This simple little technique has helped me catch more steelhead off the bank. Give it a try!
Bobber-Dogging for Steelhead from the Bank
The following is an excerpt from my guidebook, The Ultimate Guide to Steelhead Bank Fishing. Here’s a small 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 Guidebook:
Float Fishing for Salmon and Steelhead
Here’s a little video I shot to kinda get you started understanding how float fishing for salmon and steelhead works…