Fishing 101 With Bobber Stoppers

I like fishing bobber stopper float rigs and I’m surprised at times when I mention them and fishermen give me that, “What you talkin’ about Willis,” look Gary Coleman made famous on the Different Strokes sitcom.  I know that bobber stopper rigs came from fresh water fishing, but so did a lot of fishermen that now prefer soaking their baits in salt water.  Don’t be ashamed of your heritage folks, there are things we can learn from our fresh water fishing cousins – and how to use a bobber stopper rig to catch saltwater fish is one of them.

Bobber stoppers come in several forms, but simply are devices used to adjust the depth a bait is fished under a cork.  The bobber stopper goes on the fishing line and stops a cork at the desired distance above the bait.  There are a pair of advantages of using a bobber stopper rig instead of a fixed position cork that stand above any other.  First is the ability to move the bobber stopper up or down the line to adjust the depth the bait fishes.  Second is using a bobber stopper rig allows the cork to slide down to near the bait and increase the distance and accuracy when casting.

I grew up at the coast and haven’t done a lot of fresh water fishing, but that’s where I was introduced to slip bobber rigs.  I was a youngster, probably 12 or 13 and a friend and I were slipping onto a golf course at daybreak and fishing the ponds until the golfers arrived.  We located a bream bed a fairly long cast from the nearest bank and were catching them occasionally.  Thinking the water there was deeper, we decided to slide our corks up the line and see if there were more bream deeper.

That was the right move and we began catching them dang near every cast – when we could reach them.  Unfortunately, with the corks farther from the bait our casts would helicopter and this reduced our casting distance and accuracy.

That afternoon we talked with my friend’s father about this and asked what we could do.  He didn’t hesitate, but went to his tackle box and pulled out a couple of slip corks and bobber stoppers and fixed us up.  Wow, did they work!

The next morning we rode our bikes to the pond early and were ready to go as soon as we could see.  It was incredible.  We could cast the distance and accurately.  That day we quit fishing when we ran out of worms.  We took home more than 100 nice bream and released at least half that many that were smaller.  The key was being able to cast far enough with accuracy to reach where those bream were holding and the bobber stopper rig made it possible.  I’ve never forgotten that morning.

Those first bobber stopper rigs were light and simple to use with ultra light tackle chasing bream in a fresh water pond.  However, my salt water versions are very similar.  The use heavier line, a larger cork and a small egg sinker instead of a split shot, but the principle is the same.

The bobber stopper goes on the line from the reel, then a bead is added before it is fed though a slip cork then through a bead, an egg sinker and another bead before being tied to a swivel. The 8-12 inch leader to the hook ties to the other eye of the swivel.

I sometimes use two beads and a second bobber stopper just above the swivel.  The cork slides down to the egg sinker for casting and when it lands, the sinker pulls line through the cork until it comes tight on the bobber stopper.  The depth of the bait under the cork can be adjusted from nothing to many feet.

Since that day way back when, bobber stopper rigs have become a staple of my inshore fishing gear.  I am fortunate to be able to have a rod dedicated to cork fishing and the bobber stopper rig allows adjusting the depth in just a couple of seconds without having to retie anything.

The bobber stoppers I was introduced to used were a piece of heavier cotton string that came on a small piece of a straw and was slipped up the line, then off the straw and tightened.  The bead bridged the gap between the bobber stopper and the hole in the cork and stopped the cork at the bobber stopper.  This held position fairly well with smaller baits and fish, but I could sometimes feel the bobber stopper hitting the rod eyes while casting.  This wasn’t often an issue casting to an area, but it sometimes affected accuracy on casts that needed to be pinpoint.

Fishermen are always trying to reinvent the wheel and sometimes they do.  About 25 years ago I found some bobber stoppers that are small pieces of rubber, shaped like a 1/4 inch football, with a hole through the middle.  I won’t say I never feel them while casting, but there aren’t any loose ends to slap or wrap on a rod guide.

These are in the same area in tackle shops as the other bobber stoppers.  The bobber stopper versions are packages with beads and there is a version called sinker stops that doesn’t include the bead.  I like these as I prefer to use a glass bead rather than the plastic bead that come with most bobber stoppers.

The football shaped bobber stoppers are on a holder that looks a bit like a key fob and have a doubled wire running through them.  You insert your line through the loop at the end of the wire and use the wire to pull your line through the bobber stopper the first time. The rubber grabs your line, but is just loose enough you can slide it up and down your line. This replaces the knot tied around your line.

Rubber bobber stoppers work very well on mono or fluoro line, but will begin to creep after a while when used on some braided lines.  Braided lines are a bit abrasive and sliding the bobber stopper up and down to adjust the depth will create wear in the hole and the bobber stopper begins to slip.  This doesn’t happen quickly and when it does, just replace it.

Everyone who knows me knows I had to experiment and try to improve this.  I still believe the small rubber football shaped bobber stopper is the best, but I’ve come up with a way to rig it so it can also be used as a popping cork and a rattling cork.  This is very similar, but uses two bobber stoppers and four faceted glass beads.  When rattled, the glass beads are a higher frequency and louder than plastic beads.

In addition to the two bobber stoppers and four beads, my “ultimate” bobber stopper rig uses a 4 or 5 inch non-weighted popping cork, with ceramic inserts for the line to pass through.  If tangled or cast into water shallower than the depth set for the rig, the non-weighted cork will lay on its side and let you know something isn’t right.  A weighted cork will sit upright in any water deep enough to float it.

I typically use a 3/8 ounce egg sinker on the smaller cork and a 1/2 ounce for the larger cork.  A size 10 or 12 swivel is fine.  I use an Eagle Claw L042 wide bend hook and match it to the bait.  A size 4 works well for shrimp and smaller mud minnows, while a size 2 or 1 works well with finger mullet and peanut pogies.  These wide bend hooks hold live baits well.

This rig begins with a bobber stopper placed on the line from the reel.  Two beads go on the line next and then it is slipped through the popping cork with the cupped end up.  Below the cork, the order is one bead, the egg sinker, the other bead, the bobber stop and then tied to the swivel.  A piece of 8-12 inch mono or flouro line connects the hook to the bottom eye of the swivel.  This can be as light as 10 pound for fishing shrimp for trout or as heavy as 20 pound for fishing minnows for drum.

To use this as a standard bobber stopper rig, leave the bottom bobber stopper just above the knot for the swivel and adjust the depth using the top bobber stopper.  If you would like a rattle cork, you can make this rig rattle, by pulling in a little line and dropping it back quickly.  If you would like this to be a popping cork rig, after adjusting the top bobber stopper to the desired depth, slide the bottom bobber stopper up so it limits the travel of the cork to a couple of inches.  This will stop the cork and allow you to lean it over to scoop water and pop.

If you have a rod and reel you can dedicate to always be a float rig, this is a way to make it work as a slip cork adjustable depth rig, a rattling cork and a popping cork. Once you start using bobber stoppers, I bet you’ll find other ways to use them too.  They will help you catch fish in a wide variety of ways.  In addition to the three types of corks, I’ve used bobber stoppers to limit the travel of a sinker on a Carolina rig, hold skirts in place in front of a bait, set kite rig snaps and more.

I challenge everyone to find additional creative ways to use bobber stoppers.

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Capt. Jerry Dilsaver has been fishing since he was a child and writing about fishing, hunting and the outdoors since 1986. He is from Southport-Oak Island, N.C. and continues to live there in semi-retirement. His writing features this area prominently, but he has fished and written about the East Coast from Virginia to Florida, the Gulf Coast, California, Alaska and several of the Great Lakes in the U.S., plus several countries in Central America and several Caribbean Islands. He has been on staff at Carolina Adventure, North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman Magazines and his byline has appeared in several other magazines and newspapers.