About Bobbers, Floats and Indicators

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Let's try to demystify the differences between a bobber, a float or the strike indicator!

I've recently got a lot of questions on the difference between styles of gear that essentially do the same thing. Here I’ll do my best to explain in my humble, simple terms what they do.

First, let’s look at what’s called the “bobber”. A ‘bobber’ is the apparatus that dips or dives under water when a fish or other disturbance is occurring from under it. It could be a weed, the bottom of the river or lake - or hopefully a fish. The purpose of the bobber in this sense is to tell us when a fish is taking the bait and to suspend the bait above the bottom where the fish may be hovering. When the bobber goes under, it’s generally the time for the person on the other end of the bobber to set the hook! Although some of us are better at it than others, the bobber is what we generally have used in our first fishing experience and likely had the most success with! 

Next, let’s look at a ‘float’. The float does the exact same thing as the bobber and is often referred to as a bobber. However, it likely has a different name mostly because it serves a different purpose. Yes, it suspends the bait. Yes, it will tell us when we have had a disturbance under the water, but a ‘float’ is intended to be floated in moving water.  Floats come in many sizes and shapes which are intended to serve a specific purpose in different water conditions. For example; in a swift, shallow current, we may use a lighter float like a Raven 6.2g ‘FM’ or a Blood Run 5.5g ‘FD1’.  Our Sub-7gram floats don’t require a lot of weight to make work for you and in shallow water you generally don’t need a lot of lead to quickly get your fly down. On the other hand, a deeper pool of swift water may require an 11g to 15g float to accomplish the same task of getting the bait down.  Reading a float in moving water is critical to finding success when targeting fish such as the Steelhead. There are many articles and videos on this topic.

Lastly, a ‘strike indicator’, like the Airlock Strike Indicator is also a Bobber and Float. It’s purpose is the same thing -  to suspend the fly and tell us when we have had a disturbance under the water. The term ‘strike indicator’ is synonymous mostly in fly fishing (indy rig) applications.  Fly fishing with this style of ‘bobber’ is most likely going to be used for nymphing trout (or Smallmouth as my personal favorite!). This style of indicator is small, light weight and indented to be cast with the rest of your fly line set-up. Just like the bobber and float, the indicator’s job is to tell you when a fish (or bottom, or weed, or etc) has taken your fly. When using a strike indicator, you’re looking to read the subtle changes in it’s path of float. A dip, a drop, a slight pause or change in direction can mean a fish. A trout may only ‘mouth’ the fly, then realize it’s not food and let it go. Therefore; setting a hook on a slight indicator pause can mean the difference between no fish and a 20” brown! Nevertheless, the strike indicator - at its core is still a bobber, the purpose is to show the angler the subtle difference in flow for what we hope is a fish!

In summary, all bobbers, floats and indicators are intended to be read in concert with reading the water (reading water is another long topic). Whether it’s the top-stem of a float telling you your bait is dragging or a pause of a strike indicator, showing a possible ‘take’. In the end, a bobber is a float and is an indicator; every bobber is designed to tell a story.  Learning the visual cues of what your bobber is saying can increase your success rate and help have a more efficient day on the river. 

Tight Lines!

Our Full line of Bobbers, Strike indicators and Floats can be found here: BOBBERS/FLOATS of Newaygo Fly & Tackle


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