Call them what you will: bobbers, floats, corks, or perhaps, if you're a fly fisherman, a "strike indicator" - just a fancy name for simple but important angling tool. They come in all shapes, sizes and weights. They are designed for all species, big and small. And best of all, they work.
There is something almost hypnotic about watching a bobber as it drifts gently on the waters surface, and the movement it makes when a fish strikes from below. As a kid growing up, I would spend intense observation watching them bob and weave, then plop quickly below the surface - fish on. Then, setting the hook to either a solid fish, or perhaps a missed opportunity at a fish. It's something I never got over.
Today's angling market features many styles of floats and bobbers for a multitude of species. But the word count here will only permit me to explain a few that will hopefully help your fishing. Although they are the most common of bobber types to suspend a bait or lure, those round, plastic bobbers are about the worst indicators of a fish bite. Ever try to push a beach ball under the water and hold it there? Doesn't want to stay down, does it? Same with the round floats, and fish can feel that resistance.
Thinner, slim line floats always submerse better than the round bobbers. When you are fishing for light striking panfish in the early spring, it pays to have a sensitive float that will easily telegraph a strike, hence, the bobber goes underwater easily. Such floats can be of the "fixed" or "slip float" variety. A fixed float is exactly that - an attached float that clips onto your line and stays put, suspending your bait at the same depth, every cast, and will not move up and down the line. A slip-float will have a tubing or channel through the middle of the float where the line feeds through and the bait or lure is attached. On the top, or the 'rod' side of the float, a rubber "bobber stop" will have been threaded on prior to the float.
The bobber stop can be adjusted at any depth to accommodate the depth at where the fish are. Most stops, whether rubber or of the yarn type, will experience some movement up or down the line during the casting process, so re-setting of the stop is often necessary every 4-5 casts. The line runs through the bobber and then hits the stop, where ever you placed it at.The advantage with the slip float is that you can fish a suspended bait fifteen, twenty feet or even deeper and still retrieve your bobber right to the rod tip for easy casting. Slip floats are the weapon of many good shoreline anglers.
There are many companies making bobbers and floats. Thill brand floats are specialized and all have the tapered, slim profile that is easy for fish to pull under, yet can be fished in a variety of conditions. The Shy Bite and Mini Shy Bite models are great for fussy panfish and trout early in the season on still water venues. The larger, center-line slip bobbers in the River Master line are better for larger game like bass and pike.
If you choose to use the plastic variety, as most of us do, then the PlastiLite one inch and ¾ inch pear-shaped models will cover many bases in the freshwater fishing scene locally and beyond. And one of my favorite fixed bobbers are the many varieties by the Comal Company with their foam clip-ons, both weighted and un-weighted, for casting distance when desired. Most of our area stores carry these and the season is getting near where "bobber watching" will be in full swing!