Bobber Doggin: Trout, Steelhead, And Salmon Tactics

Big steelhead like this can be caught using the bobber dogging method.
Big steelhead like this can be caught using the bobber dogging method.

After river fishing for over 37 years and guiding for over 20 years, I thought I’d seen it all, but, then came bobber doggin, and like every river fishing method there is I had to give it a try and see if bobber doggin is effective or not.

Bobber doggin originated on west coast rivers for steelhead and salmon, but it can also be used when river fishing for trout and river bass. It is an easy-to-use method that keeps your bait in the strike zone and has good strike detection which is ideal for new river anglers or for kids.

I will discuss the method and show you the bobber doggin setup. I’ll also answer the question, is bobber doggin effective? And, should you use it or not, and if so, where and when should this method be used? Let’s find out.

This article is part of our series on steelhead fishing and Salmon fishing.

What Is Bobber Doggin?

Bobber doggin from a boat
Bobber doggin can be done from shore or from a moving or stationary boat.

Bobber doggin took the steelhead fishing community by storm a few years ago, and its popularity hasn’t backed off at all since around 2016. Every angler seems to have his or her own method for doing it, and this has caused a lot of confusion. But there is a science to it and we’re going to cover that here.

Bobber doggin can be done from shore, while wading, or from a moving or stationary river boat like my boats in the above picture.

Similar to float fishing, bobber doggin is a fishing technique that will help you to cover more water while keeping your bait in the optimal location, or “strike zone,” for a longer period of time.

If you are fishing from a boat, bobber doggin can also make it easier for the boat operator to get positioned well in relation to the wind or current. Bobber doggin also works well if the boat is slowly moving down the river.

If you are wading in the river fishing or from the bank, you can use bobber doggin while standing still or even slowly walk down the river as your bobber and bait drift along.

With bobber doggin you can be positioned above or below your float and bait.

Bobber Dogging Presentation

Bobber doggin salmon
Salmon, steelhead, and trout can all be caught with a well presented bobber dogging setup. Bigger faster water is ideal for bobber doggin.

Bobber doggin is believed to create a presentation that fish find to be very appealing because it is closer to what the fish would encounter naturally, meaning the bait is moving slowly along the bottom and possibly bumping along the rocks and river bed.

A slower moving bait mimics the natural food better and it gives the fish more time to see and then grab the bait.

And, If you have read any of my articles you have probably heard me say that speed control of your bait is one of the most critical aspects for catching a lot more trout, steelhead, and salmon when river fishing.

You may have also heard the saying “presentation is key”!

Is Bobber Doggin Easy?

A young client with his first salmon
I knew exactly where to go and what to use to get my young client his first salmon.

Bobber doggin is also very easy to set up and very easy for the beginner angler compared to the traditional side drifting method or float fishing method.

Many experienced fishermen refer to bobber doggin as a “presentation.” If you’re new to the sport of river fishing, that might sound strange.

But it simply means that we are presenting our bait or our “gear” to the fish we want to catch.

This makes sense when you realize that anglers and guides are thinking about it from the fish’s perspective.

You can use this technique from the bank or from a boat, but many experts say the best way is to use the “poor man’s drift boat” style.

This is where you cast at a 45-degree angle upstream and then walk down the bank as your rig begins to drift. In the best-case scenario, your bobber will be upstream of you as you move along. You also won’t be casting and recasting as often if you walk with your bobber.

You really don’t need to do anything else which is why this method is so easy. In fact, you don’t even need to walk along with the bobber. You can simply cast it out and let it go.

Part of the reason anglers like to walk when bobber doggin is because they want their mainline below the bobber in a bit of a belly. This almost pulls the bobber along.

If the bobber gets too far downriver from you it’s hard to keep the line belly below the bobber.

Bobber Doggin Vs Float Fishing

An angler float fishing for trout

Bobber doggin is known for being more effective than other types of presentations but is it better than float fishing?

The answer depends on the angler doing each method. Bobber doggin is easy and allows your bait to hang in the water in a way that is somewhat natural.

The way the leader is drawn away from your weighted line mimics the way a fish’s favorite food might dangle in the water if it was caught in swirling undercurrents or if it was being pulled by the current.

If you are a new angler, then bobber doggin might be better for you. However, a very good float angler should catch a lot more fish using the float fishing method. There are many technical reasons for this.

With float fishing, a good angler will also be able to very effectively control the speed and depth of the bait. And, if done well, for most of the drift none of your rig or bait will be touching the bottom, therefore, your bait is in the strike zone, moving at the right speed, and strike detection is much better, and you are less likely to get snagged.

Also, it is proven that fish feed upwards over 80 percent of the time so a bait suspended by a float should be better.

The problem is that most float-fishing anglers fish poorly, and, for this reason, bobber doggin might be better.

With float fishing, your bobber suspends your bait off the bottom. But, with bobber doggin, the line pulls the weight which is dragging along the bottom and there are many potential downsides to this.

With the weight dragging on the bottom, it could also drag the bait too fast.

The weight dragging the bait behind it also means the thicker mainline is between the bait which is upstream and the fish which is downstream. In this situation, the line or the weight could spook the fish since the fish see that first.

Also, as the bait comes down the river and the fish moves in line with the bait, the line might even bump the fish in the face, This is also a great way to spook the fish.

Because the weight is dragging along the bottom, the lighter bait can be dragging behind it, or the bait can also be up above the weight if the current takes it there, or the bait can be sideways to the weight, or even downriver of the bait and leading the way.

The bait sideways to the weight is the most ideal situation, but I always have an issue with a bait that is going downriver first and way ahead of the bobber as this is horrible for strike detection, and it can mean the fish has a lot more time to spit the bait out before your bobber drops and you even know the fish is on.

Checking Your Float which is also know as trotting
Checking your float which is also known as trotting can be done wrong which can lead to missed fish. This picture shows why over trotting is a problem.

The diagram above shows the issues with the bait going too far forward when float fishing.

The same issue is true for bobber doggin, just not to the same extent unless you have a very long leader below your weights.

The longer your leader, the more this can be an issue.

Benefits Of Bobber Doggin

When comparing this to other methods like drift fishing, once you get the technique down, you will find that you don’t get snagged as often due to the angle at which your line will be hanging in the water.

You also have a built-in bite detector with a bobber doggin setup. Bite detection is more difficult with the drift fishing or bottom bouncing methods.

The primary advantage that I see with bobber doggin would be in situations where you needed to cast upriver and then let the bobber and bait drift back to you. It’s near impossible to control your speed and get a good drift when you cast upriver when float fishing, at least with bobber doggin the weight should slow your bait down.

The other primary advantage of bobber doggin is it’s easy.

Species You Can Catch With Bobber Doggin

What kinds of fish can we expect to catch? Basically, any fish that respond well to a bobber in a river will also respond well to bobber doggin. Most often you will see steelhead and salmon anglers using this method.

Here are the fish that tend to like this technique most and where they are most often found.

  • Steelhead: North American, especially where temperatures are cold
  • Salmon: The Great Lakes, Europe, and Patagonia
  • Trout: Almost any river
  • Smallmouth Bass: This can be excellent for smallmouth bass in rivers.
  • Carp: Freshwater in Asia, Europe, and North America
  • Northern Pike: River pike all across the Northern Hemisphere
  • Crappie: Freshwater all across North America
  • Yellow Perch: North American rivers, especially the Mississippi River
  • Walleye: Freshwater rivers in North America and Canada

How To Do Bobber Doggin

Bobber doggin can be done from a drift boat or jet sled. In fact, that is the way it is most often done.

In the boat, the anglers can drift the boat down the river and have their bobbers drifting out and beside the boat. You can drift for miles with this setup if the river bottom doesn’t get too deep.

If the river is 5 feet deep you can set your bobber to 7 to 12 feet deep. If the river gets deeper say 10 feet deep, your bait and weight will remain on the bottom. The only time you will need to adjust your weight is if it gets much deeper than the line is below your bobber.

Bobber doggin is not good in very shallow water of 2 feet or less for a few reasons, primarily that the float might spook the fish.

When doing bobber doggin by boat or by foot, the top of your bobber should be angled downstream since your sinker will be dragging on the bottom.

Notice that this is the opposite of how you would want your bobber if you were using a more traditional float fishing presentation.

Your ideal speed will be determined by the conditions of the water and will take real-life practice to learn. Faster water means a faster presentation.

Bobber doggin diagram
The angler should be position sideways to the bobber or down river of the bobber with a belly in the line.

Ideally, you also want your line to be below your bobber in a belly or half-moon shape. This keeps your bobber facing downriver. If your line is upriver and tight, your bobber will tilt upriver which you don’t want.

Simply watch the bobber and set the hook if it stops or goes down.

What Do You Need For Bobber Doggin?

Here is a setup recommended for steelhead fishing.

  • Standard float rod between 8.5 to 9.5 feet in length
  • Any type of reel will do fine
  • 30-pound braid
  • 8 to 15-pound fluoro or mono leader
  • Roe and Fish Pill or Corkie
  • No 4. Octopus hook

A standard bobber doggin pack will include:

  • Soft Beads in 10,12,14 and 16mm
  • T-Stops in Large and Small
  • Bobber Doggin Floats in Large and Medium
  • Tangle Free Stick weights 1/2 and 3/8oz with barrel swivels and split rings

Setting Up Your Rig

Bobber doggin rig
This is a standard bobber Doggin Rig for Steelhead, Salmon, And Trout

1. Attach your bobber

2. Attach your first bead

3. Attach your float

4. Attach your second bead

5. Attach your swivel

6. Use a Palomar knot

7. Attach your leader and bobber stop

8. Attach your bead

9. Tie the leader onto the swivel using a clinch knot

10. Attach your weight to the swivel

The Bobber Doggin Rigs

No matter what kind of fish you’re after, the rig will look similar. But your line strength, float sizes, weight sizes, and bait types will change.

You may also need to change your weight size based on the current speed and depth. As an example, a big heavy weight might be perfect in faster water but in slow water, it will probably anchor to the bottom and not drift properly or drift at all.

The right amount of weight will get your bait and weight down to the bottom while bouncing along the bottom and maintaining a speed slightly slower than the current.

What Are Bobber Doggin Bobbers

Most anglers will use slip bobbers with bobber stops and beads and these do work well, especially in really deep water over 12 feet deep. However, you can also use a fixed float, or fixed bobber, which is a bobber that does not slide up and down the line.

Fixed floats are good in shallow water under 10 feet. I’ve tried both types of floats with equal success. You can use any river float that the guys use for float fishing.

Bobber Doggin For Steelhead

For steelhead, a stronger line is recommended. Like in the setup described above, a 30-pound braided line or 12 pound mono line is best. In general, the bigger the river, and the stronger the current, the stronger you want your line to be.

The leader should be 12″ to 30″ long

The leader should be 6 to 10 pound for great lakes steelhead and will depend on the current size, speed of current, and clarity.

For west coast steelhead 12 to 15 pound mainline and 10 to 14 pound leader.

Bobber Doggin For Salmon

When bobber doggin for salmon, use a 12 to 15-pound mono mainline, and 12 to 30 inch leader that is 10 to 12 pounds for great lakes salmon and 12 to 16 pound leader for west coast salmon.

Again, the bigger the river, the bigger the fish will be, and you’ll need to adjust your line and weights accordingly.

Bobber Doggin For Trout

Lake run Brown trout prefer temperatures around 60 F
Migratory brown trout will enter rivers when the river temperature is suitable. Photo by our team Photographer Matthew Kuesel – Instagram @wisco_castin – Click on picture to see more from Matthew.

For trout, use an 8 to 12-size bait hook and a medium sliding bobber. Use a 6 to 8-pound test mono line or fluorocarbon line, a bobber stopper, and split shot weights.

Remember, to use lighter line and weights in smaller rivers.

2 to 6-pound leaders are great for most river trout unless you are fishing for giant migratory great lakes brown trout like this one caught by out photographer Matthew.

See Great Lakes Brown Trout Fishing.

How Long Is A Bobber Doggin Leader?

The recommended length will change based on conditions and the fish you are trying to catch. Many angler will recommend a 3 to 5-foot leader line but I believe the put you at risk of missing a bite, as I described above.

I use a 12 to 30″ leader.

How Heavy Is The Weight When Bobber Doggin?

The recommended weight will change for the speed and depth of the river. Standard bobber doggin kits will come with sets of weights between 3 and 8 ounces. You’ll have to choose one based on prevailing conditions.

Is Bobber Doggin Effective?

As a guide and avid angler for a long freakin time I can honestly say I live and breath fishing. While I’m on the water either guiding or fishing for fun, I analyze everything to try to determine if it’s good, or bad, or how I can improve it. I did this with bobber dogging and have come to this conclusion.

Is bobber doggin effective, YES!

Is it the most effective method to use, NO!

Would I continue to use it when fun fishing or with clients, NO!

Bobber Doggin CONCLUSION:

This may not be a welcome statement among some anglers but I’m not one to BS to keep people happy.

In my opinion, Bobber Doggin is the lazy-mans float fishing method and is far less effective than regular float fishing, and I just can’t recommend something that’s less effective, even if it does catch some fish sometimes.

Bobber Doggin Q&A

That concluded our article on Bobber Doggin, If you have a question, comment, or some advice to share, let me know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,

Graham

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