This not only saves the hassle of having to adjust your float any time you want to change depth, but also allows for more versatility, casting accuracy, and overall convenience.

The biggest “catch” – pun intended – when using the slip bobber method, however, is that there are a couple extra steps required in setting it up. This might turn away from anglers, but the additional effort definitely pays off.

Setting Up Your Slip Bobber: What You Need to Know

It goes without saying, but before you use your slip bobber, you will need the essentials: a lightweight rod and reel. If you are in the market for an upgrade, here are our suggestions for some great panfish rod and reel combinations for any budget.

While many crappie and panfish anglers disagree on what line to use, we have found that bumping up to a quality 6 pound fluorocarbon line – like the Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon – adds just enough weight to ensure smooth casts, especially if there is some wind. Using 4 pound (or even 2 pound) can make the casts waver.

You will also need several other pieces terminal tackle to complete your rig. These include:

  • Bobber Stops
  • Plastic Beads
  • Split Shot
  • Fishing Hook

Setting Up Your Slip Bobber: A Step-by-Step Process

Once you have all the necessary terminal tackle, you can start setting up your slip bobber.

Below, we will break down each step. Before you begin, make sure you rod and reel are assembled and strung with a lightweight line. As we mentioned above, 6 pound fluorocarbon is our suggestion, but 4 pounds will also work.

Step One: Securing Up Your Bobber Stop String

In the image above, you will see three items:

  • Red beads
  • String
  • Black tubes

The first step in setting up your slip bobber rig is sliding your fishing line through the black tube (with the string still secured around the body of the tube). It does not matter how high you slide the tube up the line, but you want to have a few feet coming out of the bottom. This leaves room to secure the other terminal tackle.

Next, gently pinch the thick section of string wrapped around the tube and slide it upwards. If done correctly, it should slide off the tube and enclose the fishing line above the tube.

Now, gently, pull each end of extra string until the knot (the thick section you moved off the tube) tightens around the line.

Using Slip Bobber_Thread
The colorful string should knot snugly around your fishing line. You can cut off the residual string, leaving the remnants close to the knot. (Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler)

Once the knot is snug, carefully snip off the remaining loose string. Make sure you do not clip the knot itself. The above photo is a visual of what your knot will look like. If you want to trim the excess line all the way to the knot, that is fine. I tend to leave just a bit extra to make sure I can see the knot while fishing.

While many slip floats come with an assortment of bobber stops and beads, it is also a good idea to pick up some extras. I make sure to keep an extra pack of Thill Bobber Stops in the boat throughout the year.

Step Two: Adding Your Plastic Bead

The bobber stop (the green string you secured in step one) allows you to easily adjust depth. Instead of sliding your bobber, you simply slide the bobber stop up and down the line to determine your fishing depth.

For instance, if your string is eight feet above your hook, then the hook and bait will sit eight feet below the surface.

The string alone isn’t enough to keep your slip bobber from sliding up the line and smacking the top eyelet of your fishing rod. For ultralight and microlight rods, this is important because you do not want you terminal tackle smacking into the line on every catch.

This is where a small plastic bead becomes your best friend.

As you can see in the above photo, you will simply slide your line through the two openings in the top and bottom of the bead. The bead will slide up and down the line as needed.

Step Three: Adding Your Slip Bobber/Float

After you have secured your string and bead, the third step is to slide your line through the top and bottom of your slip float.

Usually, this will be a simple process. If you are struggling to slide the line through, you will want to trim off any stubborn sections that have picked up memory. Before doing so, make sure to slide your bobber stop and bead further up the line.

Using Slip Bobber_Thread and Bead and Thill Bobber
Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler

Once the line is through, make sure to feed a couple extra feet through because you still have to add your hook and split shot.

Also, while there is some distance between the bobber and the bead in the photo above, keep in mind that this tackle is meant to move. If you find the pieces closer together than they are in the visual, don’t worry – that is totally normal!

Step Four: Add a Split Shot

Once your bobber is secure, you will add a split shot to your line. While you can choose the sinker based upon your preferences, I like using a #2 removable split shot. The removable option is incredibly helpful in the event of snag or re-rigging.

One of the issues anglers run into with this rig is that, at times, the multiple pieces of tackle will get tangled. Making sure there is some weight toward the bottom of your line is always helpful.

As you can see in the photo above, this particular rig is not using a removable split shot. Since this is the first part of the rig that is not intended to move, you will want to make sure that you are comfortable with the positioning.

Your hook will come next, so I want to make sure the split shot is at least six inches above where the hook will sit. Aiming for somewhere between eight and ten inches seems ideal, though. Too little line places the tackle too close to the hook while too much leads to a greater possibility of tangled line.

Many anglers will actually apply the split after tying the hook, which isn’t a bad idea at all.

Step Five: Tying Your Hook

Finally, you will tie your hook.

Using Slip Bobber_Thread and Bead and Thill Bobber and Split Shot Extended_With Hook
Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler

When using this rig, we generally use an Aberdeen hook. When it comes to size, a #2, 4, or 6 will do the job. You can adjust based upon your particular preference.

Notice in the photo above that the bobber will slide. It will often drop down, resting on the split shot. This is another reason why it is important to secure the split shot. If it is too loose, the rig will slide down to the top of the hook.

Tips for Using Your Slip Bobber Rig

This might seem like a lot of work, but it is a real game changer if you are targeting fish, especially with live bait.

Here are a few tips to help you maximize your slip bobber fishing game:

  • Learn to Check Depth: Even if you’re a purist, let’s face it: electronics are a huge part of the game. Whether you are fishing old-school from the sure or using top-of-the-line equipment to help your track fish (like the Garmin Panoptix Livescope), you want to be able to put your bait in the appropriate strike range of your fish. The more you use the slip bobber right, the easier it will be for you to adjust your string to the desired depth. Try to keep mental notes of your depth, taking a couple extra seconds to check before each cast.
Marking Slip Bobber Depth
In the photo above, I want to make sure my bait is staying at a certain depth. Using a slip bobber makes this much easier. (Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler)
  • Be Patient: Why check before every cast? Because the bobber stop string is prone to move, especially after a bite. There is a lot of tackle on your line and the pieces are intended to move. If you happen to come across the honey hole, you want to make sure your depth is staying consistent.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Re-Rig When Needed: The spring bobbers offer lots of convenience when initially rigging your line, but lack the versatility of the slip bobber setup. If you find that you are getting tangled frequently or that your string and split shot are moving more than you would like, take a couple minutes to re-rig. You will save yourself some hassle in the long run.

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