The Best Rod, Reel, and Slip Bobber for Walleye Fishing

Published on 10/02/2023 · 8 min readSlip bobber fishing is one of the most basic techniques and proves effective for catching walleye. Fishing Expert Jack Pietruszewski shares all the necessary gear.
Jack Pietruszewski, Fishing Expert
By Fishing Expert Jack Pietruszewski

Photo by FedBul

There is nothing like seeing a bobber go under the water, indicating that there’s a fish on the line and it's time to set the hook! Slip bobber fishing is one of the most basic techniques and most likely how you started fishing. A slip bobber setup includes a bobber stopper, a glass or plastic bead, a slip bobber, a weight, and a single hook, A slip bobber rig is a highly effective way to catch many species, notably trout, salmon, and steelhead. However, did you know that it is also an effective presentation for targeting walleyes from late spring into fall? In fact, two of the top ten anglers from the H2H Walleye Pro Series on Lake Mille Lacs specifically used slip-rig tactics to catch fish and cash a big check! In this article, I will cover the ultimate gear and tricks for catching walleyes on slip bobbers.

What makes a slip bobber so unique is that it makes depth setting easy to do on the fly. By adjusting the bobber stops, anglers will be able to easily fine-tune their presentation for the body of water that they are fishing. Here in the US, bass fishing is the center of attention, but walleye are exciting species of fish to catch and are arguably the best-tasting freshwater fish out there. When it comes to walleye fishing, the slip bobber rig is an essential tool that every angler needs to have in their arsenal.

The Ultimate Rod

Long bobber rods are a must when using slip bobbers. Not only are they a great way to sling your float, sinker, and hook out a far distance without tossing off your live bait even in strong winds, but they are also essential for picking up lots of line and setting the hook. When you cast out your slip bobber and let it drift along the waves or current, you will notice there is a lot of slack that you need to pick up before you set the hook. That is why the 1pc 7'6'' medium-light, fast-action graphite Elliott Rod is the ultimate slip bobber rod to use when fishing smaller-diameter bobbers that are even more sensitive. That seven-and-a-half-foot rod picks up enormous amounts of slack and utilizes premium rod guides for long casts while allowing a nice sweeping hook set. Your hook-up percentage will increase, and it is due to the long rod that loads nicely into the hook set when you feel a bite.

The Ultimate Reel

Spool size, line capacity, and gear ratio are factors you need to consider when selecting the correct reel for slip bobbers. Similar to the long rod and its ability to pick up slack, a faster gear ratio is the second component that will increase your hook-up percentage. Additionally, a larger spool size will allow a bobber stop to come off the reel without catching on overlapping line, and it holds more line for fishing various depths. That is why Daiwa's Procyon LT 2500D-CXH is the best choice for fishing with slip bobbers. It has a slightly larger spool and a faster gear ratio of 6.2:1, allowing you to pick up slack faster, catching up to the fish in order to set the hook.

The Ultimate Line

A braided main line is a must when fishing slip bobbers. Its lack of stretch allows better hook sets when fish are far away from the boat, and you need to drive home that hook with a lot of line out. Heavier braid also has the added benefit of allowing for insanely strong knots, which is important when your knot is the only thing connecting you to your trophy! Think about it—as an angler, you’re at almost a 90-degree angle from the fish. Hopefully, with that long rod and fast reel, you are able to close down that angle without that fish detecting you, but there comes a point where there is too much pressure, and the fish can release the bait. That is why a braided main line is a must. You will be able to close down the rest of that angle with a no-stretch line.

If you are fishing clear water, simply tie a 3- to 4-foot fluorocarbon leader, and the fish won’t be able to see your leader line. Fluorocarbon is also a low-stretch line that will not negatively impact your hook sets, unlike monofilament line. Suffix 832 15lb test is a perfect braided line for this application as it is a rounder line that takes away stretch and gives you a nice uniform, circular line, allowing your bobber stop to grip it nicely.

The Ultimate Bobber

A brass grommet at the top of the float is the name of the game when it comes to slip bobbers. If there is not a brass grommet at the top of that bobber, forget about it! There is nothing worse than when your fluoro line doesn’t zip through the bobber like braid, leaving your crawler, leech, or minnow in no man's land. That is why the brass and braided line combo is perfect for your slip float rig—look no further than a Thill Pro Series Weighted Slip Float. It is the best slip bobber that has the brass grommet at the top, allowing line to smoothly slide, along with a weight on the bottom of the bobber, keeping it vertical in the water.

As far as the shape of bobber needed, there are two that I will use when fishing with a slip float. There are bobbers that are shaped like a pencil. They are long and thin so that when a fish bites down on your bait, they feel little resistance, meaning that they'll bite down longer. This will give you more time to set the hook quickly on fish that are small or sluggish. They are also less visible to fish, which makes them less visible to the angler. Using hi-vis braid will help anglers to track the position of their bobber when using a pencil-style bobber. An oval-style bobber is shorter and wider. Oval bobbers are more visible to anglers and are easier to track in swift currents. They also stay afloat better when using heavier weights. The drawback is that they are more visible to line-shy or finicky fish.

Wrapping up the Slip Bobber Rig

Once I have the gear above, I’m not picky on the bobber size or the rest of the tackle involved in the slip bobber rig. However, some nuances are involved in putting together the perfect rig for your particular conditions. There is the bobber stop and bobber stop knot or bead, which you can find here. They simply thread on and fasten down tight to the line, a fatter style bobber can be used for it to be more visual if you like. You can make adjustments and set your desired depth with a stopper knot, setting it to dangle that bait in the fish's strike zone. Then simply thread on an egg sinker and tie on a barrel swivel or snap swivel to prevent tangles from line twist, then attach a 3- to 4-foot fluorocarbon lead. Small egg sinkers around 1/2 oz will provide enough weight to get your presentation down into the strike zone quickly while still allowing for a natural presentation. Finally, tie on your favorite plain hook or jig, depending on the fishing depth. With regards to knots being used, a snell knot is a great choice, especially when using circle hooks and lighter line.

In scenarios where you need to stay tight to the bottom, a 1/8 oz jig head or split shot is the perfect amount of weight to keep you at the right depth in deeper water without it being too much weight. Split shot weights will make it easy to adjust your rig to your specific needs. This is tough to beat around a dock, flooded timber, or a rock pile.

Another fishing tip: if you want to drift fast down a shallow weed line on windy days, then a plain hook and a leech alone without the 1/8 oz weight are the way to go. This presentation sinks slowly and already has enough weight for windy drifting along shallow weeds. Use this method on shorelines for windy use of a slip bobber rig.

Slip bobbers are an effective, and arguably the easiest, way to catch walleyes from spring into mid-summer, and can also be effective for lots of fish species, including panfish like crappie, bluegill, and perch, as well as pike, channel catfish, and other sunfish. They can be fished well in both deep water and shallow water and with various live and artificial baits like shiners, half crawlers, chubs, and soft plastic grubs.

Final Thoughts

Photo by Piotr Wawrzyniuk

Check out the gear above, follow my instructions, and you will have greater success at presenting baits right in the strike zone of those finicky walleyes and start catching some big fish. Remember, when that float goes down, reel up the slack until you feel those fish, then sweep that rod for a hook set and enjoy your catch!

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