How Do Fishing Bobbins Work? (How To Make Your Own)

Fishing bobbins are a bite indicator for bottom fishing. They utilize line slack and gravity to help you realize a fish is biting your line and the direction they are headed. Understanding how to use these nifty gadgets is vital to ensuring you always know when a fish is going after your bait.

Fishing bobbins affix to your line between the reel and first eye and use line slack, or the lack thereof, to indicate when a fish is taking your bait. You can buy them in sporting goods stores or make your own. Making your own bobbins is a fun way to add flair and give your line a little character.

The trick with bobbins is balancing weight with line slack and letting the fish and gravity do the work. Buying bobbins is always an option, but you may want to try making your own. Below, we cover what bobbins do, how they work, and how you can successfully make your own no matter your budget.

How Do Fishing Bobbins Work?

A fishing bobbin works by letting you set up your line when bottom fishing and telling you when a fish checks out your bait or initiates a bite. Gravity and fish action dictate how the bobbin works. This gives you a good indicator of how the fish is behaving.

Bottom fishing without some form of bite indicator is always a mystery, unless you hold the line along your finger so you can feel when a fish checks out your bait. Bobbins do not always work well with bottom feeders like carp and some catfish because the bobbin holds the bait up above the water bottom. The problem with that is placement combined with how carp and catfish forage for food.

Both carp and catfish use their senses to find food on the bottom of a body of water. Carp use their eyesight and sense of smell to locate food on the bottom, therefore it’s a good idea to use smelly bait for carp. The smell attracts them. Catfish use their sight, sense of smell, and barbels to locate food. Bait that sticks out, smells, and even moves can attract catfish quickly.

Bobbins help monitor the line so that when a carp or catfish bites, you can easily see the action of the fish and where they are headed with your bait.

The Logistics

A bobbin is set between the reel and the first eyelet after you have cast your bait into the water and let it sink to the bottom. Your rod must be rested on a rod holder or “y-shaped” branch to allow for a little slack out in your line. Once you let the slack out, you attach a bobbin to the line and wait for a fish to take your bait.

Gravity holds the bobbin in place and when a fish takes your bait, the line either tightens or gives more slack. The bobbin either raises up or lowers, depending on the fish action. By watching what happens, you can figure out what the fish is doing.

Bobbin Indicators

If the bobbin raises, the fish is taking your bait in a movement away from your position. You still have to give it a little time to mouth the bait, but after that happens, you set the hook as soon as you are sure the fish is swimming away with your bait.

If the bobbin lowers, you know the fish is coming towards you. This allows you to adjust your line and position for when you set the hook. A fish that comes towards you may prompt you to rapidly retrieve your line, shift your line to the left or right from your position to get a taut line, or watch the bobbin to decide when and how to set the hook.

If the bobbin “bounces” up and down, it means the fish is checking your bait out but has not committed to taking it yet. When this happens, one option you have is to remove the bobbin and use your finger to monitor fish activity with your bait.

The bobbin attaches to the line loosely, so when you set the hook you can remove the bobbin yourself, or you can let the activity of setting the hook pull the line from the bobbin. The bobbin is usually removed from the line, therefore one end should be attached to the rod holder via a wire or chain so you do not lose your bobbin.

When Do You Use Bobbins?

You use bobbins anytime you are bottom fishing. They can even be used with saltwater fishing via the shore by a rod holder. If you are fishing on a boat, you can prop your line on the rail and use the side of the boat as your “V.” This will let you affix your bobbins to your lines.

While you can use a bobbin when you are bottom fishing, there are a few instances where it might be wise to go without one. Examples of this include fishing in a hard current or turbulent water, using a lot of drop weight, fishing near uneven terrain, or targeting nuisance fish.

When Not To Use Bobbins

If you have a strong or hard current where you are fishing, you may want to forego the bobbin. Using one may mean it could incorrectly indicate a fish has taken the bait, as it is just the current moving your bait. If you are fishing a river with a very strong current, you may want to forego the bobbin just because the current will make it look like a strike is constantly happening.

When you use a lot of weight to drop the bait to the bottom, bobbins are not as effective. The reason for this is that excessive weight can mask a fish taking the bait from the bobbin. By the time the weight moves, and the bobbin indicates a fish took the bait, the fish may be long gone.

Sometimes, uneven terrain can prompt the bait to move because of a dip or underwater cliff. Even small farm ponds can have an uneven bottom. Bait movement in this case can result in a slack line going tight if the bait or weight falls over an underwater cliff or into a depression. If this scenario combines with wind or waves, a bait can act erratically.

Turbulent water also causes issues with bobbins. This is different from a strong current because you can have it in bodies of water without any current. Surface storms, tidal surges, or terrain shifts (like landsides) can create a turbulent bottom that makes it seem as if the bobbin is moving from a fish bite when it was only active water yanking the bait around.

There are nuisance fish that tend to trick your bobbin.Often, particularly around spawning and at the end of the season, small and largemouth bass look for food on the bottom of a body of water. These fish are infamous for picking up a bait, moving it around until they find a hook and then spitting the bait back out. If there are several bass in the area, this can be a common occurrence.

Why Bobbins Work

Bobbins work because gravity holds the bobbin in place on slack line and a fish takes the bait at the end of the line and swims off with it, which tightens or creates slack on the line, moving the bobbin. The bobbin is either raised, lowered, or otherwise moved, showing you the fish action.

Occasionally, though, bobbins do not work. Any of the examples up above are situations where you can expect bobbins to give false indications, however there are other factors that can interfere with bobbin indicators.

Factors That Interfere With Bobbins

Wind interference caused by extreme wind gusts can sometimes move bait or a line and raise the bobbin, indicating a fish is on the other end. It does not matter if the wind is sustained, gusty, or both. Any strong wind can push your line and bait, making a bobbin seem like it is going off.

Depending on the weight and the line you are using, waves can raise or lower the bobbin. If it is extremely choppy, the bobbin can be in a constant state of rising and falling. If the waves are caused by the wind, the movement of your bait can be significant. If the waves are caused by a boat, the movement can be sudden, but should subside quickly.

Underwater debris can interfere with your bobbin in bodies of water with a swifter current. If branches, logs, and other debris are being pulled along in the current, a bobbin can be pulled up and down, particularly with free-floating debris. If you are fishing in a lake or pond with a lot of coverage, your bait can get caught, making the line go slack.

How To Make Homemade Fishing Bobbins

To make a fishing bobbin, you’ll need the following:

  • A brightly colored indicator that can move freely on the fishing line
  • Clamps, hooks, or some other way to loosely attach the bobbin to the line
  • Chain, cord, or other attachment to secure the bobbin to the rod holder

Low Budget Version

This bobbin is incredibly simple and inexpensive. To make it you need the following materials:

  • A bottle cap (a large prescription cap works great)
  • Paperclip
  • Orange nail polish or paint
  • 3 feet of string or fishing line
  • Medium sized metal washer (size is not important, weight is)
  • Glue

Once you have the materials, follow the instructions below:

  1. Bore two holes in the bottle cap or if it is a prescription cap it might already have holes in it. If not, bore the holes in the side of the cap, one at the twelve o’clock position and the other at the three o’ clock position.
  2. Glue the washer to the inside of the bottle cap or, if it does not fit, on the outside. This provides the weight for the equipment. If you cannot find a washer that is heavy enough to pull the line down when it goes slack, use any weight that can.
  3. Bend the paper clip into an “S” shape. Put one end of the S into the hole in the bottle cap side that is in the twelve o’ clock position. Close the loop in the paper clip to affix it to the bottle cap.
  4. Put the string or fishing line through the hole in the three o’clock position.
  5. Bend the other until it is almost closed, leaving enough room to attach it to the fishing line and remove it when a fish takes the bait.
  6. Finish by tying the other end of the line to the fishing rod holder.

When a fish strikes or takes the bait, if it is moving away from the fishing pole, set the hook. As soon as you set it, remove the bobbin from the line if still attached.

Bobbin For The Longer-Term

This type of homemade bobbin will last for several years if you take care of it.

Materials needed:

  • Wine cord or block of wood
  • A rigid but malleable wire, approximately 2 feet long
  • Drill with a bit large enough for a hole that can pass the wire through it
  • Glue
  • A metal washer
  • Chain small enough to fit in a hole with the wire

Once again, use the materials gathered and follow the instructions below:

  1. Glue the washer to the bottom of the cork or block of wood.
  2. Drill a hole lengthwise in the center of the wine cork or wood, it should be long enough to fit both the line and the wire.
  3. Push the wire through the hole, loop it down the side and through the hole again. Do this for five loops. Then, leave enough wire to make a loop that can be attached to the fishing line.
  4. Push the fishing line, string, or chain through the hole, loop it down the side, and tie it at the base of the bobbin.
  5. Take the remaining length of string and tie it to the rod holder.

Do You Need A Fishing Bobbin With A Bite Alarm?

You do not need a fishing bobbin with a bite alarm, however your task of landing the fish becomes harder without it. You will still be able to set the hook and reel the fish in without one, but some sort of bite alarm significantly improves your chances of catching the fish.

Most fish bite alarms let you know if your line has moved sufficiently to indicate it might be in the mouth of a fish. It does not tell you the direction of the fish or if the fish is running with the bait. A bobbin can help with both if it is able to be affixed so that it can give off a signal whether the bite alarm goes off or not.

Having it attached to your line, even with a bite alarm, lets you see if the fish is taking the bait and where it is headed. That information can be a great help as you try and land the fish. That said, there is a difference between being a “great help” and needing the fish bobbin.

Where it does help, is in improving your chances of setting the hook in a way the fish cannot throw it. By knowing the direction it is headed, you can position yourself to build tension on the line. If you can do that, you can get a solid set of the hook. That improves your chances of landing the fish significantly.

Just as important, you are not at much of a risk of the fish spitting out the bait if it swims towards you, provided you recognize the movement and reposition yourself. If you fail to do that, all bets are off.

Final Thoughts

A fishing bobbin is a tool that works by indicating that a fish has taken your bait and tells you the direction it is swimming in. You can purchase bobbins online or in sporting goods stores, however it can be fun and easy to make your own bobbin and add a little flair to your equipment.