This simple little technique has helped me catch more steelhead off the bank. Give it a try!
Like many steelheaders, I have become a firm believer in the effectiveness of beads (especially when fished under a float) over the past several years. There’s no denying that there are times when they work better than anything else.
Up to this point, all of my bead use has been with the hard plastic variety…but I have been noticing more and more anglers using soft plastic beads as well. I’m always game to learn some new tricks, so I decided to dig a little deeper into this whole “soft egg” concept and recently talked with Brandon Wedam of BnR Tackle.
Wedam is a die-hard steelhead fisherman and his outfit manufactures and sells a wide array of soft beads that have become very popular in the coldwater world. I asked him what he thinks the advantages of using soft beads are.
“Hard beads work great but I think there are times when the soft ones can work better,” he says. “It seems like they have an edge on pressured fish — especially in low, clear conditions.”
He believes that the soft feel of the beads in those situations may contribute to the fish hanging on just a bit longer.
“Im starting to hypothesize that with beads there are lots of nips and near misses, says Wedam. “With the soft ones they are more likely to carry it around for a longer period of time. Catch some trout on them and you’ll see that first hand. The bobber will dance and the trout will be down there just chewing away — they really hold on.”
Wedam says that soft beads are neutrally buoyant so they drift in a more natural fashion than the hard ones do, which can help produce more bites when the fish are being difficult.
Another cool advantage of soft beads, particularly the ones in BnR’s system, is you can switch out sizes and colors without having to do any cutting or retying. That’s pretty sweet considering I normally have to cut my leader at the swivel and then side the bead and stop off if I want to switch.
“I like to fish some small, tight water where you know the fish are going to see your bead,” he says. “If I don’t get bit on the first cast or two, I can easily switch out colors and give the fish another look.”
There are plenty of rigging and fishing options for soft beads. Of course, bobber-doggin’ is one of the deadliest methods, but some folks are also finding that drift fishing with them (pegged) is really effective also. You can also use them as a dropper behind a yarn ball.
BnR’s rigging system is pretty nifty. With the basic method, you start by sliding a rubber bobber stop down the line 2-3 finger widths above the hook. Then you slide one of the clear plastic bead sleeves (included) down on top of the stop. Thread the hook through the hole in the bead and then slide the bead up over the stop and sleeve and you are done. Reverse the process if you want to change beads.
Wedam is always tweaking and improving his technique and has found that adding a small sequin between the bobber stop and bead will help keep the bead from sliding down onto the hook in heavy water — particularly when you are using larger sizes, from 12mm on up. That rigging takes the quick change aspect out of play but is sometimes necessary when fishing in strong current.
So, when do beads shine? Wedam likes them when the water is getting a little too clear to use yarnies — say 3 feet and up.
“Having said that, however, a lot of guys are now telling me that they are catching fish on the huge 14mm and 16mm beads in clear water,” he says. “That’s messing with my mind a bit!”
Those same 16mm soft beads are also gaining a loyal following among anglers fishing in high and off-color water. He says that adding scent in those conditions isn’t a bad plan. You can put some soft beads in a Zip-Loc and marinate them overnight in your favorite stink sauce and the plastic will soak a lot of it up. Most of the time, however, Wedam goes scentless.
As I mentioned earlier, the drift fishing crowd is reporting excellent success with pegged soft beads and more and enterprising anglers seem to be coming up with all sorts of cool new applications al the time.
In recent seasons, I have been finding that kings and silvers will also gobble up larger hard beads fished under floats. I asked Wedam about that and he said that he’s getting the same story from quite a few of his customers. Of course, the smaller sizes also work great for stream trout.
I’m excited to experiment with soft beads this season and see how they work for me. They sure seem to have several really attractive attributes.
The following is a sneak peak of my new eEbook, The Ultimate Guide to Steelhead Bank Fishing. Here’s a tiny section of the Float Fishing Chapter…
Bobber-doggin’ is hybrid technique that seems to be taking the steelhead world by storm these days – and though it’s most often practiced from boats, you can do very well with it from shore too!
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this method – partly because everybody seems to have a slightly different way they go about it. I’ll give you the basic technique here and then you can tweak things as you see fit.
The best way to describe bobber-doggin’ is that it is basically drift fishing with a float. Unlike traditional bobber fishing where the bait rides suspended in the water column, the idea here is to have your sinker (typically a Slinky) tapping along the bottom – again just as if you were drift fishing. What the bobber does is act like a little tug boat, dragging your gear downstream.
The benefits of this presentation are:
- You tend to get snagged much less frequently because of the line angle coming off the float.
- Instead of having your gear drift in an arc (like regular drift fishing), it travels on a straight line, which enables you to cover water you couldn’t without the bobber.
- You have a built-in bite detector.
When drift fishing, it can be difficult to distinguish the tap of your sinker from the often subtle bite of a steelhead. When bobber-doggin’ it’s pretty simple – when the float goes down you probably have a bite. At that point, reel until you come tight to the fish and then set the hook.
How to do It
While you’ll often see anglers in drift boats and jet sleds doing most of the Bobber-Doggin’, it’s a handy little technique off the bank too. The absolute best way to do it is “Poor Man’s Drift Boat” style (see the “Drift Fishing” chapter for more on that) where you cast at about a 45 degree angle upstream and then start walking down the bank as your rig drifts. Ideally, you want to have the bobber upstream of your position as you walk.
Because the sinker is dragging the bottom, the top of the float should be angled downstream (exactly the way we don’t want it to be when fishing standard float gear), and you may see or even feel the sinker tapping the bottom.
I don’t mind a slight belly in the line near the float just to keep the gear moving along – but there’s a fine line here. Too much of a bow in the line and the rig will get dragged downstream too quickly.
The right speed is dictated by water conditions: Use more weight to slow your bait down if the water is high, cold and/or off-colored, and go with just enough to keep the offering ticking the bottom when the conditions are clear and the water has good visibility to it.
Rigging up for Bobber-Doggin’
Rigging up is essentially the same as described in the drift fishing section – with addition of a slip float and a bobber stop above the leader.
Because you want the current pulling the rig along, bobbers with a wide profile to catch more current are best for this method. You can use the big teardrops – or better yet: buy the cheapie foam ones and cut the bottoms off so they are flat. That big flat surface gets pushed nicely by the current and keeps the rig drifting nicely. Aerofloat also makes a Bobber-Doggin’ model if you’d rather go that route.
As far as depth goes, the rule of thumb is to set your bobber stop (measuring from the Slinky) to about 1½ times the water depth. You can adjust from there but that will get you started.
A standard float rod from 8½ to 9½ feet in length is fine and the style reel you use is totally up to you – spinning or casting both work fine. Spool up with 30-pound braid and then run an 8- to 15-pound fluoro or mono leader. I like bright yellow or white braided line so I can see my line in the water. To keep it from being too visible, however, I’ll take a fat black Sharpie pen and darken the top 20 feet of line.
On the business end, roe and a Fish Pill or Corkie works great on a No. 4 octopus hook. But anything you would drift for steelhead – plastic worms, nightcrawlers, shrimp, prawns, sand shrimp tails, pegged beads and yarn balls are perfectly suited to bobber-doggin’ as well.
For much, much more info, check out my latest eBook:
Here’s an interesting new product that just came to my attention: Salamander Sinkers’ line of flexible, snag-resistant, lead-free weights. The manufacturer says that there are lots of ways to use these things and West Coast steelhead and salmon anglers have found them useful for bobber-dogging, free-drifting and side-drifting when rigged with the line attached to just one end (like you would when using pencil lead and Slinkies).
Float anglers are also using them in-line between their bobbers and baits and trollers can also run them inline. I’m also hearing some rumblings of bass anglers fishing them drop-shot and Carolina style and it seems there are about a zillion other uses for these guys..like maybe using the smallest one (1/8-oz) in line with streamers for striper fly fishing on the Delta to get a little lower in the water column (that one just popped into my head as I was writing this!).
Anyway, much like a Slinky, Salamanders are flexible — which should help keep them from snagging much. Also, since they are made with steel and not lead, you’re going to get more of a glide-style drift when river fishing than the pound-pound-pound of lead.
And speaking of the lack of lead, if you happen to loose a Salamander Sinkers, you can feel better about the fact that you aren’t adding any toxic material to the water.
Salamander Sinkers come in several sizes from 1/8 ounces to 1 1/4 ounces. To learn more, click here: Salamander Sinkers.com
There’s nothing like that delicious anticipation that you get right at the crack of dawn, just as you’re about to hop in the boat and get the day stared.
To me, all always seems right with the world at this moment and the day so filled with promise…